Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Monday, November 23, 2015

2015 Longhorn 70.3 Race Report from Brooklyn Visitor

by Jimmy Pearson

Mile 27 of a 34-mile ultra Nov. 21, Jimmy at center
and husband Allan at right
I am not a highly trained and experienced triathlete, nor a coach, nor a pro, nor even someone who bothered to train properly for the Ironman 70.3 Austin. I had a solid beginning to my training season, but one IT band injury and several months later, I was facing the race indisputably and embarrassingly unprepared. The night before, my husband and coach even said that he was “disassociating himself” from my race performance. I had decided long before the start that this half Ironman would be my last, which liberated me a bit to just enjoy myself, no matter how reckless I felt as I pulled into the Travis County Expo Center on race morning.

As soon as I arrived, it seemed like all anyone could talk was the two separate transition areas, and the attendant hassles of getting all of their gear to the right places before the transitions closed. And while it did cause me a little bit of extra stress on race morning, it was honestly much ado about nothing. I arrived later than I had hoped, had to shuttle back and forth between T1 and T2 an extra time (I somehow missed the memo that the run transition should be set up before the bike transition), and still had plenty of time.

In fact, if there was one drawback, it was all of the extra time I had between getting set up and my wave start, which was a full 90 minutes after transition closed. Having already turned in all of my gear other than what I needed for the swim, I spent that 90 minutes trying to keep warm and kicking myself for not bringing a pair of throw-away socks.

Austin begins with a floating start, and by the time my wave was preparing to start, the relatively warm water of Decker Lake was actually a relief from the cold and wind on the beach. That said, I could have done without all the other 30-34 year old males telling each other about how they were peeing in the water just a few feet away from me (we all know that we do it, but that doesn’t mean I want to think about it).

No guilt here: Jimmy and Rider sleeping in
while Allan goes out for a run
The swim is actually my favorite leg of any tri, and I managed to enjoy it out to the first turn in spite of being squeezed by swimmers on both sides. I like to think I can maintain a pretty good line, and I took the fact that swimmers from all sides were trying to cross right through me as a nice confirmation that I couldn’t be far off. After the first turn the swim leg turns due east, which unfortunately put the rising sun and its glare off the water right in front of the pack, making sighting pretty difficult. That and a strong westerly wind caused me to take a wide turn into the last stretch towards the beach. One of my weaknesses as a swimmer is that when I am off course I often don’t correct early and decisively, so I traced a wide arc on my way back to transition.

I was a little anxious beginning the bike leg. Our friends and hosts in Austin were kind enough to loan me a bike for the race (a Litespeed that felt lighter and all-around superior to my Felt F3), and had asked me to send them measurements ahead of time so it would be ready for me. This would seem simple enough, but I had actually never even heard of terms like “frame stack,” “handlebar stack, “frame reach, and “handlebar reach” before, let alone set out to accurately measure my bike fit. Combine that with the fact that I arrived the day before the race and had almost no time to test out the fit, and I was a little nervous. I have always been taught not to try anything new on race day, and an entirely new bike seems significant enough to try out well in advance.

Luckily, my fears were unfounded  the bike felt great, and I enjoyed every minute of riding on the farm roads outside of Austin. Texas is where I first started to bike seriously; I haven’t lived or biked here in over eight years, and riding on the farm roads felt like something of a homecoming. Sticklers might find it a bit frustrating; the course was far too crowded to be concerned about drafting rules, and the road quality often left something to be desired. Nonetheless, I had a great time and rode into T2 with a smile on my face (even if the sight of a pro passing me during his cooldown on the course was a little bit of a bummer.)

The run was a different story. As I mentioned, I was somewhat less than adequately prepared, and unfortunately my lack of preparation often manifests on the run. As soon as I got off the bike, I felt my lower back seizing up, and it caused me considerable pain at the beginning that necessitated stopping and stretching a few times. Austin’s run leg is a loop course, which I usually try to avoid; I find it mentally challenging to run the same loop over and over, and in this particular instance it meant I had to tackle the one significant hill of the course three times. That said, I was glad for the loops because it meant I got to see my husband and running coach six times during the run. Thanks to his support and my very gradually warming up lower back, I managed to negative split my way to the finish.

Austin 70.3 makes a big deal in its promotional materials of having an indoor finish at the Travis County Expo Center, and I have to admit that the energy at the finish line was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. That said, if you’re anything like me, the first thing you’ll want to do once your chip is off is GET OUT OF THE EXPO CENTER. It’s crowded and smells terrible. Unfortunately, the only way out is through a nearly immobile crowd and up a very unwelcoming staircase. If the race doesn’t make you feel like you earned a few celebration beers, getting out of the Expo Center in one piece just might.

In the end, I had a blast racing in Austin. And my husband and coach, even after his formal “disassociation,” was nonetheless supportive and happy with how everything turned out. Even if it wasn’t enough to make me reconsider trying another half Ironman anytime soon, it was enough to make me very happy that this was my last.

Jimmy Pearsonoriginally from Chappaqua, NY, a suburb about 45 minutes from NYCis an alumnus of Rice University in Houston, TX (Wiess '07). He now lives in Brooklyn with his husband, Allan, and their dog, Rider. A consultant focusing on social and public sector organizations, he did his first triathlon in 2007. The Austin 70.3 was his second half-Ironman event, following Timberman in New Hampshire in August 2014.   

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