Wednesday night after a quick spin Patrick and I worked on taking my bike apart for the trip. This was only the second time I’d be flying with a bike and a first with my new tri bike. The bike packing went fairly smooth although I did have to phone a friend (Jared) at Gear West Bike & Tri to make sure I was taking the bike apart in the most efficient way. I also wanted to validate that those scary creaking noises that sound like the carbon is cracking were normal, which they are.
I arrived in Florida Thursday evening with Patrick and bike in tow. We grabbed some dinner right away at my favorite: Sweet Tomatoes never ending salad bar, after which we headed to Treasure Island on the gulf where we had rented a condo with my parents for the long weekend. We unpacked, built up my bike and got to bed.
Friday Patrick and I went over to check out the race course. I did an easy spin on my bike with a few intervals. It was REALLY windy out, to the point where I was scared to be in aero a lot because it was that hard to control the bike. Also the “bike lane” was about a foot wide and it wasn’t too safe to ride in, uneven ground, glass shards, large puddles possibly hiding potholes etc. I did a lot of riding upright just to be safe and hoped that the wind would die down by Sunday. After my spin we drove the bike course: it was super flat but technical in many areas so it definitely would not serve my strengths. Saturday was low-key; I did a short swim, bike and run warm-up at the race site then hung out for the pro meeting. We went out for an early dinner and I was in bed by 7.
Sunday morning the alarms started going off at 4am. I jumped out of bed to eat breakfast immediately as I like to have plenty of time to digest before the race. I sipped on coffee and water while stretching out before we loaded up the car and headed to St. Petersburg. Leaving the condo it was very windy. I knew the weather could be completely different on the bay so I tried not to worry. Unfortunately, arriving on site it was apparent that it was just as windy on the bay. In the end it’s not a huge deal because we’d all be racing in the same conditions but I wasn’t looking forward to getting tossed around on the bike.
The morning flew by and it was time to lineup on the beach. The men took off just after 6:50, at which point the ladies were able to start wading into the water. I wanted to get a good clear starting position so I made sure to be the first one out to the starting buoys. I claimed my spot next to the far buoy but that didn’t stop everyone from making space between me and the buoy or right in front of me. I ended up a few feet from where I started but it worked out, when the horn blasted I had clear water almost from the start. Alicia Kaye was swimming about five meters to the left of me. We slowly merged together and escaped from the pack of ladies behind us. The water was rough and choppy, even more than I expected. I wanted to break away from Alicia and a few times I thought I did but every 30 seconds or so I’d feel her hands at my feet. I decided to settle the pace until the final buoy. Rounding the last buoy we were heading back to shore and for the first time we were moving more with the current so I took the opportunity to pick up the pace a bit. Nearing the finish Alicia started to move up on my right. There was no way I was going to let her have the fastest swim split after pulling the whole way so I kicked it up a gear and exited the water in first.
Alicia ran past me in T1 but she had to take a few extra seconds to get her swim skin off so I led out of T1. I mounted my bike and was able to get one foot in before we hit a couple blocks of brick road. After the brick ended I was able to get my other foot into my shoe and start chasing Alicia down. Unfortunately there were a few turns to get to the first straight away so I lost a ton of time here but I kept her in my sights as long as I could.
On the first long out and back I was mostly distracted by the male in front of me that kept moving side to side all over the road. Due to the stagger rules in effect I had to continuously keep an eye on what he was doing and move out of the way to ensure I didn’t get a penalty. I finally decided it was time to pass him because he wasn’t gaining on me. I counted out the passing time in my head to make sure I passed him legally. I only stayed in front of him briefly as there was a set of turns ahead where he blazed right back by me. Luckily the next section of road was a bit wider and he chose one position so I didn’t have to move around the road as much.
A set of eight huge speed bumps were up ahead as we looped around a golf course, four of which had about 4 inches between the edge of the speed bump and the grass. I slowed way down for the first one and moved to the right of the speed bump. The wind was also pushing me right so I held on for dear life hoping not to be pushed into the grass. The next bump a few hundred yards later I took closer to full speed. With the wind I clipped the edge of the grass but was able to control myself back onto the road. I decided to go left on the next few bumps so the wind would push me onto the edge of the bump verses the grass and this ended up being a much better plan. The last speed bumps had a small bike lane so they were, thankfully, a bit easier to navigate.
Once onto the last out and back I could see Alicia had already put about 2 minutes into me and Magali Tisseyre was closing in behind me. I tried to hold my position as long as I could but I knew Magali was a strong biker (and runner). I ended up coming into T2 about 30 seconds behind her.
Taking off on the run it was hot, humid and windy but my body felt OK. I settled into the run the first mile and took in water/ice at every opportunity. At the turn around I counted seconds in my head to the next runner; I had about 3:00 on the girl behind me so I knew I was in pretty good shape. I grabbed as much water as possible at each stop to throw on myself and maybe swallow a little. If there was ice I put it down my tri suit and held it in my hands and mouth to stay cool. Before I knew it I was on the home stretch, Dan Hedgecock, my parents and Patrick were cheering me in. I crossed the line in 3rd, happy with my finishing place but slightly disappointed in my effort.
Immediately upon finishing I was told I’d be followed around by a lady and escorted to drug testing. At least this time I knew I could meet my family, hang out and grab my things before I was put in lock up. Drug testing took about a quarter of the time it did last time so I was able to enjoy a bit of the post-race party before Minnesota’s favorite announcer Jerry MacNeil took the stage to hand out awards.
I’m happy to have my second non-draft pro race under my belt but slightly disappointed in my performance. A few things I would have done differently/things to work on:
First, I should have committed to making a break from Alicia sooner on the swim, once we merged I mostly settled in but I think if I would have surged sooner I could have made a break.
Second, I need to improve my technical/handling skills on the bike (we already knew this but, again, it’s important). I have plans to work on this.
Thirdly I was too comfortable on the run. I settled into my run legs for the first mile and just kept plugging away at that pace. I need to make goals to descend each mile or negative split to help push myself. A 10K is supposed to be pretty hard from the start and I’m just not there yet. The run leg, for me, used to be mostly about getting through it. At this point I know I won’t have a problem “getting through it” so I need to get to the next level where I can push hard all the way. I know all these things will take time, practice and patience.
After the race it was nice to relax and enjoy the beach for a couple days with Patrick and my parents.