Thursday, March 22, 2018

Austin Ironman 70.3! (Race Weekend!)

Okay, it's been a while, but I thought I'd finally post about the 2017 Austin Ironman 70.3 race weekend. :-). Like I mentioned in my last post, I felt fairly optimistic -- if anything I was a bit burned out on training.

The big kicker, though, was that the weather was forecast to be 38 degrees race morning, which resulted in a bit of last-minute anxiety, mostly due to the mantra, "Don't do anything different on race day." That is, it is unwise in the extreme to test out new equipment or clothing on race day. Unfortunately, faced with the prospect of a 38 degree swim and bike ride (and the fact that it would warm up quickly), we had to make some last minute adjustments.

The week before the race, I picked up a triathlon jersey that had sleeves, and borrowed some arm warmers from one of my training partners.  Saturday morning, I went for a five mile test ride and realized I needed gloves, which necessitated a trip to Austin Tri-Cyclist, where I was not the only one making such a purchase :-). 

I was still a bit concerned about the swim, but I had a wetsuit, so I figured I'd done all I could do. Still, I was coveting one with sleeves...
I next headed over to the Travis County Expo Center to pick up my swag bag, drop off my bicycle and gear, and check out the transition areas.

Our happy faces before we get out of the car into the cold...

 Next morning, three of us drove out together and arrived in the cold dark of the Travis County Expo. Center at around 5:30. Did I mention that it was cold? Eventually, we got on the bus to take us to the staging area at Walter Long (Decker) Lake. There, we put on wetsuits, met up with our other training partners, and shivered a lot.

Eventually, though, as the sun started to peak above the horizon, we lined up according to our projected swim times and prepared for the start of the race. I was still worried about the swim and the cold -- even though I was wearing socks (to be discarded just before start), my feet were starting to go numb and my arms were not happy either.

But then it was time! I ran into the water and dived in as soon as I could. To my surprise, it was actually pleasant -- the water itself was around 68-72 degrees, so compared to the air temperature, it was balmy.  The only real problem was that fog on the water and the glare of the sun were making it hard to see the buoys. About halfway through the swim I began thinking that the temperature really wasn't bad -- if anything, it was a bit too warm. 

Emerging from the water...

But then I finished the swim and stood and was confronted by the reality of confronting an air temp of around 40 while being soaking wet.  I grabbed my glasses from the special needs table and a nice man helped me get the wetsuit off. (This basically involved lying back on the wet ground, sticking my feet in the air and having him pull. Thank you, sir.). My time was a little slower than I would've liked, but I was fairly happy with it.

I made it to transition, took a big swig of water, swallowed the contents of an energy gel pack, and put on my winter cycling garb. Then I was off!

And it was frickin' cold.

Contemplating that wind chill...
 It was this weird Catch-22 where you want to go as fast as possible (for the race, of course, but also so you warm up), but also kind of are thinking that if you slowed down a touch the wind chill wouldn't be quite so bad.  I ended up spending the next hour shivering until the ambient temperature and I warmed up.
Now, I actually kind of like the bike route -- it's mostly country roads with little traffic, and I rode the route about a half-dozen times in training. The problem with it is that a number of the roads are not exactly well=paved. Bumps and potholes and patches proliferate, especially on Monkey Road. In fact, the dip where it crosses a creek is so bumpy that by the time I got there, there were at least a dozen water bottle scattered on the ground.

There were way too many hills, however :-).

Beyond that, the ride felt fine, although my back began to hurt about halfway through -- I wasn't used to spending that much time in the aero position, so most of the second half of my ride was with hands on the brake hoods. I made sure to stick with my hydration and nutrition plan, so I felt pretty good by the end of it.

Again, my time wasn't quite what I wanted it to be, but I was not displeased.

By the time I finished the ride, it was around noon and fairly warm, so I took the time to change from my sleeved singlet to a sleeveless one (Ironman rules require that you wear a shirt). 

Starting to feel the legs...
The run wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, although there were again too many hills :-).  I was pleased at the number and size of the aid stations -- water, electrolyte drink (Gatorade, iirc), Clif energy gels, Coca-Cola, and Red Bull were all available.  

I was definitely feeling my legs, but my quads didn't feel like they were going to seize up like they had when I did triathlons in the 90s -- all that training paid off, I guess :-). I managed to make it through without slowing to a walk (other than at aid stations, because I can't drink and run at the same time) and ended up with a run time that was comparable to my stand-alone half-marathon times.

At the finish line!
My final time was 5:50:36, which I'm pretty happy about. My goal had been 6:00:00, although I did think that 5:45:00 was not out of the question. :-).

Finisher photo! And medal!
The gang...
All in all, it was a great experience. I got out of my comfort zone, made some terrific friends, learned how to most efficiently change a bike tube, and never once thought, "I can't believe I'm paying to do this." (Okay, maybe once...).

After the race!
Celebrating the next day with Coach Peri!

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Austin Ironman 70.3! (The training post)

Never actually saw anyone on a horse
So after having completed my first triathlon in 20 years, I decided to sign up for the Austin Ironman 70.3 on October 29! It's a "half Ironman" distance race, meaning it's a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run. I figured the swim's only a little longer than an Olympic distance tri and the bike and the run are only about twice the distance, so why not?

Even better, the race was just outside Austin, so I wouldn't have to travel. The swim was in Decker Lake (Walter E. Long Lake), the bike was a 56 mile loop almost out to Elgin, and the run would be in the park by the lake and up to the Travis County Convention Center.  I was a little concerned about the hills (having run the Decker Challenge Half Marathon more than once) but decided that that was what training was for.

That started in June, not long after the Capital of Texas Triathlon. Yes, training would be through the height of a Texas summer.  And every time I went out, I would remember Noel Coward's line that "[m]ad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun..."

My training program was based Triathlete Magazine's Week by Week Training Guide and involved nine workouts a week. I didn't completely adhere to all of the mileage suggestions (some weeks doing more, some less), but mostly kept to the program of two a days.  

By early August, the mileage was starting to pile up but it didn't seem particularly efficient (and also was getting a little tedious), so I decided to join the triathlon training/masters swim group at Pure Austin Gym and, really, it was the best decision I made in the entire process.  The awesome Coach Peri Kowal leads two swim workouts a week, mostly in a pool but also including two a month in the Quarry Lake, so participants can get used to open water swimming. (Also, during the summer, the gym does a Splash N Dash (Swim 750k, then run 2k) once a month; it's good practice for the whole "group of people in the water, don't get kicked in the face" thing).
Quarry Lake
Somewhat to my surprise, the group was a mix from beginning triathletes to multiple Ironman (and Kona) finishers.  Everyone was enthusiastic and supportive, even when insufficiently caffeinated during the Thursday morning (6 AM) workouts.

Insufficiently caffeinated
Best of all, there were a number of folks for whom the Austin Ironman 70.3 was to be their first half Ironman, as well, so we fell into an ad hoc training group of the equally blissfully ignorant, typically doing our long bike rides and BRicks together on weekend mornings. It was great having a mutual support group and not just when we got flat tires...(Incidentally, if you get a flat in Texas, watch out for fire ants).

Anyway, here are some pics of the process:

Training happens even when you're away on business
Igloo coolers are our friends!

Monkey Road really needs to be resurfaced
Don't drive off with your cell phone on the roof of your car
The gang poses after a long BRick
Starting the run after a 40 mile bike ride...
Kevin and Alec hamming it up...
My first shoes to come with an instruction manual
Celebrating Coach Peri's birthday!
Sights you see along Town Lake
More sights...

About to test out a wetsuit
Went through a lot of these...

Feeling punchy three days before the race...

On the whole, training took a lot of time and work and there were moments in early October when I was really ready for race day to arrive. OTOH, I'm also happy I had that extra three weeks of training....

In the end, I was really glad to have been able to do race-distance open-water swims in the Quarry Lake and to bike the race route. I think we ended up riding the route about 5-7 times altogether and it was helpful not just for putting in mileage but in learning where the potholes and seams were. Also, the BRick workouts were really helpful -- when I had done triathlons in the 90s, the bike to run transition was always terrible. This time, not so much...but that's for another post :-).

I finished training feeling cautiously optimistic -- I'd put in the time and the mileage and the BRicks and the intensity and worked out my nutrition and hydration requirements and figured out how to change a flat tire without getting bit by fire ants in under ten minutes.  We had generally accounted for every possible variable and had kept in mind the mantra, "Don't try anything new on race day."

Except that having trained through blistering heat and humidity of Texas in the summer and fall, the weather was forecast to be 39 degrees at race start... 

So, how did that go? Well, I'll do Race Day Weekend in another post...

Friday, November 03, 2017

2018 Releases by Austin Authors and Illustrators

It's the eve of the Texas Book Festival so make sure you check out the festivities on the Capitol grounds! And here's a tentative list of projects from Austin authors and illustrators releasing next year! For previous years, go here.

Picture Books, Easy Readers, and Board Books

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A VOICE LIKE THAT? by Chris Barton, ill. by Ekua Holmes (Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane 2018).

MIGHTY TRUCK: ON THE FARM, by Chris Barton, ill. by Troy Cummings (HarperCollins, May 2018).
MIGHTY TRUCK: THE TRAFFIC TIE-UP, by Chris Barton, ill. by Troy Cummings (HarperCollins, May 2018).

PENGUIN AND TINY SHRIMP DON'T DO BEDTIME, by Cate Berry, ill. by Charles Santoso (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins 2018).

ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S DUELING WORDS, by Donna Janell Bowman, ill. by S.D. Schindler (Peachtree, 2018)

THE BOOK THAT JAKE BORROWED, by Susan Kralovansky (Pelican 2018).

COUNTING COLORS IN TEXAS, by Susan Kralovansky (Pelican 2018).

KATE, WHO TAMED THE WIND, by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Lee White (Schwartz & Wade, Spring 2018).

FRANCES IN THE COUNTRY, by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Sean Qualls (Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, Summer 2018).

DEAR SUBSTITUTE, by Liz Garton Scanlon, ill. by Chris Raschka (Disney-Hyperion, Summer 2018).

STALEBREAD CHARLIE AND THE RAZZY, DAZZY SPASM BAND,  by Michael Mahin, ill. by Don Tate (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).

PAR-TAY: DANCE OF THE VEGGIES (AND THEIR FRIENDS), by Eloise Greenfield, ill. by Don Tate (Alazar Press 2018).


Middle Grade

THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, by Samantha Clark (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, Summer 2018).

KNOCKOUT, by K.A. Holt (Chronicle, Spring 2018).

DEAR ME (tent. title), by K.A. Holt (Scholastic, Summer 2018).

THE PARKER INHERITANCE, by Varian Johnson (Scholastic, Spring 2018).

THE CAMELOT CODE: THE ONCE AND FUTURE GEEK, by Mari Mancusi (Disney-Hyperion, Oct. 2018).

GIRLS WHO CODE: LIGHTS, MUSIC, CODE, by Jo Whittemore (Penguin Workshop, Spring 2018).

REVENGE OF THE TEACHER'S PETS, by Jennifer Ziegler (Scholastic, June 2018).

Young Adult

HEARTS UNBROKEN, by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick Press, 2018).

AVENGED, by Amy Tintera (HarperTeen, May 2018).

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tri and Tri Again

This summer I was finally able to complete my first triathlon of the century! I've actually managed two: The Capital of Texas Triathlon, which takes place in downtown Austin over Memorial Day, and Jack's Generic Triathlon, which is in Pflugerville in August.

Unlike last year, the CapTexTri went off without a hitch and with nearly perfect weather. I was fairly happy with my swim -- my time was actually comprable if not better than my times from back in the day. My only problem was that I kept drifting off course since I couldn't see -- my glasses kept fogging up and I couldn't see the marker buoys...

The bike went well, too: again, my time was comparable to the last time I did an Olympic distance event, undoubtedly due to my brilliant training regimen. (Either that, or the new bike that's half the weight of my old one).

My only problem was that I didn't hydrate enough on the bike, which affected my run. I got really hot and crashed a bit on mile 4, so my run time was less than optimal. Also, I probably should've indulged in some on-course solid or semi-solid nutrition. Oh, well, live and learn... 

Here are a few pics:
Packet pickup at the back of the exhibit hall

The Cutco cutlery booth. I think this is for the "Game of Thrones" division
Everything you always wanted to know about how to mark your body for a triathlon
Alas, fixed-gear bikes are not legal in USAT sanctioned events
Setting up the swim venue
Shiny bikes all in a row (race morning)

On the bike!
And the run!
At the finish line!
I'd originally planned to run the TriRock triathlon over Labor Day, but that one was canceled this year, so I decided to run Jack's Generic Triathlon, in early August.

Again, I was fairly pleased with my swim, although I may have cut the course a bit. My goggles were fogged and I have no memory of rounding one of the triangular marker buoys. But my time was in the right ballpark, so it's enitrely possible I did it correctly :-).

The bike portion was two loops through rolling corn fields, which reminded me a lot of central Illinois where I would ride back when I was an undergrad at U. of I. It was rather windy, and I was very happy to have my new aero handlebars...It felt pretty good, too, and I made an effort to hydrate more than during the CapTexTri.  Apparently not enough, though, because I again crashed and overheated during the run.  But there were ice sponges on course and plenty of water and Nuun and there was an ice bath at the end...Also, I now understand why some teams provide their riders with Coca-Cola during the Tour de France...

All in all, a fun race that I will probably do again next year.

Because it's out in Pflugerville, I decided to check out the course beforehand:

Lake Pflugerville!
The Hydrilla-eating Monster
Panorama of the bike route. Lots of corn
Yes, I had my Bat Shark Repellent. Because you never know what the hydrilla monster is going to dredge up.
As usual, the race started way too early in the morning, but I managed to get a few pics:

Bicycles at dawn

Prepping for the afterparty
The swim exit is prepared
Posing before the swim just before warmups
The squint of the near-sighted swimmer racing to the transition area
Made it to the bike. I'm now a fan of aero handlebars
The transition area post-race
Post-race ice bath, yay!
Coca-Cola is our friend

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