“Nothing new on race day.”

Maybe one of the easiest to understand rules about racing and one of the easiest to follow.  However at every single marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K, triathlon, Ironman and any other endurance event this is perhaps the most common mistake made by athletes of all experience levels and capabilities.

New shoes, new socks, a different pair of shorts, underwear, triathlon race wear, a different breakfast, hydration plan, calories, compression gear, a new helmet, a different wheel set, the list goes on and on and on.

Chafing, blisters, gastrointestinal issues, running out of fuel – it all can happen – and when it does, that is when the race course rears its head and makes the athlete pay.

Heading into my first ever Half Ironman I am trying to be “one of the smart ones”.  One of the athletes who trains in their race gear, works on their nutrition plan making sure that what I ingest on the bike during my long rides will be identical to what I can get my hands on while I am racing 56 miles on the bike.  The same situation applies to my swim and run.

Nothing new on race day.

So this week I dropped an extra 1,998 yard swim into my training plan at Deep Eddy Pool giving us 4 swims this week.  The increased swim volume was an added bonus, but the reason I wanted to swim at Deep Eddy pool was so I could get some time in my wetsuit that I will be racing in at Kerrville.  The water temperature at Kerrville is predicted to be wetsuit legal, meaning that it will be somewhere below 78 degrees – last year the river water was 74 on race day.

The water will be warm enough of course to swim without a wetsuit – but the added buoyancy that a wetsuit provides and the ability to float better swimming in their suits vs. traditional swim wear makes the athletes much faster in the water.  Perhaps as much as :05 seconds per hundred meters.

In a triathlon where literally every second counts if you are hoping to compete in your age group, picking up time in the water, in transition, on your bike by wearing an aero helmet, having race wheels and of course hauling butt out there on the run course all adds up.  For me, with the swim being my weakest event, I cannot afford to forfeit another :05 seconds per 100 in a swim of 1.2 miles to my age group competitors.

The trick this time of year in Texas of course is trying to find a place where you can swim in your wetsuit to practice, but not overheat while doing so.

Deep Eddy Pool is the oldest swimming pool in the state of Texas.  Deep Eddy began simply as a swimming hole in the Colorado River that flows through Austin.  Cold springs rose from the river banks and people swam in the river where a large boulder formed an eddy.  (Photo Below)

The water temperature is 68 degrees year round.

In the years since, there have been many changes and iterations to Deep Eddy from it’s days as a bathing beach.

But you can’t help feeling like you are stepping back in time leaving the bath house and looking down to the pool below.

View from the top of the bath house on Wednesday

Swimming under the canopy of the oak trees in the natural spring waters is exhilarating.  I now know why so many people make their morning swims at Deep Eddy a ritual.

So on Landry’s birthday I was able to pack myself into my wetsuit for the first time and swim a comfortable 1,998 yards with cool water washing over my toes, hands and face, the rest of my body covered by my Xterra suit.

I didn’t push things too much out there, just trying to get comfortable.

I swam the 60 lengths of the 33.3 yard long pool (1,998 yards) in 35 minutes and 42 seconds.  About 2 minutes faster per 1,000 meters than I do normally without a wetsuit.  Nice.

At race intensity in our suit that bodes very well for us on race day.  If we can stay smooth, sight well and stay on course, we should be able to use that added buoyancy to our advantage – we may just be able to hang a little closer to the front of our age-group in the water.  Once on land, we know what we have to do.

Crush the bike.

Kill the run.

That will be our mantra for race day and hopefully, if we get everything right, we will put together a debut performance in the Half Ironman that we can be proud of.  But in the meantime we are going to enjoy every bit of this journey to the starting line of Kerrville 70.3.  I’m sure that race day is going to grant me a lot of great memories, but not too many of them are going to top our first wetsuit swim at Deep Eddy on Landry’s Birthday.

I think it is important to remember how much hard work you put in to prepare for an “A” race.  Those mornings by yourself running hill repeats, more miles on the bike pushing up long hills against the wind and every one of the thousands  of laps in the pool to prepare for a 1.2 mile open water swim.  They are as much a part of the journey than those final miles approaching the finish line on race day.  Afterall, without them, race day can never happen.

My lane just off of the railing

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