Pre – Race
This is the third time I have raced this race. It holds a special place for me. I raced it the first year it was held in Haines City. And you can tell the people there want you to have a good experience. I have seen improvements to the Lake Eva community center and surrounding area each time I have returned. I would like to think that the race has had a part in the improvements being possible, but I have no way of knowing for sure. I did have the fortune to chat with a Haines City employee working the event venue the day before the race and enjoyed hearing what he had to say. He seemed to (and by extension I will say many locals seems to) take pride in the event, enjoy it, and want it to be a success.
This is the race that, the first time I did it, it “got me”. It is why I bought a power meter, and have used it ever since. Since I bought my power meter at podium, it’s probably also the race that got me to know get to know Podium. And they got to know me. And that I was a bit of high maintenance. And I was still invited on to the team the following year.
Anyway, to me this is a challenging race. Or at least it is not the pr expected from a race in Florida. In fact, it isn’t really a PR course. It is an honest course. The swim will be a bit slow due to 7 turns. The bike is 26 miles flat and fast, followed by about 20 miles of rollers (they seemed easier this time around though), and then mostly flat back home. The run is not easy: not a lot of shade and two devil hills, along with two other longer, minor hills on either side of these 2. That being said… I love it. To me, it feels like a baseline course for personal and training reasons: it is the course that got me once and it is early in the season.
Haines City is between Tampa and Orlando in the orange groves. There aren’t any are really close hotels so there will be an early morning with a drive to the race. That’s like Muncie. Carlos is questioning my choice in races and that they seem to be more rural than others. The view from our hotel this year was a cow pasture. But it was an easy 17 minute drive to the race site.
Race morning was an early wake up. i actually slept about 5 hours…and slept well. I like that! I wish I was a person that sleeps easy before a race but I am not. The fact that I have started to sleep some is fantastic. And I slept 9 hours the previous night.
Up, load the bikes (Carlos has his to roam the course), fix breakfast. And we’re off by 4:30 and there before 5. I’ve relaxed in that I don’t need to be there right when transition opens. But I am still an early bird..traffic is easier and I am all about less stress/easier.
Off to set up transition. I always doubt myself here. I think I’m doing it wrong. But…really…I think I’m doing something right as I don’t have tons of stuff. I keep as much on my bike as possible for the bike, and run stuff is small. I double check my swim gear and mosey along to find Carlos and body marking. My spot this year was primo: first row by the bike out/in. So not far to push my bike or run bike shoes. Score!
It was actually a chilly morning, and Carlos was cold sitting there. I did my warm up. As I ran along I found a port-o-pot for the run course not 2 minutes from the mass of swim start port-o-pots. I Stored that one in my brain to return to before the swim. Carlos and I waited and walked early to a the bathroom when we saw the pool was open for athletes to warm up in. We didn’t use the pool but it was a real bathroom and no lines. We ended up hanging out there for about 20 minutes enjoying a little bit of luxury and chatting with athletes. At this time I also realized I hadn’t put body glide on my neck and with a wet suit legal swim…I would get chaffed. Also, I was chaffing between my buns after my warm up run. Not loving that. So I asked a few athletes there if they had body glide and/or chamois cream. One let me use his glide spray (it worked….no rubbing or hickey!) and later another had Vaseline that I used. I’ve learned not to be shy. And it helped. My butt didn’t chafe all day either.
Last potty stop with a large dollop of Vaseline in my hands ready to use, and then Carlos and I headed to the swim start where we found William, Erin, and Kathryn. Hooray! We suited up, William took a picture and the headed to the start. I was ahead of them by 15 minutes. While there we saw Alex waiting too. Hugs and good luck all around and we parted ways.
While waiting I started trying to get my heart rate up,and told myself it will spike but I can handle it: that I don’t need to stop.
We moved up to the beach, and soon were getting in to the water. I used the short swim as a chance to surge a bit and get the junk out of my start (as I call it), and per the prompting of my teammates (mainly Stacy and Carmen) was at the front of the wave.
The horn sounded and we were off. I started off strong and after about 100 yards felt the tightness in my chest and backed off for a bit to catch my breath, but kept moving forward. And kept telling myself I’ve done this before, I can handle it. And I did. Soon I had a regular breathing feeling and was able to swim strong. I did have to slow/very briefly pause to double check where I was. Normally I never do, but I didn’t want to get off course. After the last turn I still felt strong and kept up a good pace (for me) in. I felt good about this swim. I pushed harder at the end, and throughout , than usual it felt. Not tons harder, but enough for me to notice. I didn’t pull up except at the start, and it was good.
I swam until my fingers hit bottom and then started running.
Transition was easy. No getting lost. I took probably a bit took long, but didn’t dally either.i was pulling down my wet suit as I ran, working to get it past my butt once close to my rack. Sunscreen was close to swim in, before I reached my bike. I realized this and had them hit me up, and ran on.
I put on my bike gear (shoes, helmet) and was off. Once passed the mount line I noticed I had put one of my water bottles in the wrong place and grabbed one to put it on my frame water bottle mount and was off. Left was the name of the game.
This was the first race for me with my new bike: a Felt IA-10, purchased at Podium. More on her in a separate blog, maybe. For now I will say I haven’t said much about my new bike as I have been getting to know her. And I felt good with her heading in to this race. Which is a terrific feeling.
As mentioned, the bike is mostly flat for the first 26 miles, and then some hills/rollers. And there is also wind that builds over the day. There are also a fair number of turns. But it’s a good course (outside of some shake and bake around mile 50 or so).
The entire ride I played back and forth with one person. One of us would fall back, and then catch up where the other was stronger. At first I was annoyed as it seemed he would slow after passing me, and then I made the best of it. I passed Him and said we’d be egging each other on for awhile. And we did…the whole way. A few times I stayed behind him (> a legal distance) and then I would pass him and he’d ask where I had been. At one point he, another athlete and I got stuck behind a car. He started to pass this car on the right when signs moved cars to the right and riders left…I saw a wreck about to happen and yelled. And it didn’t happen. Thank goodness. Carlos told me that I didn’t notice that he was at that corner. I was a little distracted!
On a the hills I would pass my friend climbing. And he’d pass me after a turn that happened after a descent.it was actually fun to have someone to watch for the entire race. He wore red compression sleeves so he was easy to spot.
I wasn’t hitting my goal watts, but at the same time knew I was hitting a watt PR….so I went with it. And kept trying to get more but it wasn’t sustaining. I could surge to pass my friend, and hold for a bit, but then came back down. Maybe I was having too much fun with my friend? I say it’s because I have been training at mostly IM watts, and I was over that by a little…and guessing that’s what my body wanted. My heart rate was low 140s..outside of the start of the bike Which was In the high 140s/low 150s so I knew I was fine, and would have been fine with the higher watts…if I could have gotten there. But it wasn’t there that day. Fine. Knowing that even with the watts or my heart rate was still as low as at lower watts before I knew I could do more, and had to accept occasional surges to pass or go up hill. And a power PR for any course.
Overall the ride was good. I felt a little sore, a bit uncomfortable with The effort but knew I was fine by my heart rate, and kept at it and Wasn’t worried. I worked to stay in the moment.
The rollers didn’t seem as challenging this year. Which is good. I enjoyed the change In terrain and the chance to climb. Although this year I rarely felt the need to pop out of aero to climb. Maybe I am getting stronger?
I spotted Carlos twice on the course. He said he spotted me by my riding style: I am always in aero. I’ll take that compliment, and Matt (of Podium), who fitted me on my bike (and actually picked out my entire rig based on my build, and added on a few other things along the way that I love!), should too. I am most comfortable in aero. And have learned I can control my bike best, even in windy conditions, from aero.
Only one large group passed me this year. I didn’t get passed by many, and don’t count my friend. The large group was about 7-8 men, about mile 45 or so. The last man In the group I recognized from our hotel.,..I recognized his bike. I smiled at that. Small world.
My hips did feel like my saddle (which I’ve had for 6 years) was too wide about mile 40 to…41…maybe. Which had been happening a bit this year at about the same time. It may be the new bike and different position. Who knows. My hips haven’t suddenly gotten narrower! But, given that I am comfortable on my saddle ( as in I can sit on it for hours, and love it) and this passes quickly with a little bit of lifting my butt out of the saddle and stretching, I am not changing. Until I have to.
I felt strong and good to the end. I knew I had pushed, but never thought “crap”. and told myself I was ready to run.
I came in and took my feet out of my shoes. I had been on the fence about doing a flying dismount since my spot is so close to bike in….so doing the dismount would do little for my time as I didn’t have to run far in my bike shoes. But, the opportunity was there and I felt ready so I did it. With success!
I came in to transition, racked my bike and switched shoes, added my run gear (finally opted for a hat vs visor as I usually burn my scalp. But…hats rarely stay on my head as well as visors do. These really are my major conflicts!) and ran out. The long part of the transition run for me was sans bike…fantastic!
I hit up sun screen and was off.
The run didn’t feel easy. I felt my legs. But it didn’t feel impossible either. I kept up what felt like a slightly uncomfortable pace and was good with it. When I hit the first mile I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a sub 8. Ok. I got this. It won’t be easy but I am well fueled and cardio is fine. I went up my self-named devil hills (which didn’t seem that bad this year). As I neared the first aid station a woman passed me with 44 on her calf.
The first aid station had a theme of Mr. Clean and I commented to her after we went through that some of the people looked like walking condoms with all white clothes and white hair nets of sort. It was an amusing distraction for me each time we passed them on the run. After that we were near each other the entire run…back and forth. I often passed on the hills, and she got me to push harder down hills. It wasn’t until the last mile she pulled permanently ahead of me.
The plan was to increase my effort with each lap. The first lap I wondered if I’d hit the first goal.i did. My second lap I almost hit my heart rate goal for lap three and did increase to where I wanted for lap three. Holy cow! And mostly In part due to my rabbit.
I know this is a repeat of the first paragraph but I will say it again. The run was hard. But I felt strong and capable the entire time. I never doubted if I’d keep pushing my pace the way I was or if I’d get caught.
As I came in towards the end of the first lap I saw Libby…and smiled. And I saw CJ…a big surprise, and smiled bigger. And kept trudging along. What was he doing here? Sami told me after the race that CJ said he was going to be there, but didn’t think he really was. Surprise! And I saw them at the end of each lap, smiling each time to their cheers.
I saw Carlos near the first aid station for laps 2 and 3 too, him cheering me on from his bike.
On the third lap I noticed I was a little behind on my nutrition, but figured I was ok with calories as I got a little ahead on the bike, and was also drinking Coke on the run a couple of times. I felt strong, but did make an effort to keep up the nutrition better for the remaining race.
At mile 11 I saw my pace drop and thought I’m falling off. But I actually pushed back up. Thanks to my rabbit.OK…and pride. I knew people were cheering me on. And I wanted to do well. And I could.
As I came in I was smiling. It’s amazing how you can push your pace for that little trek to the finish. I knew I was close to a sub 5, but likely over. I was…by 9 seconds. Chalk that up to another half iron (I think that’s 4 now) between 5:00 and 5:01. One sub 5 hour finish. But I still felt good…a strong bike, watt PR and a steady, solid run that was the same pace as Raleigh 2 years ago.
After coming through the finish I looked for Carlos but didn’t see him. I did see the woman with whom I ran. I walked up to her and congratulated her. We hugged. We knew…we’d pushed each other. Then she told me, her age group is 45-49 but she didn’t tell me during the run because she knew she was my rabbit. Love it. And grateful.
I will say for that this race the competition was the best in terms of its influence on me. I love it when you and the other person know you are pushing each other to do a little better. And I had it…on the bike and run. More on the run than the bike but still. It makes it fantastic. It’s what competition, to me, is supposed to be. Yes you want to win, but knowing you are giving more than on your own….fabulous! I have to say this may be one of my favorite races because of this experience.
Genevieve and I chatted. Her husband was there and we talked about the race. She was from Montreal. She’d trained for this race in winter, and came down from a place where it’s still cold. Talk about heat acclimation!
Overall…this was a good race for me. I know I can push harder, but am happy with things overall and where I am. Not that this means I am happy to remain where I am. Just happy with where I am…and where I believe I am headed in terms of what I can do.