Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Race Report: Austin Triathlon

(Note: I am back-dating this post so that it ends up near the actual race date in the sort order.  Let me know if that is a blogging faux pas.)

I had a business trip to Texas at the end of August so I decided to spend the long weekend visiting friends in Austin.  It also just so happened that the Austin Triathlon was taking place, so I went ahead and signed up.  The Austin Tri is a second-year Olympic Distance race whose course is very similar to the Capital of Texas Tri, which kicks off the summer on Memorial Day Weekend.

Rumors swirled all weekend about who might be racing...  Richie Cunningham... Mike Lovato... Simon Lessing... none of them raced but it was still a pretty strong field for a non-pro race, including James Cotter, newcomer David Kahn, Brandon Marsh and me.

My biggest goal for this race was to really fight on the swim.  Do everything I can to come out with Marsh & Kahn.  Although this race's bike leg didn't allow drafting, I wanted to practice the tactics & intensity of needing to hang with the leaders. 

At the start my plan was to position myself next to Brandon & James.  I knew that James had been staying on Brandon's feet whenever they'd races each other in '08, so I figured that would give me two chances to stay in the lead group.  We jumped in and I swam over to the start buoy which marked the shortest path.  Of course those jokers were nowhere near it, off on the other side of the start line.  This is a good tactic for faster swimmers -- "hide" from the guys who might try to follow your feet -- although I can't really be sure that they were consciously trying to avoid me. 

So with the race set to start any second, I didn't think it was worth trying to swim along the start line looking for them.  I waited for the gun and then just tried to stay ahead of the swimmers around me and make sure that I didn't let anybody from the other side get away.  This actually worked quite nicely as only one swimmer from my end of the start line was able to stay near me and I had pretty clean water to swim in.  As things stretched out I merged in with the other leaders and we turned into a 4-pack.

Things felt pretty comfortable for the next 400m.  Marsh and Kahn swam side-by-side giving Cotter and me a lot of wake to draft in.  I just tried to keep my strong long and relaxed.  As we hit the turn buoy (maybe 600m in??) Brandon got on the front and started stringing things out.  Kahn got on his feet, I got on Kahn's and Cotter got on mine.  Cotter and I both started losing the feet ahead of us around 1k... I lost about 20 seconds to Marsh & Kahn and Cotter lost maybe 5 or 6 seconds to me.  I felt like I popped a bit those last 500m... probably something to be learned there.

T1... a pretty long run... I could hear the announcer talking about Marsh and Kahn just ahead...  James Cotter just about caught me as we were running out with our bikes


Bike leg... I tried to keep Cotter close but I screwed up on the long downhill stretch of South Congress.  I somehow got myself on the wrong side of a line of cones and had to brake a lot in order to get back on course.  Stupid mistake... cost me at least 5-10 seconds right there, plus I lost that visual/mental "contact" with the bike in front of me -- something that can be very useful even if you are too far away for any physical draft.

Eventually Cotter caught up to Marsh & Kahn and the three of them started the run together.  I was probably 3-4 minutes back and the next racers were about 2 minutes behind me.  I tried to push my pace a bit so that I could catch any of the lead guys if they blew up...  but that didn't happen so I just ran in No Man's Land the whole way and finished a very unambiguous fourth place overall.  I was still in the money and I felt pretty good about my swim effort... and I got to spend the day in Austin!  So overall, I can't complain!

aus-run-2 - Copy

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