Monday, October 30, 2006

Ironstar triathlon, Conroe, TX (October 29, 2006)

Link to Ironstar Triathlon results
(I'm the 6th individual)

Yesterday I did the Ironstar triathlon at Lake Conroe, which is in eastern Texas, about 3 hours drive from Austin. Lisa and I went there on Saturday the day before the race, and stayed at the hotel that is right at the race site. Lisa really liked this, since I could get up early and get to the race site at 5 am, and she didn't have to get up until just before the start at 7 am. We were lucky enough to have a room that had a view of the swim start, so Lisa watched the beginning of the race right from the hotel room. If we go to this one next year, this is definitely the way to do it.

This was a 1.2 mile lake swim, 59 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. The bike ride is 3 miles longer than the usual half-iron distance. I suppose this is because the course was a loop, and that's just how it worked out.

This race felt very different from my previous triathlons this year, since I had been so busy at work the last 2 weeks that I had hardly thought about it. I was able to get in my usual training the last couple weeks, but I was pretty tired from having long work days. I hadn't had time to go throught my usual ritual of checking out the bike course on google maps, or even thinking about how I was going to pace myself. I just kind of showed up, and made it up as it went.

This was a pretty big race, about 600 people. The start was in 6 waves of about 100 each, 5 minutes apart. I was in the 4th wave, with the over-45 males. I started the swim 5, 10 or 15 minutes behind the young guys, making it very difficult to tell what place I was in during the race. The women and relays started in the waves 5 and 10 minutes behind me. My wave had black caps (the other waves had the bright colors). I've never had a black cap in a triathlon before. Usually I have a yellow or orange or white cap, and I use a marker to put spots on it, so Lisa can tell which swimmer I am. But this doesn't work with a black cap, though Lisa can now recognize my swimming stroke anyway.

I started the swim pretty slow, and a bunch of swimmers quickly got ahead of me, maybe 10 or 15 seconds. I think most people start fast on the swim to try to get clear of the crowd, which seems sensible, but I was thinking about the nearly 5 hours of racing I still needed to do. After 5 minutes I ran into the slower swimmers of the wave ahead, and things really got chaotic. I accidently swam over a few people (oops, sorry about that!) and got kicked a few times pretty good myself. After swimming through that group, I overtook the slower swimmers the 2nd and first wave, and ended up finishing the swim surrounded by people all going different speeds who started at different times. I think I did the second half of the swim faster than the first half, and I came out of the water about even with another guy in a black cap. I heard Lisa yell "go David!", and I heard a few people shout "first black cap!", so I must have caught those other swimmers in my wave that started fast. So I was off to a pretty good start. My time for the swim was 27:57, which seems about right for me.

The weather was very cool, sunny and dry. It was about 48 degrees at the start of the bike, which is a bit chilly to be riding in wet clothes. I wore gloves, which kept my hands warm, and that was enough to keep me comfortable, and the weather warmed up quickly anyway. The bike course was rural roads through National forest and farms. The roads were not flat at all, rolling hills the whole way. But no big climbs, just rolling up and down. The road surface is bumpy chip-seal most of the way, which is slow to ride on. I did the first half of the bike at a fairly comfortable effort, passing lots of people who started the race before me. One or two people passed me in the first half of the bike ride. At about the 30 mile point, on a downhill part, I stood up on the pedals, stretched my legs, emptied my bladder (which mostly ended up in my right shoe), and had a good drink of water. Then I settled down and really started to ride hard. For an hour and twenty minutes I was passing people pretty fast, including one guy who had passed me earlier. It seemed like I was the fastest cyclist out there, but I know that the fastest riders had started the race 10 or 15 minutes ahead of me so I never saw them at all. I rode hard right up to the bike finish line. My bike time was 2:40, and average speed 22.0 mph, which is a bit slower than I have been doing in races lately, but not bad considering it was chip-seal roads, hilly, and pretty windy on the second half.

I started the run very slow, thinking I'd just kind of ease into it, and then hopefully get going after my legs recovered from the bike. My first mile was 7:45, running with a water bottle filled with diet coke. There were several long gradual hills on the run course, nothing too steep, but they were kind of long. During the first 6 miles, I took about 5 very short walking breaks, on the up hill parts. For these breaks, I would speed walk for about 20 or 30 seconds, and then start running again. I think the change in rhythm makes my legs feel better running, and it doesn't cost much time. I planned to run the last 7 miles, and hopefully finish the run faster than I started. I averaged about 7:35 per mile for the first 6 miles. Between miles 6 and 7 I got passed by a guy in my age group, who was running very well, and he gradually got away from me by about 30 seconds. I went by the 10 mile mark in about 75 minutes. I was running reasonably well at this point, and thought that if I kept my pace I could get under 1:40 for the half-marathon run, which was a goal of mine. Between miles 10 and 11 I noticed that I was gaining on the guy in my age group who had passed me earlier, and this really got me going. I ran the 11th mile in about 7 minutes, and caught up with my age-group rival. After running right behind him for a short distance, I passed him as fast as I could, while trying my best to maintain a facade of being perfectly at ease, pretending that this is the way I always run. But I was hurting pretty bad at this pace. I ran the 12th and 13th miles in about 7 minutes each, and was in too much of a daze to even look behind me. Fortunately that was good enough. My half-marathon time was 1:36:44, which is my best in a triathlon. I won my age division (45-49), and was also first masters (over 40) male. I was 6th overall, behind 5 young guys who I never saw, since they started the race ahead of me. My total time was 4 hours 49 minutes and 29 seconds.

That was a very satisfying way to end the season! I got a pretty good prize, a plaque and $100 gift certificate for a Houston bike shop, who can send me something that I pick out.

Today (Monday) I feel OK, a bit sore but no injuries. I think I'll go to the gym, but just take a long hot shower instead of the usual workout.

Here are the results (I'm listed 8th, but 2 of those ahead of me are relays):
Ironstar Triathlon results

Here are a few pictures from the race (just a small file):
Ironstar Triathlon photos