What’s better than racing a triathlon? Multiple choice:
- racing your first triathlon in a new place
- flying yourself to and from the race
- getting to see your mother, grandmother, uncle, cousin, and nephew en route
- turning a solid race performance
- seeing two of your oldest friends
- all of the above
The correct answer, of course, is “f”, and that’s exactly how this race went down.
Dana had told me that she had plans to go to Rock the South last weekend, so I found myself with an unexpectedly free weekend. I decided to see whether there were any races I could do– and sure enough, Trifind delivered the goods, pointing me to the Lake Pflugerville Sprint. It combined the potential to see a bunch of my Austin friends with an interesting-looking race so I signed up.
In the week leading up to race day, I had several schedule changes– first I was supposed to be in DC on the 18th, then I was supposed to be in Galveston, then I didn’t have to be anywhere. I decided that it would be a shame not to stop by Alexandria en route, so I left Friday afternoon after work, flew through a stiff headwind, and landed in Alexandria about 930pm, at which point I shot the required 3 landings needed to regain my night currency. After a delicious dinner of shish kebabs, I visited with Mom and my cousin Melissa (the same one who runs marathons!), then hit the rack. The next morning featured plenty more visiting; I left AEX for Austin Executive about 1130.
My flight to Austin was perfectly uneventful, although cloudy, so I was able to shoot the RNAV 13 approach when I got there. The staff at Henriksen Jet Center had a car for me, so I headed out for packet pickup, which was at Jack and Adam’s Bicycles. Frankly I was a little disappointed– given that Austin is such a bike mecca, I was expecting a bigger, fancier store with more stuff. Maybe the location on Lamar isn’t their biggest one? In any event, after packet pickup, I went to meet Erik, Chris, and Chris’ family at Takoba, where I had a truly excellent Mexican meal. (Having said that, I have yet to have a bad meal in Austin, so keep that in mind). Erik and I went around the corner to The Brixton for a beer, where we watched an epic thunderstorm ravage my bike while we chatted. Because I didn’t want to stay out too late, I headed over to Chris’ since he had generously offered me his guest bedroom. I got to meet all four of his dogs and hear about his recent adventures getting his EMT certification at Remote Medical International, which sounds like exactly my kind of place. I was sound asleep by 10pm.
Race morning dawned but I couldn’t tell; there was a heavy, low overcast. EDC was reporting a 700’ ceiling, and the radar didn’t look too favorable either. I retrieved my still-damp bike, loaded up my bag, and headed out to Pflugerville. After a quick stop at HEB, a local grocery store, I found the race site, parked, and got everything set up in transition, with plenty of time left over; the organizers delayed the race start for 15 minutes because of the weather.
Side note: I wish I had read this list of tips on how to deal with rainy races before the race!
The swim was 500 yards in Lake Pflugerville, a city reservoir. My goal was to swim at a steady pace that I could sustain without stopping, and I did. Unfortunately it was slower than I wanted. I had a good steady rhythm though. I was further slowed by the huge fields of hydrilla growing underwater along the return leg of the course. There is more weed in that lake than a Willie Nelson concert. I literally got tangled in the weeds on the return leg; they reached all the way up to the surface so it wasn’t just that my body position was poor. This was both disconcerting and aggravating. Apparently this is a known problem and the city cleans the weeds out every so often.
T1 was slow. I need to work on this. Part of the problem was that I spent some time trying to figure out why neither my HRM nor my on-bike iPhone mount were working. (HRM battery died, iPhone mount got water in it so the ANT+ key is apparently broken). As an experiment, I took 200mg of caffeine in T1, but didn’t eat anything else.
The bike leg felt really solid. The course had lots of little rollers, which were no problem. Not having cadence visible on the handlebars bugged me a lot for the first half but then I got used to it. We had a HUGE rainstorm from about miles 7-11 which slowed me down a bit, but overall I was pleased with my average speed. Despite my speed, though, I was getting passed left and right. Apparently Austin has a lot of really fast cyclists after all. Towards the end of the bike, I was having what felt like muscle cramps on the right side of my abdomen— not GI, but more like the feeling after you do a ton of planks. Not sure what brought that on, but it didn’t last; I am not sure whether it was temporary cramping brought on by electrolyte imbalance, bad posture, or just bad luck.
(For your entertainment, here’s a video of the bike leg. I shot it with a Garmin VIRB mounted on my aerobars, then ran it through Microsoft’s Hyperlapse Pro software to speed things up. For another time, a post on Garmin’s VIRB Edit software and how to make it work properly.)
In T2, I ate a Gu, drank a bit of Mercury, and emptied some of the water out of my bike shoes before taking off on the run The run was a packed gravel trail around the lake. I was really slow going out at first but settled in about halfway. For the first part of the run, I was running until I felt like I had to puke, then I’d walk, then when it passed I’d run more. I don’t know if it was the caffeine, the heat, or just bad luck; I’ve never really had that problem before. Luckily, it went away partway through, and I ended up with big-time negative splits: 11:22, 10:33, 8:51. The splits reassured me about my progress towards readiness to do an Olympic-distance race.
The race was very well organized and supported. Like many larger races, they had a professional announcer/DJ who played good music before the race and called out finishers’ names as they crossed the finish line— always a nice touch. I wasn’t hungry after the race, so I didn’t sample any of the post-race goodies. For swag, I got two hand towels, a bike bottle, and a small dog tag (plus my race shirt): not a great haul, but not the worst I’ve ever had. I can always use more triathlon-themed hand towels for the guest bathroom!
When I first saw my results I was pretty disappointed at my overall rank. However, after I plugged my results in to my tracking sheet, things looked a lot better. Austin has TONS of triathletes and yesterday, most of them were faster than I was, but I am headed in the right direction– I was faster on the bike than in New Orleans, my swim time was on par on a 20% longer distance, and my run splits were terrific. Onwards!