The Central Florida Triathlon Series is a group of four races held through the summer in Clermont, Florida by Sommer Sports. One of the few places in Florida where there are some serious climbs (and home to the highest peak, Sugarloaf Mountain, which thankfully is not part of this race course), the sprint and super sprints triathlon, along with a 5k, are challenging for both the new triathlete and the seasoned.
As is normal with smaller races, pre-race packet pickup is pretty limited (Friday from 12-6 … not really doable if coming from out-of-town like we do), so we end up having to get there early enough to get the race gear, get marked, get into transition, and get to the water for a warm up. If you have read this blog for any length of time you know that being rushed like that on race morning is not a good thing for me. Luckily though the race is very well-managed and any anxiety I had getting there in the morning was quickly alleviated. We parked at 6 AM, got our packets (only two numbers .. the bib and the bike sticker), got our bikes and gear, got marked, and set up transition with 45 minutes to spare before race start. I never felt rushed, which was a good thing.
I have to share that I witnessed a “Dbag Triathlete” moment while setting up. A guy behind me, who was obviously new, was setting up his area and his wife brought him a water bottle that he probably forgot in the car. A guy in his row, a good five feet from him, said to her “are you racing today?”, and when she said “No, I am just bring him a bottle” he thumbed toward the exit and said “then get out of transition”. Now, he is technically correct, but there was NO ONE in the row other than the two of them. She wasn’t in the way. Luckily a USAT Official happened to be walking by when it happened and walked over to him and said “although you are correct it is not your job to enforce the rules. If you have a problem find an official and we will handle it.” He said “Sorry … just a pet peeve of mine” and the official walked away. No, me being me, I looked at him and said, “if she was in the way you had a point, but there’s no cause to be a dick in a race like this, man”. He just looked at me and then went back to setting up his gear. Maybe I am more intimidating than I give myself credit for? LOL
We headed to the water for a warm up. Lake swims can be either nice or … not nice (see “Lake Eva” for an example of a “black lake”). Lake Minneola is clean, a perfect temperature, and was so comfortable that I could have stayed there all day. The warm up swim (about 200 yards or so) went well and I felt ready to race. The only thing negative I can say, and not just about the swim but the race in general, is that it attracts a lot of new triathletes who are not aware of rules, and even though there are USAT officials everywhere the rules do not seem to be enforced. In the warmup this showed when the announcer was calling everyone in from the water so that the Super Sprint could start on time (7:15) people were actually heading OUT into the water. Of course these were people wearing the USA uniforms, so maybe they are so good that rules don’t apply to them? The other ways it shows is people wearing headsets and listening to music on the bike and on the run.
So … on to the race …
The Swim and T1
The good thing about a sprint is the swim is short (440 yards). The bad thing about a sprint is that the swim is short so you don’t feel the need to train very hard for it. Bad idea. Not that the swim is hard, but the speed surely suffered. In the pool I can do 400 meters in about 8:00. My race time here was 11:15. Usually race times are slower than pool times, but I am usually within a minute, so this was a big difference. No panics though, and I handled the jostling (much more than I ever experienced in any 70.3 I have ever done … chalk it up to the large number of new people) and maneuvered through the large number of back strokers pretty easily. As I said, the water is beautiful. The exit is a small uphill run in sand and then about a .3 mile job to T1, which I thought I got through pretty quickly but my time was very bad (over 5:00). I realized it was slow because of the run to and then out of transition. I don’t run in transition. Maybe I should start.
The Bike and T2
The bike … oh my God the bike.
I have done San Antonio hills, but these were a whole new beast. You get hit with two back to back right from the start. My heart rate shot to 160 and stayed there for most of the ride. After the initial climbs it flattens to rollers for the middle part but the last 4 miles were the toughest I had ever done. The first climb is a short one with about an 11% grade. After you get up that one you make a right and there is another longer climb at around an 8% grade. But at that point you’re almost done … almost. Then you see the monster. About .5 miles at 10%. The good thing was I got up all of them and actually PASSED people going up (along with a number of people walking them). I also know that I would never have gotten up them with the old crankset (Standard with a 12-25 cassette). This was my first race with the Compact Crank and 11-28 cassette and I was thanking God I had them. The bad thing is my legs were toasted and felt that immediately when dismounting. My quads were quivering as I made my way to my spot and got ready for the run. T2 was a little faster than T1, but was still over 5:00 due to having to sit to get my shoes on because I couldn’t stand on one leg. I normally walk the first half mile of the run so I thought I’d be ok eventually. I was mistaken.
I think most of my issues with the run could be linked to the climbing on the bike. My heart rate was at 160 and would not come down. I grabbed two cups of ice right out of T2 and dumped one down my back and nursed the other, but every time I started to run my legs would not cooperate. On one section you have to go down hill and my legs actually buckled. That was a new feeling. So I decided to just walk as fast I could until I felt like I could run. This didn’t happen until mile 1.56. About that time Jennifer caught up to me (she started 10:00 after I did so had made that up with half the run to go.) and I started feeling like I could go. I started slow at first, ran a minute then walked 2, and eventually by the last mile started doing my normal run/walk split of 1:30 – 2:00. The pace on the first mile was over 20:00, the second around 18:00, but the third mile was firmly in the 15:00 range, which is my normal area.
Being my first race since March I was just trying to beat 2 hours, and finished in 2:03:00. I know I can improve on this for the next one in August, and my weaknesses are the normal weaknesses I have always had, so no new epiphany this day. Need more work in the hills (though I have improved) and need MUCH more work on the running, which is an ongoing saga in my life. It was a good experience. If you are in the Central Florida area you really should check this race out.