Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Race Report: TriAggieland

I only have one triathlon on my schedule this year.  I was gifted this race entry for my birthday (all birthday presents should be race entries) and for numerous reasons, there's just not another triathlon in me for 2015.  I stuck to my training plan this time around, but I'm not able to push my hardest right now (more on that in another post), so I focused on slow and steady base building for most of the training, but still went all out with what I had for race day.

Josh had won a free entry to this race, so we did it together.  That means there were no spectators to take pictures, so all I've got for the race report is what the race photographers took (pictures are free to download at this race).  This was my third year doing TriAggieland, but ownership of the race changed hands, so there were some minor differences in set-up.  Construction necessitated some course changes too, so the race ended up a bit short.

Race morning came early, as usual.  Nothing unusual packed in my bag, I've got it pretty dialed in now...bike shoes, run shoes, socks, helmet, hat, goggles/swim cap, snack, water bottles, race belt, chapstick.  Late July in Texas guarantees a hot race, so I had a bottle of refrigerated gatorade on my bike and an insulated bottle of gatorade I froze solid the night before for the run.  New gear this year includes prescription sunglasses, which I really don't know how I did without for so long.  And also, my garmin 910.  I was so excited to use the auto multisport function to track everything.  I tried it out the morning of the race to make sure I had it down.  And then I forgot to go back in and restart multisport mode, so I ended up recording the entire race as a run.  Le sigh.

New this year were assigned spots in transition according to race number (which means according to swim start time), so Josh and I set up on different rows.  I did my usual blind walk from the pool to my transition spot so I could find the landmarks I'd be able to recognize without my glasses.  Before long, it was time to head inside to the pool deck to start the long wait for our start.

In this race, the athletes are supposed to start according to their swim times (which they report at registration), with the faster swimmers starting first.  You are assigned a bib number according to your swim time, and then you just line up in order.  Last year, they were VERY strict about staying in order, but the swim went quite smoothly.  This year, no one seemed to care whether you were in order or not.  People jumped around so much that I couldn't even figure out where I should be.  The 500s were lining up with the 100s.  They had said you could move back in line if you wanted, but please don't move forward.  That's not at all how it went though and the result was pretty ridiculous.  I was number 330 and eventually I saw a pretty solid group of 300s, so I asked a few people what they thought their swim time would be and did my best to put myself in the right spot.

The swim was a total cluster. Thanks to all that jumbling up of the numbers, the swim felt like one huge traffic jam.  I was assigned a middle of the pack number and expected about a 9 minute swim, not including the run to transition.  75m in, I passed a guy that was pulling himself along on the lane rope.  He wasn't in distress, just jumped in WAY too early, so I passed and went on my way.  150m in, there was a total log jam at the end wall making it impossible to just push off the wall and keep going because there was no free space at the wall. And that's pretty much how the rest of the swim went...getting stuck behind people that were slow and needed long breaks at the walls.  Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those things...as long as you're swimming with people who have a similar pace.   Overall the whole thing felt way too open water swim-ish for an indoor pool swim.  My total swim and run to transition ended up being 12:54, which was 1:13 slower than last year.  I spent way more than that amount of time caught up behind people.

T1 was also interesting.  I got confused and went down the wrong row, then I had trouble getting my socks on.  The whole thing felt slow and clumsy.  Yet, the time ended up being 01:57, my fastest T1 to date despite being further from the bike out than I think I've ever been before.

The bike was the bike.  The new course was a little easier, but I never got up the guts to ride on the aero bars, I stuck to the drops most of the time.  And apparently my helmet was crooked?

I ended up with a 15.67mph pace after the distance was accounted for, which is the fastest I've ever gone at this race.  I hit 16.55mph on an even flatter course last summer and I'm pretty sure I would've been there again if I hadn't been a scaredy cat, but overall, I'm happy with 15.5 and no road rash given the gear I'm working with.

T2 went well, no mishaps there.  My time was 01:29, which is average T2 for me when I walk, instead of run, out of transition.

I was really hungry while I was waiting for the swim and meant to eat on the bike, but then I just never felt like there was a good time for it.  Probably not a great idea to skip the fuel going into a really hot and sunny run, but it is what it is.  My frozen gatorade bottle was still slushy, which was absolutely awesome.  With my garmin at my disposal, I aimed to keep my heart rate in zone 4 for the run, so I based my running and walking breaks on that.  We had to do 2 loops on the run course.  When I was just starting out, I saw Josh coming in on his bike, so I knew he'd be catching up soon.  About a mile into the run, we met up and I gave him a drink of icy gatorade, then he took off to finish his race.  Near the end of the first loop, I passed the girls' youth tri team, which was set up with super soakers full of ice water to spray down the athletes that wanted it.
Near the end of the second loop, the heat was getting me down and my pace and form were definitely suffering.  The heat index was about 95 by this time, which is just really hot no matter what you do.
I rounded the last corner and saw a younger guy not far ahead of me.  I sped up in an effort to pass him and we had an all out sprint finish (which I lost by about half a step).  He gave me a fist bump and a, "nice finish" and the announcer gave us grief for having too much gas left in the tank.  I checked later though and I hit a new max heart rate (204) with that sprint, so I'm gonna say that was ALL I had left in me.  My run pace ended up being 13:15/mile, which is sloooow, but I've been slower, and it was really hot, so I'm still okay with it.

Swag was a little better than it had been under the previous owners.  We got a t-shirt and swim cap at packet pick-up and finishers got one of those super soft t-shirts (instead of a tech shirt), but also a good water bottle (already filled with ice water), sno-cone, beer, breakfast tacos and a cool medal where the center portion spins around:

All in all, a great time.  I ended up 34th out of 43 in my age group.  Not all that impressive, but better than nothing!  The field seemed much more competitive this year.  Last year was an anomaly because pool closures led to moving the race and it ended up the same weekend as a nearby half-ironman, so we lost a lot of top finishers.  The year before that still seemed less competitive though.  The race actually sold out this year and I think it's starting to draw in stronger competitors.

Next up: a half-marathon.  "What?!" you say.  "I thought you were done with running races! You just said you were done, not even 8 months ago."   I know, I know.  But races are a bit like birthing babies...you forget.  And there was a good deal on a local race.  And the heart rate training combined with Fresh Air podcasts really has been soooo much more enjoyable.  So I'm trying again.

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