I have learned so much this year as a result of the ups and downs I have experienced. One thing that stands out is that I truly believe in the phrase “never say never.” After all I dealt with, by late August I was beginning to think I would never do a triathlon during 2013. Fortunately I was wrong! Earlier this month I was able to travel to Venice, Florida and participate in the Revolution 3 Florida Olympic Distance Triathlon. Five other friends of mine also participated, in all two of us did the Oly and four did the 70.3 “Half Rev”.
Venice, Florida is a wonderful location for a triathlon. Located on the Gulf Coast about an hour north of Fort Meyers, the weather was perfect and the people very welcoming. A retirement community, there was an abundance of seniors happily volunteering at the expo and on race day. I really can’t say a bad thing about the location, a very good choice!
Saturday we had to get our bikes set up in transition. Before heading to dinner for pasta and pizza, we stopped and dropped the bikes off. Of all the triathlons I have done, this was by far the most beautiful view for transition.
Race morning went smooth – while I was not able to race earlier this year, I did go to Virginia to support my friends racing Rev3 Williamsburg. I noticed my friends were pretty calm and laid back race morning. Sure there were some race jitters, but they did not allow themselves to be overwhelmed with anxiety. I remembered this and learned from them. Also being with the same group in Florida helped keep me calm!
The Swim. The water was 76 degrees and wet suit legal for the age groupers. I decided to wear a short john wet suit instead of a full. It is easier to get off and with the warm water I didn’t need the full suit to keep me warm. Not only was the water warm, it was calm! My wave was the very last wave to go, so I had plenty of time to warm up and also watch my friends go off in their waves. Going into the race I was hoping to swim the 1,500 meters in 32 minutes. My swim felt good – I did not feel anxious at all and I was happy to see I was passing a few people that went off in the wave before me. I exited the water and hit lap on my watch as I crossed the time pad, 32:47, not too far off. Out of 66 people in my wave, I was 23rd out of the water – in my age group I was 5th out of 12. All of the work I have put into swimming over the past two years has paid off!
Transition One. After exiting the water, we had a decent jog to get into transition. I made it to my bike fine, got my wet suit off quickly, took a gel and a puff of my inhaler, and with shoes and helmet on I jogged my bike out of transition. For those reading who are not familiar with the rules of triathlon, there are two that came into play at this point for me. First – a triathlete can not mount the bike until out of transition and past a specific marked line. Second – any assistance taken by a triathlete can result in a penalty or disqualification. Keeping these two rules in mind, I hit the lap button on my watch as I exited transition (4:41 including the jog from the shore into transition) to officially start my bike time and continued to jog my bike to the mount line. My Garmin 910XT has several screens and the one that came up was not the one I wanted to have while I rode. As I jogged my bike I changed screens on my watch and then I felt my left foot slip out from under me. I fell right on my bum – hard. Amazingly my bike did not fall. Several volunteers and medics came running to me. As I jumped up I was yelling “don’t help me!” I didn’t want a penalty and knew I could get up. Without touching me, one medic wanted to make sure I was okay. She asked me my name, if I knew where I was, where I am from, what I am doing, etc… Finally I said “I fell on my ass, not my head. Can I get to the mount line?” She chuckled and walked with me to the mount like. I was a little sore, but I knew I could finish.
The Bike. As I mounted the bike and rode off, I heard a big cheer from the crowd. I waved and smiled to myself – sympathy cheers for a bum crash. My goal for the bike was to maintain 17 miles per hour. I knew I did not have the strength nor training in to go faster. The course was flat with some wind in places. My first mile was 4:45 thanks to my little fall, but after that I was on a roll. Literally. The volunteers and police along the course were fantastic. My favorite “cheerleader” was an elderly man banging a metal spoon and a loaf pan. Loved it. The actual distance was long, the race organizers acknowledged it. Rather than a true 40 kilometer course (24.85 miles) it was 25.6 miles long. I entered transition, lapping my watch (and stayed vertical) with 1:30:18 on my watch – 17.01 miles per hour.
Transition Two. It was much smoother getting in and through transition two! No troubles, I put my bike in the rack, took off my helmet, changed shoes, put my visor on and grabbed my water bottle and a gel. The only thing I regret not doing was grabbing my inhaler too. It was humid and I paid for it on the run. I headed out of transition and hit lap (again staying vertical) with a T2 time of 2:27.
The Run. The sun came out and the wind died down. It was hot and humid! Again, I did not know what to expect with my times since I had a hard time this summer and fall. I would have loved to maintain a pace of 11:30 per mile. A little cramping and difficulty breathing slowed my pace. It didn’t matter – I thought as I ran – “I am doing this! A triathlon in the toughest year I have ever had health wise. Unbelievable!” It was easy to smile, my friends were on the course and I saw them on the run as I did one loop and they did two. I crossed the finish line with a final 10K time of 1:16:28 (12:18 minute miles, yikes!) and an overall time of 3:26:40. I later realized that this time was 46 seconds shy of a personal record – crazy! Technically I could say it was a PR – if the course was a true 40K I would have been 2 minutes faster. It doesn’t matter what the clock read – I finished a race I didn’t think I was going to even start.
That evening my friends and I celebrated one friend’s birthday and the finish of a great race. I truly have much to celebrate. It has been a challenging year, but the good far out weighs the bad. The best part? Sharing the experience with friends. Come on, who wouldn’t have fun with this group of people?
Seize the day, that I did. And there are more to come!