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June 23, 2008

Marineland Olympic Triathlon

Participated in the Marineland International Distance Triathlon yesterday.

Kevin Cofran, Jay Strates, Steve Matson, Clay Bruce, Lacey, Peter King and I left the condos a little before 0700 for the 0800 race start. This is a fairly small race, and transition was completely open. You could rack your bike wherever you wanted. Besides the International distance, there was a sprint tri, a sprint du, and an international du.

Everyone made their way to the beach for the start. A few pre-race instructions and then the national anthem. The national anthem CD skipped so badly, it must've been gouged with some deep cuts. This would prove to be a creepy omen. . .

As sprint folks lined up near the waters edge for their start, the fellow operating the inflatable boat being used to monitor the swim course hit a wave and was tossed out. Because he didn't have the kill switch attached to his life vest, the boat started doing doughnuts in the water at full speed. Right in the middle of the swim course. You just can't make this stuff up. But it gets worse.

A couple of folks decided to wade towards the boat to stop it. They were soon talked out of making such a foolish decision by lifeguards on long boards who were nearby. The boat was at full throttle and bucking like a mustang. At this point, a race participant decided he could no longer be inconvenienced by this delay started wading out to the boat armed with a life vest. In waist deep water. He got close enough to hit the steering wheel with the vest but missed the throttle. The boat spit the vest back at him. He must have been encouraged by his near success so he went in closer. Folks were either yelling at him to get away, or turning around to avoid witnessing the macabre inevitability. Like I said, you just can't make this stuff up.

The boat lunged at him and he disappeared. Then the boat slowed down considerably. After that, we saw someone in the water begin yelling and dragging a body through the surf towards the beach. Folks with medical backgrounds ran towards the victim with first aid equipment and calls were made to 911. The tension on the beach was overwhelming. We were told by a friend who is a physician that the outboard's prop had ripped through his thigh and almost severed his manhood. He was stable and talking, but in pretty bad shape. The ambulance arrived and I saw him as he was loaded in. He had gouges all over his legs, chest and back.

By this point, the out-of-control boat was heading north with the current and out of the way of the swim course. We were told the race would now start at 0900.

A couple of minutes after 0900 the race did indeed start, with the sprint wave. Two minutes later we were off with the international wave. The swim course was a 2-loop course, meaning we would be swimming with the current and against the current. New rules were also in place that were a deviation from the swim course used in April and May. In the past, once you swam around the northernmost buoy of the three buoys, you could immediately head for shore and run to transition. This time around, you had to swim back to the middle buoy and head for shore. Now I understand why the swim splits were so fast for previous races.

The swim was OK. I've never done a 1500 meter swim in the open ocean. Without a wetsuit, I knew my split was going to be in the high 30s and I didn't disappoint. Swim time was 38 minutes.

The run to T1 requires you to run up a sand dune and then through a parking lot. Once at my bike, I tried to pull my jersey on. I forgot my race belt, so I pinned my number to the jersey. Unfortunately, I pinned number without much give and had a time getting the jersey on. I ended up ripping the bottom of the number as I pulled it down. I had my shoes clipped in and ran out of transition. They didn't have a mount line marked so I wasn't sure where to hop on. I ended up jumping on in the middle of A1A. As I put my left foot down, my shoe immediately unclipped. Grrr. I finally was able to start pedaling and get my feet in. Surprisingly, T1 only took a mniute and 48 seconds.

The bike course was a 2-loop out and back. Based on conventional wisdom, I assumed we would have tailwinds one way and headwinds the other. Nope. The wind seemed to be more of a cross-wind, and occasionally in front or behind us. I immediately cranked it up to 22 and tried to maintain a cadence of 85-95. I was never passed on the bike. My heart rate stayed in the 150-160 range, although at one point it dropped down into the 140s. I immediately cranked it back up to the 150s. There was a considerable amount of roadkill up and down the course, so we were frequently treated to the stench of rotting flesh.

I passed Jay on the way down on the first loop. I saw Steve, Peter and Clay heading the opposite way on both loops, but was never able to catch them. I saw Kevin behind me for both loops. I was waiting for him to overtake me near the end of the bike leg but he never did.

T2 was a bit faster. I was in and out in 64 seconds.

The run course was another 2-loop out and back on a sidewalk running alongside A1A. There was a water station at each end of the course offering only water. It appears all of the sprint participants used up all of the Gatorade. It could have been worse, I heard a lady say that when she reached the far point of the course for her second loop, they were out of water. I remember getting my water at that point and thinking there would be nothing more for me until the end of the race. I can't imagine not getting that last sip of water.

My pace was stuck between 8:00 and 8:15. I wanted to run 7:45 splits but it wasn't happening. The run course, like the bike course, had zero shade. I only stopped for a couple of steps at each water station to make sure I got my water, but ran the entire course very consistently. I was picking people off at a pretty good clip. I passed Clay on the leg back of the first loop. He mentioned how ugly my Tri-Gator race suit was. On the last leg back, I could see Steve in front of me. I could tell on each leg of the run that I was gaining on him. With a mile to go he was maybe 200 meters in front of me. Every time he passed a road sign, I picked up the pace until I got to the same sign. I was really gaining on him and was planning on hanging back and pouncing right at the finish because I knew I had little left for a kick. He heard the footsteps and turned around and saw me with about 200 meters to go. He yelled at me "Oh no you don't" and kicked. I tried to hang on but was spent. He opened another gap on me that I couldn't make up. I finished 9 seconds behind him. Turns out we were racing for 2nd place in our age group. I'm disappointed my tactics didn't work, but still ended up with a third place finish.

According to the results, I ran a 49:06 for a 7:54 pace. However, I think the run course was short (my Garmin agrees) and when I calculate the pace for only 6 miles, it turns out to be an 8:11 pace. That's more like it.

Kevin was with Steve's wife near the finish cheering for us. He dropped out after the bike. We all congregated near the finish and cheered as Peter and Jay finished.

Like the run course, the sprint participants ravaged the post-race goodies. I was able to snag one of the last 2 cokes to replenish some energy. The oranges were gone and the remaining bananas were all green.

I am satisfied with my bike and run. I just need to work on the swim. Sounds like a broken record.

And what an interesting day it was.

From the St. Augustine Record:

Stephen Denny, 47, of Jupiter, was participating in the event and saw Rodriguez's boat circling in the ocean with no apparent driver. Denny swam over to try to stop the vessel, but the boat's Yamaha motor propeller cut both of Denny's legs and his chest, Hill said.

He was taken to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona and remained in satisfactory condition Sunday evening, a hospital spokeswoman said.