Florida 70.3 Race Report

I had raced FL 70.3 in 2012. It was not an ideal race, and the results are what spurred me on to purchase a power meter.  I raced too hard on the bike the first half, lost about 3 mph on the second half, and my run was a slog fest. I was burned by the time I was on the run and it drained me – so after 2012 I developed a sunscreen strategy. The 10 seconds I took for sunscreen is well worth the time I would lose if I got burned. It just saps my strength and is another mental hurdle to deal with that is easily avoided. After this race in 2012, I vowed that I never again wanted to feel weak or defeated on the run….but to race smart and strong throughout. I vowed to learn how to ride strong but consistent on the bike so I was strong on the run.

I was already on my big goal path at that time…..but this race threw me in to the next level of training so to speak.

So, to say I was a little nervous going in to battle a few demons from a triathlon past is an understatement.

We left Friday to register early and avoid crowds.

At registration
At registration

The good news is my coach, Laura Sophiea, was racing, as well as a few of her athletes. Carlos and I actually ran in to, and ended up eating dinner with Anna and Patty (two of her athletes that I know), and we saw Laura and chatted with her some Friday night before the race. It was good to have people to chat with.

One thing I noticed was Anna and Patty asked about the course since I did it two years ago, and I brought my negatives (the two hills on the run, that the bike isn’t flat) out. I realized it, and quickly back peddled: I positive talked all three of us: the two hills means the rest of the loop is mostly downhill; The first half of the bike is speed flat – just don’t go too hard, and the hills are not even close to what we ride in Atlanta, so we are all strong enough.  And I continued on that avenue – not focusing on the hard parts that got me, but where our strengths lie, and what we can do to counter act the tough sections of the course.  I left feeling better about the course, and hoping I didn’t do damage to Anna or Patty’s mental preps.

Saturday was an easy day – short bike and short run. We were staying with a very nice couple. Carlos joined me for my short ride, and I ran in the residential neighborhood. And then Carlos and I joined Jeannie and Dick for breakfast on their screened in porch. It was wonderful (and relaxing).

We had to go to the race village because I realized I had not looked at the layout, and I wanted to. While there we saw Patty and Anna again, and so Carlos went on their ride with them while I walked around and sat some in the shade.

Then lunch and then just relaxing at our homestay. It was all very relaxed.

We went to bed early as it was a 3:30 a.m. wake up call for us. Transition opened at 4:30 and I didn’t want to get there much later and deal with traffic. I prefer getting there early, racking my bike, setting up transition, doing my warm up run, and then just cycling through the port-a-potty line a few times while waiting for my wave

Pre-Race

Carlos stayed with me for most of the time – watching my stuff when I went to the bathroom line, and just chatting with me and keeping things easy. He was amazing on this trip. I tried to get him to go back to our homestay and sleep since we were planning on driving home that night, but he stayed with me.

And just for full disclosure…the morning of a race, I need someone to be with me – to talk about anything BUT the race. I am a mess, and my mind cycles through so much : “I am not going for time, I am just going to have fun.” “What happens will happen.” “I hate feeling this nervous.” “Why am I here? I can’t reach my goal” and other stuff like that. But I have learned, and talked about in the past….that is just my nerves. Once the horn sounds and I am racing….that’s it. I am in race mode and nothing outside of the race exists. And I LOVE it. I just need to get through those 3-4 hours before I race! And so during that time a friend or family member to just talk is my best friend. And I hold dear memories of each person that has willingly sat or stood with me before a race, and just talked about random things. Carlos did a great job that morning.

Pre-Swim focus...or playing with my Garmin!
Pre-Swim focus…or playing with my Garmin!

My wave left at 7:10 am. Soon I was getting ready to walk up to the beach. And getting focused.

Then I was under the arch, laughing and chatting with the women against whom, in a few minutes, I would be competing. I was also looking around for Kelly – a friend in my age group. I never saw her  for any part of the race – not even in the swim start.

I got in the water, and did a little warm up swim. I had some chest tightness, but didn’t want to swim too far as we only had 4 minutes between waves.

Soon I was standing, and watching the clock tick to our start time. Hand on my Garmin. And then the horn blew….

SWIM

I had practiced starting off hard. And I started hard. I did at Augusta too. But this time my heart rate went up and after about 100 yards I had to do breast stroke for about 10-17 seconds to let my heart rate come down, and then I was swimming again. The swim was pretty uneventful after that. It is slow with 7 turns. But I think I could have pushed a little more. Next time I guess. And I am practicing fast starts in the pool and getting over my heart rate sky rocketing.

I made sure not to back off as I started passing people in different colored caps from me. That can really lull you in to a false sense of security!

Along the swim, a after my breast stroke experience, I thought “That’s it, not gonna hit my time goal. This is taking too long. I need a faster swim.” And then I went positive: it’s your race to lose. Give what you got. It’s not about time, it’s giving what you have. Different courses have different challenges.  The point is – I refused to let a negative thought take hold. If it appeared, I banished it with “it’s your race to lose.”

As I neared the swim exit I waited until my hand hit the sand before standing up. I stood up and…soon SUNK in to about 3 feet of muck! Ugh! At that point I knew I had to just slog through it and get to the beach. There were a lot of mutterings of “Yuck” going on around me!

Time: 36:03 (transition mat was about 30 seconds up shore).

Age group position: 14

T1

Time: 2:26

I hit the beach and started running. One thing I have worked on is running and moving through transition quickly. I knew where my bike was, already taking my wet suit down to were I can quickly strip it off my legs.

Carlos was actually waiting at the line where my bike was, cheering me in. I smiled quickly but focused on task.

T1
T1

Shoes, sun glasses, helmet, bike and gone.  Off to the mount line

Bike

Time to have fun! Well, I was a bit nervous as two years ago this bike “got me.” Added to that I was racing on borrowed race wheels from my coach and they were tubulars. I had watched a video on how to change a flat for a tubular if it happened but had no other practice. The words of wisdom I received were “Don’t flat” or “You won’t flat.” OK – I was a little nervous.

Bike Start
Bike Start

I started off. The first part of the course is flat but lots of turns (actually, there are many turns throughout the course).Most of the turns are sharp so there was slowing and accelerating throughout the course. Somewhere between the 18-20 miles after a turn I saw Carlos! He was cheering me on as I accelerated out of the turn.

In the early parts I also played back and forth with a few females and even a few men. A few faster men came up behind me. Very few groups just drafting for speed (there were two groups doing so after mile 30 or so).

After about 26 miles the hills start. I was ready, and took them in stride. I felt strong.  And about mile 30 – the cross winds and headwinds! As I rode I kept thinking of how grateful I was for my friend Chrissy in inspiring me to go out and ride in all kinds of crap weather including high winds, as I was very comfortable in the winds, and barely broke aero. I just kept peddling. I think once I had to take my let arm off the aero pad and put it on the base bar, but really….I kept down and tucked in my position. I was completely comfortable in the wind. It was during this point I was playing back and forth with two other guys on the bike. We’d pass at some point, and then pass back.

I saw Carlos again at close to my friend Robert’s parents lived (near mile 30). I guess I came up too fast for him as he was planning to take a video, and he didn’t get it. Well – it is of my back.

Shortly after I saw a car waiting on the side of the road, and from there to about mile 50 it was jumping in traffic, going ahead, and waiting. It actually was in a group of cyclists for a few miles. I guess the driver was following a friend, but it completely annoyed me.

About mile 47 or so there is a section that is, finally, pretty flat. I took the opportunity, since I was feeling good, and hauled. I kept my watts where they needed to be, but I didn’t feel worn or beat. I was ready to go and so took advantage of the flat. I was swapping spots with two other riders during this section.

There are a couple of final rollers and then I was coming in to transition. I took my feet out of my shoes after the last turn and headed in to dismount. Carlos was there – near where I head to in transition – cheering me on.

Time:2:38

Age group position: 4

T2

I took it fast (I thought) and easy  – I knew what to do: rack my bike; bike gear off, run gear on (socks, shoes, race number, fuel belt and hat). I do need to work on speed at my bike but…I did OK and within the norm for where I finished. I also grabbed my sunscreen and slathered it on me as I ran out. I stuffed the baggie in my sports bra. On the way out two girls were offering sun screen and I asked them to catch my back near the shoulders. They did and I was off.

Carlos video taped me. I look at it and it seems painfully slow. Something to practice!

Run

I had been wondering how my legs would feel on the run. Two years ago I was defeated. This time I was prepared: sunscreen on (and I had applied at least two layers before the swim to get me through the bike) – my energy was not sapped by the sun. I felt strong.

The run is a challenge. It is three loops. There is an uphill section before you get to the two “devil hills” as I term them. The devil hills weren’t as bad this go around – because I knew how to race them (ease back) and expected to take advantage of the downhill part after them. I was good with that. The hard part was the road there was under construction so race participants were limited to a standard side walk. Luckily everyone was very aware and courteous, and an “on your left” gave you plenty of clearance to pass. As well as encouragement, which I always returned.

I took the run in chunks. 1 section/lap at a time – I looked forward to the sections I liked, and counted down each time I defeated the devil hills with a smile. I did slow on the second and third laps some so there is some work to be done there on strength on hills, but considering I had backed off some hill training, I was encouraged.

With each lap I saw Carlos, as well as Marni (my sports nutritionist) and her husband Karel. Each time I saw the three of them I was encouraged…and steeled myself up for the next lap. At each water stop I either took water, or ice and stuck it down my jersey and/or shorts. Once I tried to put it under my cap, but it fell off and I had to retrieve it. Lesson learned! I was keeping cool just fine.

Each time I passed the ATC tend I was cheered on, and even saw my friend Kristin. I think I caught her off guard when I hollered Hi to her as I passed by.

About mile 7 or so my stomach felt a little off.  I grabbed some coke at the next two stops, and took a couple of sips each time. And soon, my stomach was fine. Thank goodness!

As I came in to the last lap the girls offering sunscreen were now offering it to runners going by. I thought “Great idea” and grabbed my baggie of sunscreen and re-applied a layer on my shoulders. It was time for the last lap!

The run went by quickly. Woo hoo! Last time on the devil hills. I watched my pace, but did walk some at the water stations….a few steps to recharge, get water and surge ahead.

As I ran I saw a run gait I recognized: Anna! She was the first (and only) person I knew and saw on the course! I gave words of encouragement as I passed.

As I came around the last corner I picked up speed. I heard someone comment if I was sprinting in at the end I had saved too much. Point made – keep working on finding that balance for the next race J

Time: 1:46:22

Place: 5th in Age Group

Finish

After finishing I headed to the food tent. They had…something heavy, pizza, and pretzels. I took water and pretzels and headed out. Someday I would love to see chocolate milk or something to drink in the recovery food tent. Luckily I have my own, I just had to wait until I got to the car.

Carlos soon found me, and we found shade to wait until I could pick up my gear. Laura passed and we all chatted. Soon Patty showed up and I heard Kelly’s name being announced as she finished.

5th place female for my age group
5th place female for my age group

As we chatted I realized I was 5th. I wasn’t sure if that was a podium position, but people told me at WTC events it is. Great, but Carlos and I couldn’t stay. We had to drive home that night so we could drop off my bike to Gareth at Podium (we did so at 11:00 pm – talk about service!) so they could give it a little much needed TLC (after riding in cruddy weather all winter) for the week while Carlos and I were on vacation with my family.

The good news is I emailed and asked the race team if they would mail me the age group trophy and they did! So it is now sitting in my living room. I am stunned as it is my first Ironman 70.3 podium finish.

Reflections:

OK – so I wanted and believed I could break 5 hours on this course. It wasn’t in the cards. Was I disappointed? Yes, at first. But, I also looked at the results, how I raced and…well….this was a very hard course to break 5 hours on. And I raced really well – my bike was consistent – if you look at a graph for each 5 mile increment my power and heart rate are almost flat.

On the run I was a bit fatigued, and have some work to do, but raced (again) smart at strong. I did slow for the second and third laps, but those two laps were pretty consistent. And I am still learning how to run such that I finish and have spent it all. I’ll get there.

So, once I got over the disappointment, I was actually pretty proud of how I raced this race. I did it well.  I took time where I knew it would pay back more (such as sunscreen). I fueled consistently, and never felt weak or bonked on the course. I know I have better and more in me, but this was a strong season opener!

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