Monday, May 21, 2007

Florida 70.3 Race Report

What a way to kick off my second tri season!

Thanks to relatively cool weather, no illness, and a smarter pacing and nutrition plan, I achieved my main goal to finish the race stronger than last year and ended up with a 32 minute PR. Here’s a comparison of how I did this year versus last year:

1.2 mi Swim (avg pace)1:06:08 (3:28/100m)57:12 (2:52/100m)
56 mi Bike (avg pace)2:50:37 (19.7 mph)2:53:55 (19.3 mph)
13.1 mi Run (avg pace)2:00:45 (9:13/mi)2:38:20 (12:06/mi)
Total Race Time6:07:436:39:51

And here’s what happened …

Swim (1:06:08, 3:28/100m)

On my way down to the swim start, Dave and I bumped into Joe, a fellow runner and triathlete from the Orlando area who I saw at FL 70.3 and IMFL last year. We wished each other luck and about 10 minutes later I was in the water. This year I was in the third wave starting out at 6:27 am, the first age-groupers to go right after the elite men and women. No time to get nervous ;-)

I’m not really sure what caused my swim time to be even slower this year. I did everything I was planning to do. I swam freestyle most of the way, doing the breaststroke only to sight and to recover from a good kick to the chin on the outbound leg. Shortly after rounding the first buoy turn, I found someone who was wearing the same colored cap as I was (dark blue) that I could keep up with so I drafted behind him nearly the entire way to the second buoy turn.

On the final leg back in, I passed the guy I was drafting and swam on my own amidst various colored swim caps, meaning folks from waves that started after me had caught up. Someone nearly pulled off the neoprene band holding my timing chip around my ankle so I had to stop to pull it back on. My swim cap was also creeping up over my forehead and so I had to occasionally push it back down or else I was afraid I might somehow lose my goggles, which were on the outside of the swim cap. Other than those two things, I kept swimming and swimming and swimming until I could put my feet down and run out of the water. I was sure I’d done better than last year and was stunned to see my watch say 1:06.

Whaaaaat?! How could that be???

Well, no time to pout. It’s still very early in the race. All that mattered was that I finished and in plenty of time to make the 8:40 am cut-off. Poor Dave was probably worried about me, though, until he saw me run out of the water.

T1 (6:17)
Like last year, the run from beach to the transition area was long, something like 200 yards. I stopped into a porta-potty (can't yet pee while swimming) and then headed over to my bike, which was in a great spot, very close to the bike exit. Being one of the slowest swimmers in my age-group, my bike was by itself, as usual. My transition went smoothly except for waking up my bike computer. Somehow, I got it into the wrong mode and had to spend some extra time fiddling with it. Finally, I got it to display what I wanted and headed out. To my surprise, we had to cross a 10-15 foot long sand pit (which was not there last year) before mounting our bikes. I can’t believe the race organizers did not somehow cover that up … sand is not good for the bike!

Bike (2:50:37, 19.7 mph)

The rest of the bike course, however, was great. It had been changed from the previous year and all for the better with wider and smoother roads, fewer rolling “hills”, fewer U-turns and far less interaction with cars. The wind was stronger, maybe 8-10 mph, but not bad and being from the northeast, it was helping on the way out and the way back.

My initial plan was to shoot for a little slower bike time than last year, but that didn’t last for long, not after that disappointing swim time and knowing that I was a much stronger cyclist than last year. Instead, I decided to just ride by feel and see what I ended up with. As long as I took it easy and stuck to my nutrition plan, I was confident I could run well afterwards.

On the outbound leg, I was cruising at 21-22 mph and there was a lot of passing going on, both by me and by others. I was thankful to be wearing my Third Eye rearview mirror so I could see behind me without having to turn my head constantly. Of course, if I heard a whirring sound, I knew that someone with a disk wheel was coming up and just made sure I was over to the right.

During the middle portion of the course, the wind was no longer helping and there were a few little rollers to climb over. My pace slowed to about 17-18 mph directly into the wind and even slower as I chose to spin up the hills rather than get out of my saddle and power up them, like some did. No sense in burning up extra energy needlessly, I thought to myself (and riding out of the saddle is very awkward to me because I don't usually train on hills), so I just continued to take it easy.

Around mile 30, I pulled over for a minute to refill my aero bottle and noticed that the distance on my bike computer was off by over a mile (on the high side), which meant my speedometer must have been reading incorrectly (no wonder I seemed to be going so fast before!). I continued on without much concern, though, as I’d already decided to ride by feel so I didn’t really need a speedometer to pace myself. The only bummer was that I had not ridden as far as I’d thought. Oh well …

By mile 45, my bike computer was off by 2 miles but we soon turned south so that the wind was helping again and the last few miles flew by. This stretch was the same as last year and is where I pushed way too hard so I made sure not to do it again. Yet, 20-21 mph felt like a breeze this time.

In the final couple miles I passed Brent and gave him a cheer (I found out later that one of his aero bars had loosened and become unusable during his ride – yikes!). When I got back to the transition area, I saw Dave just before the sand pit and gave him a big smile to let him know I was doing fine. I glanced down at my watch and saw that it said 4:00, which meant a sub-3 hour bike time -– woo hoo!

2 down, 1 to go!!

T2 (3:56)
Another relatively smooth transition except for two things. One, I forgot to take off my bike gloves again, but thankfully I noticed before getting very far from my bike so I ran back and left them on my towel (last year I ended up carrying them my back pocket the entire run). Two, somewhere in the transition area I lost one of my two 10 oz Fuel Belt bottles, probably when I went into the porta-potty. But one bottle was all I really needed (could refill it at the aid stations) and it didn’t feel unbalanced on my belt so all was good.

Run (2:00:45, 9:13/mi)
The run course was 3 laps and about half of each lap was run on an uneven dirt/grassy path without much shade. Fortunately, there was some occasional cloud cover and the temperature was 10-15 degrees cooler than last year. However, the aid station that was there last year about 0.75 miles into each lap was not there this year and so I was very glad that I brought my own water with me during the run.

It took me a couple miles to get my running legs back but I felt no need to walk through the aid stations as I did last year. By the time I reached the last mile of the first lap, I was running much as I normally would and holding a 9-ish min/mile pace comfortably (actually, ran a bit faster on the paved, shady sections and slower on the uneven, sunny sections). I downed a gel near the turnaround where there were a good number of spectators including Dave. Here I am starting lap number two with a little sponge in my hand and psyched that I’m feeling good!

On the first lap, there were some very speedy folks who blew past me (no doubt some of the elites) but the second lap was a different story. There were a lot more regular folks and, unfortunately, some were having a hard time in the heat/humidity and walking. I had to do a fair amount of weaving around them but at least I was passing people rather than being passed like last year. I saw Dave again at the turnaround alongside another guy who looked like Nathan, my former running coach from Track Shack. Just in case, I made sure my running form looked good as I went by them.

During the third lap, a few people asked me what lap I was on and I happily told them. One guy was not pleased that he was still on lap number 2 and I mentioned my early wave start, which seemed to make him feel better. Near mile marker 12, another guy who was also on his last lap came up alongside me and said “Come on, let’s finish strong." And that's when my "C race" turned into a real race, the last mile.

He picked up his pace as we went from the dirt/grassy path back onto the pavement and I stayed right behind him. We wove past many others on the narrow shaded bike path as if they were standing still and I could tell he was pushing pretty hard and determined to stay in front. As the path opened up onto the road where the spectators were lined up near the turnaround, however, I had room to make my move. There was only about a ¼ mile left and I knew I had plenty left in the tank, so why not?

Buoyed by the enthusiasm of the crowd, I went ahead and left Mr. “Let’s finish strong” behind. It was hard to tell which athletes in front of me were continuing onto their next lap and which ones were splitting off towards the finish line until the turnoff. Then I knew … just one guy, just a little ways ahead. Sorry dude, you're mine :-)

Once I passed him, I ran down the final stretch all alone. Folks at the finish were cheering for me by name and, unlike last year, I was completely coherent and could hear them clearly, as well as the announcer. I crossed the finish line thrilled to have completed this race well, better than I actually imagined. This is why I love tris so much. Though I need a lot of improvement in my swimming, I can still have a good race. It just keeps me coming back for more!!!

Post-race Thoughts
A number of good swimmers have mentioned that their swim times were a few minutes slower than expected and that the swim course may have been a little long. In addition, I probably shouldn’t have drafted behind that other swimmer for so long. It never occurred to me that someone could swim slower than me and so I assumed I’d be going faster in someone’s wake, though it did feel much easier. Actually, it turns out that about 35 people swam slower than I did, including several in my wave (F45+ and M55+), so now I know I’ve got to be more selective. But, at least I got my first experience drafting someone on the swim and I learned something new.

Also, the final mileage on my bike computer was just a bit over 56 miles, meaning that some of the mile markers must have been off on the bike course and my speedometer was telling the truth. Thanks Dave for pushing me on our bike rides, cheering for me during the race and taking all the photos!


Maddy said...

Once again I am in awe of you! You should be so proud of your accomplishments!

You are so awesome. And fast!

Congratulations on a race well done

Wendy said...

Great race, great report! And kudos to the race photographer.

Wrenching Winz said...

Great race! Your off to a great start! i wanna be like shirley when i grow up

petra duguid said...

What an achievement and what a great race report - I felt like I was with you the whole way! I'm so glad you seemed to be enjoying yourself so much as well - it's really been well worth all the hard work you've put into it. Keep it up ShirleyPerly!

IM Able said...

A THIRTY-TWO minute PR!!!???!!!

You should be so darned proud of yourself and your performance on the race.


Susan said...

Excellent report! Fantastic race! And you even learned some new "tricks" along the way - wow! I really enjoyed reading about it. You are amazing! And so lucky to have a good photographer on your team! It really makes the race report come to life. And you looked gorgeous the whole time!

Cliff Tam said...

Congrats on a PR. Looks like u got all that nutrition stuff figure out.

As for the draft, the tricky part I find is to find a pair of feet that swim just a bit faster than me. But not too fast that I can't hold onto it.

MarathonChris said...

What a great race report!!! Congrats on a wonderful race, new PR and lessons learned :-)

Bigun said...

Way to go on your Half - I was wimping it out on a sprint while you were chugging away. Great report - I think that race is in the cards for next year! Good luck on the rest of your season!

CewTwo said...

Great report. I felt like I was there. Thanks for sharing!

Rural Girl said...

Great job! Awesome run. I need to run like that, send some of that talent up nort'. Love the picture of you running with the sponge; looks like you're having fun.

Ellie said...

Hallelujah, baby, you did awesome! What a great effort! You ROCK!!