HITS Series Naples, FL Race weekend: Pre-race weekend

This past weekend I raced at the HITS series Naples, FL races. I raced the half iron distance on Saturday January 12, 2013 and the Olympic distance on January 13, 2013. Before I delve in to the race reports, I wanted to give a little background on why I opted to race two races in one weekend.

The idea of racing events where I am tested not just for one event, but over two or more days has appealed to me since my friend Javi DeJesus introduced me to the idea of stage races when he did the Chattanooga Mountain Stage Race in 2011.

Then I learned about RAAM as my friends and teammates Jane and John did it in different years.

I saw triathlons where athletes raced different distances over two to three days. I was intrigued.

All I lacked was an opportunity.

Opportunity Knocks…So to Speak

This race report (or maybe these race reports!) actually starts back on October 28, 2012 when I got my DNF at Rev3 Venice, FL on the half iron distance. Once I had my phone and Carlos and I were heading to the start I called my coach Mary. She immediately started looking for a makeup race. I had trained hard, and we both didn’t want to “waste” it. We both looked around, and it was soon apparent that given the situation, doing a half at Naples may be the best option as it would let me take a rest after a hard 10 months of training, get a new bike, and my muscles to recover from the extensive bruising from my accident. I was already signed up for the Olympic Distance race as it was a Georgia IronTeam training race, and most of us on the team had decided to make the trip and race it.

I wrote Mary saying/asking something like “You may think I am crazy, but how about running the half and Olympic distances at Naples?” Much to my surprise she wrote back something akin to “Go for it!” and soon I was signed up not only for the Olympic race, but the half iron distance as well.

And so I was soon training again. And looking forward to a challenge. I was, after my last race (or my first DNF), hungry to race.

It completely caught me off guard how fast race weekend came up. I got through the holidays, training, and wow! Race day was real. Soon I was practicing taking my shoes off while riding on my trainer rides….getting my timing down.

The Day before

Carlos was in DC until the Friday before the race, and would fly to Fort Meyers. My friend and teammate Susan LeBlanc and I were to drive down together on Friday. Carlos would meet up with us in Naples that night.

Friday January 11, 2013

Nothing like spending 9-10 hours in a car the day before a race to loosen up! One bonus – I didn’t have time to think about the race. We were on the road by 5:17 a.m. Susan and I chatted on the way down – never needing to turn on the radio. We swapped drivers every couple of hours and the time flew. We arrived in Naples by 3:30 and picked up our race packets, checked in to the hotel (The Vanderbilt Beach Resort – an awesome 0.2 miles from the race start/transition area), and got a little settled. Susan had also offered to go to the airport in Fort Meyers and pick Carlos up when his plane arrived at 9 pm. so I could stay in and get settled in for my race the next day, and so he didn’t have to take a cab. Gratefully I accepted the offer and coordinated with Carlos.

Susan was there with me all Friday which was a godsend. I can think of no other word. She walked with me down to the beach, waited while I did a swim, we talked about my impressions of the swim. I had gotten dizzy walking out of the water. The water temperature was mid 60’s or so…and I tend to get dizzy after a cold water swim. I think the cut off for me is somewhere over 70 degrees (not really cold at that point but ear plugs are an easy fix). I had bought ear plugs at the expo and so was set. I knew: wear ear plugs. We returned to our room when Mary (my coach) and Rachel showed up at our door. We all chatted, watched the sunset, and then found fellow teammates for dinner.

Pre-Race Goals

Basically – I had an army of people who, either by trying or just by being the fabulous people they are – keeping my mind off the race. It was fantastic as I was nervous. I hadn’t trained as I had for this race as I had for Venice. I had going to the Energy Lab and love it. The holidays and a mini taper limited my chances to go the past few weeks. And most of my time on my bike was more focused on getting miles in and getting my body used to my new bike and new fit. Very necessary.

Add in that the holidays had just gone through and although I had not over-indulged or gone bonkers with holiday treats, I was not fully focused on better choices for fueling to train and race hard as I was for Venice.

I was also nervous about my goal – was I going to make it? My goal was to ride well such that when I got off the bike I was able to run strong. I remember that when I raced Florida 70.3 in May 2012 I felt defeated on the run; I was not strong. And I hated it. And I never wanted to run a race feeling defeated ever again. Which is why I bought a power meter and have been training with it.

To meet my goal is a combination of mental strength and physical strength. I was so nervous… was I there yet? And also I didn’t want to ride too conservatively. I have been training with power for awhile, and I know where I needed to ride for the race. Was it right? What would that power zone translate to in terms of pace? I didn’t know. And there is only one way to find out. Time goals were not first on my mind….to me this was an assessment race – as I said, I wasn’t sure what my power zone would translate to in Florida (flat) for speed. I wanted to find out where I was, and where I need to go. In my mind I wanted to break 5:20. I knew I had a sub 5:20 in me, but was I ready?

There is only one way to find some answers: race.

Race night

I was still awake when Susan and Carlos returned, and didn’t fall asleep until around midnight, and woke up at 2, and again at 3:30 where I was pretty much awake until my alarm went off at 4 a.m. 3 fabulous hours of sleep. Oh well – nerves are typical. I know that one bad night of sleep won’t mess anything up so I went with it.

Race Morning

I had my usual breakfast. I had noticed that when I drink soy milk (or add it to my oatmeal) is when I feel my blood sugar drop. And it happened that morning. I decided that tomorrow I would try whey powder with my oatmeal instead. I had added whey powder to my oatmeal before, just not before a ride or race. More on that one tomorrow. For now, I added in a few almonds to steady myself out. I kept calm, reading some and gathering items, trying to be sure I had everything. I put on sunscreen, and had a baggie with more sunscreen in it with me to apply one last time just before putting on my wetsuit. Carlos and Susan were still asleep when I slipped out the door at 5:30.

I set up transition, and thought it looked right. I left my swim gear and headed out for my warm up run (to steady my nerves and get my body set for a jump in heart rate at the swim start) by 5:50 a.m. I felt OK. I ran for 5 minutes, then did a few short pickups with long recovery for the next 5 minutes, and then a few drills and short jogs. I wandered around and decided not to return to my room but staynear transition. I hit the port-o-potties, put on more sunscreen, put on my wet suit, one last pottie stop and then …CRUD! I realized I had left my socks in my transition bag and were not rolled up in my shoes. Transition was closing soon and people were heading down. I hurry up as I was in the port-o-pottie at this realization, then I literally ran to the transition entrance and frantically told the woman there I just needed to get my socks out of my bag and ready for the run. There was time left and she said go – just hurry. And hurry I did! I get to my spot and grabbed my socks, rolled them up and put them in my running shoes. Deep breath. And I head out and go down to the beach. The run up from the beach is relatively long…for a transition run. No short transitions here!

I get to the beach and see Mary, Rachel and Sean right there. We take a few pictures and…are chatting when…CRUD (again)! My ear plugs…I don’t have them! Holy crap. 10 minutes until the start and my ear plugs are in my hotel room. I am near panic. Rachel and Sean are in full motion before I know it. Sean takes off to go to my room and get my ear plugs. I was told that on his sprint out he passed Jane and John, so Jane took off to her room to get her ear plugs to be sure I had a pair. John continues to the beach to realy the message. Holy crap – our team is phenomenal. There is no “Can I help you” only “We’ve got you covered!”. I have seen it a few times leading up to this trip, and feel it in full force now. Sean called Rachel – I had given him the wrong room. He had woken up Ralph! Mary and Rachel keep me distracted. Shortly thereafter he returns with my ear plugs. Jane returns at about the same time. Sean had woken Susan and they woke Carlos since the ear plugs were in my room. Not sure how, but they found them. I hug and thank Sean and Jane and feel relief and security. I am stunned and grateful for my friends.

I don’t recall the sequence as I was a bit of a mess with the earplug fiasco, but somewhere during all of this Kevin shows up as do Lauren, Jim and Chad. Kevin, Lauren and Chad are also racing today. Jane and John, as evident from my story above, also arrive. Everyone else is there to see us off. We take a few pictures and then it is time for the pre-race meeting from the race director. At this point I have my earplugs and am good to go. I get and give a few hugs and repeat my thanks.

Soon we head to the beach. There are people racing a half and a full distance tri today. It feels like a lot of people, but actually there are less than 200.

Waiting to Start
Candid shot by Susan

It’s time to race…


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