Friday, May 29, 2009

Capital of Texas Triathlon

On Memorial Day I raced in the ITU Pan American Cup race at the Capital of Texas Triathlon in sunny Austin. After cutting my foot at Wildflower and rolling my ankle on a training run, I wasn’t sure where my fitness would be for this race. I was super-excited to get to race an ITU race in front of the “home” crowd in Austin, though.

somebody needs to lean their bike a bit more … who is that? … oh …

Town Lake (now known as Ladybird Lake, IIRC) was a balmy 71 degrees on race morning so it was a non-wetsuit swim. There were a lot of accomplished swimmers on the start list so we knew that the swim would be quick. Here is a sampling:

  • Mark Van Akkeren has been first-out at numerous IM races … qualified for Olympic Trials as a swimmer.

  • Kalen Darling swims for the University of Hawaii. Lots of open-water experience.

  • Brian Fleischmann and Cam Dye were the breakaway at the Geneva, NY points race last year.

  • Eric Limkemann swam at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Dave Kuendig swam at Kentucky and always seems to make the lead group.

  • Ben Collins swam at Columbia and made NCAAs in the 400 IM.

Of course you also run into guys like Callum Millward, Kevin Collington and Brandon Marsh before the start.

The most interesting thing about this bunch is that there are distinct levels of supreme swim speed in this group, bringing up questions like “will Ben keep up with Mark?” Normally you wouldn’t question whether all of these guys make the front group but with such premium swimmers like Mark and Kalen in the field, you have to wonder.

Anyways, the swim start was very fast and I worked pretty hard just to stay with whoever was around me. Side note: with the recent injuries, I had to play it conservative at the start. If my bad ankle or my bad foot got tugged on during the melee, that could end my race right there. So my positioning was less than ideal. When I was able to evaluate the situation a bit at 400-500m in, the pack was already breaking up. In fact, I was in a “C” pack that had already lost a lot of ground to the “B” and “A” groups. Mark strung everything out and reduced the lead group to 3-5 guys, of which only 3 made the bike pack. Ben & Kalen had slow transitions, so it was Mark, Brian and Cam together leading the bike. A few of the strongest swimmers exited between that lead group (16:30) and the main group (17:30) while my “C” group was almost another minute behind them! I tried to bridge from the C pack to the B pack … or at least to the stragglers in between … but while I could put a gap between myself and the C group the gap ahead was just too large. Bummer.

The bike went well enough for the first three laps. We reeled in a group of three ahead of us and while our organization wasn’t great, I’ve certainly seen worse. A group of guys who’ve never met each other that could rotate efficiently would be able to put minutes into the other groups. Some day I’ll figure out how to make that happen.

At the end of the third lap, we heard the telltale “pfffft” of a tire going flat. We were going into a tight U-turn and it felt like my tire may have gone … but it didn’t look flat yet. I lost the group as I tried to look at my tire while riding/cornering … then as I tried to charge back into things it became clear that the tire was very flat. I hadn’t done my homework about the wheel pit location so I did the best I could in that situation – I started asking spectators and officials, “wheel pit?! where is the wheel pit! flat! flat tire!” I got misdirected once and backtracked for a bit before learning that the wheels were at the other end of the course. According to the race results I lost five minutes while soft-pedaling to the wheel pit. I hadn’t given up, but I just couldn’t go very fast when I was practically riding on the rim. I saw Jimmy Archer’s group wasn’t far behind and I hoped to get my wheel change before they caught me so that I wouldn’t have to ride alone. They passed me 2 blocks before the wheel pit. D’oh!

I rode hard on my own for the last 1.5 laps and entered T2 in like 3rd-to-last place. At least I didn’t get lapped out! And at least I hopefully wouldn’t DNF for my second straight race! I had loaded my bottles with salt so that I’d hopefully withstand the 95 degree heat and 95% humidity.

I put on socks in T2 – very rare for ITU races but with my injuries it seemed prudent – and hit the run course. I tried to push it, hoping to reel in some of the guys ahead … but I was *way* behind the big groups at this point and I only caught 2 or 3 guys. Plus Tate caught me from behind and a few guys dropped, so I ended up third-to-last.

On a bright note – I finished the race. I didn’t worsen my injuries. I found that I still have a lot of fitness. So I’m eager to get back into the heavy training that will lead me up to Kansas 70.3 and the Philly Tri.

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