Sunday was my 7th finish at the Florida Half Ironman... now, the FL 70.3.
Pre-race was great. Saturday afternoon we got quite a storm through. I thought we might get lucky with weather. Nope. Sunday, I awoke to thunderstorm and heavy rain. After looking at the radar, I thought we'd have a slight delay and planned for it.
Due to lightning, we weren't allowed near the water to warm up. At least, I was told I couldn't warm up. This is one of the problems with the FL 70.3. Cannot swim in the lake before the race (days before - even the day before) and the warm up is usually beach. The plan was to cruise the swim. Relax. Just beat the last three times there. I did. By about 2 minutes. Even with the wind and waves (which weren't that bad) I swam 36:12 (I think) and it was totally easy. Looking back... I'd pick up the pace once I warmed up. I think I went too slow. I saw a guy who cut a DeSoto T1 down to look like a speed suit - I'll post a picture when I can pull it off the web. In all the swim was a bit physical and I don't remember swallowing that much lake water on an easy swim in a long time. Once I think I coughed up a mouth full.
T1- uneventful, other than having five people jogging to T1 and I couldn't get around them. FINALLY, people got tired and I was able to run around them.
I trained to be able to push a 56x11 this year. I'm running 170mm cranks for the first time in my racing career and it was a very good choice. As I have aged as an athlete I've seen changes in my flexibility and other items. As an aging male athlete, I'm different versus when I was younger. Gear wise, a 56x11 on 650c wheels is closer to what the big boys push. I've got very strong legs (if not fast) and this is an asset I choose to use. I was able to push the 56 the entire race at 85-112 rpms the entire way. Good watts too - especially relative to heart rate and heat index. It was a smart ride.
The plan (again) was to be very comfortable on the bike. I cruised it. No, cramping. No hurting quads. (**I'm saving it for the run.) The wind was pretty awful. It seemed like it was in our face in every direction. Only once for about 30 seconds did I feel a tailwind. Stick to the plan. I'm a runner today. Different race strategy. When we went into a straight headwind, I attacked on the bike. This is when I would pass a ton of people. I did this three or four times. I love the bike too much to not do a little hard work. The guys who won my age group went by in a pack. I passed them on the swim and they caught me about mile 3-5 on the bike. I know this because they had ITU type race kits with their name on them.
**READERS NOTE** I've come to find out that the guys who were around me had same last names and team kits. I wasn't with the leaders early on in the bike.
One older guy (62 I believe)... on a tight section of the course. Moved into the left to pass slower traffic right and then sat up and took a drink. I didn't say anything at first. I figured he'd move over. Nope. When he reached for his water bottle a second time I said, "You now have 12 people behind you. It is not time to drink in the left side of the lane." It was the nicest thing I thought of saying. Others behind me weren't nearly as nice. The marshals nailed a lot of people on the bike. I think they were kind of effective. Five marshals for 2900 people isn't nearly enough. The bike goal was to ride comfortably and just beat my time from the last three years. I did.
T2- Two big dudes got in a shoving match as I was leaving T2. I got knocked into a tree as they escalated their "discussion". My back cramped as I left T2. Even as slow as I rode... I realized after the race that I didn't do enough big power work in the aerobars. While my legs could turn the gears well, my funky back didn't like being stretched that long. Lesson learned. PS: Bob Olson from Wheel Werks fixed a few things on my bike that I couldn't get right and some other mechanics were screwing around with - this was only the third race where I had perfect gears/mechanics on the bike.
Run (ish) - The first four miles I limped along with my back LOCKED up. My back anatomy, fatigue, still not being in great (read: good) shape, heat and getting knocked into a tree on the exit... made the first loop of four miles an excruciating slog. I stopped five times when I saw medical and had them work on me in the first four miles. I thought I might have to DNF. I could barely walk. On a positive note, they changed the run to be a ton easier. Not as much "trail" and actual shade for one stretch of the run.
The last medical person (from Chicago by the way) fixed my back (mostly). I was able to run the last 10% of the first loop. Alright... let's try another one. Second loop, I was able to run about 75% of the loop at a slower pace - but running is running and the thought of DNF was gone. I'm going to make it. I saw Coach Jeff and told him that I was finally "better". He told me I was running around 10/mile now and to see what I could do. The last loop I was able to run 90% of it - stopping only to ensure that the back cramp wouldn't return. My last mile? 8:45 So I went from 15:10 and giving serious consideration to DNF to 8:45 in 13 miles. Oh... and before I forget - the marshals on the run course were great! They nailed the two people I saw with iPods with stand down penalties! It picked up every one's spirit.
How hot was is? Not horrible - 103-104 heat index is what I hear. "Average" However, how many places have you been where it rained HARD in the morning and a brush fire broke out? Yeah... it happened on the run course. They had to close the course early because a FIRE broke out and Mickey's fire department had to bring three trucks out to put the fire out.
I beat my goal by ~4:00 and learned some lessons on my own training. While I'm not "happy" about 6:30:00 - it is faster than all of the last three years. I found several things I can take from this race as positive change that I've made. Once I get to better condition... I think I can be back down around 5:30 again.
Nothing to really celebrate, however, I can smile about it.