My only triathlon of 2014 was this past weekend in Melbourne, FL. The 16th Annual Battle of the Bridges triathlon featured Sprint distance and Olympic distance races. I decided to step it up a notch and throw my hat into the Olympic distance ring for the first time.
The race consisted of a 1500m swim, a 43km bike, and a 10k run.
The weather in east central Florida was a bit cooler than normal and VERY rainy the week before the race, and it even unexpectedly rained the night before the race. Rich (aka Shark Bait) had gone down to pick up his race packet and drive the course on Thursday and called in with some recon. The major concern of the entire course was a small metal drawbridge that we had to go over that, if wet, would be slick as ice! Other than that it was, as its name suggested, “Bridge-y,” which is, of course, about as close to HILLY as we get in Florida, outside of Clermont.
Deb and I drove down to Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, picked up my race pack, checked into the hotel, and then headed out to check out the swim venue, drive the bike course, and grab a good dinner.
I had never actually seen a 1 mile swim course laid out in a single loop before – usually it’s been lesser distances that you had to swim multiple times. No doubt my swim is my weak link in triathlon, so seeing how far I had to go right there in front of my face was intimidating to say the least! The bike course left the transition area and went about 5 miles north, turned to the east over Pineda Causeway, then south on Patrick Drive on the beach side, then we jogged right over a drawbridge, and back north on Merrick Island (the road had speed humps every mile, which made the ride interesting), then BACK over Pineda Causeway, back down Patrick, to the Eau Gallie Causeway, then into T2. A very doable course.
We went to Squid Lips for dinner which was right on the water at the base of the Eau Gallie Causeway so I could spend my dinner staring at the 8 buoys would be swimming around the following morning. Great food and, of course, I had to get am official “Squid Lips” t-shirt! 🙂
Per usual, I slept GREAT from 9pm-2:30am and then couldn’t sleep well the rest of the night… So many thoughts blow through my mind the night before a big event – and I could hear that it was raining outside… SUPER!
We arrived at Pineapple Park at 5:45am. Happily, the rain was gone and since I was early there weren’t that many people there yet, I got bodymarked, got my transition spot laid out, got my tires pumped and my bike racked, found my timing chip, ate my peanut butter and banana sandwich, had a cup of coffee, and – of course – hit the port-o-potty! I was nervous, but excited. A new adventure lay ahead of me and I was eager to see what I could do.
At 7:00 the Olympic distance racers were called into the water. It was lovely! 81.5 degrees and calm and flat – it felt AWESOME!!. The sunrise was gorgeous! The race started in 3 waves – 39 and under men, then 40 and over men 3 minutes later, and then all the women and relay teams 3 minutes after that. My only concern in the swim was just whether or not I could really swim that far – AND how far off course I would drift. I trained a good bit in the pool, but I only had 2 practice open water swims, so it was a tad sketchy. And, true to form as we started, a whole pack of us drifted way left and had to course correct – apparently the announcer who was getting the sprint racers set up had a bit of fun at our expense back on shore.
Once I rounded the first buoy, I felt good – nothing to do but swim… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, site, repeat. The buoys went by one at a time and before I knew it, I was at the turn back to the pier. “Before I knew it” was actually 40+ minutes, but it really didn’t FEEL that long. Lots of work to do on the swim in the off season, but that’s just fine – plenty of time – and we have a great Masters group here.
A quick run into T1 and I was off on the bike.
I felt really good on the bike. I felt pretty fast and I felt strong. I passed lots of people, making up for my slow swim. I “hunted” – I got someone in my sites and then I picked them off, one by one. It was fun. The bridges were fine – the Dunlawton Bridge and all this bridge repeats Coach Pam had me do in training prepared me well.
About 3/4 the way down Patrick the first time a very speedy young woman on a very sweet bike blew past me. I stepped it up a notch and was able to keep up with her (maybe a little too well because I got a drafting penalty somewhere along the way even though I was very careful to keep the 3 bike lengths between us – OOPS!). When we made the turn to head over to Merrick Island and head back north the volunteers on the road said to stay left on the drawbridge. We both hit the bridge on the left, but then for some unknown reason the speedy woman cut back right and it was like she hit glare ice! Her bike flew out from under her and she literally bounced along the metal bridge, then the slid, and then she rolled. OMG! It was so scary – it was like it was happening in slow motion! I knew she was hurt. I looked around to see if I should stop (I would want someone to stop for me). Obviously, she wasn’t the first person who bit it hard on that bridge because EMS was right there – lights flashing the minute she hit the ground. Thank God! I found out later that she actually got up and finished the bike leg!!! She didn’t continue on the run, but DAMN – that takes serious guts!
A bit shaken from what I saw on the bridge, I was more cautious than I normally would have been on the stretch of road with the speed humps and lost a little time, but keeping the big picture in mind – it’s a weekend warrior race – I’m not contending for a win in Kona and I would like to have MANY more races in my life – no need to be stupid and get hurt.
Coming down the backside of the Eau Gallie Causeway I suddenly realized that the road was quite wet and I was flying down the backside of the bridge. Small brake pumps, easy, easy… and I finally slowed down to safely make the turn to T2.
About a mile into the run, my left quad seized up hard as a rock and short of having a foam roller delivered to the course, nothing was working to make it let go. Running hurt A LOT! Walking hurt too, but not as bad. I did my best to execute my plan, but let’s be honest, there was A LOT of walking happening. I tried getting mad and pushing through the pain, but then there was this niggling voice in the back of my mind reminding me that Marathon training kicks into a much higher gear on Tuesday and I honestly felt like I was doing myself damage. So I walked a bunch. So what?
At the end of the day, here’s what my race looked like:
Swim (1 mi): 41:47 (2/5 AG)
Bike (26.9 mi): 1:29:34 (4/5 AG)
Run (6.2 mi): 1:15:15 (5/5 AG)
Total Time: 3:31:43 + 2 minute STOOPID drafting penalty = 3:33:43 (4/5 in age group)
I would totally do this race again – it was really well organized, very well supported, and the racing community down south is really competitive and awesome.