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!

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