It was so good to get back to racing again. Coming off a 2nd place at Challenge Daytona in December, I’ve been putting in a solid block of training. I came into the race wanting to win, but was able to come away with 3rd overall. Read more about my day below! Thanks for following along.
Cliff Notes Version: I had a decent swim, but came out 3 minutes back of the lead. My 2nd fastest bike split on the day put me into striking distance (4th) starting the run. After a tough start to the run, I battled my way into 3rd, with the 2nd fastest run split on the day. Finished 3rd overall a hair under 3:50 an about 2:40 behind 1st
FULL RACE REPORT
PRE-RACE: I set about 5 different alarms the night before, just to make sure I woke up since daylight savings happened around 2am. Breakfast consisted of 1.5 bagels with Nutella, smoothie and a banana. I got to the track around 6am (race start at 7:30am). I got my bike set up which included pumping up tires, adding nutrition bottles, calibrating power meter and putting my shoes on my pedals.
The day before the race, we found out that there would be no pre-race swim warm-up due to day light savings time (no enough light). This meant that I would have to do a little extra dryland warm up before starting the race. I went for a 15 minute jog, adding in some dynamic work and a few builds. I finished setting up my transition area and then did some stretch cord exercises to get the swim muscles moving. Just after 7am, I headed down to the water.
SWIM: The swim was a self-seeded rolling start. Swimmers were sent off 2 at a time, about 5 secs apart. I got as close to the front as I could, but started about 1 min back of the first swimmer. The course was a 2-loop, 1 mile lake swim inside the Homestead Speedway. The water was perfect, clear and flat.
As I entered the water for the clockwise swim, I managed to cut my foot on some coral. The edges of the lake were very shallow with a quick drop-off. I hadn’t swam open water since Challenge Daytona (and previous to that maybe August 2020), so it definitely took a little bit to get into a rhythm. There’s no doubt I’ve been putting in the swim mileage as of late and I wanted it to show on race day. After lap 1, I was feeling pretty good about where I was at, but we started coming up on some swimmers who were still on lap 1. I made a sighting error which cost be a little bit of time on the 2nd lap, but came out of the water in 23:18, which was 16th overall and about 3 minutes behind the leaders.
T1: Even though the swim was short (usually 1.2 miles, but only 1 mile this race), the transition made up for it. We had to make our way out of the lake and run across the road course, past the expo area and into transition. I peeled my wetsuit down to my hips and ran a good pace into T1, passing about 3-4 guys.
Transition was a first-come, first serve set up for racking, so those who racked their bikes early the day previous had a good location (personally not a fan of this). I stripped my wetsuit off the rest of the way, threw on my helmet, grabbed my bike and I was off. T1 time was 1:58, which was the 3rd fastest of the top finishers.
BIKE: The bike took us onto the Homestead Speedway for half a lap before exiting onto the nearby service road. There was a decent amount of bike traffic in the first few miles as I got settled in. It became obvious early that drafting would be an issue. Less than 5 miles in, I came up on a group of 4 athletes (all wearing the same kit), biking in a line, maybe 2-3 meters apart (not legal). If I see drafting, I’m not one to let it go without voicing my thoughts. I let them know they were in the wrong which didn’t seem to have any effect. Actually one of them hopped on my wheel (and would stay there for most the race).
After getting outside of town, we turned left onto a narrow road where we would spend the next 40+ miles doing an out-n-back twice. I was nervous about this section because the road was pretty narrow and there would be bike traffic going both ways. My strategy on the bike was to push a bit harder than I did at Challenge Daytona. Also, I tested out riding at a lower cadence of 80-90rpm (vs my usual of 100rpms).
I made a few passes here and there and made my way into the top 6 or 7. At the turn around points you could see the riders ahead of you which was beneficial. It was hard to tell when I was biking up to 30 mph, but the guys up front sure looked pretty close together. Spectators said there were a lot of drafting issues and if you look at time/splits of the top riders, they are eerily close together. Oh well, I just kept my head down and focused on my power and cadence.
On the last 20 miles I looked over my shoulder and saw a train of about 5-6 guys behind me. I’d like to think most of them were riding fairly. One guy came around me and I decided to let him break the wind for awhile. At the legal distance for age group racing, you can still get a decent (legal) draft from someone ahead of you. At this point of the race, I figured I could put in a surge and most of these guys would still be right on my tail. I decided to reduce the power a touch and conserve my energy for the run.
At the last turn around, I came up on some lapped traffic. One rider decided to stop his bike before making his u-turn. This forced me off the road and into the gravel (albeit in aero position). I sat up and was able to stay upright on the bike and get back on the road. A few guys rode past and made sure I was okay – I was just thankful not to have a tire puncture.
I yo-yo’d back to transition with a few riders the last 8 miles. We made it back to the track and I clocked with a 2:05:04 bike split (55.5 miles on the Garmin) which was good enough for 2nd fastest on the day. Coming off the bike I put myself into 4th position, only 2:08 back of the leaders.
T2: I did a flying dismount into T2 and racked my bike. My transitions were a little rusty not having raced very much in the last 2 years. I threw on my socks, shoes and then grabbed my race belt, hat and sun glasses. I decided to carry a hand held water bottle due to the heat and uncertainty of the aid station locations.
RUN: The sun was out in full force by the time we got onto the run. My goal heading into the race was to run consistent and try to stick around a 5:45 min/mile pace. Let’s just say that didn’t go as planned. Coming out of T2, my legs felt heavy. I biked a lot harder than I’ve ever done before so I knew this might be expected. The first mile out of the gate was 5:47.
I wasn’t sure how far ahead the leaders were of me at this point, but the negative thoughts creeped into my head early. When the legs start to hurt or the numbers on your watch don’t line up with your goals, these negative thoughts can certainly break your race. At this point I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Every aid station I would cool myself down with a bottle of water and take gels/bananas as needed. By the half way point I knew I was only about 2 minutes back of the top guys and one of them was already walking. This gave me the motivation to keep going.
My pace at this point had settled into a 6:05-6:10 min/mile pace. There was an out and back section where I was able to get a few glimpses of the leaders. I made the pass for 3rd around the 10 mile mark. I could see 2nd place up the road, about 2 minutes ahead. I knew a lot can happen in the last 3 miles so I did my best to just keep grinding. Miles 8-12 I ran 5:59, 6:01, 6:03, 6:02 and 6:08.
As I made my way towards the finish line I could hear the announcers welcome the 1st and 2nd place finishers. I did my best to keep my pace in order to hold on to 3rd place, coming across the line about 2:40 back of the winner. Run time was 1:17:42, which was good enough for the 2nd fastest run split on the day.
OVERALL: 3:49:17 (course was bit short of a 70.3, but hey I’ll take it)
To be honest, I was really bummed to finish 3rd. My goal entering any race is to win and I felt that I had the fitness to do it. After taking some time to evaluate my effort and look back at the race, I’ve eased up on myself. I had the 2nd fastest bike and run splits on the day. I lost 3 minutes to the top 2 guys on the swim, so I was just never able to see the front of the race. Both the guys who finished ahead of me are great athletes and at the end of the day I have much bigger (and longer) fish to fry!
UP NEXT: IRONMAN Tulsa on May 23rd