This was my best race to date!  

The Kerrville Tri was my last sprint of the season and I went into it with an aggressive mindset. Having completed three races this year, I decided that it was a good opportunity to test my ability to incorporate the lessons from previous races . I also wanted to push hard and achieve a personal best.

The image below shows my average speeds and my category rank (Clydesdales/Athenas).

What the image shows…

  • Fifth place in my age group…what could I have done if I’d gone all out…#mindblown, #tinyregrets  
  • 17.3 average MPH on the bike … I’m happy with that, but it’s not fast enough to complete an Ironman. 
  • 11:01 / mile was slower than my goal pace, but I’m pleased. 

 I’m very happy with these results, but they aren’t sufficient to illustrate my full race experience.

race prep mistakes

All of the races that I’ve done were held in the Texas Hill Country (near San Antonio & Austin), and I thought this one was close to San Antonio…It wasn’t, I didn’t look carefully enough at the map.

Mistake #1…The hotel that I reserved was almost an hour from the race location 😲. 

Mistake#2 … I nearly missed the packet pickup time. Packet pickup was between 4 – 7pm the day before the race. Packet pickup is the time that we get our race bibs, timing chips, bike & helmet stickers and race-day instructions. We also get to observe the transition area and see how close it is to the swim and run exits. All of these things are critical pieces of a final race preparation.  I often use this time to visualize exiting the swim, entering the transition area then going through changing my gear and setting off on the bike. 

I was overly confident and arrived 5 minutes before packet pickup closed. Also, the sun was setting and the transition area had already been closed to participants, so I wasn’t able to observe the course layout (other than via online maps).  I was embarrassed and my anxiety rose a lot. I was in that position because I was too lazy to take the time to plan the trip so that I would have sufficient time to leisurely walk the course and socialize a bit with the other racers.

Race day activity typically begins about 5:30am and the race starts by 7:30 am.  Many of the racers arrive early to get a good spot in the transition area. Putting your bike in a good location allows you to get to the bike a little faster after finishing the swim. 

I’ve learned that a successful race is built upon a series of small decisions that affect both my physical state and mental state on race day. Messing up the arrival, packet pickup and the hotel location made me feel like I was starting the race in the hole. The day ended on a less than positive note.  But I was still excited about the potential.

my disorganization impacted everyone

Since the hotel was almost an hour from the race, we had to leave at 5 am to get there before 6 so I could setup my gear and be ready to start by 7:15 am. There were two transition areas, and they were about 2 miles apart! To  leave my run gear in T2 I took a shuttle…. an unexpected pre-race time-sink #poorplanning. I kept my cool primarily because I took the time the night before to organize my gear bags and visualize the race flow. All I had to do was get to the 2nd transition area, drop off my running gear and make it back before the starting gun. I was a little nervous, but I also knew that my age group never leads the race, and if there were enough of us delayed due to the shuttle schedule, the race would be delayed a little. 

Gametime! 

 7:15 am, the pre-race briefing begins and is like a cattle call.  Imagine 1800 cows roaming in a field then suddenly turning and immediately walking to the same area. Maybe the pied piper is a better analogy. Either way, it’s a sight to behold. After a 5 minute briefing from the race director, the first wave of swimmers line up and shit gets real…quickly. 

Some races have a group start, others will stagger the starts and have racers enter the water 3 seconds apart. This race was a staggered start, which is now my preference. Staggered starts are calmer, I’m less likely to get kicked in the face, or have to swim over someone. Also, once I begin, I more rapidly get into a rhythm.  Why don’t all races begin this way?

A Glorious swim 

I entered the water with another guy who started strong. Rather than succumb to the urge to overtake him immediately, I maintained my focus. I was determined to race my race.

One of the skills Jonny has taught us is to be ready and willing to be the aggressor in open water. When swimming in a pack, it’s easy to get “run over” or intimidated by another body next to you. During group practice we do drills where we smack and push each other while sprinting to some area of a lake. The drill helps to develop several skills. Today, being comfortable with physical contact and being willing to push or even swim-over another racer was particularly. The guy I started with immediately pulled ahead, but he quickly began to struggle. Unfortunately, as he slowed down, he managed to zig-zag and end up directly in front of me. So, rather than go around, I decided to smack his feet to get him to move out of my way. He didn’t move (at least in a way that I could tell), so I swam over him. I didn’t steam-roll over him, I basically came up on his left side and smacked his waist and rib cage then swam over his left shoulder as I passed him. He chose to veer right and I never saw him again. I was in my zone.

My objective wasn’t to go as fast as I could. It was to focus on the elements needed for good, efficient swimming. Specifically, my body positioning, breath rate and timing and maintaining efficient, full strokes. Typically, when I focus on technique, I don’t swim hard. We have all heard it over and over, everything is built upon the fundamentals. I have to solidify the fundamentals of endurance swimming before I attempt to race to win. Competing in crowds allows me to test how well I can keep my head in a competitive situation. My Junkyard Dog loves to get loud and get me juiced up and If I’m not cognizant of that, I’ll end up racing too hard too soon. I was able to maintain a good, steady pace, reduce my zig-zag by sighting for the buoys frequently and I finished ahead of the pack. As I approached the swim exit, I noticed that I had caught up to the swimmers in the age group that started before mine. Almost all of my group was behind me. In the end, I was able to achieve the 5th fastest time in my category, which made me very happy about my performance. Knowing that I was in 5th place without swimming  at “race” pace makes it even more gratifying. 

The swim went just as planned and I felt it. 

I was off to a fantastic day.  In the next post, I’ll share the bike and run segments.