Florida 70.3 in Haines City renewed my love of racing and Ironman so much that I was looking for another 70.3 to race as soon as possible. This was not only my first race of the season but it was the biggest I’d done in what I consider pre-season for North America. I’d raced 70.3’s before but usually later in the season when I’m feeling quite fit. I also did nearly 100% of my bike training indoors due to shoddy and cold weather but I have come to truly love Coach Troy and his Spinervals. My multiple 3 hour rides with Troy left me drenched, although still wary whether the indoor training would really be effective for the outdoors. Furthermore, I’ve never traveled with my bike where I had to completely reassemble it, which made me nervous— a 56 mile ride with a malfunction would be ugly. Then the weekend before the race, I tripped fell midway through my run and scraped myself up and the next day when I clipped in with the wrong foot on my bike and fell over. I got banged up but went on my ride anyhow to make sure that fall wasn’t my last experience on my bike. I chalked it all up to accumulated fatigue and proceeded to have the most lackadaisical taper week ever. Hopping on the plane that Friday was the first downtime I’d had all week.
Friday was filled with visits to friends and family and completely forgetting about the race and no time do the little run I’d planned. Saturday morning there was still a long drive – Haines City is out in the sticks. My bike was easy to put together (thank you Brian at Carl Hart for the lesson!) but my friend had some stripped screws on her handlebars. Luckily we found a bike shop who made a quick repair. The race site itself was buzzing – Lance Armstrong was at the pro panel –and it was hot. We racked our bikes in lieu of the hassle in the morning and left to get cleaned up for dinner. I’d used Tripadvisor to make a rez at the nicest restaurant that wasn’t a chain or fast food. We found ourselves sitting right next to Lance and his entourage– so close that I could have nabbed one of his ravioli if he hadn’t scarfed it down so quickly. In time, the waiters started tripping over us too because of our proximity to the man who would win this race.
Race morning I woke up feeling fresh and ready. And even though I’d ticked off all the boxes on my Endurance Nation training plan, I still felt some trepidation about the distance so early in the season. I told myself to have a nice big training day and have fun and this immediately took any pressure off. The temperature prior to the race was perfect and I spoke with other competitors on the toilet line and then went to do some yoga and chi breathing exercises. I don’t think I’d ever given myself such nice quite time before the race and this made me feel relaxed and ready to do what I came there to do. The water temperature was perfect and I made sure I swam hard at the start and inside the pack (yup—in case there were gators!). In a 70.3 I’m very much a mid-pack swimmer and so I accept that I’m going to get passed but will try to grab some feet for a little booster shot. I caught up with a few other waves ahead of me and knew I was having a pretty good swim.
In T1, I saw a lot of bikes on my rack gone but didn’t let that concern me. I told myself to get in my groove and work my way into my pace. I thought about Tanya doing her first triathlon using side stroke and hoped she was having a great day. With the 35-year-old-plus men just behind me, I knew I was going to be passed by some serious bikes with all the aero-bootie. At about mile 5, one of these blokes passed me and then proceed to completely eat it on the sharp turn about 500 yards ahead of me—flipping up in the air, bike and all. He seemed okay and I just made sure I looked to my left on the next sharp turns to make sure that I could turn safely. By that time I was really starting to cruise and my cadence was exactly where I wanted it to be and as I started to hit the mile markers I knew that I was having a fantastic ride. The first half was flat and scenic. When the rollers started about mile 30 or so I felt prepared, they weren’t half as bad as Timberman and even with the headwind I still felt Montauk was harder. I powered on and my time on the trainer must have worked because not only did I feel great but I never felt bored or wanting to get off the bike. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this!
When I came into T2 it was already pretty hot. I had on white arm coolers and hoped this would help if I kept them wet. I started off and I couldn’t feel my hands, in fact both arms were tingling and I was starting to heat up which of course made me the tiniest bit nervous. I told myself to calm down and regulate and if the tingling didn’t go away soon I could start to worry. In hindsight, it was probably because the last 20 miles of the bike were terribly graded roads and all the rumbling probably gave me the tingling while also claiming many people’s water bottles and nutrition.
I was surprised to see so many people walking already and knew I’d been picking up some carnage on the run as I was acclimatizing and feeling good. With 3 loops all I had to do was loop, erase, repeat and I knew I could do that if I managed it that way. But where was the water? There was no water stop out of transition and then there was about 1 mile steady grade hill—still no water—I tried not to panic. I’d stopped drinking about 10 minutes before the end of the bike and was feeling parched. (I didn’t want to use my whole Fuel Belt of EFS on the 1st mile and I wanted water!) Thankfully about mid-way there was a kind woman with a hose and then another mile some water. Phew! I was just starting to feel my hands again and had acquired a pace partner after the hose. I didn’t end up running as fast as I know I can but I had a great time and by not walking ended up passing hundreds of people who’d either gone too hard on the bike or couldn’t handle the heat. In the end, I thought I might have actually gotten a PR which of course is difficult to assess because every race is different. It was certainly one of my better times and it made me so pumped up for what’s in store for later in the season! Perhaps there is something to this early season racing after all—my test mission was a success and left me wanting more and got me wondering . . . . maybe I could have gone even harder?