So I signed up for these races along time ago, and back then I thought it would be a smart idea to do both – I guess to prove how tough I am? Who knows. I’ve had a lot of big takeaways through ~6 months of being a triathlete, and I’m happy to share them with you:
I originally posted this on Slowtwitch, but I’ve added what memories I have from a race that was 3 months ago.
Leading up to the race: I had driven from Philadelphia, PA to Wellington, Fl by myself on the Tuesday & Wednesday of that week prior. My car was loaded with two bikes, one single w/ oars, computers, clothes, and all kinds of other things necessary for my 4 week re-location.
After getting settled in our condo in Wellington for a couple of days, I packed up Friday afternoon and drove across the state on a road I believe to be called “Aligator Alley.” Unfortunately, I didn’t see any.
I arrived in Naples and went to the course to get checked in, get my bearings, and listen to the RD talk. They had a good spread of food, so I enjoyed some pasta and a brownie (or two) while listening to the speaker. My only memory, both now, and at the time, was a mention of a small change to the bike course, but that is was mostly a straightaway out and back, with one turn. Okay, cool. Crank city bitch. I then headed to my girlfriend’s aunt & uncle’s house, who lived nearby and were kind enough to host me for the night. I hung out with them briefly and then passed out in order to get enough sleep for my early wakeup.
The following day I got down to the course, got my transition area setup, and went down to the water to splash around and get a bit of a warmup in. At around 15′ to start time (7a?), we were all called down to the beach.
Swim: After everyone had gotten down to the water, and were starting to make there way into a mass start pack, those racing the sprint course were called about 1/2 way up the beach for some last minute words, some standing around, a prayer…. and then GO! When the race director started it, I didn’t even have my wetsuit zipped up all the way, so to say it caught me off guard would be a understatement. I remember thinking to myself, “don’t let this panic you or freak you out, everything is fine.” I threw my goggles in, lept into the water, and SUCKED. Despite some coaching from Beverly Peterson, I did not have a strong swim. A lot of it was due to the ocean swim as opposed to a pool or even lake, while a good portion was due to general inexperience and lack of skill. Halfway through, I also realized that my watch hadn’t started when I hit it. After exiting the water and running up the beach, there was a 100 yard dash to the T1/T2 area.
Swim time: 15:34.
Bike: What would normally be a strength for me, on this day, only further hurt my time. I got on my bike and started pounding to make up some of my lost time from the swim. I passed several people quickly, and after getting out on to the main road continued passing. This was a 4 lane highway (2 in each direction), with the right lane closed off and the shoulder also available for bikers. At least, thats how I remember it. Traffic wasn’t a huge problem for me but it was pretty early as well, ~7:30a. At a major intersection, the cops there routed the two bikers in front of me to turn right. Okay, then, followed them and passed them. Pound pound pound, sitting pretty comfortable in the 25mph range. After a couple more minutes I had no one in front of me and I figured I had passed all the slow bikers and was gonna see the fast guys soon. I knew it was an out and back, so after a few more minutes I got worried that I wasn’t seeing anyone coming back at me on the other side of the road. I finally got to a major intersection with no cops directing traffic and realized I had gone off course. Turned around and back tracked, and saw probably 4 other bikers that had done the same thing as me – shouted to them to turn around. Got back to the main road and saw that I had in fact been put off course. Had some words with the cop as I passed him, and then started cranking some more and spilling some choice language out about the extra 4.2 miles I had just biked. While thats normally not a big deal, 4.2 miles is an extra 25% of a 12.4 bike course. I reached the turnaround and started flying back down on the south side of the highway. On the way back, I was held at another traffic light for over 1 minute as the cops directed traffic. Several (~10) bikers were also held there. One complained and the cop started yelling at him and threatened to have him DQ’d. As soon as we could go, I got to the front of the pack, only to have this happen about 2′ later, but only for 20″ or so. Lots of cursing on that ride back. I made it back into T1/T2 very pissed off, and at this point, very flustered.
Bike time: 39:09. Bike distance: 16.6 mi. Avg speed: 25.53. So at that pace, I should have covered the 12.4 mi course in just over 29.’
Run: After racking my bike and slipping on my sneakers and hat, I headed out of T2 for the 5k run. There was little to remember at this point, or even really recap on, since today was going to go down as a “learning experience.” I do remember that as I ran out of T2, there was a switchback, and then another one, but this one was connected by a longer straightaway. I didn’t have anyone in front of me to follow, and at this point steam was coming out of my head, and as such, I ran past the cop that didn’t direct me to turn right. After I ran ~10 steps past him, I turned back and saw someone behind me going on the right course. I threw my water bottle at the ground in anger and re-directed. The course itself was a run along a suburbia road, with a scenic (?) view of all the beachside condos. Cars were going slowly, but there weren’t any cones or anything warning them of the race, I think these mostly retirees were wondering what all these weirdos were doing running around in spandex so early in the morning. I got to the turnaround point, which had the only fluid center, and headed home. I was able to pick up my pace a little bit in the last mile, but it certainly wasn’t a spectacular race by any means.
Run time: 23:21
Total time: 1:24:05. AG: “First” (every age was its own category, and I may have been the only 24 year old racing). Overall: 44th. Had I had not fucked up the bike, I would have been 1:14, and that would have put me 10th.
Observations and thoughts: despite the crappy performance by yours truly, I really enjoyed the race. It solidified that I want to keep doing this, and that I can do okay at it if I work hard enough. It gave me more motivation to work hard at the swim, since there is a lot of time that I could easily shave off that. My T1 & T2 times both leave something to be desired, as does my run. So the good news is all I have to do is start dedicating myself to actually training for these races, rather than just winging it. I learned a valuable lesson on knowing the course and paying more attention to course changes, but I would have rather had it happen at a local Sprint race than a 70.3 race. The RD was nice, and ultimately offered to comp another race entry for this year as a sign of good will. So I will race another HITS race again, in Cooperstown, in September.