Tuesday, April 27, 2010

16 And Counting....

This will not be a story about my oldest daughter. That would be titled 16 Going On Bout To Drive Her Father Insane. This is about my 16Th St Anthony's Triathlon in a row.

The St. Anthony's Triathlon is an Olympic distance (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) triathlon held annually the last Sunday of April in St Petersburg, Fl. The attendance varies each year from 1500 participants to now almost 4000. The race usually sells out within the first few hours once on-line registration is open. Athletes come from all around the world to compete. It is the first race the pros use for the beginning of their season. It has also been my first race of the season for some time now. The race is also held in my hometown of sorts so I must enter. Their have been some friendly rivalries developed over the years with friends and co-workers, whether we race in the same division or not. The course is the same for all of us.

Even though I know this race is coming like clock work, this year I did not train as hard as years past. I only did two open water one mile swims and swam in the pool maybe four times. My biking has also been lacking. A few rides here and there. My running has improved with the help of a few friends but it is still not where I would like it to be but there is no one else to blame but me. Well there is this one person but hey they know who they are.

Race morning comes early. Like 4 a.m. early. I only live an hour from the race but I would rather be early than late looking for parking. I drove over with the family in tow except for the oldest one who was resting up for her high school flag football playoffs which was to start the next day. I don't want to say I heard her say under her breath, "another swim, bike, run. What's the big deal. I have passes to block and flags to pull." No. She wouldn't say anything like that would she.

I was able to use my membership card and get a parking spot 200 yards from the race site. Left the family in the car to rest while I got my body marked and put my shoes in place. I had dropped my bike off the day before but still topped off the tires with air. Some of the larger triathlons require you to put your bike in the transition area the day before. This is to cut down on the log jam on race morning. I also think it is to promote area hotel bookings. Why else would there be two big triathlons at Disney.

I gathered the family and headed to the swim start which was about a mile away. The pros would start their race at 6:45. My race would start at 7:34. There were 32 waves for this race.

The wind was about 15-20 mph gusts from the south but the water looked flat. The only thing predictable about the water conditions each year at St Anthony's is that it is unpredictable. The swim will make or break your race. Last year's swim was cancelled for everyone but the pros and even the pros said later that it was the right decision. This year's swim course was actually shorted to 1000 yards for waves 26 to 32 because of stronger winds.

I zipped up my wet suit which is a great confidence booster. I headed in to the water to take a short little swim to feel the water temp and get loosened up. Okay I will be honest with you. It is also so I can empty the kidneys. C'mon now, I ain't the only one doing it. Wait a minute. I AIN'T THE ONLY ONE DOING IT. Nasty. I love the wetsuit on the long swims when the water is just a little chilly. The twins like it as well but they don't like the solitary confinement. Swim fast they say.

The horn blows and off we go. The water was flat but crowded. There were over 120 guys in my wave. I am not fast enough to start out front so it takes a while for the group to thin out a little. I always watch for the feet ahead of me. This is really the only part of the race where you have a greater chance of dying. Lungs full of water is just not natural.

I am at the first yellow turn buoy sooner than I thought I would be. This is going to be a great swim. Or so I thought. Now the wind is at my back. Yes that helps with a bit of a push but it was not body surfing. And there were times I could not see the buoys. The tide is going out and the wind is blowing at my back. Yippy. Did I mention the course buoys are orange and so are the swim caps of my wave. Just look for a yellow buoy I say now. Turn two out of the way and still feeling good about the swim. I love me some wetsuit.

Now the swim in. Water, wind and the pain in the ass swimmer are really going to test me this morning. Waves are coming over me as I am swimming in. Wind is still blowing North and the tide is going out. I have now passed numerous other swimmers who are floating (head out of water), hanging on the surfboards and kayaks. I breathe on my right side so this helps a little since the waves were coming over me from the left. I was also able to see this swimmer, with an orange cap, swimming right at me. I reach out to push him from coming in to me. No good. He swims right across my path so I push his foot so he does not kick me. Now he should be on my left side. Oh no, here he comes again. Same thing again. This time I yell at him to swim straight. I give him a little space and also try to swim a little faster to get ahead and out of his way. For some reason he had the same strategy. What a pain in the water he was. After two more dances with him I saw that we were coming up on a larger slower swimmer so I was able to get that guy in between us. Swim is done now. Out of the water in 30 minutes. Not my fastest but considering the conditions, I will take it.

Wet suit off. Helmet on. Shoes on. I grab my bike and run to the bike exit. As me and another guy get to the bike exit, I see this four wheeler coming down one of the bike isles also heading out the exit. There was a volunteer with her arms up telling us to stop. I am thinking, "hey lady we are trying to do a race here. This four wheeler can wait." The four wheeler headed out towards the run start. Me and the other guy started to go and then this runner wearing a red leotard about fell over my front tire. He yelled for us to watch out. I am thinking, "show off. Who does that guy think he is."

Out on the bike course now. I heard a running buddy yelling at me from the top of her lungs as she said she would. I knew the bike course was going to be a bit challenging because of the wind. My advantage was that I know the course. I have ridden it numerous times. But some of you may also know that I have a problem with pacing myself. I said to myself, "Self. You will try to keep your speed at 20-22 for the most part. Save your legs for the run." I finished with a 21.7 mph pace. I could have pushed it more but held back. Time to run.

Socks on. Race belt on. Shoes on and off I go. I was already 1 hour 45 minutes in to my race. I knew I would not beat 2:30 because my fastest 10k was 48 and some change. My goal now was under 2:45. I started out with a 7:45 pace. I felt comfortable and was happy with that pace. I later slowed to a 9:30 but that was for a short time. As I was coming down the finish chute, I saw my family cheering me on. Both the family that rode with me and my running family. All were cheering loudly which tends to give you that extra boost at the end. I probably could have used it at about the 5 mile mark but hey I am sure they would have been there had they known. I finished with an 8:32 mile pace for the 10k.

My overall finish time was 2:37. Not a PR for me but I will take it considering the weather conditions and the lack of training. I also later learned that I finished high enough in my age group (top 33% 88th of 374) to qualify for the Age Group Nationals in September. I was not aware that that was even a possibility but hey Kona here I come. What is that? Hawaii is not where the Nationals are. They are where? Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Where? Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Well then, Alabama here I come.

Oh and the guy in the red leotard. He was the winner of the race. 1:48. Told you he was a show off.