The day before, check-in was a breeze. Green-eyed Lady was one of many to make that whole process a snap (That's Di - the redhead and G.E.L. to he left) I had an awesome Transition spot - it was easily a 100 yard run from the water exit to my bike (that's my yellow Felt with the wheel covers to the right), but the location made finding my spot a snap. I used TriDummy's race number belt in its first race - thanks TD. The new aero helmet is also on for it's first race.
The only bad thing about the race day setup was getting the timing chip. 4,000 people crammed into the smallest of places - I wish I had gotten a picture - it was pretty comical. But it's done. This time, at least I did not put my suit on backwards! I had plenty of time to warm up prior to my wave - all of the age group men went before Clydesdales, and most of their waves were broken down into 2 or 3 alphabetical groups.
I really felt good up to the first turn of the 3-leg swim course. I knew I needed a good swim, so I went out hard. I ran out into the water where I usually just saunter out. I stayed with the group and was aggressive when I bumped into folks - I kept on swimming, looking for clean water. I know I stayed with the main group through the 1st turn buoy. After that, I noticed less folks around me - the swimmers started pulling away. I couldn't hang. I kept my sighting through this leg consistent at about once every 9 strokes - and I stayed on course. At the second turn, or around 1,000 meters, I started seeing some different color caps - I wasn't worried about the one's from the young clydesdales or even the 50+ AG guys that I had happened to pass (waves went off every 5 minutes) - it was the women that went off 5 min after me that I was trying to stay ahead of.
I rounded the second turn buoy and started in to shore. As I got closer to what I was sighing on, I realized it was a dude on a kayak - I hadn't turned sharply enough! Crap! Not sure how much I added to the course, but after that one episode, I found the end of the swim course and stayed on line pretty much to the end. I came out of the water at 32:08 (that's me in the back, getting ready to mount the stairs - all blue caps!) - a minute or so better than last year and a 1:57 per 100 yd pace - not too bad, but not where I wanted to be. I was 75th out of 90 Clydesdale finishers, and even with some mandatory struggling while taking off my wetsuit, I still got T1 done in 2:09. I had a feeling it was on the slow side, considering my sighting error, and I'd have to make it up on the bike.
There are a bunch of turns in the SA bike course - someone said there were 40. Almost right away the course takes you up hill and into a bit of a head wind, so it takes a little while to get to speed. I probably went out a little too fast, and by mile 10 I had my average speed up to 22mph. That was my ultimate goal - 22mph. I held on to 22 for about 8 more miles - for whatever reason, I cracked. As Roman says, like a walnut. You can see it on the Garmin graph, plain as day. The dotted line is right at 22mph, and after about 19 miles, I never saw it on the speedo again.
This would cost me more than my bike split. I felt the twinge as soon as I dismounted, and then as I was running in my bike shoes through T2 it hit pretty hard. Left Calf Cramp. My old nemesis. I ingested 2 gels and 2 water bottles while on the bike, and I had 3 electrolyte tablets prior to the race and 64 oz of Gatoraid. I thought I had had enough - I should have drank more. I'll also try and pop some e-tabs during the event next time. My bike effort was good enough for a 1:11:21 split and 20.9 mph average speed. I limped out of T2 in 2:17, unsure if I'd even be able to finish!
This is Luke on his way to a blistering 2:31:58 and a 22mph average bike split - 13 minutes faster than last year! You can see one of our special Norwegian Cowbells at the bottom of the picture. More Cowbell!!!
Every time I looked at my Garmin for the first 1.5 - 2 miles it seemed like it read a 12:00 pace. How depressing is that?!?! One Clydesdale after another - all those folks I blew by on the bike - passed by me in those first 2 miles. I saw Excel-man fly by as he was finishing up his 2:32:43 effort (Di got a great shot of him to the right finishing up - look at the air under his feet - man, he's flying! Obviously that's my big self to the left...) and just knew he was having an awesome day. After a while, the pain started to subside and I picked up the pace. I started to catch some of the guys that had passed me. By the 3 mile turnaround, I started to feel pretty good. I saw my buddy and fellow Clyde Rob who swam a sickly fast 23:04 and realized I had a chance to catch him. It took all of 2 more miles! I ran the last mile scared that anyone would be running fast behind me, and finished up the run with a 1:00:51 split, which equates to a 9:48 pace. I ran the first half in about 32:50, so the back was in about 28 even - still not that fast but I was really glad to be able to finish strong and running!
The line for the beer tent and food was longer than I could stand. Instead, I got in the transition line and waited to get my stuff. As I got my things, folks from the TNT waves were still coming in off their bikes - the breeze had picked up then as well as the heat! SA is surely harder for them each year than it is for the rest of us starting earlier. Our beer and margaritas were waiting for us at Dan Marino's, as well as some good grub.
My 2:48:31 was good enough for 39th out of 90 Clydesdale 40-49 finishers. My prediction of needing a 2:36 or better was way wrong - 10th place was taken with 2:32:59 by Trey Starkey, and while my horse Larry Witt ran a huge 2:23:11 - it was only good for 2nd behind Alan West from Orlando who won with a time of 2:15:24 - incredible effort for a Clydesdale.
Edit: For some reason Alan West has been removed from the Clydesdale results, putting Larry in first and everyone else up a spot. Awesome job Larry Witt - I talked to him briefly before the race - humble guy, and he also said that his Gasparilla Marathon time of 3:16 was good enough to qualify for Boston, which he will do next year.
I still PR'd at all 3 disciplines at this distance and overall by 23 minutes. So it was a victory, even if it was not the day for which I had hoped. I saw AWESOME performances by my Tri-Friends Excel-man (his first Oly), Luke (who PR'd from last year's SA by 12:22 that's Luke, his wife Perez, and baby Boo to the right, two of our greatest fans...) and Rob who also did his first Oly distance and finished strong.
My battle with the bulge is still on-going - I weighed in at 245 pre-race, so I had gained a little during my taper. I'll be honest and say that my goal for SA was to weigh 230 lbs - I really only lost about 6 lbs from this time last year. Looks like there is still plenty of work to do - and that's one of the great things about Triathlon!