Sommer Sports hosted the second race in the Central Florida Sprint Triathlon Series on July 9. What a difference a few weeks can make in terms of race organization. As someone who has worked in the race event world for a few years now, I always have to remind myself to take my job hat off and just be an athlete when I’m competing. I didn’t go into it in my recap, but the first race in this series, while a great small town, local race, was fairly unorganized. Not all the caps were printed with the event organization on them, the t-shirts hadn’t arrived for Friday’s packet pick-up, which was a nightmare in its own right, the run course was very confusing in terms of what side of the trail to run on and the timing system was being wonky and it took over 48 hours to get official results. I realize that some of those things are out of the control of the race organization, I’ve been there, but that’s when you put a smile on your face, use good communication and let your athletes think everything is just fine!
This time around I braced myself for the same thing and holy cow, what a difference! Picking up my race packet on Friday (they also offer morning of pick-up, but I always like to get mine early and make sure there are no issues) I walked into the building where all the volunteers were wearing race shirts (something that was lacking last time) and was immediately greeted by someone at a table checking photo ID’s and USA Triathlon cards. I was then sent to the back tables with my race number to pick up my packet. The two older gentlemen volunteering at that table were just the sweetest! They made sure I had everything I needed, asked if I had any questions and pointed me towards the table set up to check my timing chip, again, something lacking (or at least not pointed out to me) last time. I was in and out in under 5 minutes with everything in hand and set to race on Saturday morning!
I set three goals again for myself…
- Under 6:00 for the swim
- Bike the same speed/time
- Sub 8:30 pace/don’t let any women pass me
Saturday morning dawned bring and early and after getting my numbers on, racking my bike and setting everything up I headed out for a quick warm-up swim before the race.
SWIM: .25 MILES/5:48
After my open water swim the week before I was feeling much more relaxed about swimming with gators this time around. In fact there wasn’t a single bit of panicky fear…and no gators to be seen! When the horn went off I took off and got out ahead of the group as fast I could. When I hit the first buoy I settled in, found my pace and focused on a good stroke. The water was grossly hot. The race organizers mentioned after the fact that it was 91*. Even a week ago it still felt comfortable. That’s a pretty good indication of just hot it’s been getting down here in Florida. Just before I rounded the second buoy, I hit the first guys that I was catching in the wave prior. I made a point of sighting more often than not, knowing I’d be coming up on more to avoid being kicked and also to avoid running anyone over. When I hit the third buoy it was a straight shot to the finish.
When I hit the fourth and final buoy I picked up my kick and started planning when I would stop swimming and start running. I miss timed it a bit and it was still too deep, but a short time later I was running out of the water and into transition. I was the first woman overall for the swim and although faster than my first tri, I have no doubt I can be faster still.
TRANSITION 1: 2:23
This felt like the longest run ever to my bike! It was a different set up than the first time and definitely a bit longer. I am happy to report though that my heart rate was not sky-high this time coming out of the swim! I racked my bike and set my gear up correctly this time as well setting up for a smooth transition. Now I just need to work on speed!
BIKE: 10.4 MILES/39:55 (15.6 mph)
Oh the bike. This continues to be my weakest link partly due to the fact that it’s the newest discipline for me, but also the one I’ve spent the least amount of time working on. Biking puts your hip in a flexed position, which has been really hard for me post FAI surgery and my coach has been cautious of it. This is a big reason I’m on a road bike with no aero bars. I’m also still learning all the ins and outs of biking, like I probably should have put some more air in my tires before the race. Oops! However, hopefully I can start putting more time in on the bike and see some improvements going forward! That’s one of the things I love about sport, there is always room for improvement!
Thankfully this time there were no issues out of transition and into the first hill. I settled in nicely and felt I could at least pull off the same as last time. The first girls caught me just shy of 1.5 miles, but I stayed in my own race and kept trying to push myself. Pushing myself on the bike is something very new to me still. The first 5 miles were a breeze and I was feeling strong. The second 5 miles is when you really hit the rolling hills. And there are some BIG hills! While I felt really strong last time on those hills, I died this time and all the time spent on the trainer for the safety of my hip definitely showed. Despite how much I was dying it was fun to hear everyone encouraging each other out there on the course and hearing all the comments on my kit. One girl in particular that passed me (I caught her on the run) commented how much she loved my kit and figured it had to be why I had such a fast swim :) In the hopes of feeling stronger on my run this time around I also took in a little nutrition on the bike. I do believe it helped the run, but I need to get better at eating while on the bike. Despite the brutal bike, and it was brutal as reflected in my time, I nailed my dismount (is that the correct term or am I still thinking like a gymnast after watching Olympic Trials?) getting my feet out of my shoes and was into transition!
TRANSITION 2: 1:30
Knowing the blisters I ended up with last time during the run, I did the best I could to dry my feet before sliding them into my shoes. Spoiler: I still ended up with blisters. I grabbed my visor and race belt and was off!
RUN: 3.1 MILES/26:14 (8:28 pace)
For the run I actually set two goals for myself. One to help my pace along a bit and a second to keep my head in the game and work on feeling comfortable being uncomfortable. By this time it was feeling like 100+ degrees with the 80% humidity and the slight cloud coverage we had during the bike was gone. I made a point of doing my fast 1,600m repeats the week prior on this out and back course so that I could remember how to dig deep during different parts of the race when it would start to hurt and it definitely seemed to help. Although I only sipped a little water at each water stop, I dumped the cup over my back every time which I definitely think helped combat the heat. I settled in to my pace and literally trained my eyes on the back of the runners in front of me. I’ve been working on my run form a bit as well and so with that as a focus I started catching the women one by one. The middle mile was brutal. With no shade and no water stop, it definitely became about the mental part of this race. This is an area, that although getting better, I can continue to work on. Again, the cheering and support on the course amongst athletes was incredible. It was brutally hot out there and everyone was having a great time!
This is the one area I take issue with the course. For some reason they have us running on the left hand side of the trail. With no dividers it’s very unnatural for people and so at the turn arounds, particularly for the run 5K and super sprint tri that are also going on, there is a lot of confusion and moving back and forth amongst runners. The only reason I can determine that they want us on the left hand side is that it has something to do with the 5K runners and lead triathletes staying separated, but again, very confusing.
As I hit the final mile I saw two more women in front of me. I made it my goal to catch them before the finish line. This helped to keep me running strong and stay in the race. I’m happy to report I did catch them (one required a sprint finish!) and succeeded in accomplishing both my runs goals of sub 8:30 pace and no women passing me!
FINAL TIME: 1:15:49
Despite the brutal bike, I still loved every second of this race and look forward to making some changes in training and seeing what happens next in this wonderful sport for me!
GEAR: Speedo Women’s Vanquisher 2.0 Mirrored Goggle, Coeur Sports Tri Kit, Coeur Sports Visor, Oakley Sunglasses, Hoka One One Clifton 2, Trek Émonda, Garneau Tri Speed Bike Shoes, Garmin 920XT, Garmin HRM-Tri