Texas Tri Series – One Down, Three Remain

The 2018 Texas Tri Series is underway

The Texas Tri Series consists of four triathlons (first of which was Rookie Tri) that take place in and around the Austin area. You can participate in the Texas Tri Series (for free!) as an athlete or a volunteer. If you completed Rookie Tri on Sunday, May 6th, and want to register for the series there’s still time!

The events range from sprint to half distances. There are many volunteer roles and ways to participate. This is a great event to complete with family, friends, and even your kids. To participate, you must register for the Texas Tri Series (remember, it’s free!) and participate or volunteer at all four events.

In addition to all the awesome goodies you get at each event in the series, you will get some awesome rewards for completing the series. Each series finisher will receive a 2018 Texas Tri Series finisher medal and a finisher item. Timing is not being tracked for the 2018 Texas Tri Series.

The series is composed of four events

  • Rookie Triathlon
    • Sunday, May 6th
    • Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park
    • Sprint distance (300m swim, 11.2-mile bike, 2-mile run)
    • Relay, aquabike, and virtual options
  • Life Time Tri CapTex
    • Monday, May 31st
    • Via Mathias (Auditorium) Shores
    • Super Sprint distance (.25-mile swim, 6.3-mile bike, 3.1-mile run)
    • Sprint distance (.46-mile swim, 12.3-mile bike, 3.1-mile run)
    • International distance (.93-mile swim, 24.3-mile bike, 6.2-mile run)
    • Relay and aquabike options

      Jack's Generic Tri is the third Texas Tri Series event.

      Jack’s Generic Tri is the third Texas Tri Series event.

  • Jack’s Generic Triathlon
    • Sunday, August 26th
    • Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park
    • Sprint distance (600m swim, 11.2-mile bike, 5K run)
    • Relay, aquabike, and virtual options
  • Kerrville Triathlon Festival
    • Saturday, September 29th, and Sunday, September 30th
    • Kerrville, Texas (Nimitz Lake and Louise Hays Park)

      Kerrville Tri is the final Texas Tri Series event

      Kerrville Triathlon Festival is the final Texas Tri Series event.

    • Sprint distance (500m swim,14.5-mile bike, 5K run)
    • Quarter distance (1000m swim, 29-mile bike, 6.4-mile run)
    • Half distance (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run)
    • Relay (sprint and half) and aquabike (quarter and half) options

Rookie Triathlete: Part 9: My First Triathlon

I did it, I completed my first triathlon

blog about completing my first triathlon

William and Barny. Photo – Ed Sparks

Back in January, I committed to my first triathlon, 2018 Rookie Triathlon. What began as a small idea quickly turned into a side bet complete with trash talk and a race-day following that formally introduced triathlon to newbies. I was fortunate to have one of the best triathletes in the world (Paul “Barny” Matthews) as my coach. I spoke with countless triathletes, both Rookies and IRONMAN finishers. Basically, everything they said could happen did happen at some point. Based on my training and my mock Rookie Tri in February, I figured finishing in 75 minutes would be respectable. Remember, I finished my mock triathlon in 1:34:43. I completed my first triathlon in 1:06:55.

When I set out to do something I’m all in. But I know for a fact I wouldn’t have been as successful and felt as good during my first triathlon if it weren’t for Barny. His training plan made me #feelthebarn before race day so I knew what to expect on race day.

Race day – Sunday, May 6, 2018

My alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. Why so early? My wife and good friend were volunteering that morning and needed to be there to help with parking. The night before I went through the entire race and packed my bag. Stickers were placed on my bike and helmet. Everything was quadruple checked. Hydration was mixed and placed in the fridge. I wanted race morning to be smooth.

Well that didn’t go as planned. Part of getting up a bit earlier was to ensure my bodily functions worked the way I wanted them to work in my own home. That didn’t happen. Porta-potties here I come. I checked my bag one more time because why not?! We took off on time and headed to Decker Lake. We get about halfway through and sonofa… I left both bottles of hydration in the fridge. So many scenarios go through my head. I popped off 35 at the next exit and booked it back to the house. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. We arrived around 5:30. Still early, but there were folks already parking! I parked and wanted to get my bike racked. I’d have plenty of time to get my bag and set up transition.

killing time in transition at my first triathlon

Passing time in transition. Photo – Ed Sparks

Killing time

Transition is set. Now I’m looking around thinking “Now what?” as I plot ways to kill time. I see friends and chat with them about my blog. Are you nervous they ask? Hell yeah I am. I spot my friend Rod Newlin before he took off to manage the bike course. We chatted for a bit and I wished him a happy belated birthday. He told me I’d be fine and shouldn’t be nervous. Easy for you to say Rod! But in reality, his words were helpful.

I found Raul Najera of RunFarUSA (timing company) and chatted with him a bit. Still killing time. He needed some help moving mats and re-wiring his timers. I quickly offered my assistance and asked if this gesture would help shave some minutes off my overall time. Apparently, that’s not the case. During this time I ran into my coach who gave me a sweet Ameican flag robe and boxing gloves. Something to ease the tension and create some laughs. I must’ve made three or four trips to the porta-potty. Man, I missed my own bathroom.

final preparation at my first triathlon

Trying to relax before the Rookie Tri. Photo – Ed Sparks

The race

My wife and friend join me after their volunteer duties are complete (thanks for volunteering!). I chat with some more folks. Find my arch-nemisis and his crew and laugh my ass off. His morning was more horrible than mine was. The race begins and we watch the Open wave cut through the smooth water. They make it look so easy. Barny exited the water and I cheered for him. He eventually won his second Rookie Tri in a row. A week after finishing 13th overall in the IRONMAN North American Championships. It’s almost game-time.

As we’re waiting in line, Paras (my arch-nemisis) and I start quickly re-thinking what we’ve gotten ourselves into. But we’re both competitors. When nobody was looking and we didn’t have access to our phone, we quickly slapped hands, wished each other the best of luck, and agreed we couldn’t wait for the post-race booze. It’s time to swim.

The swim

entering the water at my first triathlon

Entering Decker Lake. Photo – Ed Sparks

We were in line to be the last two of the Rookie male 30-39 to enter the water. Perfect. The next group would start a little after us and not as many would catch me. Wrong. We were the first to start with the 40-49 because Paras forgot his swim cap and his color matched theirs. Great. I enter the water in exactly what I’ll wear on the bike and run, minus shoes, plus goggles and nose plug. The first 50m are fantastic. Yes, this is all coming together as planned! Then someone hits my leg and it throws me off. Damn. Get it back together William. Get my stroke back and my leg is hit again, then my back. It’s clear folks are passing me.

My heart starts racing. My form goes to shit. I start kicking more. Welp, this isn’t good. Just keep moving forward. I breaststroke for a bit to get my breath back and return to my form. But the damage is done. My heart rate is high and my breathing is off. Just keep moving forward. I tried everything I could to get back under control, even swimming on my back a couple times. Nothing worked. I was already exhausted. I focused on making it to the next buoy. Then the next buoy. I’m in the home stretch and I can’t wait to feel solid earth beneath my feet. I finish the swim in a disappointing 9:52. Nearly three minutes more than my mock Rookie Tri swim. My first thought once I learned that Paras was ahead of me: makeup time on the bike.

The bike

Transition went smooth. I used the run to transition to gather myself and catch my breath. Arrived at my bike and everything is ready to go. I step on my towel to dry my feet while I put on my sunglasses and helmet. Slip on the shoes I’ll run in and head towards bike out. I cross the line and hop on, ready to chase down Paras. I quickly grab some nuun because I know I’m about to push myself like never before on a bike. Riding the course beforehand was a tremendous boost. Familiarity is huge. I was passing folks and feeling good. Everything was working out better than I anticipated. At every hill I’m looking for Paras. Nowhere. Shit.

starting the bike at my first triathlon

Playing catch up. Photo – Ed Sparks

But I’m in a groove now. Smoking the downhills and pounding the uphills. I’m getting after it. I finally see Paras on the frontage road and get this insane jolt of energy. He started more than two minutes ahead of me. I’m going all out now (which got me later). I don’t catch him until we turn right into the home stretch. Turn the corner, pass him, blow a kiss, and keep going. I need to make up time. Paras had more in the tank than I thought. We went back and forth on Decker Lake Rd. and eventually made it to transition at the same time. We had folks Facetiming people who couldn’t be there and streaming our race on Facebook live. I finished the bike in 37:44. That’s 24 minutes faster than my mock Rookie Tri bike. The Wrecker at Decker was living up to the hype.

The run

Transition went smooth again. Pre-planning helped. Took one last swig of nuun, dropped my bike off, and grabbed my SPIbelt. I leave transition right behind Paras. It’s on. I know he’s a top-notch runner, but folks on-course told me he incurred a couple penalties. He is faster, but I still have a chance. The course was changed because of flash flooding, so my day-before run didn’t help much. I’m feeling good, folks are cheering, volunteers are awesome. I see Paras start to disappear, but I don’t worry about that. I focus on passing one person at a time, keeping my pace.

crossing the finish line at my first triathlon

Crossing the Rookie Tri finish line. Photo – Ed Sparks

The new course weaved in and out for two miles. Every chance I got I poured water on my head. I turn the last leg and Barny is there cheering as loud as he can. Paras has penalties! You still have a chance! I catch my last boost of energy and head for the finish of my first triathlon. I’m asking my body to push itself beyond what’s it ever done. The finish is getting closer. I can hear Logan. Paras is at the edge of the finish chute and gives me a high five as I enter. He was three minutes ahead of me. I crossed the line of my first triathlon in 1:06:55. Eight minutes ahead of my 75-minute prediction. That’s a 28-minute improvement from my mock Rookie Tri in February.

I’m a triathlete

I crossed the finish line of my first triathlon and immediately fell to the ground. Exhausted. No medical was needed, just had to gather myself for a minute. I didn’t beat Paras, but I became a triathlete. The post-race trash talk wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. We were both that tired. We took photos, hung out with friends, our coaches joined the fun, we drank a few beers, and enjoyed the energetic finish line festival.

post-race photo at my first triathlon

The squads post-race. Photo – Ed Sparks

The entire experience was something I’ll never forget. My wife supported me through yet another endurance event and training cycle. Megan is a beautiful soul for putting up with my shenanigans and ability to consume great quantities of her amazing cooking. I appreciate Barny and all of his efforts. He’s a huge reason for my improvement. That is undeniable. I strongly encourage contacting him if you’re looking for a coach for your first triathlon or your first IRONMAN. I’m grateful my employer, High Five Events, allowed me to compete and not have to work the event. My co-workers provided a never-ending stream of insight and support.

What’s next?

I’m not sure what the future holds. I crossed the finish line of my first triathlon and said never again. But the more I think about it the more I realize I can still improve. I can get better at the swim. So I won’t say never now. I will say I’m a better runner because of swimming and cycling. My body feels better. I’m getting stronger. This cross-training thing is legit. I will keep swimming in the pool. I’ve begun riding my bike to work. My legs have more energy when I run. I really like what this journey has done for me.

If you’ve made it this far, then thank you. Thanks for reading and for your in-person and online support. If completing a triathlon is on your radar I highly suggest Rookie Triathlon. The entire event is well-organized (I’m biased), but I also approached my first triathlon as a Rookie triathlete, not the High Five Events Communications Manager. Most of my nerves were self-induced. Rookie Triathlon is perfect for that first-timer. There was plenty of room in transition, parking went smoothly, the water entrance was well-managed, and the finish line festival was one huge after party! If you’re like me and like planning ahead, 2019 Rookie Triathlon will take place on Cinco de Mayo. Don’t forget, I’m still a Rookie.

Thank You 2018 Rookie Tri Volunteers

Huge thank you to the Rookie Tri volunteers for making Year 15 amazing

Body marking with a smile at Rookie Tri! Photo credit – Ed Sparks

Thank you to everyone who donated their time and energy to help us have a great event. The 2018 Rookie Tri was a success and we couldn’t have done it without our awesome volunteers! Our 15th anniversary wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without you. You helped stuff packets and work packet pickup before race day. Early morning called and you parked cars, body marked triathletes, worked transition, and directed athletes on course. Once the final finisher crossed you assisted with breakdown. You were vital in leaving Walter E Long Metropolitan Park cleaner than when we found it.

We loved getting to celebrate our volunteers with a fun and prize-filled dinner party at Brick Oven on Thursday night (5/10). It was a pleasure to chat with all of you while eating some delicious food. Enjoy the extra swag, car seat covers, socks, and foam rollers!

Don’t forget, this is event #1 of the Texas Tri Series. Keep your streak going and volunteer at CapTex Tri!

Once again, THANK YOU!

15th Annual Rookie Tri Introduces Hundreds to Triathlon

Huge finish line festival capped off 15th annual Rookie Tri celebration

15th Annual Rookie Tri Introduces Hundreds to Triathlon

Final preparations for the 15th Annual Rookie Tri!

On Sunday, May 6th, nearly 800 Rookies and Veterans participated in the 15th Annual Rookie Tri at Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park in Austin, Texas. Temperatures were ideal for those competing in their first ever triathlon or the first triathlon of their season. Rookies, those who participated in their first or second triathlon, consisted of half the field.

“The volunteers were super helpful and really calmed my nerves on all of the “little things” that I needed to know (swim caps, transition zones, other rules),” said Paras Shah, who completed the 15th annual Rookie Tri (his first) in 1:03:29. “The crowd was very energetic and supportive and it was fun coming down the last mile and really hearing people genuinely excited for all of us first timers finishing a tri!”

Professional triathlete Paul “Barny” Williams repeated as overall champ with the time of 43:53 at the 15th annual Rookie Tri. Second and third place went to former pro Jamie Cleveland and Jack Cartwright. They crossed the finish line in 45:11 and 45:18 respectively. The women’s podium was topped by professional triathlete Natasha Van Der Merwe who had a winning time of 49:06. Second place finisher Haley Koop (50:50) and third place finisher Doreen Redenius (53:45) rounded out the women’s field.

Rookie Tri, Sunday, May 6, 2018

15th Annual Rookie Tri Introduces Hundreds to Triathlon

Hangin’ ten on the 11.2-mile bike ride.

The Rookie Tri has three different divisions: Rookie (first or second triathlon), Veteran (completed more than two triathlons), and Open. Rookies and Veterans start the swim in their division based on their age group. Two participants enter the water every few seconds. The Open Division allows participants to begin regardless of age, with a mass swim start. Rookie Tri introduced two new categories for 2018: Athena and Clydesdale. The inclusion of the categories, which had 79 total participants, created more energy and competition on race day.

The wetsuit legal 300-meter swim took place in a 72 degree Decker Lake. The 11.2-mile bike course featured rolling hills. The two-mile run course ran through the park. Participants received custom 2018 shirts and water bottles, swim cap, beer, a post-race meal, and the signature swag toss. Professional timing and photography, as well as a great volunteer crew and hundreds of supportive spectators, made this triathlon memorable for rookies and veterans alike. The Rookie Triathlon participants can see their times here. They can also relive race day by checking out photos from the event on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

15th Annual Rookie Tri Introduces Hundreds to Triathlon

Yes, the Oskar Blues was ice-cold!

Rookie Tri would like to thank all of the volunteers for coming out and making today’s event memorable for all triathletes. Their willingness to get up extra early to cheer on and support every participant truly made a difference in their experience. Rookie Triathlon would also like to thank sponsors City Limit Cycles, RunLab Austin, Oskar Blues Brewery, nuun hydration, Clif Bar, Ben Phillips-Engel and Volkers Austin, and SPIbelt.

All photo credits – Ed Sparks

Rookie Triathlete: Part 8: Rookie Nerves

My Rookie nerves finally kicked in at packet pickup

I knew Rookie nerves would kick in, I just didn’t know when. There’s something about a new endeavor that riles up your insides. Throw in the fact that my coach, Paul “Barny” Matthews, is a world-class triathlete and the nerves become amplified. Don’t forget that I might be the only swimmer with a nose plug! Top that off with a friendly wager with my triathlon arch nemesis, Paras Shah, and the butterflies grow larger.

Rookie nerves can come from anywhere, including competition.

My triathlon arch nemesis, Paras Shah.

What if I forget something that I need for Sunday? Can I apply the required stickers incorrectly? How do I keep from checking my checking list 16 times? What do I need to do to not leave too early and stand around, but not leave too late and miss a good spot in transition? How do I kill time between when the race starts and when my wave begins? Whatifmynoseplugcomesoffduringtheswim?! All of these thoughts are racing through my head on a continuous loop. It’s how my brain is wired. I need to have every possible angle covered and all boxes on my list checked, highlighted, marked through, and initialed. Then reviewed by a quality control supervisor.

BUT… Nerves are just that, nerves. There are tactics you can use to manage and even eliminate them. I have months of training and advice from Barny. He even helped make this video that’s useful for Rookie and Veterans. I have years of experience in other races that I can transfer to this Sunday’s Rookie Triathlon. While they can’t help me on race day, I’ve tapped into the never-ending triathlon knowledge bank that my co-workers at High Five Events have offered. I strongly recommend reading this Pre-Race Tips post on the Rookie Tri blog.

What I’m doing

Below are some specific things I’m doing to reduce my overall Rookie nerves:

  • visit Decker Lake today (Saturday) for a quick, easy swim to get accustomed to the water
  • scope out the run course, perhaps go for a relaxed run on the course
  • HYDRATE
  • layout everything I’ll need for race day on my bed
  • go through the race in my head and think about what I’ll need
  • layout and practice transition
  • HYDRATE
  • as I go through the race in my head, place all those items in my bag
  • watch the Kentucky Derby and attend Schrader 1600 (aka do something to take your mind off your race)
  • HYDRATE
  • trust my training
  • load everything by the front door
  • check my bike, especially tire pressure
  • HYDRATE
  • get up earlier than normal to ensure nature won’t call during the race
  • eat/drink my normal breakfast (Clif Bar + nuun performance)
  • support and cheer for Barny (and all athletes) in the Open and Veteran waves
  • HAVE FUN! (Barny has a few tricks up his sleeve to make this happen)

4 Ways to Reduce Your Rookie Tri Stress

Use these tips from a pro to handle pre-race stress

Rookie or Veteran, Rookie Triathlon stress, nerves, anxiety, jitters, whatever you want to call it, it’s real. Perhaps the butterflies kicked in when race week arrived. Maybe a co-worker asked about your confidence on Hump Day and your stomach turned upside down. You could be like William, who’s training for his first triathlon. Reality set in when he arrived at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop for Rookie Tri packet pickup. William met Paul “Barny” Matthews, his coach, for some advice and tips. These tips to reduce stress can be used by anyone. So if you know someone worried about final preparations for this Sunday, share this video with them!

Implement these additional tips to take your Rookie Tri pre-race preparation one step further.

To Wetsuit Or Not To Wetsuit

Let’s start by saying that wetsuits are completely optional at The Rookie Tri. The water temperature is 72 which is more than comfortable to swim in without a wetsuit. So what are the advantages and disadvantages to wearing one? We created a Rookie specific why or why not list.

For all of our true Rookies out there, remember the golden rule: Nothing new on race day. Unless you have an opportunity to swim in the exact wetsuit you will wear on race day at least once before, it is advised to not try something new the day of the race. 

A Quick Overview of the Rules and Water Temps

Here are the USAT’s rule on wetsuits and water temps. (all temps refer to surface water temperatures)

Under 50 degrees: Not suitable for open water swimming, even with a wetsuit
50 to 65 degrees: Suitable for open water swim, but a wetsuit is highly advised
65 – 78 degrees: Suitable for swimming with or without a wetsuit. Sleeveless suits are popular at this temp.
78 – 84 degrees: Race directors use their judgment to allow or not allow wetsuits at this range. Usually not eligible for awards at this temperature.
Over 84 degrees: Wetsuits not allowed

Why Wear a Wetsuit

Help Swim Ability

Wetsuits provide buoyancy. This can come in handy for any open water swim “panic” as the wetsuit will give you extra lift and make it easier to float while you bring your heart rate down and your focus back to swimming.

“Free” Speed

The buoyancy of the suit allows the wearer to swim faster than without the suit. The better the swimmer the less advantage the wetsuit may show. A swimmer can expect to save anywhere from a few seconds to tens of seconds per 100. Usually the longer the distance the more the savings is noticeable.  With the less exertion in the water, you will feel less of an energy drain as you are heading up to T1.

Warmth

The wetsuit can provide warmth to the swimmer in the cold water. If you are sensitive to the cold this can be great at making your more comfortable in the water.

Why Not Wear a Wetsuit

Cost

Wetsuits can be a big investment costing anywhere from just over $100 to almost a $1000.

Constricting

If you are not very comfortable and used to wearing a wetsuit, they can be constricting. Imagine wearing a life vest that is a size too small. This tight feeling across the chest can cause panic if one finds themselves uncomfortable mid-swim.

Added Time For Taking Off

While they may save you time while swimming, you still have to get out of the suit. This can add minutes to your transition time.

So to sum it up, for a short swim like the Rookie Tri the time saving can be negligible. It is really a toss up to how you feel on race morning and what you have trained for. Pack it in your bag and if it comes time to leave transition and you don’t want to wear it, simply leave it by your bike.

What else should you wear on race day? Check here

Why You Should Hydrate Before Race Day

Don’t wait until race day to hydrate

nuun will be at Rookie Triathlon on Sunday, May 6th, ready to hydrate every triathlete. They will have two aid stations to ensure you have the electrolytes needed during your race. One aid station will be at transition and can be accessed before the swim and before the bike. There are no aid stations on the bike course. Take any nutrition or liquids that you want with you before you exit transition. The other aid station will be at Mile 1 of the run course. Aid stations will offer nuun and water. But don’t wait until race day to start hydrating!

Hydrate with nuun performance before Rookie Tri.

nuun performance contains balanced electrolytes and carbs.

Proper hydration is a building block to leading a healthier lifestyle. Most triathletes know that. But increasing your fluid intake before Rookie Triathlon can provide several benefits on race day.

  • reduce the possibility of dehydration
    • which can lead to a decrease in physical performance, muscle cramps, nausea, and fatigue
  • prepare for sweat loss
    • you’re going to sweat, prepare for the loss of sodium with an increase in electrolytes before and on race day
  • make sure you’re “topped off”
    • if you hydrate like you train, you’ll feel more comfortable if you skip an aid station (on purpose or not)
  • get a good night’s sleep on Saturday
    • proper and regular hydration has many benefits, including getting better sleep
  • lock in a hydration routine
    • most athletes like to have a routine, this will allow you to start the race hydrated and with an empty bladder

Increase your water and electrolyte intake several days before race day. You should drink anywhere from 10-12 glasses of fluid a day. Fluids consumed should be 50% water, 50% nuun. Drink a glass of water, then drink a glass of nuun. Having nuun tablets handy allows you to turn any bottle of water into an electrolyte-enhanced drink that is gluten-free and made from plant-based materials. Give their nuun performance a try. It contains a new formula that has increased carbohydrates.

This doesn’t allow you to skip aid stations on race day and avoid hydrating! Still hydrate during the race. This is meant to be another tool in your training as Sunday, May 6th, nears.