I hereby declare your curse on me officially broken. I will admit you did not make it easy or satisfying for me this year, but I think I can say that you no longer hold the power to frustrate me.
Three years ago, a downpour of rain first washed away the chance for a swim, then the bike portion, and then even the run was cancelled. Along with those storm waters went the $100+ registration fee, and my chance to do my second Olympic triathlon. A year later, with my second Austin Triathlon under my belt, a disastrous run in high heat debilitated me, and while I officially finished, it was without pride or happiness. Then last year, you tried your best to chase me from the sport, as I sulked for 24 hours after my finish. I can still remember, 15 minutes after crossing the finish line starting at a new personal best on the clock, finding a race official and disqualifying myself because I had skipped a lap on the bike course.
While you are likely the worst organized triathlon that I’ve competed in, and you seem to strive to keep that reputation year after year, I still wanted to take one last shot at you, to see if I could escape the bermuda triangle of my triathlon career unscathed. Even reading that my wave start time was the very last did not dissuade me (my 35-39 M-Z Wave took off at 8:30 AM, with the air already too warm, and the joys of navigating through a packed Lady Bird Lake and a packed bike course ahead of us).
The swim went well, despite your efforts. I kept forcing myself to bury my head like the T3 coaches have been telling me, as I have a tendency to keep my chest too high in the water like a sprinter. I came out of the water in 30 minutes, with a high heart rate, but feeling ready for the bike. The first lap of the bike was tough, and my heart rate was closer to 170 than it should have been, but it worked its way down over the course of the first 6 mile lap. The second and third lap, I felt like I was putting my training to good use – my cadence was higher, and my legs weren’t wearing out. The fourth lap (the one I skipped last year) seem to take revenge upon welcoming me, and my quads began to hurt. I lost the mental battle of the fourth lap, but still managed to get into transition feeling like I had a decent run in me. The first mile of the run always makes you question your ability to finish. And it was hot. Already above 80 degrees, I knew my core temperature was the key to everything. With little wind, I followed Coach Mo’s advice from the Galveston 70.3 and kept dumping water and my head – two waters for my head and one Gatorade to drink. Of course, there was almost no Gatorade to be found on the course, which was lame. And, at the water stop where I needed it the most, no water. They were out. “Sorry”. I almost told the little kid working the table that his parents running the table were morons, but that was the tired legs and overheated brain talking. I finished with 3:42 and change on the clock, and assumed I had run a 2:42, my best Olympic distance by about 10 minutes.
But, it was not to be. Apparently I had started with 50 minutes on the clock, so my time was 2:52. Looking at the distances on my Garmin, your bike had been longer than 24 miles, and your run course had been longer than 6.2. Talking to other swimmers, your swim was also apparently off. I have no way to confirm this other than what GPS reported, but a lot of other athletes reported the same thing, and I’ve never heard that about all three lengths of a tri (there is often problems making the swim exact, as buoys float or move in the current, even when anchored). So who knows how I did in comparison to previous years. I was running on tired legs (I hadn’t really tapered except for Sunday), had done more distance than previous years, and had finished in hot, hot conditions. So I am chalking up a victory over you but not a very satisfying one.
I think this may be my last time I will ever do battle with you again, CapTexTri. You’re just not that much fun compared to other races I’ve done.
Your lowlights from this year included your lack of Gatorade, your dixie cup sized portions of water, the worst finish chute – long lines of people getting official photos taken blocking you from getting food and water, medals kind of hidden off to one side, your mediocre giveaways, your boring and unshaded run course, your mis-measured course, and your very narrow run along Brazos where we were all bumping each other – I even received a less than friendly shove from one runner.
Despite your efforts, CapTexTri, I still finished with a smile on my face, and enjoyed the day, mostly because of Lisa and Dan doing their first Olympic distance triathlon. A year ago Lisa (spouse) and Dan (friend) made a bet for this year, that both would enter, and if one of them finished but the other did not, that the finished could parade the other one around downtown in clothing of their choice. Both finished, but it made for high drama. The secondary bet was that the faster time (Lisa) now gets a party thrown in her honor by the slower time (Dan). I’m really impressed with Lisa – despite not really being excited about this race, she trained, pushed herself, and had a great bike segment. When I got to run next to her for a few steps, I asked how she was doing and the answer was not positive. But she still ran a great time compared to what she usually runs in an open 10K, so I was impressed.
Seeing Neel, Melissa, Chris, and Malinda along the course was awesome. And seeing friends like Albert who were racing is always a ton of fun.
A bit of mental instability
CapTexTri, our bad history did cause some problems for me mentally during parts of the course. Friends of mine were attending the event, and I did not see them at all during the bike course, and so my mind feared the worst: Dan had drowned and they were helping pull the body out of the water. I wondered “will they pull me off the course or let me finish?” and I wondered how each of my friends would vote. Honestly at that point I didn’t care that much about the race, so either way would have been fine with me. But, I was very excited to see a very alive Dan on the run course.
My next two “B” races (i.e. races that I am doing for fun versus a new personal milestone) are the Couples Triathlon and then my favorite, the Austin Triathlon.
I am happy to not say “until next year CapTexTri” but simply walk away with a smile.