Race Report: Tarpon Springs Sprint Triathlon – Ever Forward

TarponBoth on the blog here, over at Back of Pack Endurance, and on the Ironman:Year One podcast, I have been talking a lot about where I am right now as far as fitness, fatigue, mental attitude, and where I see myself going from this point. Andrew said something on the show this week (well, he said more than one thing that struck home but this one especially) when he pointed out that he saw himself at this point on a book tour, touting his experience going from a 300+ pound fat man to an Ironman in just two years. Obviously he underestimated the effort and roadblocks that are part of the journey, but I think I had the same problem. We both know that this is not a short ride, that this journey was going to be long, and hard, and results may or may not be what we expected and how quickly we wanted them. We knew that, and yet we still started falling into the same trap of “my weight is just not going down”, and “how can I be getting slower in these races??”.

We know the answer. It took YEARS of abusing our bodies to get to be this way, so what do we expect? For the weight to drop in a year, 6 months? Is the the “Biggest Loser” effect where we think cramming as much bike and running into a week as we can possibly take is going to change us from fat men to podium standers?

We know better.

I know better.

I decided to go into the race at Tarpon Springs with a fresh outlook. It was a new venue, one that I had never raced before, so viewed it as a new beginning, or at least a re-boot for the remaining of the season and a springboard into next year. I knew I wasn’t in the best shape I could be in, some of my own doing, so there was no illusions of something miraculous happening. It’s a bit freeing to be honest.

I drove over to Kristine’s house at 3:30 AM and her husband drove is to the race site. We got there in plenty of time to get our packets, set up, and wait for it to get light enough to get in the water for a warm up. I saw MANY people I knew, meeting up with Dave and then Wayne, both from the St. Pete Running Club, but also spying many I knew from Team in Training. After three and a half years of racing mainly with Jennifer it was odd to have to explain my pre-race “rituals” (i.e. getting in the water early and warming up), but the crowd extremely friendly and the race director was very vocal about warming up. Quite a difference from most races, and something I liked a lot.

The Swim

The water was warm, and clear. It was evident that there was a currently pushing to the left, so we all knew there would be a slight issue after making the first turn. Any hopes, at least for me, of a sub-10:00 swim, were dashed, but it was OK. I was the third wave of eight (nice to not be last for a change), so just decided to “swim calm” and try not to let the red caps pass me (the wave behind me). I was right about the current and felt it immediately after making the first turn. The middle 200m felt like it took forever, but I was passing people, and met the goal of not being passed by the wave behind me (though there was one right behind me when I stood up to go to shore). The swim was a bit over 14:00, very slow for me, but when looking at the times overall it was in the middle range, so I’m good with the result. I had a good T1, switching to bike mode in under 3:00 … which is my benchmark. I felt good heading out.

The Bike

This is where I was losing it recently, my legs fatiguing out quickly, which led to horrible runs. I had very little expectations for this race, but entering it felt strong. My legs felt the fatigue as normal within the first three miles, but instead of dwelling on it I just geared down and took what the course would give me. I had my moments of 12 mph, but I also had a few sections over 20 mph, and though I was passed as is the usual for me, I also passed a few of my own, which has not been the norm. My run has not been good so I did not worry about “saving my legs”, since it was going to be a challenge either way. I felt good entering T2 and, though I struggled with my socks for WAY too long, I felt good when I was heading out to the final leg. Better than I have in awhile.

The Run

I started the final leg knowing I was going to have issues, so I just resigned myself to walking until I felt I could run again. The good part was that my walk was much faster than previous races, and when my legs came to me at about 1.2 miles my overall pace was in the range of my normal paces for these races. Nothing to brag about for sure, but I finished this races well under 2 hours, something I have not done recently, and it gives me hope that I have not totally lost my ability to do these events.


Now comes the hard part … admitting I did something that I had sworn off. If you have been reading my recent posts you know that I have been having a hard time with my legs, and whole body really, fatiguing quickly during training and races. Talking to many people, and doing some reading on my own, came down to the harsh reality that even after 4 years I have made no progress in figuring out nutrition for racing. I don’t eat anything in the morning, because my stomach cannot handle it, so I race fasted, which is fine during the swim but I thing puts me at a disadvantage during the bike, and into the run. I am not sure how to deal with the stomach issues, but I know many people resort to sugar as a “kick” when they are hitting walls, and I had done it in the past, so entering this race I decided to stash a flask of honey and water in my race belt, with the idea that if I felt the “dead legs” during the run I would take a hit at the water stops and see how it worked.

And it did …

I took half the flask and mile 1 and was running within 5 minutes. At mile 2 I took most of the remaining flask and was running even stronger. They are not splits to be very proud of for sure (18:08, 18:00, 16:12) but you can see that after each “hit” the pace improved. So … it’s something to deal with and another arrow in the quiver.

On another note, I wrote a guest post over at FitFluential on why being a sports fan is good for you. Since it was my first “paid” writing gig I am a bit proud of it, so please give it a read HERE. I am not sure, but since I got paid for it can I call myself a “writer” now???

2 thoughts on “Race Report: Tarpon Springs Sprint Triathlon – Ever Forward

  • September 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    John, I think this is a very understated report of the weekend. I have to tell you that after reading your most recent blog posts and becoming friends i was worried (selfishly) that the pulse of racing was becoming weaker by the day for you. I did NOT see a discouraged man on Saturday my friend. The results that I observed (that can not be seen on a stop watch) was a kind and helpful friend. A guy confident and knowing his routine in transition set up. A big man (like me) that walked among the slick efficient types like we belong. we do. I saw more smiles on your face during the day than I have seen in posts. A guy happy to throw his arm on the shoulder of a new and fellow “fat Slow triathlete” for a photo. What i saw on all events was a guy taking it all in….pre swim – calm and ready……during the bike you honestly looked like you were having …well….fun, and during the run i saw no “struggle” no grimace just the look of “i know the deal and I am good with it” meanwhile encouraging ME all the way. I think your race was a great success and I thank you for helping make it my most successful ….so far. Sometimes at the crossroads I just make peace with the road I am already on.

    • September 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      I struggled with how to write this one to be honest … maybe I should let you write the next one!! Thanks for the kind words. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to bring it back home.

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