Saturday, July 28, 2007

2007 Mission Man Triathlon Race Report

What a difference a year makes! That best sums up this year's Mission Man Triathlon.

Last year's Mission Man was my first try at a tri, and the lessons I learned a year ago paved the way for some significant improvements in this year's race. Marked improvements in all three disciplines and the transitions resulted in a 16-minute overall improvement in my time from last year's event.

Here's a breakdown.


They say experience is the best teacher, and the old adage held true for me in the swim. A year ago, I was not prepared for the challenges of swimming in a crowd of people or in open water. Last year, I was bumped and banged around so much in the swim that I seriously contemplated dropping out early in the first leg.

This year at the start, I positioned myself on the outside of the buoys. I don't know if this was a better (i.e. less crowded) starting position, but I made a lot less contact with other swimmers during the course of the swim. (I just hope I wasn't the dude who knocked Tri-Daddy's goggles off. I don't think it was me though).

I didn't hug the buoys during the swim, and usually found myself to the far outside of the other swimmers in my group. I did manage to make the turns at the right times and keep things headed in the right direction. Locating and navigating the course by the buoys with fogged goggles was a challenge I remembered from a year ago. Still, knowing what to expect aided me tremendously today in the swim.

Overall swim time: 15:01. Last year's swim time: 19:58. Total improvement: 4 minutes, 57 seconds.


When you don't have to change clothes the transitions go a whole lot quicker. Last year, I swam with a pair of baggy swim trunks, wrapped a towel around me in the transition area and changed into the shorts I wore for the bike and run. You can't imagine how scared I was that I'd accidentally drop that towel and scare the world.

This year I swam with a pair of Speedo jammers, and just threw my running shorts on over top of them. Thanks to the friendly, knowledgeable staff at Inside-Out Sports for that tip that made the swim-to-bike transition much quicker and less nerve-wracking.

Overall T1 time: 2:40. Last year's T1 time: 4:03. Total improvement: 1 minute, 23 seconds.


Ah, the bike. Once again, I knew the bike would be my weakest discipline. Last year, I was quite intimidated by everyone showing up with their fancy road and triathlon bikes, while I strolled up with my trusty, albeit less efficient, hybrid bike. I wasn't as intimidated this year, because I knew that would be the case once again.

I was, however, concerned about my preparation for the 15 mile ride. Quite honesty, my bike training was lacking leading up to this year's event. I build up a good base early with some long rides, but over the past couple months I rode more often, but less distance. Needless to say I was more than a tad concerned about the bike leg.

The ride got off to an ominous start when I had to stop early on to retrieve my water bottle that I dropped while trying to put it back in its holster. I shook it off and pedaled on. I did appreciate the lady who offered me some words of encouragement around mile 10. We agreed that a more efficient bike would help.

Still, I thought I was doing pretty good until I was passed by a guy riding with a flat tire. "Ever been passed by a guy with a flat tire?" he asked as he rode past. He wasn't being a jerk, and it was pretty funny. I did pass him back before the finish and completed the bike portion of the race in just under an hour. Even though the bike was still my toughest leg, it was the area in which my time improved most.

Overall bike time: 57:43. Last year's bike time: 1:03:56. Total improvement: 6 minutes, 13 seconds.


Last year, I changed shirts following the bike. This year I didn't, wearing the same shirt for the bike and the run. Doing so helped me cut my time in the bike-to-run transition by almost half.

Overall T2 time: :48. Last year's T2 time: 1:33. Total improvement: 45 seconds.


Leading up to this year's Mission Man event, I didn't do as many BRICK workouts (triathlon lingo for getting the experience of running on tired legs after biking by practicing those segments back-to-back). And yes, those legs felt like Jell-O after the bike. I was tired and spent, and the final 5K seemed daunting. After sucking down a GU energy gel, I saw a fellow runner up ahead who's shirt read "Finish Strong." That's what I decided to do. I settled into a good rhythm and pace on the out-and-back trail course and finished the run segment in 25:02, which is just a minute or so off my recent 5K times on fresh legs.

Overall run time: 25:02. Last year's run time: 27:56. Total improvement: 2 minutes, 54 seconds.


When I finished the 2006 Mission Man Triathlon, the multi-sport event admittedly grew on me. And it grew a lot more today. But I guess a 16-minute PR will do that. Although I'm still not ready to abandon running as my primary form of endurance training, I'm definitely getting the itch to delve a bit more into triathlons. Mission Man next year is a given, and, in all likelihood, I'll be searching out some more events to "tri."

One final note. While I'm obviously excited about today's PR, it meant a lot more having my mom, dad, Aunt Pat and Uncle Jim there to share in it with me. I saw them all several times along the course today, always quick to offer an encouraging word. And although I still don't think mom and dad totally understand this running addiction I've developed, they're supportive, nonetheless. All the photos here are courtesy of Jim. (Below: Jim, Pat, mom, me.)

Overall time: 1:41:13. Last year's overall time: 1:57:24. Total overall improvement: 16 minutes, 11 seconds.


Friday, July 20, 2007

This day in history

July 20th is a pretty signficant date, historically and personally. Here's a sampling of events that took place on this date.

1940: My father, Albert Charlie "A.C." Austin, is born. He's 67 today. Happy birthday, dad!

: Neil Armstrong made "one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind" by becoming the first person to walk on the moon.

: Martial artist and action movie star Bruce Lee dies amidst curious circumstances, giving rise to several
conspiracy theories surrounding his death.

: My lifelong friend
Chris Knight weds his wife Lisa in a ceremony in Calhoun, Ga. Happy anniversary, guys!

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Two Wheels Are Better Than Four

I haven't driven my car at all since Saturday. So far this week, I've biked to church, to work and back, and even to get a haircut. Granted, I don't live far from all of the aforementioned places, so I've only logged about 26 total miles by opting for two wheels instead of four. Still, however, that's a gallon of gas I won't have to buy and free exercise to boot. I'm enjoying this experiment in seeing how many places I can go and errands I can run by bike or on foot rather than by car.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Ironman in a Month?

Anyone think I can complete an Ironman triathlon in one month's time? That's a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run.

Even though I'm training for the Mission Man Sprint Triathlon scheduled for later this month, ramping up my training to do an Ironman seems a little (OK a lot) ambitious and unrealistic. After all, the Mission Man is a half-mile swim, 15-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run.

But what about completing the cumulative Ironman distances in each discipline over the course of one month's time? I think I can do that, and I'm making that my personal fitness challenge for the month of July.

I actually got the idea while at the Freedom Run 5K in Oakboro over the weekend. A fellow runner was wearing a T-Shirt from an area YMCA which hailed "Ironman in a Month" as its fitness challenge this past April. So the idea was born.

I'm fairly confident I should be able to complete the running and swimming distances. It's the bike I'm concerned about, since I don't ride as much as I run and swim.

While 112 miles on the bike in a month seems like a lot to me -- especially since I don't ride a lot -- the distance works out to 28 miles a week, which seems do-able. So I'm taking on the "Ironman in a Month" challenge in July. I'll post updates here to track my progress and keep myself accountable.

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