1.2 mile swim + 56 mile bike + 13.1 mile run + Florida heat = 1 tough race
I’ve been on edge all week worried about this race. What if I have bike issues? What if I cramp on the run? What if I can’t handle running in the heat? My mind battled the negative thoughts with more positive ones.
Race morning was ugly – thunder, lightening, wind, and rain. It was a full blown Florida summer storm at 5 am (which is really rare). My stomach knotted up thinking they might cancel the swim or how dangerous the roads would be wet. I really just wanted to turn around and go back to bed but seeing all of the other athletes there reminded me why we do triathlons…for the challenge. So I set up my shoes and other equipment in a plastic bag and found cover to stay warm before the swim start. The storm had cleared and the pro triathletes were in the water at 6:20 am.
An hour later my wave was lining up and I was standing next to a few friends ready to race for 70.3 miles. The swim felt long and crowded. Note to new triathletes, please sign up for your first triathlon in a race with less than 1,000 people. I ran into so many people during this swim because it was impossible to get by without hitting somebody or getting hit.
Normally, I’ll catch up to a wave or two before me but I passed 6 or 7 different colored caps on the swim! It’s awesome and crazy how many different levels of athletes were out on that course. I came out 3rd but felt sluggish and tired the whole time. My legs just didn’t want to kick and which had me worried for the rest of the race.
Fortunately my legs felt strong on the bike. I resisted going faster than 20 mph because I needed enough for the whole bike ride and feel fresh for the run. A few girls in my age group passed me and I stopped keeping track because I was having a solid race so far and didn’t want to waste energy worrying about my place. The Florida 70.3 bike course is flat with quite a few turns. The turns were actually a blessing because it meant we weren’t going against the wind for too long in any given segment.
One thing that got me frustrated was all the drafting. Draft packs would zip past me with 10 staggered cyclists helping each other out. Not only will they have a faster bike split but their run will be better. Everybody has to make that decision whether or not they will draft in a race; it’s illegal but I understand the arguments people make. Personally, I was already ahead of my goal time (sub 3 hours) and didn’t want to take the chance of sitting in the penalty box for four minutes.
Finally after struggling against wind for the last 5 miles of the bike, I headed out for the last 13.1 miles of the race. Three 4 mile loops of Florida heat. Some people might find that boring but I actually enjoyed knowing where the water stops were and when I’d see spectators. I lived for the water stops and sprinklers during the run. Splash of water on my head, cup of ice in my sports bra, and a small sip of water…glorious.
The first lap I resisted falling into my normal sprint routine. The first mile was 7:14 and was a huge red flag to slow down! I am still learning how to feel what pace my legs are running. The second lap was torture. Fatigue finally setting in, negative thoughts told me to stop, and my feet were getting rubbed raw because I didn’t wear socks. The biggest help was seeing my parents and various friends at the end of the second lap. I knew the next time I saw them I’d be sprinting (hopefully) for the finish. Spectators make a big difference for me. Every time somebody would yell “Go UCF!” or “Go Courtney!” a huge smile crossed my face.
By mile 10, my spirits lifted and I knew I had less than 30 minutes left. I was on my way to a strong finish faster than my goal of 5 hours and 30 minutes. The last 2 miles I decided I had enough to pick up the pace and I crossed the finish line at 5:24:17! Thank goodness it was over!
I’m really happy with the performance and satisfied with my strategy to race my own race. If I’d gotten caught up with competition on this one the last 2 miles wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.
Florida 70.3 is a hot race for anyone considering it. Any race at Disney means you have to get up really early for the start but there’s always a lot of energy from the spectators. I enjoyed myself out there and look forward to my next half-Ironman.
Swim – 30:55
Bike – 2:54:00 (19.3 mph)
Run – 1:54:55 (8:47/ mile)
Total – 5:24:17 and 10th in age group!
1. Wear socks – my feet really hurt
2. Pace yourself – this distance requires patience when it comes to speed
3. Bring your own nutrition – my stomach couldn’t handle the gels handed out through race support so I was stuck with water and Powerade.
4. Wear sunscreen, no matter what – I opted out that morning because of the rain and have a nice sunburn to show for it
5. Don’t let bad weather frazzle you – It ended up being a beautiful day and I worried for nothing