Racing the Gulf Coast 70.3 was a last minute idea. Nick and I flew down for some Florida sunshine. I was finally feeling healthy and very excited about the ocean swim which favors me being a former surfer and ocean lover This helped me a flat fast course that would set me up well for a sub 5 half iron. It was also the site of my first Ironman back in 2009…so I had good memories about the venue. Positive vibes always help a race go well.
A Late Start
Race morning, we discovered that the swim was cancelled. Worse, the start would be a time trial start based on bib numbers. Normally, I’d be excited about that since I typically have to hunt down the faster swimmers on the bike and I would have enjoyed racing head to head at the front of the race with an All World or Age Group bib number. However, due to my late sign up, I had one of the last bib numbers and would be starting well over an hour, possibly 2 hours after the competition. I was worried about the heat in the late day and about the extreme congestion on the course. A lot of participators lately tend to be blocking or riding a few abreast and/or close to the yellow line in races. It is dangerous to ride so close to the yellow line for themselves and those around them both in races and in training. That congestion from coming from the back of mixed ability waves generally leads me to underperform when I am in later waves as I brake to avoid the often oblivious blockers and slow enough to have energy and breath to yell “on your left!” It is so dangerous to ride in the middle of the road and it is illegal too so I don’t “get” the risky behavior! Pay attention and always be aware on the road both in and out of races!
Anyway, my body marker volunteer was amazing and she gave me a giant hug, tracked me all day and found me on Facebook later to say congrats! Things like that make me love this sport even more! I ran into my friend from a tri camp I did earlier in the year in Tuscon and he was awesome and collected. He was in the same boat as me with a late bib number. That calmed my nerves!
Nick was amazing for support. He acknowledged my reality check and the obvious disadvantages. Then, we plotted how I would make the most of it. I’d be dealing with a congested course and with heat. We talked about what I could control and he told me about how sometimes Ayrton Senna, the Formula 1 driver would have to start from the back. It is a disadvantage for sure but still very possible to conquer the adversity handed out on the day and to compete.
I always say it isn’t about having no adversity on race day. It is about who handles the challenges of their race day the best.
I donned my super fun purple heart sunglasses reminding me to find joy and do what I love. I love to race and to face challenges. I committed to give it my all and not let the disadvantage and missing out on the awesome fast, not at all congested, less dangerous, cooler, less windy, unblocked (whine, whine, whine) racing going on at the front with AWA and my own AG earlier in the day.
There were a couple other women in my predicament. We were the last handful of females and waited together by our rack spots. We bonded and took walks and vented about our nutrition plans being messed up and how our age group competition would be nearly done with the bike by the time we started the race. I met some very cool ladies so that was the silver lining. We had to wait and wait and wait…but most of the girls around me were incredibly sweet and fun to get to know! We were making the best of it together. As the sun began to cook us we finally had our “Go time!” We went up and over the pedestrian bridge and out on to the course.
The bike was flat and fast and I really didn’t have to deal with as much congestion as I had nervously anticipated. I tried to keep two of the girls I met in my sights from the get-go but realized that with the heat of the day that was unwise for me about 10 miles in. I did not want to fade. I wanted to build strong through the day so I had to “race my own race.” I did. It was hot and lonely though! I nailed a PR bike split despite crazy cross winds. It is a reflection of my higher FTP this year, better bike fit position for me and of course I did not have to swim first!
I saw my friend, Katie finishing up her last lap as I was just getting onto the run. She was working hard and looking strong despite a nagging foot issue. I was so proud of her and inspired. Also, being on the run course made me happy as I love the ocean and beach towns so that helped me thrive. It was windy and I tried to cluster in with a group but they were not my pace. One guy latched onto me and we ran together but did not talk to one another. I was so hot! The run was tough but I was pushing and watching my HR. I gave it all I could muster and brought it home hard in the final stretch dropping a few athletes on the climb and descent offered by the pedestrian bridge. OK, OK….most of the folks I passed were probably completers versus competers at that point in the day but nevertheless I was in race mode!
It was a great race! I was nowhere near the competition during my race. I was working with temps significantly hotter and winds significantly stronger than my competitors who had started 1 to 2 hours ahead of me. Nevertheless, I was able to overcome all of that and race to a podium finish! I do think had there been a swim, I finally would have gone sub 5 even with the heat, but alas, that was not in the cards for this time.
The awards were at the side of a pool with snack bars and coffee shops around! I ate ice cream for recovery celebration at awards! Yes, I did that. The other ladies on the 35-39 Female Podium were super nice! I’ve seen become FB pals with a few. With the removal of a swim, a few gals that had never made it to the podium before in other age grounds around me were so teary eyed and happy that I myself was getting as teary at the poolside, ocean view awards as I would at a wedding!
I finally went sub 5 in a half on this day. OK…FINE…with out a swim it does not count, haha! Nevertheless, I do believe it would have happened on this course had there been a good swim at the front! I’ll keep after it. I just need to shave 5 minutes off my half PR and race a fast course with good conditions to make it happen. My bike power is higher than before and fitness is finally coming back post- flu. Onwards & Upwards!