Races and Stories


Tom Landry Triathlon, Dallas, Texas, May 2, 1998

With my travel schedule (in Dallas two weeks out of the last 12), my impending move to Virginia (will SOMEONE PLEASE BUY MY HOUSE?), and various other of life's entertainments, I suppose my training has suffered.

Now there's an understatement.

I left entry into the Landry Triathlon here in Dallas to the last minute. I was in Japan earlier in the week, and I thought I might have to be in Florida the day before the race. But the Florida trip was moved, and Friday night found me standing exhausted, overweight and undertrained at the registration desk plunking down my money. "You need to fill out this one-day license application." "I already have a USAT license." "YOU DO???" I suppose my appearance suggested the improbability of my licensed status.

Landry uses a time-trial start. As a late entrant, I would start at about 9:20, 80 minutes after the elites had begun. The elites swam in individual lanes, instead of traversing the pool as we would do, which meant a wave start for them and for the spectators. The age-groupers were asked to provide estimated swim times, and they were seeded in the start accordingly to minimize passing. But about 60 of us entered too late to get seeded, so we started in order of entry. That promised some excitement.

The last few swimmers among the early registrants were really giving the lifeguards something worth close watching. One fellow was dog-paddling, and worked his way across the 8 lanes to finish his 400 meters in about 17 or 18 minutes. To avoid all of us climbing over them, the starter left a gap of several minutes after the last seeded starters before starting our group. I was 50 deep in the group of 60, meaning that I was one of the last to start that day.

I was nervous about the swim. In my last tri, I abandoned, humiliated, in the open-water swim. Sure, this was a pool swim, and, sure, I had joined the USMS program since then, but I still had not tested myself in an actual race. I knew that I could swim 100-yard repeats on two-minute intervals, and I added 50 seconds for the metric conversion, and subtracted a 30-second adrenalin factor. But I was starting behind 11-minute 400-meter swimmers, instead of my estimated 8:20 (which, God knows, is mediocre at best). I passed the swimmer in front of me at the first turn. At the second turn, I passed another. It became a pattern, especially at the even-numbered turns where we crossed under a rope. I would do my usual open turn, and launch off the wall at an angle and pass under the rope before surfacing. Many would stop, cling to the wall, go under the rope, cling some more, and finally push off (read: that was me last year). I passed at least half a dozen at the turns. As I left the water, I hit my lap button: 7:50. Now, that won't impress any of you, but that's a 2:48 reduction since my last 400-meter tri swim last summer. I should be a USMS poster boy. But I had swum past, over, and under many swimmers, endured their kicks and flailing arms, and jammed my left hand into the lane marker. All we needed was murky water, and it would have been as tough as an open-water swim.

In my dreams, I suppose.

My tremendous swim improvement was not matched by cycling and running performance. My poor training and feeding frenzies had taken their toll. My time was about three minutes faster than when I raced the Landry two years ago, and most of that was in the swim.

It wasn't my goal marathon in February (postponed until Fall). It wasn't the USTS race that I really wanted to do. But at least it was a race.

But oh boy was I sore on Monday!