Gray. Cool. Wet. Three apt adjectives to describe Saturday morning of the 2012 Rose City Triathlon. This was to be my second tri and it was at the same event as my first. I did the 2011 Rose City Tri last September. However, last September was sunny and warm. The two different weather events would have a lot to do with how my triathlon turned out.
I felt fairly confident with my training as I set up my transition area. Once again, I had drawn a small number (19) and would set up on the main line in and out of transition. I had done my work and was hoping for a good improvement over last year’s first one. But, as I stood there in a hoodie waiting for time to go up to the dam, I didn’t feel as confident.
Swimming first in cool weather could mean a very cold swim followed by a cold bike. Add in that I really don’t like biking in the rain and it wasn’t making me ready to go. However, the light rain didn’t last too long and when the water temp was called, it sounded better. No wetsuits allowed today because the water temp was 80 degreesF. Whew! Somewhat better.
However, I was a little too confident on the swim part. Last year, I had only gotten off course a little and then got back on and did fine. However, with overcast skies, my poor vision and blue swim goggles, I should have done something different to prepare. As the siren went off, I put my head down and took off. However, when I first looked up, I was way off course to the left of the buoys. I corrected and got it back on path but was then going too far right. I finally switched to breast stroke just so I could aim in on the buoys and get around the corner, but that is slow.
I thought once I got round the turn that I would be alright on the line to the shore. However, I couldn’t see any markers on the shore. Nothing was standing out except the big white pavilion. If I had been smarter and gone down to the swim exit and looked around, I might have had a better line, but no, I didn’t do that. So, since it was the biggest thing around and should have marked the left of the exit (or so I thought) I aimed for it. At least I could see it.
Nope, that wasn’t right either. The swim exit was way to the LEFT of the big white pavilion. The lifeguards on the kayaks kept trying to get my attention and move me back to the left and finally I could stand and see the shore. Sure enough, I was way off. When I finally got in line and got to the exit, I was certain I had been in the water longer than 30 minutes. Way too long.
I changed in the first transition well, but with the rain, I knew I needed to put on my shirt. It would be too cool to comfortably bike without it. That takes extra time. My choice of using my older shoes was a good idea, though. I was worried the Speedplay cleats would fill up with sand and make it hard to mount. My older road shoes use a different cleat and didn’t fill up with dirt. I mounted well and took off for the highway.
The race director made note of the crappy highway with the monster sized rocks in the chip seal. He wasn’t joking. I don’t think I have ever seen one as bad as this. We were extremely fortunate to only be on it for a mile and a half, and that was plenty enough.
The main portion of the bike course runs north up the side of Lake Tyler. It is a quite typical hilly East Texas ride. Rollers most of the way and you are also gradually climbing on the out portion. I supposed it must be 6 to 6.5 miles on this section, but it will use your legs. The Fuji isn’t my best bike for hills, but it was riding well. I’ve had good practice with hilly routes in the past and know how to tackle them; lower gears, and higher revs. No reason to set any high gears on even the more flat portions as it just uses up your legs too much. I was pushing harder on the out portion hoping to make up my crappy swim time. It was working as I passed several riders.
I backed off a bit on the return to save up my legs, but since you are in a general downward direction, it lends itself to easing up. Coming back, there was only one or two major hills and I found them easier to tackle by just getting out of the saddle and grawnching it out. Got them over with quicker. Then another mile and half on the chip seal and into transition.
I changed quickly into my shoes and picked up my hat. I brought a hat this time because I thought it would help on the sun, then I thought I would need it for the rain, but there was neither. One rider asked while I was putting on my running shoes, “Now where is the run out?” Huh? It’s over there, and by the way, didn’t you check when you set up? But then again, I hadn’t checked on the swim exit either.
My legs felt good on the run out and I set an easy but quick pace to start. I would plan to hold this pace for the first mile and see what I could do afterward. I passed a couple of slower runners early on and that made me feel good. I was setting a good pace and I wasn’t hurting. The run course is a 5K sort of out and back. You start at the center between transition and the food tent (where the finish line is), run out to the highway where the bike course is then u-turn back to the center. You turn right away from center and run down and back again, then turn right and go across the dam. After a right turn and about 100 yards of trail running (yes, off the road), it’s back across the dam and into the finish.
You have to give it to the run course designer. If you’re a spectator or family member, this is the best viewing spot of all. Three times each runner comes to the center of this ‘T’ configured course. The runners are only out of view for a slight bit across the dam. Pretty spectator friendly, I think.
I turned into the T with a good pace and started to pick it up as I saw the 1-mile sign. Each time I passed someone, I could pick out the person in front and gauge if I could pass another. Strangely enough, the run was getting enjoyable. I knew I needed to run well to make up for the swim, and I was doing just that. After I finished the second time back to center, it was out across the dam. I began to pick up my pace some more.
After the run through the woods a bit, I took a drink from the aid station and set off for the finish. Runners come out of the woods and look across the dam and can just barely see the finish. There were still quite a few out running. I felt good so I went for a good ending. My only worry, and the only place on this course I don’t like is coming off the dam road into the grass for the final 100 yards or so. It’s steep and it was wet. I slowed way down and was careful. I didn’t want to fall here in front of everyone and waste my excellent run. Yes, it was an excellent run, I just didn’t know by how much.
Made it back into transition and cooled off and got everything together. The volunteers at the Rose City Tri are really cool. They put roses on our bikes while we are out on the run course. Tyler is known for its roses and rose gardens. I still have to applaud these guys. They put on an excellent competition, but are always willing to help out first timers, and even second timers that get lost. If you’re looking for a triathlon to start on, this is the one. Nobody makes you feel bad or inept. They work to help everyone have a great time.
I loaded up my gear and wanted to see how it had turned out. However, they hadn’t posted any times. The East Texas Triathletes that put on the event really do a good job of rolling out the party for the athletes. There is great food, but after getting up really early, I just didn’t want to wait. I had to leave not knowing how well or not well I had done. Regardless of the time, I felt like it was a success because the bike and run portions felt like they worked just fine.
After getting some great BBQ at Duke’s Plaza on I-20 (yes, I didn’t miss any good food, just went down the road) and getting home, I cleaned up and waited for the results to post. 2:03:28 was my total. About six minutes faster than the previous year. I was shocked when I noticed my swim time was only 25:21, only four minutes longer than my first. Somehow, I hadn’t done too poorly, though I know I need to work on some things. However, my bike time was 59:08 and the 5K was 31:01 (a 13 second PR!). A 14.7mph average on the bike is a good improvement from the previous year, but the run was outstanding. To PR my 5K time after the swim and the bike really felt good. Success, thank the LORD!
I was 10th out of 12 in the Clydesdale division. Ironically, that is about where I end up usually. I was 12th on swimming (of course), 10th on bike, but 9th on running. I have to know that at my weight and level, it’s unlikely that I will move up easily. I am competing against a lot of guys that weigh in at 203 to 220 (I weigh 247) and some are much younger. However, it’s not about really trying to win, but about succeeding at what I planned to do. I wanted to improve this year and I did that. My biking and running have improved a lot over last year’s work and that carried the day.
I still have to realize that the glory of the event goes away quickly. Monday morning, I’m just plain old Dave back to work. But when things look a little tough, these are the kinds of things we look back upon and realize that it’s not so tough and we are tougher. We cannot control the weather. Instead, we can control ourselves to overcome what the weather dishes out. I still have some work to do on swimming. I’ll have to start working on sight lines and figuring out why I pull to the side so much. But, for now, I am glad that my training has paid off for the most part. Now, with Summer events over, I can concentrate on my running for the Dallas marathon in December. Happy Running!
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