In the relentless pursuit of personal growth and self-fulfillment, the journeyBecoming the best version of oneself is a path worth embarking upon.This self-improvement guide is a roadmap designed to...
Saturday started the perfect day. There is nothing better then a nice long bike ride with a group of not only excellent triathletes but amazing and supportive people. A few of us are on our way to Augusta, Georgia next week for an Ironman 70.3, so we took the speed a little more conservatively, which allowed me to get to know a few people a little better.
As much as I enjoy riding hard and challenging myself, there is just something really cool, about the somewhat more aerobic rides like this one. There is more of a chance to check out the local scenery, watch the sunrise, and notice stores and unique businesses I wouldn’t normally notice, but I digress.
Miles for Hope is an event, that includes runs and rides in the support of a cure for brain tumors. The event started extremely well organized. Pete and I rolled up to a somewhat full parking lot, gabbed with a couple of friends and headed over to get our bibs and t-shirts which took all of thirty seconds. Afterwards, we had the chance to catch up with some of our group and gather everyone together at the start line. Here is where the organization wasn’t as clear as it could have been. We took off and about half-a-mile into the ride there a roundabout with a cop pointing left and arrows pointing right. Of course our group split, with half going one way and the rest in the opposite direction. Not a huge deal, a quick look at the map and we realized our mistake, but unfortunately, we didn’t catch up to a portion of the group until the halfway point.
Other than that, the ride was fantastic. The weather started in the mid 70s and didn’t rise higher than the mid 80s. The wind was slight, the company was great and no one really fell behind or ended up lost, which was probably due to the herding skills of Pete and Nick.
We ended up averaging a little over 18 MPH which was very comfortable. During an interesting conversation I had with Nick during the last twenty miles an amazing realization came over us. A year and a half ago, 18 MPH for 62 miles would have been a hard ride for us. Now we are coasting, talking and just having a great time. The lesson; keep riding, running, swimming and progress will be made. Of course we will see just how much this next weekend at Ironman Augusta.
It wasn’t completely without challenges. Pete, and I tried to chase Nick down, unsuccessfully over the 3 bridges of Clearwater, so kudos to Nick. He has gained a inordinate amount of strength this year, of course he has worked his butt off so he deserves it.
We all decided to do this because of Pete more or less. His mother is affected by a brain tumor and with everything he has been through this last year, we all wanted to support him, not to mention he is just a great guy and everyone loves him. There is not a lot I wouldn’t do for him myself and am really proud to call him one of my good friends.
We all came through the line comfortably and feeling pretty confident about next week. There was food, live music and of course beer. Beth and I went straight for the Coke which is fast becoming my recovery drink of choice. Not the best choice but it seems to working for me better than Gatorade ever did. After some great conversation, meeting up with some other riders and some pics it was time to hit the road home. For such a great ride it was actually kind of uneventful, but maybe that’s why it was so great.
Previously I mentioned all that was; the Top Gun Triathlon for me. Today I give you the run-down of my experience with the Twilight Triathlon I competed in that same evening. Are you ready? Are you in suspense? If you said “yes” then I know you just are humoring me, but I’ll ramble on for a bit anyway.
After a little breakfast I went home and hoped to catch a nap but had no such luck. I did chill out for a while and watched some of the Olympics, but before I knew it I had to head on over to Outspokin to pick up a ride to the tri. I headed out with Nicky Z, both of us continually wondering what the heck we were doing. I wasn’t really sore or anything, but I was a little exhausted. After what seemed like forever, an hour, we showed up to what looked like a cluster fuss. Cars lined up, making ‘U’ turns to find parking, a sheriff’s deputy telling drivers where to go and vendors still putting tents up less than hour before what was supposed to the start of the race. We ended up really lucky and did find a parking space pretty close to transition.
Walking up to transition the announcer’s voice was hailing over the loud speaker something I never heard at a race before. “Don’t buy anything from the food truck. He has been trying to keep this triathlon from taking place!” Excuse me what? Really? A guy in a food truck doesn’t want an extra night of better than average income? Seriously? That ended the negativity and the following were the instructions for packet pick up, body marking, and warnings about lights on our bikes. After picking up my packet and t-shirts, one for this race and one for the Sunrise/Sunset challenge. Nick and I looked at each other a little surprised they were both cotton, but we were given the explanation that DRC Sports, the sponsors for the Twilight Tri, bought both shirts since Top Gun really didn’t need the extra advertising. Oh well, no biggie.
After finishing up my setup in transition I went out to the beach to warm-up a bit and then I headed out to the water. All I can say about that water was….YUCK! It was very shallow, 86 degrees, murky brown and the gulf floor was mushy and full of oysters. I was actually wishing I was back at Ft. Desoto. Of course, I didn’t spend much time out there not that I had a lot of time anyway, since I was heat number 2. The pre-race meeting gave us our instructions, there was a very nice rendition of the national anthem, we took a quick photo of all the athletes that had completed the Top Gun Tri and we were finally ready to race.
Nick’s wave went out first with mine three minutes behind. It was completely psychological, but the buoys sure looked a lot farther than this morning, and they felt that way too. I did not feel nearly as good as I did that morning which was obvious as I was three minutes slower. I did end up making part of it up in T1 due to transition being staged much closer than Top Gun. I was quickly back on my bike and headed out on the road.
My goal was the same stay above 20 mph and keep a cadence of 90-95. Heading away from transition to the turnaround point there was a decent tail wind which helped me keep my speed up. Unfortunately, a tail wind on the way out means…yep…a head wind on the way back. I tucked in and kept my cadence up the best I could, but I found myself falling at times to 18-19 mph which was disconcerting. I did catch a couple of miles over 22 on the way back but it still kept my average to 19.8 mph which was ugly compared to my mornings ride. I could make excuses as it was the wind, or the fact I had to slow down almost to a stop at the turnaround or even the fact I ran over a squirrel. (I hear you…WHAT?) Yeah, a squirrel darts across the street and literally runs right in front of me to where I had no other option that to run over it. Luckily, I looked behind me and it got right up and ran just as fast to the nearest tree and climbed right up looking none the worse for wear. Still it was no excuse, I just didn’t get the job done.
With a mile-and-a-half to go I saw the leader making the turn to the finish of the run. All I thought was what a loser I was. The guy only had a a minimal 3 minute head start on me and I wasn’t even finished with the bike and here he was on his way back to the finish line. What a beast that Zach guy is. Anyway, I sped into transition changed my shoes and headed out.
It was the complete mirror image of my run earlier that day except in slow motion. I felt like I had nothing in my legs until the turnaround and then they finally stretched out and I was able to pick up my cadence on the way back in. I will say the sunset on the way back the finish was gorgeous as was the good amount of extra protein I ingested on the way back due to the overwhelming amount of mosquitoes. No wonder I wasn’t that hungry after the race. Anyway, I ended up averaging around an 8:30 which was a little over a minute slower than earlier. Oh well, in all fairness it was my second race of the day and even though I was planning on bringing my effort level down, my ego got a hold of me and that just didn’t happen. I said it before and I will say it again…more bricks, more bricks, more bricks.
It was pretty uneventful after that. Nick got a massage from these two women and finally understood why Scott Bragan and I have been singing Lisa Jamison’s (http://www.liftperformanceenhancement.com) praises for over a year. in my opinion, massage should be a part of anyone’s training plan that trains hard more than 3 days a week. We packed up, grabbed some food, Gatorade and took the long ride home.
Overall; I don’t think I would’ve wanted to spend the day any differently. Great workouts, good friends and the feeling of accomplishment. What could possibly be better?
I thought it was kinda nutty when I was invited to the Sunrise/Sunset Challenge, but I wasn’t sure the impact it would have on me. I looked at the distances of the two races, Top Gun and the Twilight Triathlons, and thought, “What the hell? The two distances do not even add up to an Olympic. How difficult could it be?” What I didn’t count on was the increased effort level?
The plan was hammer the Top Gun and do the Twilight for fun. (I am a poet and didn’t even know it.) Yeah. Right. Considering I have been competing and training for more long course triathlons lately, I really thought I would finally be able to conquer the sprint. My last full sprint was two years ago, when I competed in a few sprints in order to get ready for a marathon my times were less than admirable. To be honest, I was happy with 1:20 at the time. Now, after a few Ironman 70.3s and last year’s full Ironman I really thought I could do a lot better. Figuratively, I actually did, but in my mind it still wasn’t what I wanted, but there were some small achievements.
I picked up an A-Train Tri member, Jaime Breibert, around 5am and headed out to Ft. DeSoto. After the experiencing the pay-to-park line for the Escape from Ft. DeSoto Triathlon, I was pleasantly surprised this event was exempt so there were no delays driving into the park. Nice! Like every other race I have competed or watched at Ft. DeSoto the organization of the event was outstanding. The line for body marking was minimal, the transition area was large enough to accommodate all of the athletes bikes, space for their transition setup and extraneous bags. Walking into transition I spent minimal time setting up my bike, helmet and sunglasses, towel, bike shoes, and running gear including my choice of shoes (this time being my Brooks Pure Cadence), running belt and hat. I wasn’t rushed for time, or inconvenienced by other athletes. It was smooth sailing which is always nice since it eliminates any unwanted stress.
I headed on down to the beach with Nick Zivolich and Jaime where the low pitched but high energy voice was repeating instructions over the speaker system. It was a nice and comfortable environment I have come to love over the past years. The energy of the upcoming race increasingly becoming more and more intense as the time for the first heat was getting closer. I caught up with a bunch of friends and familiar fellow tri community members I have accumulated over the last years. This is absolutely one of my favorite times of the race. I have been really lucky this year as my age group has been assigned early heat times, so the intense anticipation has been minimal. Last year, I was not so lucky, but I understand the race directors strategy of moving the groups around each year to be fair. It will be interesting to find out what they where I will be starting next year. I was in the fifth heat this year only 12 minutes after the first and immediately following Jaime’s heat.
I wished Jaime and Victoria luck and intensely watched them swim out to the first buoy. Just a quick disclaimer. I totally and utterly suck at swimming. For me triathlon is survive the swim and get on the bike where the competition really begins. Not that I haven’t been working at it, but honestly, if for some reason I have to skip a workout, I’ll skip a swim before a bike, run or strength workout, but I digress. The horn finally went off and my personal race had started. I had been analyzing my swim prior to this, and just recently had the epiphany that maybe my pull of my arm through the water was possibly to shallow to allow me any kind of real speed. I usually finish with the heat behind me, and even sometimes with the heat behind that one, but this time following my experiment of dipping my arm deeper and pulling a little harder, (Voila!!) I actually finished in the middle of my heat. As I ran to my bike I noticed silver swim caps in front of me and coming behind me. A huge smile came over my face as I was slipping into my bike shoes and put on my helmet and sunglasses. I really couldn’t believe it. At this point I already felt like a winner.
I ran out of transition, jumped on my bike and headed out to the course I knew so well, due to all of the brick workouts I completed here with my A-Train Triathlon family. My goal; keep my speed above 21 while keeping a cadence under 96. The whole ride was pretty uneventful. The same word came out of my mouth more than anytime in the short period I have been racing. I continually yelled the word “left” as I was passing other athletes on my right, of course it was disconcerting when I heard it coming from my left. The ego boost came when I finished the final roundabout yelling “left” to a male athlete that had passed me at the beginning of my ride. As, I came into transition the only thought was how fast can I get in and out of transition, start the run and whether or not I had pushed a little to hard on the bike. According to my computer I had averaged well above 21, so was that too much?
I pulled on my shoes, grabbed my hat and ran out of transition buckling my race belt with my number attached to the front. I grabbed water on the way, a little disappointed when it turned out to be very warm, but it was wet. As I started trying to increase the cadence I noticed that my legs were very heavy, not a good sign. I kept saying to myself this is fine, just lean from the ankles and let gravity fuel your momentum. As much I told myself to lift my legs and lean a little more, my body refused to submit to what my head was commanding. I continued through the first mile to the fort, and very, very slowly my legs started to loosen a little, and my cadence started to increase. Passing the 1 mile aid station, I noticed a little more energy in my step and my hip flexors obeying my will. Then I turned the corner and I remembered. Crap! The middle mile of this race is on SAND! The lower extremities of my body surprised me as they adapted immediately to their new environment. I guess all those beach runs with Amy Eck had actually done something for me. All of the sudden I found myself enjoying the run. My legs stretched out, by body leaned, my cadence finally reached 180 (I think) and I was flying. Who would’ve thought feeling all that resistance under my feet would actually transform into moving faster? Not me, but after begging my body to obey earlier I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, so before my body decided any differently I picked up my pace. Turning on the path back to the asphalt I caught another athlete with a 44 on his calf. Hmm…an athlete in my wave I will place in front of…cool. With that thought completed I noticed another male runner in front of me with the number 41 on his calf. My only thought; “You are mine!” With the finish line in sight and the 3 mile marker on my left, I started to sprint with the finish line getting larger in my view and the runner in front of me coming closer and just a few feet from the timing mat, I caught him and jumped in front. A short term goal accomplished. I was so wiped out I could not immediately put my foot on the stool in order for the volunteer to remove my chip. I had to step over to a section of baracade and keep myself from falling for a quick second. After a half a minute I recovered enough to get my chip removed, grab some water and meet some friends at the end of the finish line assembly. Jaime had just finished and Speedy Nick was there already dried off and drinking some water.
With as exhausted as I was how was I ever going to this again in less than 12 hours?
After greeting some friends and coaches, watching some other friends and athletes come across the finish, I headed out to find some water and Gatorade. I noticed some preliminary results were posted, so I walked over in the hopes mine might just be posted and as luck, good or bad, would have it they were. My first split was the swim, and I was pleasantly surprised 7:53…cool. Less than 2 min per 100m…I’ll take that considering my miserable swimming performances leading to this race. Second split was the bike..26:51 averaging 22.3 MPH…Sweet! I never did that before. Finally, a 26.35..5k run. Well, I have run much faster, but not during a triathlon. 8:33 miles per minute…honestly I thought I did better, but I accepted it. More Bricks, more bricks, more bricks.
Overall, 1:06:36. A personal record(PR) since my last Sprint was 1:19 so you would think I would be happy and at first I was, until I looked at my place; 38th with only 67 athletes in my age group. Not even in the top 50 percent. That dropped me from my high pretty fast. There were still runners on the course so maybe there a few more in my group out there where I can at least be in the top half. As I check the results while I write this, it turns out there were I am ranked 39th out of 84 so I made it, just barely but I did make the top half.
The end of the morning consisted of congratulating friends, socializing and grabbing some breakfast at Lucky Dills in downtown St. Pete. I couldn’t have imagined a better morning.
Next up, the two race day continues.