OK, I am only two and a half weeks late in getting this up. For me, that is not too shabby. For the average person, that is horrible.
The Texas Tri Series came to an end on October 17th at the Ironman 70.3 Austin, formerly known as Longhorn 70.3. This was in many ways a race of contradictions. I PRed, but had a bad race. The race was well organized, but not a good experience. So, with that I shall go into report.
For those that don’t really want to read too much, here is a really quick recap. My swim went pretty well am happy with it. T1 was a little odd as I felt a bit nauseous running to my bike, but it settled quickly. The bike started off well, too well. And instead of trying to slow down and conserve energy, I pushed it and was spent by the end of it. Ultimately my time was great though. T2 sucked as I couldn’t find my shoes right away. The run was horrible! I walked some of it. But I finished a little more than 30 minutes faster than my half ironman last year.
Sadly one of my fellow competitors in the Texas Tri Series got hurt and was unable to run Longhorn. But, that allowed me to move into 4th place in my age group. Not the way I wanted to move up a notch, but what can I do.
Now for the details...
I picked up my packet out at the Travis County Expo Center on Friday after work. This had to be the most steps I have ever gone through to pick up a packet. And somehow I missed the one that would give me my transition bags. Oops. OK, back into the assembly line of competitors to see where I screwed up. I found it without too much of an issue, and was able to work my way out.
Saturday I had to take my back down to Walter E Long (Decker Lake) to be prepositioned into transition one (T1). I actually like leaving my bike overnight as it is one less thing to lug around with you on rave morning. But, with this being a huge race, bike rack space was at a premium, and you had to rack by your race number. I can barely remember how to get to my office some mornings, so I always try to get to transition early and stake out a spot on the end of a rack so I just have to look for my bike. No such luck with this setup. Oh well. I’ll just have to try to remember where it is I am racked.
The worst part of all of this was that I do try to let air out of my tires overnight to avoid the risk of a flat the next morning. (Colin convinced me that this was a good idea. And he is quite right!) Typically it is not a big deal to pump up your tires in the morning, but for this race, we had bags that everything had to fit into. A morning bag for anything that we would need before the swim start, and immediately after the race, a bike bag, and a run bag. My bike pump does not fit into one of those bags, and I had no spectators at the race that I could hand the pump off to. I was at the mercy of the benevolence of my fellow competitors on race morning. This worked out perfectly fine, but, as I am sure is the case with most endurance athletes, I don’t like leaving things to chance or in the hands of others - at least when it comes to racing.
Race day! Traffic was backed up early. And only got worse later thanks to a wreck. Thankfully I missed that. This morning, I had to park at the expo center and then get on the school bus that would take me over to Decker Lake. First though I had to drop off my run bag at transition two (T2). Again it was by number and this spot was even more hidden than my bike spot. Ugh! Oh well. On to the bus I went and got out to the lake. Luckily there was a very nice guy racked a few bikes away that let me use his pump. After dumping the liquids on the bike and placing my bag on the handlebars I was ready to go chat with a few friends that were racing and just get ready for it all. Colin got trapped in the wreck that I mentioned earlier and barely made it out to the lake before the first pros were getting out of the water. He and I chatted a little bit and helped each other into our wetsuits right before his wave started. I was five minutes behind him.
Finally, nearly an hour after the first wave, it was my turn to go. The horn blew and we were off. The first 100-200 meters were great and I was hanging with most of the lead pack of my wave, but then I lost whatever wind I had and could not catch my breath. Instead of fighting it, I just started breast stroking for a little while and low and behold, within a minute I had my breath back. OK, back to swimming! I started passing different colored swim caps by the halfway point and just managed to keep trucking along. When I finally got to the swim exit I heard the announcer say, “And one of the first blue caps to make it out of the water, Tanner Hunt from Austin!” Holy crap, I had no idea I would be anywhere near a point to be one of the first out of the water.
As I trotted up the hill I started unzipping my wetsuit and looked for the strippers. (Side note: I think it would be hilarious if a local strip club actually volunteered to do this at a race sometime.) But the wonderful non-exoctic dancer wetsuit strippers did a great job of getting me out of my wetsuit and back on my way. As I was running up the hill I just felt my stomach lurch and had to start walking for a little bit. Not quite sure what it was all about, but oh well. I found my bike without much trouble and stuffed my wetsuit in the bag and was on my way. My stomach was already settled down a little.
The bike started off great and I was feeling wonderful. A little cold and drafty, but wonderful. Then I looked down and saw that my jersey had become unzipped to where it was just barely hanging on by the zipper start. I tried to pull the zipper up with one hand but quickly discovered this was a two handed task. Ugh! I do not have the best balance on the bike, so this will be interesting. The first 5 or so miles had a lot of hills, turns, and rough road, so I just had to suck it up and enjoy the breeze. Finally we got into the flat part of the course and I decided it was worth a shot. I rode my bike with no handlebars. And I got the zipper up! I was actually very impressed by the feat. I fully expected to have to pull over and stop to do this. Onward I went. I hit mile 20 in about 55 minutes and realized I was going a fair amount faster than what I had planned on doing. Instead of realizing that this was a sign to slow it down and conserve, I tried to keep it going. By mile 40 the stretches were very frequent and I was not a happy camper. Oh well. Gut check time. By the time I made it back to the expo center and T2 I was starting to fade mentally. I have become fairly good at getting my feet out of my shoes while on the bike so that I don’t have to run in them and save a little time getting my running shoes on. As I rolled up to the dismount line I realized that I was still securely clipped in. Oops! Luckily I didn’t fall and got off the bike before the dismount line.
I couldn’t remember which row I was in for the life of me and had to look at the signs on the end of each row to see where my stuff was. Finally I found it and was able to get to my stuff. Got the bike racked and put all of my crap on, stuffed my bike bag with stuff and was on my way.
Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t feeling exactly fresh at this point, but new that my time was looking pretty good and if I could just keep it around a 7 minute pace for the first half of the run I would be doing great. And I typically start the run feeling bad but once I find my stride I can hold it. I hit mile 1 at 6:55 and was pretty happy with it. Right around the time I was leaving I saw Ginny and Padre (2 other runners from my running group, Riff Raff) not too far apart from each other as they were working on their runs. Mile 2 came up at 14:10. Not too shabby, we are on the trail part of it so I was fine losing a little bit of speed. I think I hit mile 3 at a little over 22 but was still doing OK. Then the wheels fell off. As I came up the big hill (Quadzilla) I had to do something that somehow I have managed to never do in a race before. I walked. After a few seconds I started to shuffle my feet again and made it to the top of the hill. Just then my quads started cramping on me. This was another first. Oh boy. And to top it off, my stomach was definitely not happy. After rubbing out the quads, I got back to doing a little bit of a jog, but my stomach was not getting any better. Finally, somewhere around mile 5, I pulled off to the side and forced myself to puke. That really helped and I found my stride again. It certainly wasn’t the 7 minute pace I was looking for, but it was something resembling running. And then I made it to the water stop manned by Riff Raff. As soon as they saw me they just erupted into cheers and there was no way that I could hobble through it. I found my stride, grabbed some drink (no clue what) and smiled big as they shouted. 50 meters later I returned to the hell that was going to be my life for the remainder of the race. My legs were fried. My resolve was withering into nothing and it just seemed like a long way to go. As I completed my first lap I realized that there was absolutely no chance of accomplishing my B goal of breaking 5 hours and what little spirits I had wilted drastically. But, I had a race to finish and dammit I was going to finish it. The quads kept cramping and there was more walking this time around than the last, but I tried to intermix a jog in there as much as possible. Shortly into the start of my second loop Colin saw me and said hello is his always chipper mood. Sadly all I could muster was a meek response, but his energy did make me feel a little better. Again, when I hit the Riff Raff water stop I found a spring of energy and tried to put on a show of competence and nearly pulled it off. Padre, was a little ahead of me and later said that he heard the cheers when I went through the water stop. How cool of a running group is that?! As I entered the Expo Center grounds I saw Padre was only about 20 meters in front of me. No sooner was I trying to catch him so that we could run in together that my quads seized up on me forcing me to stop completely and rub them out. Finally they released and I was able to start jogging again. As I made the turn up to the coliseum I started pushing if only to make myself feel a little better (mentally only that is - this increased pace did absolutely nothing good for me physically) and hammered my way to the finish line inside. I crossed the finish line. I finished it.
Final time was 5:27:09. A good 32 minutes faster than last years race (different course), but my run was a solid 15 minutes slower. Ultimately I am happy with the race as it is a huge testament to my training, coaching, and support that I have had that I can be disappointed by a 32 minute PR. But it is a tough pill to swallow knowing that I put myself in position to have a great race and then not be able to bring it home. Up next is the Rogue FAT ASS Trail Series - The Mule 30k on November 21st. Then, the Big Bend Ultra 50k on January 16th. Oh! And ironman prep. No rest for the wicked. Until the next time - run friendly!