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May 22, 2008

2008 Florida 70.3 Race recap

Sunday morning at 0530 Kevin, Steve, Tony, Clay, Jay and I were shuttled to the transition area by Clay's girlfriend and Rob. Around 0615, after body-marking and setting up transition, everyone headed to the swim start. Everyone except for Kevin and me. Our waves didn't start until after 0700. Instead of waiting in line for nasty toilets, we decided to catch the bus and retreat to nicer potties, namely the ones in our cabins. A much more pleasant experience, although Karen and Julie probably would have preferred to not have their sleep interrupted. A quick bus ride back (folks were looking at us like we were nuts. . ."Shouldn't you be at the race start?") and we still had to wait 20-30 minutes for our waves. Of course, I had been pounding water, so my nervous bladder forced me to use a stinky port-o-let at the start.

Once my race did start, sometime late Sunday morning, the swim felt comfortable. In my mind, I was making adequate progress. I checked the watch several times during the swim and felt good. The water was warm and didn't taste or smell of diesel nearly as bad as I remembered it last year. And just as sure as I though to myself on the way back to shore that the jostling was at a minimum, it seems like everyone wanted to be where I was swimming. As I neared shore and looked at my watch, I realized that my swim was going to be a bit slower than last year. In training, I didn't do enough interval workouts and it was showing. The swim was ultimately around 47 minutes, 2 and a half minutes slower than last year.

The run to transition is a little bit of a haul. Much of it is carpeted but the last bit is through mulch and mud. My feet were pretty nasty by the time I got to the bike and I didn't leave a water bottle to rinse them. I ended up using the towel I had everything laid out on. I did put on socks, which last year I didn't do until before the run. I'm glad I did because it rained on transition while I was on the bike and trying to get wet socks on later would have been a chore. Another longish run to the bike mount line and I was off. T1 was just under 5 minutes, a full minute slower than last year.

At the start of the bike I took a hit of Hammer gel out of my flask and washed it down with water. For the bike, I determined that I was going to keep the HR at 150 as much as possible to save my legs for the run. Even with the lower cap, I was passing lots of people (good swimmers but poor cyclists?). My speed fluctuated between 20 and 21 mph. We had some favorable tailwinds in spots and some nasty headwinds as we headed west on 192. Much of the bike was under overcast skies, and when we took a 5-mile spur on Porter Road the rain came. I found myself out of the aero position a bit to maintain control. At one point, I thought I was having some GI issues and stopped taking my Perpetuem. I had mixed up a 3-hour bottle and was nursing it with water out of my aero-bottle. Turns out, my race belt was a little too tight and was squeezing my gut. By the way, I hate having to wear the race number while on the bike. I guess having my race number on both arms, on my helmet and on my seat post just isn't enough? I moved the belt down around my hips and immediately felt better. Unfortunately, I had backed off nutrition for a while so I was a bit worried.

Surprisingly, on the bike course, I didn't see any crashes, but did see a number of flat tires. There was one little stretch as we left 535 to go to Overstreet Road where there was construction and we had to ride single file in a no passing zone on a temporary sidewalk made out of plywood. Some chick up front thought 10 mph was the prudent thing to do. That sucked. Then a little later there was a clown in a mini-van that decided to be part of the race and not give any room and DRIVE THROUGH THE AID STATION. All in all, the ride felt very comfortable. My Garmin did show the bike course to be 57 miles, and this was confirmed by several others. My bike split was 7:33 slower than last year, but this was part of the plan. My average heart rate was 148.

Back to T2, I found my wet shoes and cap. I guess I wasn't sweating fast enough and had to make a quick pitstop at the port-a-potty in transition. Transitions took a bit longer this year, and I think I just was a little too lackadaisical in my approach to transitions. T2 cost me an extra 2:22 this year, taking four and a half minutes.

2008FloridaHalf_RunHROut of T2 and into the run, I didn't feel I had the same stomach issues I had last year. The only nutrition I carried with me was a gel flask. I tried to slow down the run but still chalked up the first one in a little over 8 minutes. I saw Karen and the girls for the first time during the first mile. Feeling good. I did start to slow down, but even with walking through aid stations to take ice and water my pace was ~9:00/mile through the first 6 miles. Then the wheels fell off. The overcast skies were gone and it was clear and sunny. And folks started baking. I kept trotting along, but was getting slower and slower. Then a tactical mistake. At the last 2 aid stations I chugged some flat Coke. Oh sweet nectar! I was hoping the sugar and caffeine was the jolt I needed to finish this run. After the race I saw the Coke again. Yecch. Never again. I finished the run a little over 2 hours and 18 minutes. Almost 8 minutes faster than last year. Unfortunately, that only compensated for the extra time on the bike. The longer swim and transitions resulted in me finishing almost 6 minutes slower than last year. My finishing time was 6:03:49.

08FloridaHalf_runpaceI remember at parts of the run calculating that I could still beat my time from last year. And then that goal slowly slipped away. And then I just wanted to break 6 hours. And although the bike course was an extra mile long, that only accounts for 3 minutes.

As I look back at the race, I made a few observations. First, I always dismiss the effect of my poor swimming ability on my race. Just get through the swim and then hammer the bike and run. I'm a terrible swimmer and that isn't changing. But in retrospect, if I want to avoid the heat of the run later in the day, those 10 minutes less I spend in the water sure would help. Second, focus should always be maintained in transition. I got a little too comfortable and wasted time. Third, I remember during the run thinking to myself that I would never do another half. Well, a couple of hours after the race that mandate was forgotten.

Of course, my daughters had a great time at the race and at Disney. Emily suggested we come down for the race with our friends again next year even if I don't do the race. I told her I would be doing the race again and she looked at me like I was crazy.

At least my 7-year-old has sense.