With a number of sprint tri’s under my belt with just finishing up another one last month, I am ready to expand my horizon and find an Olympic tri!  After doing a little homework, I set my focus on a local chip timed USAT sponsored event called the “Greater Gater” Tri located in Boerne, Texas on 21 June 2014.  This event I have known about for some time from fellow triathletes.  It’s well known because the swim portion was in Boerne Lake (known for the smooth water most of the time), the bike ride had some reasonable rolling hills through the countryside with a challenging 5% hill called “Heart Rate Hill”, then the run portion was mostly a level trail run – a great start for me!  Being one of the local favorites, I scheduled it because it fills up quickly and I labeled it as an “A” race for me. 

For several years, I have been working on my own consistently swimming, cycling and running so the “Greater Gater” is within my reach!  In preparation of the race I have road the route several times with an emphasis on not blowing up my heart rate (HR) to fast, but instead maintain a consistent HR.  Consequently, I have gotten the coarse down to 1:10 to 1:15 for the 25 miles, even including “Heart Rate Hill”!    In the back of my mind, I know I need some additional training guidance so I started working with Coach John Mayfield at tridot.com.   With all of this being said and doing as much confidence boosting as I can, my nerves are still a little jittery because sometimes I feel like I can never be prepared enough, however with more time not really sure how much more I would prepare! 

Well race day was here and my nerves knew it.  I wanted to get to the race early, so I would have time to check in, get tagged and head for the transition to drop my gear off.  I also knew getting to the race would settle me down.  It seems like being among the other triathletes, I have common ground, are always helpful and always supportive.  As anticipated, my nerves settled down when I pulled into the Boerne Lake park entrance around 5:30 am, I could see other cars pulling in also and everyone was getting into place.

The Swim:  The 1500 meter swim was one I have been preparing for and felt ready for it.  I have done endless laps in the pool, due to time constraints it seems like I can never get enough time in the open water.  As race time was getting near the announcer indicated that the Olympic was going first, then followed by the sprint.  As the Olympic group moved to the water’s edge, I started looking for the buoys we had to swim around.  Despite them being apprx 4 ft in diameter and bright yellow, they seemed like really for away!  I thought, “I am going to swim that!”.  With little time to think, the race started and I was in the water.  The water was great and I was after it.  It took around 500 meters and started to realize I have a lot more to go, then it really came to mind that I need to settle down and I was going too fast.  The water wasn’t too choppy and just had 2 other swimmers around me so I needed to really focus on form and recovery.  It was too late; I started off too fast and now was trying to spend the rest of my time recovering rather than having a strong swim!  Lesson learned, don’t start off too fast and pace yourself! 

The Bike:  After coming off a swim that didn’t go as planned, I am ready to hammer the ride.  I knew I had in place my pacing strategy already and will be able to make up some time.  The ride was starting off as planned, after the first several minutes my legs where getting warm and my HR was about 135 bpm.  From the beginning, I was passing others very quickly and everything was going as practiced.  I had gone about 5 miles, and then I noticed my back tire was going spongy!  I tried to ignore it with the hope it would go away.  I have trained so hard for this event, and now this!  After what seemed just seconds, the tire was flat.  Not being the happiest person, I quickly stopped to change my back tube and check my tire for thorns.  It seemed like an eternity, not to mention it seemed all the people I just passed starting to pass me!  It was not easy, but need to keep my cool and stay focused.  Before I knew it, I was on my bike again and back after it.  I really needed to settle the HR down because I just had a couple miles to go then Heart Rate Hill!  What really mattered was I was back on the bike and everything needs to go as practiced.  As I turned the corner I could see Heart Rate Hill in the distance and see others walking up the hill already.  In preparation, I shifted gears settled in at a low HR, slid to the front of my saddle and ready for the Hill!  As I hit the bottom of the hill, I slid to the back of my saddle, sat up a little straighter and got after this steep long hill.  I like challenges and this was one of them!  Everything worked just as planned; my HR peaked at 161 bpm and still had strength at my legs by the top.  I had to move over to the middle of the road, to get away from other cyclists but all is going great.  The rest of the ride was rolling hills, which provided some time for recovery and shake out some lactic acid from the legs in preparation for a strong run.  I was on home stretch, 8 miles to go and heart rate was sitting around 144 bmp, then it happened.  The spongy back tire was back, this time I did not have a tube.  However, I had about ½ a co2 cartridge left from my first flat and another to spare – so no issues here.  I quickly stopped and filled by back tire with the remaining co2 I previously used.  This should get me to another 8 miles!  Well, it lasted for 1 mile then the tire was flat.  I used my last co2 cartridge and nothing.  The back tube was a lost cause! With no sag vehicle in site, I was no going to stop.  At that moment Josh, I thought of you!  To quote you, "With all the preparation a triathlete can do for a race, it's a big blow to think it can all be undone because of....." For me this weekend it was 2 flat tires and this is not going to stop me!  It was me and my trusty F-6 Felt bike (that I could always count on) and about 7 miles to go!  So I pushed on!  I rode about 7 miles on a flat tire and rim!  It was exasperating, now I had to manage my HR not because of the workout, but because of frustration!  I stood and leaned on the front tire for what seemed like forever with people passing me (again)! 

The Run:  It was good to get on my feet and attempt to recover the best I could.  I was worn out from leaning on the front tire, standing on the bike and by now just wanting to finish the race.  The run was ok but it was good to be on my feet and eventually shake it off and focus on running the 6 miles. 

With all that being said, my goal was to expand my horizon, and I sure did!  Looking back I really learned a lot and what I need to do better for the next race or two this fall.  However, I appreciate your blogs Josh, being a pro and hearing both your accomplishments and struggles you have helped me immensely!  Keep up the good work and keep blogging!

-          Jason Key