We decided to do a winter triathlon for the first time! It worked out well as a good week to get away from the cold and snow: the weather was so bad at home that the kids missed hardly any school, and we enjoyed sun and 70+ degrees every day while we were there. Our arrival on Monday was smooth, and since we had a race in hot weather coming up, we knew it was important to start our hydration regimen right away!
We enjoyed a couple days of the Keys and on Wednesday I ran downtown to Eaton bikes and rode home on my CAAD 10 rental bike. I would have much preferred my own road bike, and the course is really optimal for a tri-bike since it is completely flat, but the CAAD served me well and the bike shop was good to work with. I don't own a tri-bike and the few times I've ridden one, couldn't get comfortable and take advantage of the geometry and aero properly. Maybe I'll find the right match one day, and enjoy the speed a tri-bike could provide but for now I'll stick with my road bike. It works well on all the hills we have to climb locally.
Later in the week our friends/teammates arrived and pre-race hydration continued at an impressive pace!
Friday was packet pickup and bike drop off. We rode down and set up our transition area for the next day.
Race day dawned sunny and warm, the warmest day of the week so far. We made our way to the beach, got marked, and were ready for our race. Garth, Joe and I were all in the second wave at 8:05, Shauna, Jes and Erica were after us and Mary Beth was in the final wave at 8:25. We knew the course layout would allow us to see each other out on the bike and run and our families would be able to cheer and support us through the day!
The saltwater swim was interesting. We swam a few hundred yards straight out before making a right turn for nearly a mile, then made another hard right and swam under a pier before exiting. Being a primarily left-side breather, the sun was blinding me on every stroke, so I experimented with closing my eyes when breathing and also breathed on the right more often than usual. Even though we were far from shore, we could see the bottom the whole time and I saw coral, fish, etc. There were some mild rolling waves, and the swim seemed a bit long to me...most people seemed to agree. My time was about 5-7 minutes slower (45 minutes) than expected, whether this was due to currents, poor sighting, or a long course I'm not sure. Having wetsuit strippers waiting on the pier was nice since it always seems to slow me down getting my suit off. I lingered at the freshwater spray station to ensure all the seawater was rinsed off.
T1 was smooth and I was out on the bike. It was about as usual, passing a few people and also being passed by a lot of fast people on tri-bikes. One of these was my buddy/teammate Garth, a beast of a biker now doing his first triathlon! The bike course was out and back through the Keys on very busy US 1...very scenic but also a little scary. The shoulder was not the best for riding and we often had to move into the road to pass, incurring the wrath of motorists who were not happy about their day being inconvenienced by the race. I got a few fingers and expletives hurled my way. Around mile 20 I passed several emergency vehicles and later found they were attending to a man who was in the Iron Distance event that had his bike blown out from under him by a passing semi. He's still in the hospital and may need surgery. At the turnaround point, I had the bad luck to be the first competitor held up to allow traffic to go (something they warned us could happen). I had to sit and wait for 3-4 minute until enough additional cyclists (most of whom I had worked hard to pass over the last hour!) caught up and formed a large enough group to justify stopping traffic again to allow us to cross the road and begin the return trip. It was frustrating, but I tried to at least use the downtime productively by eating a sandwich and refilling my bottles. My bike leg was about 2:55 (19 mph). At the end of the day, the delay didn't cost me any places, but if not for the holdup I might have been able to catch Garth on the run and we could have finished together, holding hands (just kidding bud)! I saw my friends on the return leg and everyone looked good.
T2 went fine and I could tell right away I was going to have a good run. Even though I don't run much anymore due to a bunch of chronic injuries, it remains by far my strongest discipline and I passed a lot of people throughout. My buddy Matt (Mary Beth's husband) rode along with me for a quarter mile or so updating me on how everyone else was doing and I was able to see Garth, Mary Beth and Joe on each loop for some high fives and encouragement. Mary Jane and the girls were there cheering us on, which really helped and the best part of the day was my girls running me in to the finish. I clocked the 15th fastest men's run split (1:41 half marathon in the heat, I would have been happy with that even without the swim and bike) of the day. Garth and I finished as the 34th and 35th men, both top 50 overall, and I got second in the men's 40-44 age group! Mary Beth came in shortly thereafter and set a PR, meeting her goal of a sub-6 hour finish, and Joe wasn't far behind. Jes, Erica, Shauna were out on the run course and we cheered them on while recovering...we were pretty gassed from the hard effort in the heat and sun. The second best part of the day for me was seeing the elation and triumph on the faces of Jes, Shauna and Erica as they came in to the finish. It was Jes' and Erica's first half-Iron event (and as mentioned earlier Garth's first tri ever, what a debut!) and they were so happy and excited that I was really inspired. After recovering and cleaning up, we all headed out to celebrate at Fogarty's! Returning to the condo that night, we saw several of the Iron Distance athletes still out there gutting it out. I had originally planned to do the full Iron and am SO happy that I did the half. With the heat and lack of training in the cold weather, it would have been a very long day and difficult recovery. Big thanks to all the volunteers who really helped make the race go smoothly and took great care of us. We had a blast in Key West, the girls really enjoyed visiting Dry Tortugas National Park, snorkeling and kayaking, Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden, and the Butterfly Conservatory, among other things. It was a great week and a great race! It was tough for all of us that MJ wasn't out there racing alongside, but her recovery from a broken ankle and surgical repair is coming along and she'll be back out there with us soon. This race is supposed to be moved to July in 2015 due to low numbers (about 500 combined entrants for both distances, including teams) and financial difficulties...I have my doubts as to whether moving it to the heat of mid-summer will increase registration numbers or not, we will see. I wouldn't do the race again, due to the distance, cost and logistics involved but would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good time in the dead of winter. Racing in Key West in July, I'm not so sure about that! We returned home to a drop of nearly 80 degrees in 24 hours, but that didn't stop me from strapping the microspikes on my Hokas and heading out for a snow/ice run tonight! No bad weather for running, only inappropriate gear!