After spending a week in Clermont my Dad and I packed up and headed to Sarasota Thursday before the race. Friday I had the day off of work and was able to drive down to check out the race course. We’d be swimming in a reservoir where they have held major rowing events. The bike and run were around the edge of the water with almost no tree coverage so spectators could watch the whole race unfold.
Saturday morning I was able to sleep in until 7 as the race didn’t begin until 11:30. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel with Patrick and Stopwatch Greg, we packed up and headed down to the race site. After getting my bike inspected and checking in, I hung out in the athlete tent to stay out of the sun as it was really heating up outside.
Just after 11 I setup my gear in transition, did a quick warmup jog and headed to the water for a swim warmup. The water was about 75 degrees so I was happy that it would be a non-wetsuit swim. For the start we would be diving off a long dock and swimming in a counter-clockwise rectangle. There were lines of buoys every 5 meters or so that served as “lane lines” for the rowing races. These lined up with the buoys we’d be swimming around so sighting and swimming straight would be a breeze. After ensuring my cap and goggles were secure for a few starts off the dock it was time to line up for the start.
This week I was number 14 of 21 numbered athletes, although a few were missing in the middle. Instead of lining up in order this week people were picking more random spots so when it was my turn I lined up next to Julie Stupp, one of the strong swimmers I remembered from the past weekend. After everyone was on the dock they quickly called “On your mark” and blared the air horn. I swam arm and arm with Julie 250 meters to the first buoy where we ended up more single file. The next buoy was only 50 meters away; after this turn the three of us in the lead spaced out a bit. I found the set of “lane line” buoys that lined up with the next race buoy and swam hard to hold my position. The girl in front was zig zagging a bit, so I was able to just about catch her at the third buoy. Turning back for the last buoy before shore I was able to pull ahead a bit and was second out of the water.
I quickly removed my cap and goggles running to transition. Once at my spot I threw them in my bin, quickly snapped my helmet on and ran out with my bike to catch the girl in the lead. I was passed quickly but worked to catch up again after the first few turns. Once I caught up I got into my shoes and we went to work catching the girl off the front. Although we were working together we were quickly caught by the chase pack of 5 other girls. I ended up at the back of the pack and often girls would cut me off, not allowing me to rotate through and I don’t blame them with me being very inexperienced. Through transition, per usual, I was yo-yo-ed off the back and had to work hard to catch back up with the pack. The next loop I rotated through a few times but at one point I was left in the lead for an extended period of time so I relaxed the pace, ate my Gu and drank some water while the girls were letting me do the work. Into the third lap I was sprinting to catch the pack, yet again. One girl had gone off the front so instead of stopping at the back of the pack I went straight to the front to work to catch the leader. After pulling for 30 seconds or so I looked back and there was no pack with me, they just let me go. I worked hard another 20 seconds to catch the leader. She took the first pull after I caught up then I went to take a pull, I was up front for an extended period of time yet again. Wondering what was going on I looked back and there she was about 20 meters behind me. Oops. I didn’t realized I had dropped her, I thought she was on my wheel still. With less than a mile to transition I slowed to start getting out of my shoes at which point she caught up to me and commented that I shouldn’t have dropped her, we could have worked together to gain on the group. I quickly said sorry I had no idea I dropped her, then got back to racing.
I sailed into T2 in second with the chase pack right on our heels. Even though I had practiced my mount and dismount quite a bit, after a couple falls in practice my mind never got over that mental hurdle. I came to a screeching stop at the dismount line and barely made it off my bike yet again, a little lost time and something to work on. After racking, the fast runners were passing me right out of transition, I let them go and settled in my pace. There were a couple girls right around my pace so we went back and forth a few times. I wanted to hold my position through the first lap then try to break on the second half of the last lap. I made my move at the turnaround on the last lap. I made a little bit of distance but I could still hear the heavy breathing and heels pounding behind me. I wanted to avoid a sprint finish but I couldn’t, the girl right behind saved enough for a sprint to the line. I ended up finishing in 8th.
While the race was still far from perfect I felt much better about my performance. I’m happy to have been second in the swim and the second athlete coming into T2. My run wasn’t great but it was enough to keep me in the middle of the pack. I have a lot to learn if I decide to pursue more draft legal racing! Thanks again to Gear West for helping set me up with a bike to race! Check out the race results.