Friday, October 14, 2011

Kerrville Triathlon - ending 2011 on a high note

Well, my 2011 triathlon season is now complete... had my last two races of the year on back to back weekends. First up was a very cool (and FREE!) triathlon put on by the Fort Hood MWR; which ended up being a duathlon due to low water levels in the lake (the drought here in Texas has just reached epic proportions...).  Then on Oct 2nd I participated in my final triathlon event of the year, the inaugural Kerrville triathlon (half ironman distance). That's going to be it for triathlons/duathlons until next April; when I'll kick off the year with the Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas 70.3.

So, first a recap of the Ft Hood duathlon, and then the Kerrville report:

Ft Hood Duathlon
This was supposed to be a sprint triathlon, but I found out the day before the race that it had been changed from a triathlon to a duathlon; due to the lake water levels being so low. That was a bit of a letdown, as I had wanted to use this race as a warmup for the half ironman tri the following weekend. Nothing that anyone could do about it, though; so you just accept it and make the best of it. And I ended up having fun time, so it was all good : )

The race is fairly small (just under 200 competitors), so they divide it up into 2 waves - men and women. Men went first, so I lined up pretty close to the front and took off at the sound of the gun. There were some very fast runners (including a few from the Baylor University Triathlon Team), but I did my best to at least keep them in sight for the first 1.65 mile run leg. People sometimes ask if a short run like that is easy, but no... it is not! When you run all out like that, it's hard to breathe and your heart is beating like crazy; so your mind keeps telling you to slow down. Sorry mind, but we just gotta keep going... I had probably 20 people in front of me coming into the first transition, but I gained a lot of ground by getting through transition very quickly.

The bike started up a pretty nasty little hill for about the first mile. With the HR already very high and being short on breath, that made it quite a challenge. I was happy once I hit the flatter road and could drop into the aero position and just ride. I had decided that I was going to go full out on the bike, and just see what happened on the final run, so I just kept pushing as hard as I could. The first turnaround was about 5 miles in, and at that point I could tell I was in at least the top 10. That motivated me to keep it going and not lose any ground, and I was still doing very well at the last turnaround. The last mile of the 12 mile bike course was going down that same steep hill that we came up to start the bike ride, which made for quite the speedy and exciting bike finish : )

I came off the bike in what I thought was around 7th or 8th place overall, and determined to not go backwards from there on the final run. As soon as I started running, I could tell that even though it was only another 1.65 miles, it was going to be a tough test. At the turnaround, I was still maintaining my position, but shortly after that I started seeing someone coming up fairly fast from behind. I kicked it up one more time to hold them off, but they finally did pass me with about 100 yds to go : (  Really, I was OK with that, because I had given it everything I had; and if they were faster, then so be it. I crossed the finish line right just a few seconds behind them, and then it was time to wait for the results.

Downhill run to the finish line

I ended up at 57:23, which was 2nd place in my age group and 9th overall. And yes, the guy that passed me with 100 yds to go was the winner in my age group ; )  Very happy with the results, though, and with a good consistent day (2nd fastest splits in AG on both runs and on the bike). I'll have to do that race again in the future!

 Picking up my award in my Obsessed t-shirt

Kerrville Triathlon
The Kerrville Triathlon is a brand new event in Central Texas, so I didn't really know what to expect in terms of the course or the competition (esp. with the IM Texas 70.3 in Austin that is held just 3 weeks later). I knew it would be a wetsuit swim in a lake (good thing), not too many hills on the bike (good thing), and didn't know much at all about the run course. My plan was to push the bike a little harder than normal and see if I could still have a strong run. I wanted to test myself a bit in that regard, and I also have been training for a marathon; so I felt I should have plenty of running endurance. One surprise I found out about the day before the race was that a good portion of the run was going to be off-road (combination of grass field and dirt/mulch trail with some ups and downs). More on that later in the run description...

It was a bit chilly for us Texans in the morning (50's), but the wetsuit helped keep me warm waiting for the swim to start. Except for my feet... that ground was cold! I got into the water and stayed close to shore where I could still stand, and waited for the start.

Once the horn sounded, I took off and just kept a strong, steady rhythm. There wasn't a whole lot of contact, which I was happy with, and things were going well. I did start feeling that my tri top was rubbing one spot on my neck, but there wasn't much I could do about that (ended up with a small but deep rub burn). I rounded the first set of turn buoys feeling good and headed down the longest stretch of the lake to the far turn buoys. After a while, I started having that feeling that I had been out there forever, and where the heck was the final turn buoy?!? At last I saw the final turn, and was able to round the buoy and head for the swim exit. The exit was actually a large wooden platform with outdoor carpet and small wood slats to help with traction. No problems getting up that and out of the water, and then I headed for the wetsuit peelers.

After my wetsuit was off, I headed up the short and very steep little hill that led from the water to the bike transition area. My swim time was around 35 minutes, which I wasn't thrilled with, but it was OK. And I never worry too much about swim times, because currents and/or small differences in distance can make a big difference in time - so you don't know how you really did until you see everyone else's times. My transition to the bike was a little slower than I hoped (around 3 minutes), and then it was time to bike.

The bike started on flat and smooth roads, so I started off making very good time and feeling strong. The first 14 miles or so is mainly on one stretch of highway that made for great bike riding. I hit the first turnaround, and started the second half of the loop (2 loop bike course). The back half was rougher roads and had a few short but slightly challenging hills, so there was a little slowdown on that section. The first loop finished up in downtown Kerrville, and then it was off to do the second loop. When I looked back later at my bike splits from my Garmin, I can see that the second loop was a little bit slower than the first; but overall I stayed consistent and kept my HR in the range that I was looking for. I finished the bike at just over a 21 mph average; and again; how that compared to others was going to have to wait until after the race.

The second transition was in a different location than the first (a couple of miles away, actually). All the competitors had put their running items into their T2 bags and left them in the second transition area the day before the race, so they'd be waiting for us when we got to T2. I had a couple of landmarks that I had memorized to help me find my spot in the transition area, so I went straight to that spot and racked my bike. Quick change into my running shoes, grabbed my visor and race belt, and I headed out to the run. My wife Susie was there waiting, and snapped this picture:

The run started slightly downhill and on pavement, so that was good. I could tell I had definitely pushed the bike, though; because I had a little bit of cramping in my hamstrings. The benefit of experience was that I knew if I ran with slightly shorter strides and kept going, those would work themselves out (and they did after the first mile or so). Just about a half mile down the road was a turn and sharper downhill, and that's when I could see the start of the off road portion of the run. Hmmmm... this is going to be interesting... 

The first couple hundred yards was a grass field, and the grass was fairly thick and matted. Good for cushion, not so good for speed. Then we hit the trail, which alternated between packed dirt, loose dirt, mulch, and a few slightly rocky areas; with some pavement at the turnaround. Watching my splits, I could tell that I'd have to make time on the pavement, because the off road section was going to slow me down some. I made my way to the finish of the first loop, and Susie was there waiting again. Always good to see her and get some encouragement!

By the second loop, I started feeling pretty good and the cramping was no longer a factor. Towards the end of the loop I looked and saw that I was at about a 7:30 pace overall, so that made me pretty happy. I wanted to break or at least get close to 5 hours, and that was the pace I needed. Or so I thought... later we'll talk about run course distance!

On the third loop I still felt strong, although it was starting to get a little hotter (high that day was in the mid 80's). My pace was on target, and I felt that I could maintain that pace for the final loop, based on how I was feeling.

On the final loop I got a pick-me-up from my friend Keith, who was out there as a volunteer. He ran up and checked how I was doing and gave me some words of encouragement. Thanks Keith! And it was needed encouragement, because I had been noticing that the run distances weren't adding up right; and by the12 mile marker I realized just how far off they were... My Garmin was reading nearly 12 1/2 miles, a full half mile longer than what the mile marker said! yikes... Oh well, everyone has to run the same distance, right? : )  The only problem was that my goal of breaking 5 hours wasn't going to happen; I had over a mile to go and about 5 minutes to do it in order to break the 5 hour mark. Not a huge deal, just a small disappointment, since up to that point I was confident that I was within striking range. I finished the run at a pace that was just under 7:45 according to my Garmin, but 8:01 officially.

My final overall time was 5:03:49. There was only one person in my age group that was faster, and he ended up winning the overall Masters award (fastest person 40 or up); so that left me with first place in my age group! : )  And I liked that the consistency was there again... within my age group I had the 3rd fastest swim, 4th fastest bike, and 3rd fastest run.

 First place AG! : )

All in all a great way to end the triathlon season. I know it was a smaller race (250 people in the half ironman race, 16 in my age group) and some key competitors were probably focused on the Austin 70.3; but I was very happy with the way the race went; and pleased to be able to win first place : )

Now, with the triathlon season behind me; there's just one more event for the year - the San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon on November 13th. The course is a little flatter than the other marathons I've run, and my training seems to be going well; so I'm hoping for a good race...

Enjoy life,

Help the kids!
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

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  1. CONGRATS on the top poduim finish!!!

    Did you make your fund raising goals?

    What are you thinking about for 2012?

  2. thanks! Didn't too to great on fundraising, but hopefully did ok on awareness. 2012 is going to be a half IM type of year, I think...