Thursday, June 3, 2010

CapTex Tri Weekend - Austin, TX

Well, it is time to relay the events of Memorial Day weekend and my first ever triathlon. I have now had a few days to let it all soak in and just like any other endurance athlete out there, my mind has already shifted to something bigger and better. We just can't quite please ourselves, can we? It's always about the next goal or the next race. We are constantly wanting to improve and push ourselves to see just how far we can go. I will take a moment to reflect on a great weekend though.

My weekend started on Friday as me and two of my friends made the long trek down the holiday traffic clogged I-35. That really has to be one of the most dreadful drives in America. There is always construction. What is normally a 6 hour drive ended up being a 7.5 hour drive. Granted, we did stop and eat for about 20-30 minutes, but it still wasn't quick. The good thing is I got a chance to catch up on some of my music and prepare myself for Concertapalooza (more details to come soon) in June.

After arriving in Austin, I shacked up with my two friends in their room for the evening. Sleeping on the floor a few days before your big event isn't ideal, but hey, I needed a place to crash and they had an open floor. On Saturday, I opted out of the river floating experience on the Guadalupe to conserve some energy, avoid a sunburn, and just enjoy the city like old times. I didn't do much of anything other than walk around downtown, grab some coffee, and people watch. Austin is a great city for people watching. Saturday night the rest of the TNT crew rolled into town and we grabbed dinner as a group before hitting the nightlife for an hour or two.

Sunday was pretty much all dedicated to TNT and tri stuff. We started the day off going to the expo and picking up our multitude of numbers, bracelets, chips, and ID tags. A couple of hours later we took our bikes over to the transition area and found our wave's racks and picked our transition spot. After leaving my bike, a few of us went to the pool at the hotel and enjoyed a little relaxation time before we headed to the big TNT pasta party.

The pasta party was a really neat experience. All of the TNT groups at the event gathered together to celebrate the end of training and reflect on why we committed our training, time, and money to their cause. It was truly inspirational to hear stories of those directly impacted by blood cancers and learn that what we did the past 4 months actually made a difference. As a group of TNT volunteers, we ended up raising $550,000 that will help fund research and provide patient services to those affected by blood cancers.

My alarm started beeping at 4:15 AM bright and early on Monday morning and it was time to get my game face on for my first tri. I wasn't entirely nervous and had actually grown a tad confident as I envisioned myself going through the event. I knew I had prepared well, now it was time to go put it all together. We headed downstairs to meet up with the group and do our body-marking. I have to admit, the body-marking of the tri is pretty cool. I am a huge fan of the calf marking. I don't know why, but it just makes you feel legit when you start putting your age, race number, and wave all over your body. It was time to go!

The unfortunate thing about my age group was that our wave didn't actually get into the water until 8:20 AM. Yes, four hours after I woke up. The first step after leaving the hotel was getting my transition area set up and making sure I didn't leave anything vital to my race in my room. After checking and triple-checking my area, I made my way out of transition to find some of my fellow Oklahoma TNT'ers. I found a spot in the grass near the water and just watched wave after wave start their journey. It wasn't until about 20 minutes before my wave that I started to feel the slightest twinge of nerves. It was short-lived and my attitude changed back to confident and ready. It was just a completely different scenario compared to my first marathon. I was a bundle of nerves and emotion before White Rock. I knew I was going to do well here. I just felt it. Funny how things change in a week.

It was finally my time to enter the water. The swim start was in deep-water so a few of us waited until the very last moment before we jumped in. Luckily the water was a cool 68 degrees so wetsuits were allowed and it sure took the bite off the dreadful heat. After treading water for a minute or so, the gun went off. I had positioned myself towards the very back of the group so the whole mass start was pretty uneventful. I was able to settle into a nice groove and only had a few minor run-ins with people for the majority of the course. The final turn back to the swim exit was a bit precarious as several waves were bunched together. I got kicked several times and fell out of my rhythm. I had several guys cut me off and then stop which really didn't make me happy. If you are going to cut me off, at least be fast enough to stay in front of me and let me draft!

After hitting the exit steps, I struggled to my feet. I had never jumped out of the water that quickly after a long swim before so the sea legs, drunken feeling was quite amusing. I stumbled a few times before I got my balance and off I went to transition. My first transition left a lot to be desired honestly. It was over 4 minutes and could have definitely been shorter. I did help one guy unzip his wetsuit and the run from my bike rack to the mounting area was quite a jump. Running in cycling shoes isn't the most comfortable or practical way to move through an area.

After hopping on the bike, I took a second to get adjusted and started taking in fluids to help prepare myself for the heat. I knew it was going to be a hot, miserable run so I was trying to stay as hydrated as possible. The odd thing was that my stomach was on the verge of cramping the entire race. It felt like it was in a knot and never really got comfortable. Due to this, I really backed off on my gel and Gatorade intake so I wouldn't upset it even more. I did manage to get down 2 Clif Shots and half of my Gatorade bottle, but even that made me worrisome that my stomach might revolt.

The bike ended up being really strong for me. The course was a 4-loop course around the state capitol building. The upper portion of the course was hilly and the bottom portion of the course was flat and fast. After my first loop, I settled into my strategy of hammering it home on the bottom portion of the course and just maintaining a decent clip on the hills. I was confident I could make up for any lost time in the long, flat straight-away so I tried not to fret the hilly portion. The strategy seemed to pay off because I came off the bike feeling relatively fresh heading into the run. One complaint about the course was the congestion. Since my wave started so late, the last lap or two of my bike was littered with sprint and first tri distance racers. There was a huge variety of speeds and ability levels mixed in together and the streets made it difficult to pass at times. It's not a major issue, but one that could affect a more seasoned racer who wanted to really hammer it home.

After the bike, it was time to knock out my run. I went in pretty confident in my run, but I knew the heat would play a factor. The heat was miserable actually. I am not a fan of the heat, especially when running. I hit the run pretty hard at first judging by my mileage splits. I progressively got a little slower each mile and I could definitely feel my body telling me it was time to get it over with as I got closer to the finish. This was by far my hottest race ever. I have never thrown so much water over my head and in my face than I did on Monday during the run. Having my coaches, Ryan and Megan, cheering me on at every lap of the bike and run definitely helped push me forward and the fact that I could see my goal being accomplished on that day was particularly motivating. Finally I made the final turn to the finish line and it was time to celebrate. I ended up clocking in at 2:55:35 and met my goal of being under 3 hours!

Overall it was a great weekend in Austin, TX. I have many fond memories of my Team-in-Training experience and owe it to all of you for donating and supporting me along the way. I am extremely blessed and am thankful every day for the health I have been given. I have truly found my athletic love. Endurance sports are here to stay. I hope you guys will continue to follow along as I move on to my next goal. More details to come soon on the next step and the big picture dream I have in my head. It's going to be a great ride.