Sunday, October 18, 2009

Race Report

I am planning on breaking this sucker down from start to finish so bear with me!

The race was the 17th Annual Try Andy's Tri in Sugar Land Texas. The course featured a 300M Open Water Swim in First Colony lake, a 10 mi bike ride on fairly flat roads, and a 5k run on roads, park paths and a grass finish. 800 Triathletes participated this year.

Annie and I got out of bed at 4am today. The race was about 45 minutes from the house and we both wanted some breakfast before we left. I loaded up all my gear into Annie's SUV and we were on our way. We had to park about 1/2 mile away from the race and the first thing we noticed when we got out of the car was that it was FREEZING! It was 50 degrees with a cool wind! Now I know all of you non-Texans will laugh when I say 50 degrees is freezing, but two things you must remember. First, we have tons of humidity so 50 degree here feels like maybe 40 degrees elsewhere. Second, our average temperature is 90 degrees and our bodies do not react well to cold temps. I used to live in the Pennsylvania mountains and 50 degrees used to be shorts and t-shirt weather. In Texas 50 degrees is cause to break out the parkas!

So we walked the 1/2 mile pushing my bike in the dark with a couple of hundred other people doing the same thing. I immediately got body marked (number and age on shoulder and leg with a sharpie) and headed over to the transition area to get my gear and bike ready. This transition area was a lot smaller than my last Tri and we were pretty tight. I travel light so I took my small space and walked the transition area with another guy to figure out where we were coming in and out. I was in an easily locatable bike rack which is a good thing!

So now it is about 6:30 am and the race doesn't start for another hour and my wave does not go off until 20 minutes after that. I find Annie and we walk around to keep warm. At this point I am in my Tri shorts with sandals and a lightweight windbreaker. It is not doing a good job at windbreaking!

After spending an hour shivering the race begins. You have to swim out about 50 meters to the start position and tread water until it is time to start. I jump in the water and it is awesome! The water temperature is about 25 degrees warmer than the air temperature. I also learned that this was the first time in the 17 year history of this race that the water temperature was cool enough to be wetsuit legal! It needs to be below 78 degrees per USAT rules. I decided to start in the back middle of the pack of about 100 swimmer to avoid getting the stuffing beat out of me. This worked out pretty good for me. The beginning of the swim was very comfortable. I found some open water and was on my way. About 100 Meters in I had a guy swim into me from the side. No idea where he came from but I just kept going and didn't pay him a second thought. The real fun began with about 75 or so meters to go when I got squarely kick in the stomach by a guy doing the breast stroke. Now most of you have probably seen a breast stroke and most of you know that the leg kick on a breast stroke is quite violent - I can now give you independent verification that it is, in fact quite violent! This caught me by surprise because I did not see the guy. But what caught me by surprise even more was the the other two guys right next to this guy doing a breast stroke. So I have about 75 M to go and three guys are blocking me just breast stroking away. I tried to swim around them and by the time I did I was at the shore. At least I got out of the water before them but they easily coast me a minute or so. People over at the forum always complain about breast strokers and I never really understood why. Now I do!

Now I am out of the water and jogging to the transition area and this is when I notice that I am wet and it is still freezing! My lungs were burning each time I took a gasp of cool air and it was uncomfortable. I easily found my bike and started to get ready. I forgot to dry off my feet before I put my socks on and this was rather problematic as my socks wouldn't go on. So I had to get the towel and pat them dry. After I did get them on I had trouble getting my cycling jersey, you'd think I would have learned about drying off from the socks situation but I did not! After a slow transition I clipped in and was on my way.

I started out very strong on the bike averaging about 20 mph for the first mile. I was having trouble drinking my gatorade because my lungs were still burning from the cool air. Then about 1.5 miles in something not very fun happened: both my calves cramped. It happened so fast I almost fell of my bike. It hurt like hell. I got out of the aero position and stood up off the saddle and tried to stretch. This helped as the cramping stopped but for the rest of the ride every time I went onto aero position the calf cramps would come back. So I unfortunately had to stay off the aero bars. At about mile 8 my calves seemed better so I hammered it for the last two miles but I lost a considerable amount of time not being able to get in aero. Sort of frustration but I still had a decent ride considering my legs were not 100%.

Okay, now I am coming into T2 and am just about at the dismount line. I unclip my right foot and start to slow. I then go to unclip my left foot and my left calf cramps again. I cannot unclip and I am leaning left. Yep, down I went right in front of a few hundred people. The good news is that before I fell my left foot came out and I put my knee down. The reason that this is good is because it prevented my bike from hitting the ground and getting scratched up. However, it did not prevent my left knee from getting tore up on the concrete or my right calf getting gashed by the chain - good times and hello neosporine!

After my demonstration of grace and poise I jog my humiliated carcass to the rack and put on my Asics and take off running - in the wrong direction! I see others running the other way and I put two and two together and turn around. Now I get about 100 yards down the running trail and make the decision to stop and stretch out my calves on the curb. I figured I needed to do this or they were going to bother me the entire run. After the first mile they felt better and I ended up have a very enjoyable and comfortable run. Good call on stretching. I had my Garmin on for the run and when I hit the finish line it said 25 minutes flat. Not a bad run.

Overall my time was 1 hr 14 minutes and I finished 333/800. I haven't seen the splits other than my Garmin for the run but my guess is that the swim was between 7:30-8:00 minutes. The bike was around 34-35 minutes (could go check my Cateye but it is in the garage and the pugs are laying on my lap) and the transitions were probably around 5-6 minutes (I need to practice transitions).

If I had to do it over again the main thing I would have done different would have been to dress warmer before the race. Because of the cold I was really tight getting into the water and this surely led to my calves cramping up. I stretched like a madman before my wave but it didn't do much considering I stood around shivering for an hour and a half. I noticed a lot of people stopping and stretching during the run so this apparently wasn't isolated only to me. Live and learn!

Despite a tumble on the bike and some pretty painful leg cramps I had a great time. The swim portion was actually the most enjoyable part of the Tri for me today. This is significant to me because my last Tri it was not enjoyable at all! I could have easily continued swimming for a much longer time. My least favorite part was getting out of the water and into the cold!

That is my report. Thanks for reading the entire thing and let me know your thoughts!


P.s. - Pics below!


  1. First of all ... great race report. I really enjoyed it, especially since it will be a while until my next triathlon.

    Also, nice pictures... I think I saw you in the water. You were wearing a blue cap!

    Yes, the breast strokers are dangerous. During my first tri, the breast strokers kicked the stuffing out of me! Your description of the swim really brought back memories.

    Before my first tri I got a great tip from an experienced triathlete. He told me to step into my tri shirt instead on trying to pull it over my head. It worked like a charm for me. I wear a sleeveless tri shirt. I am not sure if that would work well for a cycling jersey. Try it out and see if it works for you.

    Wow, the cramping is a bummer. I can see how it could become an issue when unclipping. Have you tried pulling your feet out of the shoes and pedal on top of them before getting to T2. Of course, when you are cramping, it might not be an option. Anyway, you can wear your "boo boo" scar like a badge now.

    Stretching the calves was a great decision. Running with the cramp would not have been fun at all.

    50 degress... burrrrr! Dressing warm for your next cold weather tri is a good idea. Stretching warm muscles will be more effective.

    Anyway, it sounds like you had a good time. I loved reading your post today. Oh, and thanks for posting the cool photos. The lake looked calm. Nice!

    Hey, good move... sacrificing your body to save the bike! Our thinking is very similar!

  2. Jeff:

    I agree with Boomer, great report. Excellent play-by-play, too. Friggin' breastrokers!

    That's a bummer about your cramping calves. Boomer's suggestion about riding with your feet on top of your shoes is interesting...that would save some time if you could practice that. Great idea!

    Can you believe what happened at the Detroit Marathon? Three guys dying due to heart attacks? One guy was in his 60's, while the other two were in their 30's or younger. That's a shocker.

    Great pictures too.'re the one with the blue swim cap with your head above water wearing goggles. I can see you!

  3. Great job Jeff! My friends dad is a triathloner (is that what you're called) and he gets leg cramps too. But he wears these sleeves on his legs now that help a TON and he rarely gets cramps now days. I have no idea what they are but I know profession athletes wear them to prevent sore muscles.

    And great picts too! Love your doggie!

  4. Jeff. Great job and Great race report! Love the gory (sp?) details. Ok, because I am my father and can't help but coach here's a few things I've learned.

    1) Cramps happen. Just have to learn to deal with them, especially in extremely hot or cold temperatures. But great job adapting and gutting your way through Coach Sank would have been proud!

    2) Buy a tri shirt and ditch the bike jersey. You can swim in it and don't have to worry about it in T1.

    3) Ditch the socks on teh bike. If you need to wear socks when you run your feet will have dried off by the time you get back.

    4) Practice pulling your feet out of your shoes and peddling on top of them for teh last 1/4 mile of the bike. You really don't lose much time and when you get to the dismount line you're off like a prom dress.

    5) A LOT of people I know don't carry any water or gatorade on the bike for a sprint. I did it for my last sprint and a gulp of water at the first run aid station was all i needed to wet the whistle.

    6) Feel free to ignore everything I just said and tell me to shut the heck up. But these are a few of the things that I've learned over the past 2 years and the simpler you keep things the better. I bet you could have knocked at least 3-4 minutes off your T-times. Check out the final race standings and see how many places you would have moved up.

    Great race man. Keep it up.

  5. Boomer and Steve - Thanks guys I had a lot of fun! And yes I saw the DET marathon deaths... just crazy! I heard it was like 28 degrees to start.

  6. Annie - Thanks! My Pugs name is Ernie he also has a younger sister pug named Bailey. They are my spoiled babies.

  7. Hey Coach Dan! Lol ... I rarely cramp so it was unexpected for me. If i would have stayed warmer early in the morning I think it would have helped. And I actually ordered a Tri shirt last night so we were thinking the same thing!

    I am going to practice riding with my feet on top of the shoes. I tried it a couple of times but have yet to feel comfortable yet and dumping the socks, especially during sprints, is a must.

    I looked at the totals and if I knocked 4 minutes off my T's I'd have moved up over 100 spots.

    Thanks for the advice it is appreciated!

    Also check you Facebook messages - Annie and I might try to come out and cheer you on at the Ironman!