This race weekend was all about my new friend Frank Ewing’s first triathlon. I met Frank through this blog, and he was very gracious in his support of me and my Ironman Arizona adventure. I made him a promise that I would come and support him for his first triathlon, when he was ready. Well fast forward a few months and Frank hit me up and said “I want to do the South Beach Triathlon.”
I met Frank in person for the first time Saturday morning before the big race. I connected with Frank instantly, as we had a lot in common from being around the same age, in the same fraternity to various likes and dislikes. Frank was in great shape with his six-pack on full display. Frank certainly looked like a triathlete, someone who spends quite a bit of time swimming, biking and running.
Frank had the great idea of signing up for the pre-race swim clinic. This turned out to be an awesome idea, because swimming in the ocean is really different from swimming in the Lake and 300X different from swimming in a chlorinated pool.
We both got some great tips on sighting, and entering/exiting the ocean. Frank’s major concern was swimming in the ocean and so he was more prepared after this swim clinic. Frank’s next decision was to wear a wetsuit or not?
If the water temperature is over 83 degrees no wetsuits are allowed for safety reasons. You can really overheat with the extra layer of insulation. Anything below 83 degrees you can wear a wetsuit, but you will not be considered for any race qualifications or benefits. Frank decided he would wear a wetsuit if allowed, for the comfort and extra buoyancy, since he was not planning on winning his first triathlon.
They wouldn’t announce the temperature until race morning, so this became a source of anxiety for my new friend.
After swimming for about 3/4 of a mile we went to get something to eat and chill. I was feeling very confident in the distance of this race after an Ironman, it seemed quite doable. I was actually hoping for a top 10 finish. This would be my first triathlon in the 50-54 age bracket. I thought after all, how many 50 plus year olds can do what I do? Boy was I about to find out. Lol I also think that in sunny South Beach, most people are very active and have access to ocean swimming, biking and running year round. I’m just saying that this is not the place where your average 50 plus year old resides.
After getting decent nights sleep, race morning was upon us. I got up early enough and made a bowl of oatmeal and Generation UCAN/Protein powder mix.
Nothing heavy for me on race morning as my stomach is too tied up in knots to digest anything. Frank on the other hand did eat anything of substance and was taking his sinus medication instead.
We had about a half mile walk to the transition area. Upon arrival, we learned that wetsuits would be allowed but you had to start in the very last group. We also calculated that this would give you about 15-20 minutes less to make the swim cutoff. Frank was ok with starting in the very last group as he was just not comfortable in the choppy ocean without a wetsuit for his first time. I can’t say I blame him, the ocean conditions were not the best this weekend.
We began to set up our transition areas. I placed my running shoes first in front of my bike, socks due to the hot surface (a comfort decision), bike helmet, race belt, my hydration bottles, and nutrition. So far so good, when I remembered I needed to put air in my tires due to these fancy new tubulars not holding air for more than a day.
I first of all needed to borrow a bike pump. This is when my day began to take a turn for the worst. I could not locate one in my close vicinity. So off I went in search of a bike pump. Tick-tock time starts ticking away. I begin to hear announcements about the transition area closing soon.
My heart begins to race as a major panic meltdown begins. I finally find a bike pump and begin hurriedly putting in air in my rear tire. Now onto the front tire. Without getting too technical, the valve to my front tire broke! You’ve got to be freaking kidding me?! No matter how hard I tried, I could not get any air in my front tire. Picture me almost in tears trying to manually force air in my front tire all the while losing more and more precious air. I finally made a decision to just leave what little air I had left and how for the best. I estimated my front tire was about 50% inflated.
Lesson #1, there will always be a challenge to overcome on race day. You just can’t anticipate what it’s going to be. All you can do is try to remain calm and think fast.
By this time the transition area was closed and we were being told to make our way to the swim start which was about 3 blocks away. The only problem was I had to go to the bathroom really bad. As always the lines were ridiculously long. I could not afford to wait, so I rushed down the beach in search of a public restroom. Off in the distance just past the swim start, I spot a Starbucks. I dash in there, but both pottys were taken. Tick-tock I started getting visions of me missing the swim start. What could these people be in there doing, I screamed to myself? I thought of knocking on the door and shouting hurry up. My common sense side scoffed at such an act. After what seemed like hours, I finally was able to relieve myself. By this time my race was starting at any minute. Frank was doing the shorter distance, so I had parted with him out of bike transition.
I asked Frank if he wanted me to do the same race distance with him and he said no. Because it made him too nervous.
By the time I made it to the swim my race was starting in minutes. What sucked about my late arrival was that I had missed the swim warm-ups. My swim does so much better when I have a chance to warm-up. But I realized my swim would just be less than optimal.
No sooner than finding my age group we were going into the water in groups of four. The swim was in a rectangle shape parallel to the beach. Out, then a right turn, straight alongside the beach shore for about 1000 meters, and followed by one last right hand turn to shore.
Swimming out was into the waves, which made sighting tough. Then after making a right hand turn, the waves were crashing on your left side trying to push you back to shore for the major portion of the swim. I didn’t have to worry about my salt intake as I drank enough salty ocean water to last the entire race. Lol
The swim took me about 300 meters to warm up and settle into a decent swim stroke. But after warming up, I was enjoying my washing machine like swim. The view in the ocean was just breath-taking.
After making my final right hand turn towards the shore, my swim was coming to an end. I started kicking faster to get more blood flowing to my legs. Exciting the water onto the beach I felt great. I had about a 300 meter run to get to my bike Zoey.
I prayed to the triathlon gods for my front tire to have enough air to survive the 26 mile ride through the causeways. My prayers were answered as the bike portion of my race went relatively smooth as my front tire held enough air for me. I also took the time on the bike to rehydrate myself with a mixture of lemons, water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper and I had enough hydration to energize myself.
The bike portion of the race was very well-organized traffic wise and the course was challenging enough to make it interesting. Also the ocean views over the causeway were amazing. After a smooth bike ride, it was time to transition to the run. I made a comfort decision to take the time to put socks on. I figured the ground would be hot causing a run with no socks to be potentially very uncomfortable. This socks decision cost me quite a bit of time. I had to dry to dry my feet, put my socks on the correct foot (as I have left and right socks) and then tie up my shoes. I definitely could have shaved some transition time, by opting for no socks but I think I made the right decision.
Once I had my socks and shoes on, my race belt with number, and sun visor were soon to follow and it was off to the run. By this time the heat and sun were in full force. I began to sweat immediately and wondered how my hydration and nutrition would hold up? I was concentrating on a run cadence of 90 spm and felt pretty strong the first 3/4 mile.
It was after this distance that I began to feel the slight beginnings of leg cramps. I took a hit of sea salt which worked petty well for me during Ironman Arizona. I began to start thinking about “embracing the suck”. This is where you basically welcome whatever pain enters your body and continue to push forward.
The run was basically 3 miles up the beach and 3 miles back. A lot of the run was on the boardwalk, which was made with wooden boards and very comfortable to run on. There were water stations every mile or so and I thought well spaced.
After passing the first water station, I began to cramp really bad and I had to stop and try to massage the cramp out. After being disappointed with having to walk after mile 1, I made a decision to not walk again no matter how much cramping or pain I was in.
I slowed down to take in hydration and salt, but other than that, I kept my promise and was able to maintain a steady pace to The finish line. The last 400 meters or so was on loose beach sand and really challenged my balance.
I maintained my smile and was elated to be finished. In my mind I had a well executed race, but still was towards the back of the pack in the final standings.
Once my race was over, the real drama began. I started looking for Frank with excited anticipation. Well I waited and waited and waited, but there was no sign of Frank.
I decided to check the bike area, no Frank. Then I got a phone call from Beau (Frank’s son) asking if I had seen his dad? We then decide to go to athlete services to see if they could give us a more accurate information on Frank’s whereabouts. According to the computer timing chip, Frank made it out of the water, but disappeared after that. Beau knew this was incorrect as he saw his dad make it out of the water and onto his bike. Did Frank crash? Why was there no bike time for him? A short while later we start to get conflicting reports that he had bike trouble and never made it to the run. Well if that was the case, where is he? We actually began to panic just a little.
Beau decided to see if his dad walked to the condo for some unknown reason? But Frank was nowhere to be found. Race officials began to worry just a little too. We had them make repeated calls to the course to see if they knew anything about what happen to Frank. No one could answer the simple question as to where Frank was. By this point the last triathletes had finished the race and they began to break down the event. Signs, plants, fencing were all being torn down and the racing crew started to not believe us that there was still one more racer out on the course. I begged the race officials to leave one more medal for my friend and that he had to be out there somewhere.
Now this race had a no DNF policy and stated that as long as you made it to the run portion of the race by the cutoff time you could take as long as you wanted to finish. We finally got a report that a race official had found Frank! He was on the run portion of the race. They went on to explain that for some reason his race chip was malfunctioning and wasn’t recording his time and whereabouts after exiting the ocean. His son and I were thrilled beyond belief that he wasn’t roadkill somewhere on the race course. His son Beau decided to go out on the run course to see if could find him. Beau called me 10 minutes later saying he was walking with his dad. At this point I had talked the race team to chat “Frank the tank” when we see him coming down the race chute. They even set me up with water and a shade tent to wait for him to come. Keep in mind it was almost 2 hours after the previous racer had crossed the finish line.
Well Frank never made it to the finish line as a race official who didn’t know we had this swan song setup for Frank had rerouted him to a tent to get him hydrated. I would later learn that Frank had a good swim (which was his “worry event”) followed by a bike ride from hell with lots of cramping and walking the bike. After the bike Frank proceeded to walk the entire 4 miles of the run course. Actually he missed the turn around point for the Classic distance and ended up walking two extra miles adding insult to injury. There was no water left on the course as all the volunteers had left causing Frank to have to walk the 6 miles in the Miami Beach sun.
I must admit I was extremely proud of Frank’s determination to conquer his fears and finish his first triathlon race. Frank is now more determined than ever to have a better showing and is excited about his next adventure which will be Escape to Miami.
After the race, we collected our bikes and walked back to Frank’s condo. It was here that some of Frank’s nice neighbors made us the freshest, most delicious coconut water known to mankind. Simply the best liquid concoction I’ve ever drank. I also learned how beneficial coconut water is for hydration and post race recovery. nothing beats nature!