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I raced Jack’s Generic Triathlon this year. It’s near my heart because it was also the first triathlon I ever raced. Following are some recollections and lessons learned I’ll be taking into triathlon training, as well as future triathlons and running events.
This is now at least the 3rd location this race has been held. I’ve raced it at the New Braunfels Ski Ranch and this location. After New Braunfels, then it was at Lake Pflugerville, now it’s held at Lake Walter Long in Austin.
What I like
- I love Jack’s Generic’s goal of making a fun event, and the tag line that “you’re not just a number, you’re a bar code”.
- This new location has a great swimming lake.
What I don’t like
- The 2 times I’ve raced a triathlon at this venue and run from the lake to T1, I’ve gotten burrs in my feet. The grass is burr infested for the run to T1, and race organizers don’t account for it.
- While it’s the same conditions for everyone, the bike and run courses near this location are inevitably hilly.
- Some people dislike the off-road run course conditions. To me, this is a pacing issue (an area of strength for me), so I’m indifferent, and I even appreciate that it demoralizes some of my competitors. I’ll run a 5k anywhere I have an advantage over competitors.
I was first in my age group to leave in this time-trial start. About 200 yards in, I saw another swimmer with my cap color (and presumably in my age group) passing me.
By 600 yards, I saw 2 more swimmers in caps my color passing me.
Nonetheless, I took first place in the swim inn my age group! Very proud.
I found I heavily favored a left-side breathing. For a while around 200 yards, I began breathing both sides, but quickly found I’m not as strong on the left side to power breathing n my right side. My left side tired faster and lost power as I did so repeatedly. Maybe not coincidentally, this is also my weak left side, where I had inguinal hernia surgery last year. However, it is not that I am weak from the surgery. It is that until the hernia was repaired I had always not worked (or developed) my left side. Now I am able to see this, as I begin to challenge the side again, probably for the first time in my life.
- I forgot to start my watch! I’ll count 3 in future: goggles, cap, and watch, at the start of the race.
- It will help to practice pushing through tail end of the stroke, both sides.
- It will help to practice breathing to my right, exercising strong push through the tail of the left side stroke.
- Place shoes at water exit for the run to T1, for any event at Lake Walter Long.
5 minutes?! I have no idea how it got to be so long, but I do recall finding 2 burr-clover burrs in my left foot in transition. I stopped and leaned against the transition barrier so I could extract them from my foot. That was unnecessary time.
These 2 small burrs are better than the 2 I found last time I raced at this lake. The others last time were much worse.
I also sprayed the mud and grass off my feet once I got to my transition area. While this is potentially unnecessary, it seemed necessary at the time. There was a lot of mud (and grass).
The tri top takes a long time to put on, but it does earn reimbursement.
As I concluded to do earlier this year, I did not sit down in transition and put on my shoes while standing up. I am certain this saves time, though it would no doubt be faster to clip the shoes into the bike and put the shoes on while on the bike.
Nonetheless, this transition resulted in me dropping from 1st place in my age group to 18th. With each successive leg, I picked up places in the race.
- This is my biggest opportunity in triathlon. My T1s are often quite long.
- T1 is really little more than putting on shoes. Begin to practice clipping shoes into pedals, running the bike out of transition, and putting shoes on while bicycling.
- Save the race belt for T2: stop putting it on in T1.
- Until I perfect the flying mount: Top, shoes, glasses, helmet, bike.
- After I perfect the flying mount: Top, glasses, helmet, bike.
Short, hilly bike course.
Was passed by several people, mostly on TT bikes, including one with a “70” on his calf. The guy was a badass.
- Power training will improve speed.
- Grab bottle from bike while dismounting. Grab a drink while running the bike into transition.
2 minute transition is closer to my goal time for this transition but the fastest in T2 do it in around a minute, including time to run in and out of transition.
- Order of operations: Rack bike, helmet off, shoes off, shoes on, grab glasses and race belt, go.
- Put on glasses, then race belt, while exiting transition, in time to grab water heading out of transition.
Paced mile 1 at 4:3 breathings cadence, mile 2 at 3:3, and most of mile 3 at 2:2, until I crested the final hill and just ran as fast as I could. 4:3 is marathon pace and 3:3 is 10k pace, and 2:2 is 5k pace.
Ultimately my 5k time in this triathlon is nowhere near as fast as I’m capable to run a 5k. For this reason, some people prefer straight running. I enjoy the challenge of putting the 5 triathlon disciplines back to back and managing the complexity.
As I entered the run course, a 30 year old was complaining about the off-road/trail nature of the run course. He asked if the whole course was off-road. When I said it was, he said it was terrible for running times. He was clearly disempowered by the conditions. Even after I told him we all suffered the same handicap he was unconsoled.
We ran together for the majority of the first mile. I left him as we neared the 1 mile aid station.
Didn’t see the water sprinklers after the aid station. It was well left of the run course as we u-turned at the aid station.
At both aid stations, I grabbed 2 cold water cups, drank one and dumped one over my head.
Passed the 70 year old who passed me while bicycling, about a mile and a half into the run. Satisfaction!
My partner for the first mile caught me as I left the mile 2 aid station. As we did so, we could see out over a long valley with a long, slow descent, a long belly, and a hill at the fear around and around a corner. At that point, my pacing plan called for me to accelerate.
At that point, the course is well-hidden from spectators behind a dam on one side and thick trees on the other. That may account for the 10 or so people who were walking across the valley. The heat, humidity, sun, uneven ground, poor pacing on the run, and poor pacing on the bike may also have contributed to their misery and desire to walk. By this late point in any race, 2/3 of the way through the run, it is only good pacing and good luck that we are not all walking.
When my partner caught me, I told him to come with me. “Do you see all those people in front of us? They’re going to be behind us by the time we get to the other side of this valley.”
He said, “Good luck.”
I ran ahead and never saw him again.
Yes, I passed every one of those runners who were walking across the valley. Not a single person had been running.
Around the bend was the most brutal hill of the run. It was long and fairly steep, not dissimilar from the 2 worst hills on the bike course. A few people were running, and a few were walking. A couple of the runners eventually gave up and walked. Again, this is a pacing issue. Running too fast up a long steep hill will always yield the same results as racing too fast early in an endurance event.
- Keep an eye open for water sprinklers and be prepared to run through them for the cooling effect. Even in humid conditions, once you’re soaked from the swim and bike legs, at least the cold water will provide some cooling benefit.
- Future 5k paces will try 3:2 breathing mile 1, 2:2 breathing mile 2-2.75 and accelerate to the finish