- Age: 40 year old male
- Weight: 190 lbs
- FTP: 268
- VDOT: Estimated 45-46
PR of 08:56
2014 has been a busy year for me. I raced Oceanside in March, Coeur d’Alene in June & this would be my final triathlon of the season. I wasn’t originally planning on racing Austin again (I raced there last year) but after IMCDA I floated the idea to my bride and she was super supportive.
I decided though that I would modify my training approach to reduce the impact on my family. Honestly, having an early season race (Oceanside in March) meant that I’d been really engaged in training all year long. And when I jumped into the training block for IMCDA it was a fairly big undertaking for my family. With six kids under the age of twelve – taking on 15-20 hours of training per week – with heavy weekend loads was just a lot to ask of them. They were champs and I got nothing but incredible support from them; but I know internally how hard those 12 weeks were on them. So I resolved that I would train hard for Austin but that I would pretty much eliminate one of the weekend workouts. I would do the bigger workout but skip the less big workout & instead swap it for a short run if I could get it in. The way our family schedule is set up I did most of the big weekend workouts on Sunday. I jumped into the Endurance Nation Half-Ironman Training Plan on August 18th (week 11) – 10 weeks out from the race (by the way, if you’re interested in hearing about EN and how it’s helped me prepare for three half Ironman races & one full Ironman race just let me know. Happy to share my experience!). Here is what my training schedule looked like for those 10 weeks.
I’ll say that overall, this was a really doable workout schedule. I made sure I hit all my mid-week workouts and that I hit them hard. And I don’t think it created any stress points with the family. So, all in all I feel like this was a good decision for my family given all that they’ve put up with this year.
Day Before Race
We left Dallas Saturday morning around 9 a.m. to drive down to Austin. This trip was a bit unique for us because we divided our crew up. Four of our kids stayed in in Dallas with friends and we took two with us.
Got to the Travis County Expo Center around 12:30 p.m. Got through the check-in line in about 20 minutes; bought a t-shirt and then made sure the WTC Tri Club List had me on the EN Team. Drove over to Decker Lake to check my bike in. Found my rack spot – which was close to the entrance to T1 and therefore a long way from the bike out. Bummer because the T1 area in Austin is notorious for having nettles in the grass. Many people end up carrying their bike out of transition to ensure nothing gets in the tire. I carried my bike last year and planned on carrying it out for this race.
Once the bike was racked we headed over to our hotel. We stayed at The Westin Austin at The Domain which was about a 15 minute drive from the race venue. It was a great hotel & thanks to my Amex points it didn’t cost us a dime out of pocket. The room rate included breakfast for two. When I checked in I told them we weren’t going to be able to use it since we’d be out long before breakfast was served so the manager on duty told me he’d transfer the credit for us to use during a late lunch. Sweet – a $40 credit at a nice restaurant! Another plus is that I’ve got gold status with Starwood Hotels (again…not because I travel but because of my Amex card) and that allowed me to get a really late check-out on Sunday….really late as in 4 p.m.
Once we were checked in I got my transition bags all set while Missy and the kids went out to run a few errands. For dinner I went and picked up some Maggiano’s which was 1/3 mile from the hotel. Simple penne pasta with red sauce and a meatball.
In bed, lights out at 8:51 p.m.
Up out of the bed at 4 a.m. Breakfast was three cups of applesauce with a scoop of protein powder & 16 ounces of coconut water. Got ready & we were headed out the door at 5 a.m. Thanks to my late check-out I knew we’d be able to come back and get our stuff after the race and that simplified the process a bit.
Got to Travis County Expo center and got my T2 bag set up and took a few minutes to visualize my bike in / run out path. Austin is one of those races that has separate T1 & T2 locations (Oceanside was the same way). I decided that this would be the race I actually used the ziplock bag method to get out quickly. I had my shoes and my socks ready & everything else was in a gallon zip-lock bag (i.e my race number, hat, nutrition, premixed 24 ounce disposable bottle of 50% Perform/50% water). I’d gotten my socks ready by getting an ample amount of Vaseline on the inside of the sock in the toe area. My plan was to rack the bike, throw my socks & shoes on, grab my bag & start running.
After my gear was set up in T2 we jumped on a school bus shuttle to drive over to the swim start / T1 area which is about a mile away. Got there with plenty of time to get into T1 and check my bike. Tire pressure was good. Put nutrition on the bike and got my helmet and shoes set up. Once that was done it was time to find a spot to sit down and relax & walk through my race day. I sipped through 24 ounces of Perform and had a GU 15 minutes before my wave started.
- Goal: < 32:00
- Actual: 31:03
- AG Place: 14 / 274
The pros went off at 7:30 a.m. The male 40-44 age group was split into two groups. I was in the second group – wave 10 out of 19. We went off at 8:10 a.m. When it was our turn I got into the water and made my way to the front of the group – dead center. My swimming has been pretty strong coming into this race & I figured I’d be in the top 5-10% of my age group. I decided to embrace that and start out up front to try and get out ahead.
There is no place to warm up pre-race and for me it takes about 400 meters before my shoulders get fully warmed up and the achy feeling goes away. Off we go and I swim hard to try and create some space. There was a decent amount of bumping early on but after maybe 200-300 meters most of that was done. I don’t know how long it took but it felt like I pretty quickly came up on some of the slower swimmers in the first wave of guys in the 40-44 AG. So there was plenty of swimming around others. I tried to focus on my form and make the most of each stroke – trying to make each stroke really count. I really wanted to get done in under 32 minutes and so I found myself really focusing on swimming…which sounds obvious but I’ve discovered if I’m not super proactive then my mind will wander off and I’ll find myself swimming with less intensity. So…I tried to keep my head in the game and sure enough – each buoy seemed to come quicker and quicker.
This was my fastest HIM swim and I’m really pleased with how it went. I find it very odd that swimming seems to be my strongest leg considering I never swam on a team as a kid, have never had official swim lessons and am a bigger guy. I’m not complaining…I just find it hard to explain.
- Goal: < 3:00
- Actual: 2:20
There is a pretty decent uphill path from the lake into T1. I came out of the water and hustled up the hill in a controlled sprint. Hit the wetsuit strippers and ran up into T1. Found my bike…put my shoes on (no socks), helmet, sunglasses, stuffed my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap into my bag, picked up my bike and started running towards bike out. Considering how long the run is from the lake to T1 and that I had to carry my bike all the way across T1 to the bike exit I feel really good about this transition.
- Goal: IF of 0.83 – 0.84 (222W – 225W) with a VI of 1.05 or less (Time & speed would take care of themselves)
- Actual: IF 0.84, VI 1.05 (AP 216, NP 227) Time of 2:43:47; Average Speed 20.67 MPH
- AG Place: 24 / 274
Got on the bike, took care of some admin stuff & tried to get my HR down a bit. Rode the first 5 miles at 194 watts (73% FTP) and then started looking toward my magic number of 222-225 watts. I’ve got my Garmin set to auto-lap every five miles. My primary screen is set up with four fields – 3 second power, Lap NP, cadence & HR.
This bike course gets a lot of negative press and to be honest, most of it is justified. Austin is a beautiful city and there are some great place that this race could be held (ideally on the west side of Austin). I think you could add more hills & climbs to it on better surfaced roads and make it a more enjoyable and challenging race (I’d also kill the three loop run for a prettier two loop run). The current bike course takes you over lots of bad chip seal pavement. Plenty of potholes. Too many train tracks to go over. Too tight in some places. All that being said I think I dislike this course less than others. I focused on my watts and avoiding potholes, ejected water bottles and other riders. One note…the first 15 miles of the bike course are fast so that was fun.
The bike was pretty uneventful – which I’m fine with. I tried to stay in the aero position as much as possible & control the things I could control. The miles ticked off pretty quick and before too long I was approaching T2.
In terms of nutrition – the weather report made it clear that it was going to warm up on the run and this run course offers very little shade so my plan was to get on my hydration early and to stay on it. I went through about 3 1/2 bottles of Perform. I had three GUs (one per hour at the 30 minute mark) and three salt tabs (one per hour at the top of the hour and a third at as I was getting ready to get off the bike). I peed one time on the bike – which to be honest gave me a slight cause for concern because normally I go 2-4x on an HIM bike leg.
When I got home and tried to analyze my bike file through Garmin Connect I didn’t get some of my key power data. I got average watts per lap…but not NP, IF, etc… I was pretty bummed about that because I feel like this was my best ridden HIM bike leg (of the three HIM races that I’ve done) and I was really wanting to see what the numbers proved. Then the thought occurred to me to try and load up the file in another program. So I dumped it into PowerAgent (CycleOps program) and bam – there was all my key data! Yeah!!
- Goal: <2:00
- Actual: 1:56
Hopped off my bike and ran hard to my rack. Dumped my T2 bag on the ground – off with my bike shoes & helmet. Sat down, put my socks & shoes, grabbed my zip-lock bag & made a bee line for the run out exit. I felt really good about this transition…and I hit my goal of sub 2 minutes. Very encouraged by that.
- Goal: < 1:50
- Actual: 1:51:38 (8:31 pr/mile)
- AG Place: 20 / 274
Felt great coming out of transition. Legs felt fresh & I was mentally encouraged by my bike ride. That translated into my coming out way too fast for the first couple miles. Shame on me…I know better. And even with the zip lock bag and putting stuff on while I started the run, my first 3 miles were way, way too fast. That was stupid, really undisciplined & frankly, I think it hurt me on the 2nd half of the run. Really disappointed by those three miles. I wanted to run those first three miles at an 8:45 pace and then I would try to drop down into an 8:20 per mile pace for the remainder of the run.
You can see below from the splits posted up by WTC that my plan clearly didn’t happen – which is 100% my fault. And as predicted it started to get warm…real warm and that combined with very little shade proved to be tough on the second half of the race. Again, tried to get ahead of the heat by grabbing ice at every aid station that had it – dumping it in my shorts & in my tri-top, along with water over my head on a regular basis.
This course offers a three loop run and overall I felt good on the first and second loop. Though on the backside of the second loop I noticed that my right quad felt as if it might cramp up. I tried to be very mindful of my form and not making any sudden, irregular movements. The feeling subsided but came back several more times from that point on. Fortunately, it never actually cramped up but I was certainly mindful of it.
In terms of nutrition – I had my pre-mixed 24 ounce bottle that I sipped on during the first three miles. After that I tried to get 8 ounces or so of water & Perform at every aid station. GU every 40 minutes and a salt tab at the top of each hour.
I found it odd that as hot as it was I didn’t sweat like I normally do. I’m wondering if I took too many salt tabs (I took one extra – unscheduled salt tab). I took one at the one hour mark on the bike, one at the two hour mark, one at the 2:40 mark on the bike (prepping for what I knew was going to be a hot run) & one at the one hour mark on the run. I don’t know if that would create a “less sweating” response from my body but I definitely found myself sweating less on the run. I also didn’t have to pee during the run and I would have expected to. I actually really focused on hydration in the days leading up to the race and felt like I took more than enough fluids on the bike. Not sure what to make of that.
Overall, I’m really encouraged by my progress and my PR. I feel like this was the best bike ride I’ve had in any triathlon. I’ve got lots of room to improve – I want to get stronger on the bike & more disciplined & consistent in my run. I’m not sure how much more time I can gain in my swim and in my transitions but I believe I can make some incremental improvements in those areas. My goal for 2015 will be to go sub 5 hours. It’ll take work but I believe it’s possible.
As I mentioned earlier, I raced Austin in 2013 (in the M35-39 AG). Here is a comparison of last year vs. this year.
- Thoughts on the very atypical lack of sweating during the run?
- My HR reading was all over the map. Clearly there was an issue with the data. I’m thinking maybe it was related to me dumping ice down my tri-top. Anyone else experience that?
- Due to the massive amount of water I was dumping on my head to keep cool my shoes were soaked by mile 6. What do other folks do to help keep your shoes dry? My feet were just torn up after the race. I’d love to actually run a race where my feet aren’t blistered and trashed. Thoughts?