Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Capital of Texas Triathlon: race recap

I have an hour to kill at the Austin airport before my flight, so I figure I’ll write a race recap to kill some time. A few months ago I decided to sign up for the CapTexTri in Austin, TX and booked a flight as I had a free ticket on Frontier through reward miles. The race crept up on me fast. I finished 4th overall and was the 1st amateur to cross the line, so I hopefully should be able to earn my pro license as it was one of the few qualifier races around the nation where the top 3 in the amateur field can qualify.

The goals of the day were to earn my pro license and to avoid muscle cramping on the run. A year ago I thought this would never be possible, but I’ve worked very hard for over a year and a half for this and slowly I’ve realized it’s well within reach if I keep chasing it.

The day before the race, when I checked in I realized I had been put in the wrong wave, with the 25-29 year olds starting at 8:30 instead of the open invitational division at 7am. I went back to the race expo and luckily I got it changed with ease. While I checked in, the race director asked me if I’d like to be interviewed on Slowtwitch.com by Tim Carlson. Slowtwitch is the #1 triathlon website in the country. It’s huge. ESPN.com is to all sports as Slowtwitch is to triathlon. It was pretty random and of course unexpected, but I said yes and thought being on Slowtwitch would be pretty neat. While in my cubicle last year during work I would listen to triathlon podcasts, CompetiorRadio.com shows, and visit Slowtwich daily...while working hard of course. There’s only a few new stories on the site each week, but I’d always read the articles.

I thought to myself, ‘now I've gotta to win this thing, don’t I? I don’t want to look like a fool, haha.’ Plus, they probably won’t write the article unless I win. I found myself daydreaming a bit and envisioned a victory and a front page headline on Slowtwitch with a big finish line photo, in addition to the pro license, and a ton of joy. How cool would that be…Well, the victory didn’t happen but that’s ok. Hopefully some day, right?. I’m not sure if the article will come out or not. From a reporter’s view, there’s not much of a reason to write the article if I didn’t win the race, really. 4th place is 4th, not 1st! I was told the article wouldn’t be with the main results, but would come out later in the week in a special feature section. We shall see. Back to the race..

I didn’t really know who was in the race, and found out 3 pros (James Bales, Nathan White, and Nicholas Sterghos- Bales & Sterghos recently raced my teammate Jordan at the Ixtapa, Mexico ITU race last week, & White was supposed to as well but missed a flight) had signed up, along with a few good locals. I thought winning was a good possibility but of course would be a challenge. I was going to give it a shot.

The swim was very long, which I knew, and the race director today announced the swim course was 350m long due to a release of water into the lake and movement of the buoys. No wonder I swam 24 minutes! The leader out of the water was a young gun at age 20 with the name Yoho on his back. I had never heard of him, but saw in a hurry he was a stellar swimmer! He usually swims an 18:30, and came out in the mid 22’s. I believe he swims in college, and sure was impressive! He told me he too came to try to earn his pro license. Yoho ended up 5th with a great finish.

I swam with the lead pack and tried to stay relaxed. Unfortunately I never really felt well at all nor found my rhythm. The race was in Lake Austin (which is really the Colorado River), which was mostly smooth and obstacle free other than a few bridge posts, but I ran my arm and leg into a huge sharp rock about halfway through the swim, which I didn’t see until the last second when the damage was already done. It through off my focus a bit, but things like that are part of racing. My friend Beaux from Austin actually told me about rocks out there the day before. I’m sure I got unlucky as I was swimming a bit left, and didn’t hear about anyone else hitting it, though I’m sure with 3000 people in the two races, several others did as well. I was feeling it in my arm a bit, but tried to stay focused on just getting to shore and ignoring the distraction.

I was out of the water in about 10th, in pretty poor position and way further back than I expected to be.

The bike course consisted of 4 loops through downtown, with some up hills and downs, 6.2 miles each loop. I’ve rarely felt as poorly physically as I did in those first 2 loops for some reason. My legs were screaming, I couldn’t hammer at all, I was sweating like crazy; just plain struggling physically and thinking to myself, I have come a long ways and this is going to be a very long day. Finally by the 3rd loop my legs started to come alive and I tried to change my mindset and regain focus and positive thinking. I don’t believe anyone passed me on the bike, but I didn’t think I had passed anyone either. By the 3rd loop the age group athletes were out on the course, and I had no idea which lap anyone I passed was on or what place I was in. It was constant weaving around people, though passing people got me motivated to push harder…even if they were elderly folks J. I tried to use it as motivation and not frustration. I took 4 salt tablets, a PowerGel, downed a bunch of my salty drink mix in hopes that may help some. On the laps, I checked my clock splits and knew I had outsplit my first 2 laps by about a minute and a half on my 2nd two laps, so I definitely was feeling better by the end of the bike. In transition, I somehow slammed my bike into the ground (twice) while running it to the rack. I was cringing thinking about my race wheels hitting the ground like that! Not good at all. The run into transition was on a long, hard and rocky dirt field. I guess I need to practice running with my bike more J.

The run course was 6.8 miles, not 10k, according to someone I talked to who raced with their GPS, also long like the swim (and thus the winning time was 2:03 where it would have been about 1:56 or so). I ran steady, started out conservative with the heat, picked off a few people the first loop, and then caught up to the stud swimmer Yoho and decided to sit on his shoulder for the last 2 miles, exactly like I had done with Chris Berg at Malibu last year. I passed him a few times, thought about taking off to try to catch Sterghos who was about 25 seconds ahead, but was fearful of muscle cramps since it was very hot (about 95 degrees) by then and no shade on the run. So, I decided to tuck back on his shoulder and just sit there. Honestly, I simply didn’t care enough and felt too terrible on the day to really go for it, though truthfully my legs had it in me. I knew there were a few pros in the race and realized I actually was still up near the front, and probably the top amateur still. I got complacent and told myself I felt too terrible early on in the race, and just wanted to outkick this young gun, which I knew I would easily do if I didn’t cramp up. Though kinda embarrassing and not wanting to be the guy sprinting the last 50 meters that everyone sees and says “wow he had way too much left in the tank”, I waited til 75m til the finish, then went on by to get him by 6 seconds. I was very, very glad to be done with that race!

That’s one thing about triathlon, your training often takes you through it, even if you’re not feeling the best. I was hoping to have a bit of a better race truthfully, but am pleased I have the opportunity to step up and race at the professional level in the future.

A special thank you needs to go to Erik Pace Birkholz who I met in California and has supported me and believed in me since day one, and for financially sponsoring me and this race trip. Also thanks to Clair & Alfred Mayo for letting me hang out and crash at their house overnight. Finishing as the top amateur on a day like that is encouraging to me and shows the level I can compete at when things go well, and I am pleased I made the trip. I plan on applying for my pro license soon, and focusing now on getting my run strength back for Pro Nationals in September and hopefully a few other draft-legal and non-drafting races, so I’ll likely switch my schedule around some the rest of the season assuming all goes according to plan.

A few highlights of the weekend were being able to meet up with one of my best friends from Santa Barbara, Bethany Nickless. She coaches track now at UCSB and I was able to watch part of the NCAA Regional track meet on Friday at UT with her. Also, I got to know Beaux Benson well, a friend from Multisport Ministries who I’d only talked to on the internet prior. Beaux was in a horrible cycling accident and comatose for weeks last year. He had a 10% chance of coming out of the coma. We prayed for him daily, God spared his life, and today he has recovered fully and has an amazing story of how God is far from being done with him yet. Things like this are the most important things of life. They put things in perspective, and confirm that these types of relationships are what life is truly about and what is most important, not personal glory, race results, or selfish pursuits.

Thanks for reading & for all your support.


Click Here for a local newspaper recap of the race. Here's a few photos from a news website before the race:

Capital of Texas Triathlon
May 31, 2010


Ryan Borger of Denver pauses for the National Anthem.