I finally have a chance to sit down and reflect on my most recent race experience at the Great Floridian 1/3 distance in Clermont, FL. Post-race I took the fam to Aquatica Water Park at Sea World which was ALSO a great experience, but that's for another time.
Let's begin. We drove down on to Clermont on Thursday with the race being on Saturday. It is about a 6.5 hour drive with stops so I wanted to get there with enough time to shake out the legs, get to packet pick up, check into the home, pick up groceries, etc. Smart move for sure. I had a slight increase in back pain from the stressful drive so it was nice to not have to race around trying to get everything done in one day. We rented a home through AirBnB so the 5 other club members who also participated in the race could all stay together which was AWESOME! ECTri Club Headquarters was less than a mile from the race venue. Plenty of room for all of our bikes, bags, cars and FOOD. I am very specific about my nutrition so I really liked being able to have a fridge and stove and make my own meals. Packet pick up was easy on Thursday. We took a look at the swim start and then just relaxed at the house the rest of the night. Two nights before the race is always the best sleep time for me as I always worry my alarm won't work on race morning and basically wake up every hour to check the time.
Friday: There was a scheduled pre-swim for Friday morning that we all participated in. It was nice to see how much you COULDN'T see in the tea colored lake water. The water temps were around 80-82 so we knew it wouldn't be wetsuit legal. For those used to swimming in salty, clear water, I would definitely suggest the pre-race swim as the lake was dark and fresh water. They even had a post-swim breakfast which was very relaxed as we all talked race plans. There were 7 of us from the club along with my husband and 4yo son so the group started getting LARGE. We went back to the house to get ready to pre-drive the course and brought our bikes for a practice ride on Sugarloaf Hill. If you practice hills all the time this hill wouldn't be a big deal. But if you ride flat and windy, this course is a ball buster. I am definitely happy we drove the course because if you just thought it was going to be Sugarloaf and done, you are sorely mistaken. By the time you get to "The Big One" at mile 30, you have already been riding hills almost as big for the past 20 miles...and with the change in the course this year, there was an extra hill or two after Sugarloaf just for fun. Get out there and drive the course, but do it early so you aren't in the heat. After the realization that the course would be nice and hilly, we went back to the house to kick up my feet, watch the kid in the pool, and prepare dinner. Chicken sausage, sweet potatoes, peppers, avocado deliciousness for dinner, race tattoos on the arms, and early to bed. Since I was doing the 1/3 distance I didn't have to get up early, but still early to bed for mental prep.
Saturday: We all woke up around 5:30, drank coffee, ate breakfast and moseyed on over to transition a little before 7am. Our race didn't start until 9am so we had a lot of time to prepare. Race parking was easy. Transition was well marked. You didn't have assigned numbers at the bike rack so if you are very specific on where you want to keep your bike, get there earlier. Transition was open until 8:15! Plenty of time to get yourself situated. We had an area where we had our club tent set up, ECTri Headquarters II, so we could all congregate there waiting to start. There were actual bathrooms as well as port-o-johns, food trucks, but little shade so having the tent was nice. Waiting until 9am to start was not nice. Got in a little warm up jog about 1 hour before the race and then started mental prep again. Before you knew it, 9am came and it was the start of the race, FINALLY!
Swim: I started near the front middle. I had NOT swam at all training for this race because, life, so I told myself to just take it easy and swim my race. The start was chaotic as usual, but I just kept my easy pace and focused on form. I kept a pretty straight line for most of the race and increased my kick the last 100m to get myself ready for the jog to transition. I was SHOCKED at my swim time as I looked at my watch out of the water and felt relaxed and ready for the bike. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
T1: It was nice not having to take off a wetsuit in transition. I am glad I practiced running from the swim to my bike because even though there was grass, there were a couple of divots that you could easily have rolled your ankle on, so practice that. I was in and out of transition in less than 2 minutes. Easy peasy.
Bike: The first 6 miles was around the lake, so pretty flat. Great time to get your legs adjusted to pedaling, get in some nutrition, and psych yourself up to ride. Around mile 8 was the first super steep hill. I already saw people walking up the hill, at mile 8...this was going to be a long ride. It didn't get any easier the following 30+ miles. My Garmin face had condensation covering all my numbers so I wish I could have kept better track of my power, but I had to go on RPE which was fine considering we have very few hills to train on. What goes up must come down and being able to descend well definitely helped. Most of the road was nice and smooth but about 30% was NOT. Going up Sugarloaf was fun, but going down it was even better! I zigzagged my way up talking to everyone I passed, smiling HUGE for the camera at the top. I SAFELY went down the other side at about 40mph. Could have been faster if it wasn't my first time down, but safety first. I didn't forget about the two other hills left and the crazy fast descent to the bike finish. PRACTICE bike control and shifting because many roads are bumpy, steep, and you may get to them more fatigued than you realize. Overall my bike power average was lower than I would have liked to ride but my fitness on hills was not there either, and it was about 90 deg so I will give myself a break. My nutrition was perfect. I felt GREAT coming off the bike and ready for the run. Don't leave your running legs on the bike!
T2: I wish I would have left my cycling shoes in my pedals as the run into T2 was long in cycling shoes but I forgot. Still, T2 was less than 2 minutes.
Run: Usually my FAVORITE part of a triathlon. Once I ran out of transition my VMOs (the inside part of your quads) started cramping. CRAP! I knew the bike course was hilly but didn't feel like I overdid it on any climb. Luckily I don't use my quads a whole bunch running! I got a little excited running past my family and teammates and must have started running a bit too fast because the first slight downhill my legs cramped. Like couldn't bend my knees. It wasn't even 1/2 a mile. I soon realized that walking was worse than running so I just slowed down until they relaxed. They were getting better by the first aid station so I dumped some ice down my kit and continued on. It was 3 miles out and back, then 1.5 miles out and back. I felt pretty good until about mile 5. Certainly not running as fast as I would have liked. We ran by a kids splash pad and I wanted to run through it so badly. There was very little shade on the run. Looking back at my mile times I could see where we were in the shade and where we weren't. Ice down the kit every opportunity. Mile 5-7 were hard for sure but once I made the final turn around I just told myself the faster I finish the faster I can get under a cold shower! So suck it up butter cup and finish! I saw my family right before the finish line. Right before the last UPHILL of the course. Seriously. Straight uphill to the finish. I tried to walk but then I heard the music and my husband and got over myself. Once I crested the hill and turned toward the finish line a male athlete behind me that I passed during the run shouted my name to keep going and that made me smile through the finish.
Overall: This was a great race in so many aspects. This was a HUGE team experience with 9 ECTri members participating. There are distances for everyone. The race venue was clean and knowing the course now I would highly recommend doing it. Be ready for a hot race, a hilly race, and a memorable race. I'm excited to race with club members again because it makes the whole experience even more enjoyable. You should just practice Knox Hill repeats for 30 miles to prepare :) And maybe in a few years I'll get up the courage to complete the full...just thinking of 3 bike loops gets me excited.