Today was a day with mixed emotions. I accomplished my main objective of supporting my good friend Sincy on his journey for Ironman glory. At the same time, I did not perform as well as I hoped and was awarded my first time penalty ever (more on this atrocity later). Our race day started at 4 am as we wanted to get to the park right as it opened to get a good spot. Well people must have been camping out, because by 5:10 am the park was packed with triathletes and we had to walk a good distance by the time we found parking.
In spite of a ton of athletes already ahead of us, we were still able to secure a good spot for our bikes. Here is a tip, if you can’t be at the beginning of the bike rack, take the end instead of somewhere in the middle. Reasoning is that coming out of the water you’re not clear of thought and it will be easier to remember and find your bike at the very end of the rack. Also you can spread out your items more as you have all that extra space on the end. We used the extra space to bring in an emptied out hotel trash can filled with Ice to keep our water bottles cold. We calculated that it could be almost 3 hours before we would be drinking it and it would most certainly be nice and warm in the Miami heat. We opted not to try to freeze the bottles as there is always that risk of it not thawing out enough to drink.
Now of course they have water along the course. However, we both had our “special drinks” pre-made just for us. Sincy had a special blend of electrolytes, protein, salt etc that he ordered online at http://www.infinitnutrition.us/ engineered specifically for his sweat rate, water loss etc. I opted for a more low budget caveman tonic of lemon juice and maple syrup. lol Another added bonus of bringing your own bottles, is you can skip the refuel areas during the ride saving precious time.
I don’t know what it is about swimming and races that makes everyone have to go to the potty so much? I went twice at the hotel and still had to go an additional 3 times once I saw the lake. I feel blessed now at 50 years old to have found an activity that still gives me butterflies. We picked up our timing chips and proceeded to take in all the race day activities. Chatting with the other athletes is one of my favorite things to do as it takes my mind off being nervous. I got a good stretch in and a warm-up swim. Another tip, anytime you can get a warm-up swim in do it! The warm-up swim will get rid of all the nervous energy and allow you to have a better swim start.
Time has a way of flying by on race morning and today was no exception. Before we knew it two hours had passed and they were announcing our heat of 50-54 year age-groupers. I reminded Sincy to make sure he set his GPS watch on. Setting up your watch is a key component in racing as it lets you know things like how many miles you have left in each discipline, heart rate, cadence and a host of data points for later analysis. Well we eased in the water and off went the gun. I went to press the start button on my watch and it was completely off! So much like the mother hen in me worrying about others and forgetting about myself. I did not want to do this race with out the “coach on my wrist”, so I stood there for what seemed forever before my watch was on and had a GPS signal.
Now instead of swimming with the pack and being able to draft off faster swimmers, I was dead last in the back. I underestimated the impact of being dead last had on my psyche. I could not find my swimming rhythm and struggled through the swim portion of the race. If I ever forget to turn my watch on again, I think I’ll just race on feel and not waste precious seconds waiting on a piece of technology.
While muddling in the back of the pack I looked over at one of the kayak support persons and there was Sincy hanging on for dear life (or so I thought). For those who don’t know my friend Sincy; he does not enjoy open water swimming and has certain phobias when it comes to lakes and oceans. I motioned for the kayaker to have Sincy look my way. I just wanted to assure him he could do this and I was here with him. He motioned that he was ok and to just continue on. I would later learn that he started off too fast and just needed to get his heart rate down.
The water was so clear you could see the bottom and in some spots it looked like you could just stand up. I thought if I had this thought of being able to stand up, certainly Sincy would be thinking of taking a standing break if he could. Sincy and I later had a laugh because he did think about it for a brief second, but opted against it because you couldn’t really gauge if you could stand up or not. One thing about triathlons is there is always beautiful nature scenes/animals to take in and enjoy. The swim was full of natures beauty. Interesting rock formations, beautiful fish and a stunning sunrise. I thoroughly enjoyed the swim, even though I was off my swim game.
The exit portion of the swim was very rough. Think of walking on sharp rocks barefoot and covered in deep moss. I tried to swim as far as I could because I knew from the warm-up swim how harsh the exit was. After getting out of the lake it was on to the first transition area known as T1 where you’re rejoined with your bike.
Once I’m on my bike, I’m really in my element. I love riding bikes and needless to say, the bike segment of triathlon is my favorite. There are strict rules that state you must have your helmet strapped on whenever you are in physical contact with your bike. Failure to remember this rule results in automatic disqualification. Important rules like this are covered during the pre-race seminars and I always try to attend them before the race.
So I put my shirt on first, strapped my helmet on, grabbed my water bottles out of the makeshift ice bucket and run out of transition. To by delight and surprise, Sincy was right behind me and was relieved to be out of the lake. Due to a very rough exit out of the T1 transition area, my plan was to run barefoot through the sand and gravel and then towel off the sand and grit before putting my feet in my bike shoes and having some pebble annoying me for the next hour or so. After wiping my feet, I gave my towel to a volunteer and began my bike journey. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it is illegal to hand anything that is not an official part of the race to anyone. This little seemingly innocent act of handing someone my towel would cost me a two-minute penalty (see race results at the bottom).
Taking off on my bike was my little slice of heaven. That’s right, just me and my bike and the open road. Life can get overly complicated, but it’s the simple things in life that I enjoy these days. I could break this next part of the race to a simple sentence. A boy on his bike. I did see the most beautiful double rainbow at the start of the ride.
I zoomed by many a cyclist and settled into a nice rhythm. While breezing along I also saw a flock of peacocks just roaming the landscape. I saw Sincy once on the bike route at a turn around point, but he was quite a bit behind me. Sincy smiled and looked in good spirits knowing the worst part of the race was behind him. I thought to myself “he’s got a good chance of catching me because I don’t know how my hip flexors are going to respond during the run.”
As I was nearing the end of my ride I approached a ginormous dog in the middle of the road. Now I grew up with dogs chasing me all the time on bikes, but I did not want to risk an injury tying to outrun this K9. So I slowed down as I sized him up as to whether he would start after me or not. Luckily, he was more consumed with his new-found freedom than chasing a boy on his bike. The bike course was unusually flat even for Florida. It was the first time I’ve ever race without encountering a single hill! There were a few small inclines and it was quite windy in some areas but nothing too taxing. On the bike you are always trying to monitor output effort and saving your legs for the run. Also, it’s important to nourish and hydrate while on the bike. Before I knew it, the bike portion was sadly coming to a close.
When I dismount my bike, I normally leave my shoes clicked in and just run barefoot to save time. Upon further review, I should have kept my shoes on as I had no protection from gravel, rocks, tree roots, and sand to rack my bike. After racking my bike, it was time to put my running shoes on, my race belt, and my sun visor. This transition from bike to run is known as T2 in the triathlon world and counts towards your total race time.
The run portion of this race was my biggest concern. I have not been able to put any pressure on my right leg due to my hip flexor being inflamed, strained etc. I was ready to give it the old Boy Scout effort though and off I went for the two loop 6 mile course. The run was a winding loop that takes you around the lake we swam in earlier in the day. I particularly liked the jagged course with nature on both sides. I saw mangoes on the ground from the mangoes trees and there was nice landscaping too. Going around the loop the first time I saw a jack rabbit running directly in front of me. Oh where is a camera when you need it? He was the cutest little thing, that allowed me to take my mind off the excruciating pain I now was in due to my hip flexor screaming at me. Also helping with the pain, were the many cheers to continue on from the race volunteers. Many of the volunteers have family members suffering with this terrible disease known as Huntington.
I saw my friend Sincy coming at the first loop around turn and knew it would only be a matter of time before he would catch me. As much as I love to bike, Sincy loves to run. Also my run speed was getting progressively slower with each passing mile. There were water stations every mile or so, and I stopped to drink and give my hip flexor pain some reprieve. I did make it half way through the second loop before Sincy caught up to me and passed me for good. I was so proud of him to conquer his fear of the water and have a great race day as he fine tunes his training en-route to Ironman Chattanooga.
The final mile or so of the run was a real gut check for me as my body was screaming to just walk. I have learned not to listen to that voice, and I tuned out the pain and just concentrated on the feeling I would have at the end of the race if I just kept running versus the feeling I would have walking to the finish line. There is nothing quite like the feeling you get at the end of a triathlon race.
This was also the championship race for the Central Florida Triathlon team of which Sincy is a member.