Great Floridian Half Iron Triathlon 2004
The last race of my 2004 triathlon season was the Great Floridian Half Triathlon (GFT) in Clermont, FL. I had raced two other Half Iron distance races this summer with good results. One was the CATS Half in AR which was a World Team Qualifier in August and the Harvest Moon Triathlon in September. I usually try to peak for two races per year and the GFT would be my second peak of the season. I had raced the Harvest Moon about 6 weeks ago without the benefit of any type of taper and I was looking for some rest going into the GFT. I knew the conditions would be tough as Clermont is hilly and the heat and humidity can be factor as well. My goals weren’t time based as much as they were heart rate based. I typically race at around 15-20 beats below my LT for a 56 mile bike, which sets me up to do my best on the run, which is my strength. As of late I have been doing more power work on the bike and was looking forward to pushing the bike closer to 10 beats below LT. Of course I had no idea what would happen with run, since I hadn’t tried this before in a race. In my race simulation seven days before the race, I pushed the bike pretty hard, and was still able to run pretty well off the bike on my normal brick workout and I was hoping that this was a good sign for the race. For me, the best part of racing and training is seeing what the day throws at you and how you handle it.
I arrived in FL on Thursday night, Taylor and his wife picked me up and we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant – where I loaded up on pasta. I tried to be strict about my nutrition this week and I think it helped. We picked up Grant and Lisa at the airport and we all hit the sack early for a solid night of sleep. On Friday we hit the expo, checked in and we rode the run course plus – about 14.5 miles and then turned in our bikes. My legs felt good and ready to go. We met up with Mark and we all went out to dinner. I prepped all my race day nutrition and hit the sack. The last 5 days had been exhausting due to my Red Sox playing into the wee hours each night which was killing my sleep and raising my stress level about 50 notches. Nevertheless, regardless of how my race went on Saturday, my Red Sox were playing in the World Series on Saturday night. I couldn’t have been happier.
Race morning: Mark and I drove over to the race, got body marked, picked up our timing chips and headed off to our transitions areas. I set up my area pretty quickly and hit the bathroom for a last time. I went out to watch Grant and Taylor swim in the Full Triathlon, and got ready for my race. Mark and I walked over to the start area and gave each other some final words of encouragement before the start.
I lined myself up with the last turn buoy and once the gun went off I started swimming straight for it. I looked up and saw clear water in front of me and thought I was in great position starting out. Those thoughts were short lived as I realized the current took me hard right and I was off course. I re-positioned myself in the right direction and worked on getting back in line with the last buoy. The chop wasn’t too bad but the current was stronger than it looked due to the lake being shallow. I hit the first turn strong and headed parallel to the beach to the next turn buoy back home. I hit the last buoy thinking there would a strong current pushing me back in, but no dice. I stayed even with a few others in my age group and tried to swim as straight as possible. I hit the beach in 33:19 and knew my swim was so-so but not great. I didn’t see many black swim caps in front of me during the swim so I knew I wasn’t in too bad a position. I was 13th age group and 60th overall. This is a little further back than I would have liked, but once I exited the water I was focused on the next task at hand, the bike.
I went through T1 quickly and hopped on my bike to hit the first hill right out of transition. I had my feet in my shoes by the time I made the left hand turn onto the main road. I settled in to my aero bars and started out down the road. Right away I could tell the same wind that was hitting us in the swim was now in our faces on the bike. I proceeded with my plan of just staying with a certain effort and heart rate and worked on moving my way up through my age group and the race in general. My wave was next to last so there were many cyclists already on the road. The first few miles were flat and I stayed down on the aero bars and tried to keep my aero advantage. After the first few sets of hills, I realized my legs felt pretty strong and I was having a great ride. My heart rate was hovering around the low 150s but that didn’t concern me as it would in the past. I was out to see how long I could hold it and if I blew up, I blew up. By mile 28 I was starting to cramp in my quads. I was fueling myself adequately, taking enough water, Sustained Energy and Endurolytes. I couldn’t put a finger on what was causing the cramping but I continued to push it as best I could without causing any further issues. I had to relieve myself at around mile 30 or so, but couldn’t find the right time to go due to the traffic on the roads – so I held it until I finished the bike. After I racked my bike, I put on my shoes and socks, and I ran to the porta-potty and was finally able to get some relief. That stop took me about 45 seconds. Official bike time was 2:46; 45th overall and 7th age group. I came off the bike in 41st overall and 9th age group.
As I started the run my legs were still cramping. I ran slowly out of T2 and up the first gradual hill. At the top of the hill I stopped to try and stretch my quads but it wasn’t happening. I kept chugging along until I hit the first aid station and I walked through and took two cups of Gatorade. I hit the next aid station and did the same thing. Next up was this pretty steep and long hill. To this point my HR was hovering around 155 or 8 beats below LT. I knew it would go through the roof if I tried to run up this hill so I power walked it as fast I could. My HR dropped and I was gaining ground on the people in front of me. When I crested the hill, my HR had dropped to 150 and now I could run. On the next downhill I had the same cramping issues – so once again I was reduced to a walk, grabbing two cups of Gatorade through the aid station. Once I crested the next hill and hit the bike path, everything was clicking. My legs were still tight and on the verge of cramping but I learned I could manage it. I decided to run the last ten miles as if it were a 5k. I flat out ran as hard as I could from this point on, taking on any fluid I could grab through the aid stations and working my way through the field. I glanced at my HR every once in a while but I never worried about my pace or time. I was just running as best I could and picking off people left and right. I caught the last few guys in my age group at around mile 12, and I was on empty as I finished the run. I hit my watch as I came across the line, having no idea of my place, time or even where I finished in my age group. My run ended up being 1:38:58, which was 12th overall, and 3rd in my age group. I don’t know what my pace was once I made it through the hilly section but I would be willing to bet I was running sub 7:00 pace after 3 miles. My finish time was 5:02:20, which was good enough for 21st overall out of 650 and 3rd in my age group, out of 199. The 2nd place male in my age group was 1:00 in front of me and since I didn’t see him, I didn’t have any chance of catching him.
Overall, I was pleased with my race and my season. I am certainly looking forward to my week off from training. It was a satisfying season in terms of results and training. I have had all time personal bests in my training volume, swim times and run times this season. The focus for next year will be on the bike training and I am looking forward to the 2005 season which will include Ironman New Zealand in the beginning of March.
Thanks for reading,