1/2 IM distance. I had a big day planned, this is a run through of what long-course tri prep entails. I’ve done this race before, so I know the routine. As my fourth 1/2IM, I expect to not leave everything out on the bike course so I can run well. It could be warm like last year, even though the week prior to the race has been all wind and rain.
I setup everything in a very crowded rack. Ideally the racks should be expanded for this race, there is plenty of lawn space. The delay to have “runners” get each athlete their chip annoyed some. I didn’t go for that, I went to transition with my wristband first, setup everything, then came out for body marking and the ankle chip. Lanae and Lisa were in the same rack as I was, so I spoke with them as we got prepared. I wore the headlamp, very good to have one of those in your bag at the races!
I waited too long for one visit to the porta potty, then walked to the dock for a warmup swim. It was close to 6am, I was in the first all-male wave, so I had to be brief. I hopped in the water same as last year, north of the dock. I swam for less than 5 minutes. When I came back on the dock, I saw Suzanne, she asked me how the water was, I said very good temp for swimming. She got in, swam out and back and reported there was a strong current. I felt no such current when I swam so I didn’t comment back. My wave was first, so I hopped in after the National Anthem and swam towards the two buoys that marked the start. A countdown from 20 and the air horn set us on our way. I swam on the inside of the “triangle” course, not looking to give any distance back to the course. I didn’t feel as if I swam against a current, one that was pouring the tide northward as I swam in a southeast direction. I checked the bright green markers a few times and also took a few hits from others that were not swimming straight. I kept shooting for a small football sized orange buoy that was between the large and far away triangle. It wasn’t getting closer fast enough I saw. I thought maybe I was drifting out into the intracoastal, which is what happened. Some pink (girls) caps appeared among the many blue caps that were all churning through their strokes, but not getting too far. By the time I made it to the same orange marker, the large orange triangle had been moved closer to us. No way I had done all that progress as fast as I was moving – which was woefully slow! I did think how could I be out here for what was going to take me maybe 50 minutes to an hour. Could I fall victim to quitting and not finishing the swim? I was positive I was all together mentally and physically, but this was taking forever to get to the furthest buoy. Once I finally spun around it, I swam rapidly with the current directly north. I made great progress, but had to avoid a boat and a metal chain anchor line. I stopped and touched the rough chain and saw Lisa Smith there – we asked a lifeguard where to go and he directed us on the west side of the boat. The next buoy was also now closer than I tought, I bumped with a few more swimmers and made it around that rope, too. I could feel the significant difference as I turned 120 degrees back into the current’s flow. I was swimming forward, but all the time being also pushed west by a strong wave of water. As my progress was slow, I saw a few lifeguards on surfboards and a coast guard guy in a life vest on a small boat directing the swimmers ahead of me to turn towards the docks. I wasn’t yet at the race start dock, they said the race was being altered, that we could exit off any dock and proceed to transition. I followed a few ahead of me that went to the “E” dock. This holds some really impressive large white boats. I didn’t see ladders at the end of the dock like at Sailfish Marina, so I swam towards the transom of a big boat and followed a guy on the shelf then helped two other men and one lady onto the same boat. I watched a guy delicately tippie-toe around the side of the boat to get near a place he could jump to the dock. I went up four stairs and led the rest to the gangway thet easily put us on the dock. Then we ran on a zig-zag concrete dock to a fence that was closed. People on the other side told us to use the button to get out, some tried that but it didn’t work. I followed a guy who climbed over the fence and we ran to transition through the regular entrance on the south side of the grassy area.
Transition? I hustled in, but not too many bikes had left yet, a new sight for me, especially in a race with a long swim. I saw Lanae waiting near the bikes, she explained she was done because she didn’t do the whole swim, my first hint the currents goofed up more than just the men’s start. I left pedalling onto Banyan street, bike completely dry thanks to covering it all night, and headed west. My plan was to stay near 23 mph with the wind, not taxing my legs and then try to keep 19 mph in the direct headwind that was predicted coming back to WPB. This should have kept me at an average of 21 mph if I could keep it going all the way. I rode well heading to the long straightaway of Southern Blvd., then settled into a good pace. I didn’t feel a tailwind pushing me. I felt uncomfortable in my seat – not good at mile 1-15 of a 56 mile ride. I saw Scott D’Angelo go by, then Mark Cudak. Following them, I settled into a good cadence and watched the familiar roads and landmarks whiz by. The hills of Military Trail, Haverhill and Jog. The Fairgrounds complex. SR-7 and the Royal Palm Beach businesses. I knew Lion Country Safari was way out there, but it’s further on a bike. That ride a straight line with the wind philosophy was really good for some who zipped by in full peloton mode. Lanae and Pete and others I knew went right past me. I saw one pack ride by and I was at 23.5 mph. I knew some of them would be broken up by the motorcycle patrols. I was anxious to see how many people I could catch riding solo into the wind. I saw the water stop in a road siding, but didn’t chose to take any. The turn around had no timing mat or officials from the race taking numbers… meaning folks could have spun around earlier and never been penalized. They were certainly drafting, what else? Riding back into the breeze I felt good, looking to keeep the speed near 20 all the way. Gina Donato and two other guys passed me in that 20+ mile stretch, but I passed many more myself. The sky was on and off sun, I knew I was getting warmer but the wind from the east kept me cool.
I made a good transition, almost leaving the box without the small plastic container of pickle juice solution I made. Knowing it was going to be warm, I had to prepare for the possible cramping. I left the transition running 7:25-7:30 miles. I knew I had to slow down to save energy for later when it became warmer, but not yet. My first two and a half miles were very strong, just as I’d practiced after each ride. John was riding around near me on his bike having slept ’til he woke up and drove downtown himself. I made it to the turn around and saw Pete Willis running at me. I figured I had 10 miles to make up 2-3 minutes to catch him, I should be able to do that. Coming back up I saw more people I knew, some really moving well. I didn’t take into account that some of them were relay runners. I had slowed to a 7:45-8 min pace which was better planning. Getting near the Okeechobee bridge tunnel, I started to feel full of fluid. Mike legs and energy seemed ok with an hour to go, but why I started fading off the 8 min/mile pace I attribute to some weird stomach feelings. I was now getting sunburned but with no recourse. I ran past the finish and the spectators which feels good. Running up to the northern tunraround I expected to see Pete and Jen Vogel again. No Pete, but a speedy Jen. Coming back down from the turnaround, I saw Pete running with another guy – I was now ahead of him. He said after the race he went to the porta potty near the start line. Now I had to stay aware enough to keep one age grouper behind me. Lap #2 wasn’t going to be as fast, but my swishing of fluids in my stomach was getting worse. I walked through the water stops. Seriously next year, I will know every crack on the concrete of this run course. I took ice, cold sponges down my shirt, water and kept running. My pace was now 8:40-8:55. Slowing. It was getting warmer, I know the breeze off the water helped me stay cool. At the south turnaround, no Pete ahead of me or coming at me. I saw Lisa Reiss, Suzanne, T.L., Lisa Smith, Julie Bishop, all got a greating and a smile. coming back north I walked through more aid stops, did some self serve ice and kept going.
I stretched out under the Okeechobee tunnel and ran for Flagler and the hints of shade from the tall palm trees. I realized I wasn’t going to finish with a good run, I had already wasted time slowing to get to the 10 mile marker. In four attempts at 1/2 Im distance, the run has kept me from great sub 5 hr times. I have to plan to practice long stretched out runs after cycling. A must before Zurich. I greeted the spectators and ran north again, slowing even more on the sidewalk shade made by the yacht club. I saw Pete again heading south towards the finish area – no idea how he passed me and tapped me for 5 minutes overall. My best answer is to continue to improve. I made the turn (surprisingly no timing mats) and headed for the 1 mile run back to the finish. Coming in to the chute, Robert Anderson called me in, spoke about UFG, spoke about my being at Boston Marathon this year, and April Flynn also chimed in with her own cheers on the microphone. I was so thirsty for the very cold water being given out. I took some and went to a shady grassy area on Flagler and spoke with Erica and John as I coaught my breath. I went for an IV with April to speed the recovery process. No distinct pains or problems other than the sun on my arms and the chafing burns under my arms. The area behind my right knee flared up on Sunday, but Saturday was fine.
I returned for the afterparty which was way better than last year. I met Troy’s family, posed for pics with the Rebacks, buzzed around chatting and laughing for two hours, then I went home to sleep. My plan was to ride solo at 6:30 for 50 miles as a follow up and recap in my own head. Early sleep would help that cause. John and I watched NHL playoffs and I changed my race wheels to spoked wheels before packing up for the morning ride. The race was a good test. I was on the course for the time I thought it might take. Swimming was approx 35 min, biking at 21 mph made for a 2:38:xx split, and running took 1:52 for the half marathon. I have to get that on track. Nutrition and running should be easy to sharpen.