First of all, I had to get through Houston on a Friday. That meant I left home at 9am in order to beat the afternoon traffic. Even at 11:15am, cars were backing up and it was a slow slog. Still, it could have been worse. I arrived in Beaumont and the first stop was packet pick-up. It was quick and efficient, and the nice folks answered all my questions.
Next I drove to the start line, the field house at Lamar State University, just so I could see it unhindered by the crush of participants. Only a little over 60 folks signed up to cycle, but over 2,000 runners were doing the running events (marathon, half-marathon, 10k, and kids race). I found the parking lot and the overflow lot, and stopped to chat to one of the guys who seemed to be in charge of setting up stuff. Then it was time to check in at the hotel and get squared away.
Of prime importance was the weather. It looked like the rain would hold off, so I was facing mid-50s, overcast, with a SE wind. Long-time readers know my mantra "Under 65 degrees, cover the knees" so I laid out my tights. I left my TT skinsuit at home and would be flying the Bicycle Sport Shop colors, so also put out the arm-warmers. Because I detest being cold, and with the wind and lack of sun, I also put out a base layer t-shirt. To complete my wardrobe, the HRM strap and kid's Camelbak. Rather than a water bottle, this 26oz bladder fits nicely under the jersey.
Even though my start time was 8:50am, after discussing the parking situation, I determined an arrival prior to 6:30 would be best, since the runners first group went out at 7:30am. Thus I put my oatmeal in a to-go cup, grabbed a bagel and a banana, and left the hotel at 6:10am. I had a prime parking spot, and sat and ate breakfast in the car watching the sun not come up. I had plenty of time to wander around, get my timing chip, talk to the chief umpire (specifically about where to put the number since different people said positively the left side and positively the right side. It was the right side.
My hope for a gold medal went out the window when Stuart changed his category from Cat 4 to the masters. He just moved into the 60+ age group and is quite quick (besides being 12 years younger than me). But the silver looks pretty nice, and believe me, I earned it.
The 10k course is pretty straight forward, out and back, mostly flat with a few underpasses to negotiate, plus two U-turns, one of which was quite wide and could be taken at speed. Four laps would get me to the end, northbound with the wind at my back, southbound in my face. I warmed up for about a half an hour, but didn't work up a sweat or bring the heart-rate up for any length of time. Because my practice sessions were few and not over 5k in length, and the only 10k I did was at Brazos Valley two weeks ago, I was planning to go out slow and build up.
We started out northbound, so I had the wind at my back as I built up speed and pushed the big gears at a really, for me, high cadence. The average cadence came in at 83, but my computer shows a lot of time at or near 90. With the wind, my first lap took seven and a half minutes to the turn-around with a total 17:47. Lap two @ 18:11, three @ 18:35 and four at 18:43. On the fourth lap, I pushed a larger gear and knocked 30 seconds off the wind-side, but had nothing in the legs going back into the wind. However, I managed to hang in and finished with 1:13:17. That wasn't close to Stuart, but did get me into second, far ahead of third. I'm not pleased to drop so many seconds on each lap, but reiterate that my first priority of finishing the race had me being conservative on energy output. This was a young man's race, with lots of guys under 50, although Clif (from Dallas and who also raced in Brazos Valley and is in the 50-55 category, a very nice guy) finished first overall
What I'm really pleased with is the heart-rate. Of course, the numbers are a little suspect, in that if you total the 37:40 in Zone 4 and 42:07 in Zone 5, you come up with more minutes than I raced. It looks like a lot of time was spent at 145, which is right at my 90% of max, so maybe it counted it in both zones. Doesn't matter, my average heart-rate was 145, which is about the best I could hope for. It shows I put out a maximum effort. This is in contrast to hardly any time in zone 4 and zero time in zone 5 a few weeks ago. I have an explanation for this, and it is the same one I have made for the past several years: I did my pre-race acupuncture. Once Karen told me what meridians she opens up and what they do, but I can't remember, other than it allows me to dig deep and access all of the training I've put in. I always get a good result after a treatment.
Because these folks are really good, results were available and awards handed out within minutes of the last person in their category finishing. Us old guys are funny, we voted to just accept our medals at the finish line rather than a formal presentation at the podium stage. The stage was mainly for the runners and located about 30 yards away, and that would take the timer away from his job and we liked his efficiency.
This allowed me to get back to the hotel before checkout time, get showered and on the road by 11:30am. Still had to get through Houston.