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2013OldGlory_logoFirst, there was a very first Sprint Triathlon: Tri Hard.

Then, I got to compete in one with a Kayaking Leg: Tri  Harder,

Next, I tri-ed my hand at a “memorial” race, facing down the legendary “HeartBreak Hill”: Tri Hard with a Vengeance

What did these all have in common? They were all sprint distance Triathlons, and it just wasn’t enough punishment for me. I needed more swimming. I needed to double the cycling distance…and a 5k run… that’s barely enough distance for me to get into a stride!

Speed over short distances just isn’t my strong point -I’ll never be a 4:40 miler- I know that I will probably NEVER win a 5k run, or even a 10k… and I am fine with that. Since ‘speed’ isn’t really my thing, I go for endurance- I tri for longer and longer distances… since I am not getting on the podium, I want to go for races that are long enough– or simply Tough enough- that the mere act of FINISHING the race is an achievement to be proud of by itself.

Enter the ‘Olympic Distance’ Triathlon: 1500 meter swim / 23.5 mile cycle / 10k run, Or as this one is known, the “Tri For Old Glory”

I’ll start this story a few days before the race. on July 4th.

Having just moved into a new neighborhood, Mrs MuddyJ and I were delighted to find that there would be a small children’s parade, complete with decorated bicycles, through our sub-division. I headed off to the local Hobby Lobby and stocked up on Red,White & Blue spools of ribbon and crepe paper. The morning of the parade, the Things’ Three and I woke up early and decorated their bicycles. Since I would be riding alongside them, I had to decorate something…. right? So I put a 4′ long Red White & Blue tail on my helmet:2013-07-07 14.27.24

Being that this particular race was named the “Tri for Old Glory”, I decided that I would leave it there!

Packet pickup was the usual smooth affair, no bump in the road there…ever, and race morning arrived very quickly. It’s definitely worth noting that each RRP packet contains a printed pre-race briefing, as well as directions to the venue. I compared my GPS directions to that of the packet, and I decided to go with the packet’s instructions. I arrived on time with no issues, albeit a bit later then I wanted to, but that was my fault for leaving late!

I parked with no problem, following the directions of the ample volunteers. I checked my tires, and found both of them to need about 20 pounds…yes, I learned my lesson about riding on soft tires, I won’t soon repeat the mistake I made at the Rockin’ R Tri-yak race…. I headed to transition with about 15 minutes to go until it closed…yikes.

There is much said about the Transition portion of any triathlon…that iut is the fourth discipline… and also that in transition, the early bird catches the worm…the latter proved to be all too true this time. I had a terrible time just finding an open spot on the racks to set up my transition area…of course this was partially due to some athletes taking up enough space for 5 bikes…. the transition area at most RRP events allows for a handlebar width of space for your setup- because of this, beach towels and sun umbrellas/cabana boys are not recommended! I did finally find a place to setup, and walked out to hand Brian the coffee I had brought for him. (I am still not too proud to attempt to bribe the race director)

With everything said and done, all that was left was to wait for the pre-race briefing, and to head off to the starting area.

The venue, San Marcos River Ranch, was as flat and as calm as one could hope for. The swimming leg was held in the largest of several man made lakes, which were about 8 feet deep at the deepest portions, and never wide enough that the shore wasn’t a few strokes away. As usual, a time trial start saw us dropping into the water to start swimming about 10 seconds apart, with the Olympic distance swimmers headed out first and the sprint distance leaving afterwards. I moved closer to the front of the pack then I usually occupy, having underestimated my swimming ability in the past, so I was probably one of the first 20 or so in the water.

Sooner then later it was my turn to go, so I dropped off the short dock into the water (feet first, diving was not permitted in the shallow water) and headed off to swim a kilometer and a half….

I felt good upon starting, but the calm water kinda freaked me out. I am used to swimming long distances in open water, but the calm of this man made lake let me feel every other swimmer’s draft. It’s my failing, but I just couldn’t get used to it, and I panicked a little whenever passing someone or being passed. The bottom of the lake was silt, and in short order, the water became a mud puddle as the swimmers churned the waters, severely limiting visiblilty. I did my best to remain on pace, but I feel like I should have been able to start out faster and keep a better pace…

The swim course started out headed west, and then turned back east at the halfway mark…blinding me as I swam into the still rising early morning sun. I fought to remain on course, pausing often to get my bearings until I made the final turn into the final few hundred meters. I kicked in the afterburners and tried to sprint to the water’s edge, swimming until my arms were hitting the lake bottom… I walked in the rest of the way, resisting the urge to run from (and in) the water because it would have completely sapped my legs!

Despite feeling sorry for myself, I still managed to shave 5 seconds per 100m as recorded in my previous race…down to 02:24/100m from 02:29/100m despite almost tripling the distance! In hindsight… I am very proud of that!

945920_595615273794665_784085158_nI made it through transition fairly quickly, in just just over a minute…I had decided this time to leave my shoes clipped into my bike and slip into them when up to speed. This method allowed me to save a full 75 seconds on my T1 transition time.

Up next was the cycle portion… I have been riding more often since the last course kicked my butt, and I have been paying much closer attention to my diet. From the mounting area outside transition to the turn out of the Ski Ranch onto the country roads, the tarmac was smooth and glassy. I picked up speed quickly and slipped into my Keen Sandals for the ride. Making the first turn out of the Ranch, I was met with an incredibly different road surface.

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The country roads were in deceptively poor shape for a cycle ride…it was like riding down a washboard for miles… water bottles that had jumped out of rider’s bottle cages littered the road to my left and to my right, and a good third of the contents of my aero drink system wound up on my face and legs. I slowed through this section, which lasted only a few miles, and I simply settled into a nice and easy rhythm I felt I could maintain for the entirety of the course while hovering off the saddle for each bad series of bumps to protect my sensitive bits …with 4 feet of Red, White and Blue Streamers flowing from the top of my helmet… Each rider that passed, or was passed by me had a positive comment about it. The back half of the course was rolling hills, which let me fly on the downhills and struggle up the climbs…(I really need to work on that part moreI’ll get you Heartbreak Hill!) I wound up with a small group of riders that passed each other over and over again… I would sail past them on the downhills, we would even out on the flats, and they would take me out on the climbs. The Aerodrink system is a must for long rides on foreign roads…it allows you to keep maximum control over your bike while sipping easily.

Due in part to the flatness of the course, and again in part to a little more training this time, my average speed was way faster then my previous race, up to 17mph avg from 14.2mph at the Gator Bait Memorial and I finished a course that was twice as long in a mere 28 minutes longer…. I was feeling great!

I slipped out of my shoes in the final mile and pedalled on top of them, standing in the saddle a bit to stretch to get ready for the run. I hopped out of the saddle and ran Esmeralda Consuela Bonita into her rack…which wound up costing me about ten seconds to locate because I ran right past it! I found the right rack and racked my bike, dropped my helmet,  swapped my shades for another pair that weren’t streaked with sweat and the occasional insect corpse, and headed out the back of transition to start my run.

The good people of Redemption Racing tried their best to get all the burrs off the ground in transition..and never once did my tender little foot bottoms (bwahahahahahaha) encounter on in transition-but wouldn’t you know it-in the one step I took from the carpet to the pavement, I caught a bur right in the middle of my arch! Damn I hate those things! I pulled it out quickly and I was back on my way, pausing only briefly to re-hydrate at the water station.

I settled into a sustainable 10k pace-but my run just isn’t up to par since my accident earlier this year, so that pace was a little over 9:45/mile according to my GPS. I managed to keep on that pace for the first loop, but the cloud cover I had enjoyed for the cycle portion vanished completely…and the mercury started rising….

It got very hot very quickly, and the pavement that had once proven a great surface to ride on was nearing pot roast temperatures and thus HELL to run Barefoot on… I think the next few Triathlons I do, I will bring along my ‘Juaraches’ for the run portion.

As the temperature rose, my pace slowed and I even started running alongside the road in the grass, but that led to picking up a burr each time I left the pavement… I paused at the final water station and saturated my feet, hoping to cool them off a little before I set off to conquer the final mile. Despite the heat, I still managed to shave 30 seconds per mile off the pace I ran during the Gatorbait Memorial…for twice the distance!

As if a prayer had been answered, I enjoyed a light could cover for most of that final mile, turned off the pavement onto the gravel path that led up to the finish line and I reached deeper then I ever have to push out the final distance to the finish line, crossing it 3 hours and 11 minutes after I had started the day off.

This race was fast and flat, as advertised… and the Olympic distance was just the challenge I was looking for. Every element of the race that was under the control of Redemption Racing was flawlessly executed. leaving me only to worry about the course and myself.

That’s all for this month…but August is going to be an incredibly active month…hope I hold up in the Texas HEAT:

First up: The Tour de Jalapeno!:

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Followed a week later by my triumphant return to conquer HeartBreak Hill at the Greater Gator Olympic Distance Triathlon… I will beat that hill down this time!:

2013GreaterGator_logoThen, a mere 7 days after that, My friends have all talked me into running the Fort Sam Houston Triathlon#3 with them (sprint distance) (600m/15mile/5k)

And….as if that wasn’t enough, I’ll be taking on the Bastrop Lost Pines Triathlon the following week!

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Well, time to get back to training!

Stay Muddy My Friends, and ALWAYS TRI YOUR BEST!

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