A few weeks ago, I competed in the Tejas Triathlon in Sugarland, TX. I had looked at previous years' results and knew the field was going to be much more competitive than other races I've done, so I didn't really expect to end up ranking well. I primarily signed up because of the swim. I am wanting to work my way up to a half ironman, which means getting comfortable with a long, open water swim. I'm completely comfortable with the 400m pool swims I've been racing in, so I figured it was time to up the ante. Tejas Tri had a 600m open water swim, but with an age group wave start and taking place in a small neighborhood "lake". It seemed like an ideal way to take the next step on my swimming.
But it really didn't feel that bad in the moment
I always felt safe in the swim. There were a lot of lifeguards floating on rescue tubes and more people in kayaks. The rules say you can stop and rest by holding on to something as long as you don't make forward progress and I did end up deciding to take advantage of that in the second half of the swim. I saw a few other people do the same and all of the guards that were in the water seemed to be great, they really encouraged the swimmers to just take it easy and rest and then cheered them on and told them they were doing good when they took off again.
Moral of the swim---the ability to swim a mile non-stop in a pool means absolutely NOTHING about your open water swim with a crowd abilities. It is almost an entirely different skill.
The bike portion was more mental than physical. It was a flat, easy course. Because my swim was so abysmal though, I was CONSTANTLY being passed by the young guys catching up to me. That was a little demoralizing. They were all nice enough, announcing when they were passing and every once in a while shouting a word of encouragement as they went by. I regretted not riding hard enough in my last race, so my little mantra for this one was "race the bike". I know it's my best leg, I need to make up as much time as possible here. So I tried to block out all the guys passing me because I wasn't really racing them anyway and eventually I started catching up to some women in my age group.
As far as the race goes, it was well organized, on time, warm water and a safe course. I was really disappointed in the tech shirt quality, I think it's the cheapest feeling shirt in my drawer. Mostly, I was disappointed that they did not hand out medals. We got cheap water bottles instead. I've got plenty of water bottles, I would have really liked a medal for a full sprint race with a longer than typical, open water swim.
I was feeling a little down about my ranking/times when I first saw them, but then I compared against previous races and it turns out I didn't do all that bad. My swim pace was actually faster than I swam in my first race (which was only 400m and a pool). Thinking back, I'd say I probably felt just about the same after this swim as I did after that one too. My bike went well, I kept my pace over 16mph for the first time (still pretty slow, but improving!). My run was a 12:30 pace, which isn't fabulous, but it's not terrible and it's better than other races I've done in similar temperatures. Each of my transitions were a full minute faster than my average race T1 and T2, so that's improving as well. Basically, I raced well in a really competitive field. I ended up 20 out of 23 in my age group and 447 out of 579 overall. Not bad at all when it's all said and done.
Anyone out there have open water tips for me? I have very limited open water practice opportunity, what can I do in the pool to feel more comfortable in open water?