FL 70.3 – before the race

I am learning it isn’t the length of a race that makes a blog long – it’s what you put in to it and pull from it. This is a long post, so I am breaking it up. If you want to read just the race stuff – it will be next. it is ready. Jut making it in digestable bites!

I put a lot in to this race. I trained with many people, and I felt pretty good going in. I felt stron gon the swim and bike, and had a nagging worry about tired legs on the run but kept reminding myself of the runs the next day I had done and felt stronger than I had felt for many day after runs many times last year.

So this race was about testing me. Yup – pure and simple. Mary put a very aggressive time. I had my doubts, but believed I could hit a 5:20. Did I make it? Nope. Was I disappointed? Yup. Did I learn a lot? Yup. Will I evaluate, move on, and strive to improve? Oh yeah. So, now that the recap is over – let’s look at the details!

The race moved from Disney to Haines City, FL which, if you look on a map, is in the middle of not much in terms of tourist attractions in FL. So, there are not many hotels near, and, well, it’s a small town. Also – FYI – although not Atlanta or other place with major hills, there were hills! I had to change gears several times whether for a gradual climb or hard ascent. There were also a couple of cruel hills on the run. So – tougher than one may think when heading to Florida. Again – no major hills or mountains, but – a challenge no less.  We had the big 4: heat, hills, humidity and headwind. I have pretty much accepted that any race will have some degree of all four, so I may as well learn to embrace them and race in them!

Ironteammate and friend Robert Murphy had also signed up for it. Heck – the bike course almost literally passed through his backyard growing up- maybe about 200 yards away. Seriously. So, when he offered to let anyone who did the race to stay with his parents I took him up on it. I probably surprised him in doing so, but I am glad I did. Robert and his parents were wonderful hosts. I was relaxed and well informed about the event: from how the town felt about it (very excited) to the course and what to expect. I honestly felt like I had taken a trip back home: his mom and dad made wonderful meals. And there was time to chat, as well see Robert’s mom Jody and his girlfriend Kristin prepare their cheer gear (shirts and signs galore!).  Jody said “make yourself at home” and I did. Warning to anyone who invites me to their home, I do get comfy quickly!  I even got to husk corn for the first time since I had lived at my parents’ full time. I loved staying at a home versus a hotel for an event. And I want to say a HUGE thank you to Robert and his parents for their wonderful hospitality. It was perfect. I am grateful.

As a bonus we got to hear how the excitement in the town was building for the event, and why some things on the course were as they were (such as the swim was an “M” with 6 turns in the swim because of a drought that prevented swimming over to an adjoining lake).

And Robert rode down with Carlos and me in my car, and Kristin joined us on the way home. I am chatty when I drive (ask anyone who has carpooled with me) and I actually kept Robert talking a fair amount of the way while Carlos worked. I appreciate, Robert!

We drove the bike and run course the day before. I made mental notes of flats, hills, gradual increases, turns (and if it was an uphill after a turn) so I knew what gears to be in along the race. Amazingly I retained this information in the race!

I had an overall time in my head, but I don’t think I broke it down well enough to really be ready for race day. My whole plan was hit it as hard as I could where I could, and take it as I could. In other words – hurt. I doubt Mary likes hearing that. Place 1 for improvement – break down my event better. And have a stronger mental picture of what I need/want to do.

On race day I woke up about 3:40. Robert and I had breakfast, loaded the car and were off. Transition opened at 4:30, and we were taught well by TNT to be there earlier rather than later. And the line we saw at 5:45 proved we were smart to be there early (transition closed at 6 a.m.).

My wave left at 7:20, and Robert’s at 7:30 – so we had a wait. The time passed quickly between chatting, porta potty visits, my run warm up, and watching other waves start (pros started at 6:30 a.m.). As we watched the pros near the end of the swim I saw a couple do “dolphin dives” of sorts and then swim again. It must get shallow and then a bit deeper again. I made a mental note to “keep swimming” until I was near the shore.

 Soon I was gathering for my wave. Suddenly at my side was friend and Marine Corps Marathon teammate Chase Cameron. A little over 1 month before he was out on a training ride and had a deer run out infront of him. In avoiding hitting the deer he crashed and broke a few ribs and punctured a lung. And here he is: racing. And planning on running IM Louisville in August. I hugged him, wished him luck, and we chatted. You bet I will be following him at Louisville (as well as my other friends there).

Soon my wave was moving up and we parted. And then Robert was at my left side. We hugged, he wished me luck, and I was soon in the water. As I walked to the start line the race announcer said to have fun. At that point I looked over at him and smiled, and he smiled back. I felt very comfortable: I was amongst friends, had friends cheering for me, and ready to go.

As a side note, the water was about 81 degrees, so not wet suit legal. No problem – I would have been surprised if it was as I had read this on the website. I hadn’t even packed my wet suit for this race.

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