The day after the Nashvegas Olympic Tri I drove to Florida with my family for a week of fun in the sun. Naturally, I went to www.trifind.com to see if there were any races near where we were staying. Lo and behold! I came across the Beach Blast Triathlon near Port St. Joe. I had several reasons for wanting to do it: I’d never raced back-to-back weekends; never done an open water ocean swim; this would only be my 3rd tri, so I needed the race experience; and, what the heck, it’s freakin’ fun!
I grabbed a banana and a Clif Bar and left our condo at 5ish for a 7:00 start. I arrived at around 6:00 and went through the usual packet pick-up/body marking/transition set-up routine (I say usual like I’ve done it a ton – this was only my 3rd tri!). We then headed down to the beach, where the water was glassy and the air temp high-70s at the start. There was a blind man tethered to his partner/leader who started first. The Olympic race started 5 minutes later. The course was two-loops totaling only 0.7mi instead of the usual 0.9mi. Encouraged by the previous weeks’ swim, I positioned myself at the front for the running start. The horn blew, and we were off!
The swim felt great. The extra buoyancy from the saltwater was most welcome. For whatever reason my stroke felt great. I wasn’t trying to force the speed, just trying to keep it comfortable and smooth, strong on the pull but relaxed and moderate on the stroke rate. The pack thinned out pretty quickly and I could see by the first turn that I was with or close to the leaders – shocking! There were enough people close to me to get my competitive juices flowing and pull out a few harder efforts to pass them. This went fine until near the end of the first lap, when I came up on someone’s heels and moved to pass him. As I came alongside and edged in front, my hand hit something in the water – we were nowhere near a turn buoy…what was this rope doing here? And then I realized, I was “that guy” – you know, the guy who swims over the top of the blind dude and his tether in a triathlon! I looked up and said “Sorry man!” to which he hilariously (and graciously) responded, “It’s okay, I’m blind!”
As I exited the water, I asked a nearby volunteer how many people were in front. “Just a few,” was the response I got. I knew I was near the front, so I was pretty stoked. Turns out I had the 6th fastest swim split at 22:26! Observe, however, that that’s still reeeally slow at almost 2:00/100m (remember the shorter 0.7mi course). The fastest guy was about 1:48/100m. I ran the 1 or 2 tenths of a mile to the transition area and had a less than stellar T1 of 1:34.
Out on the bike, I had made the decision ahead of time to take it pretty easy and go by my heart rate monitor. The previous week I had just busted it, trying to pass everyone I saw, and I paid for it on the run. This week I kept my HR in a range. I got passed a fair amount, which was not easy to sit back and watch. The course was super flat, so, of course, I used that as an excuse to increase my HR range a little. My bike split was the slowest among the top ten overall finishers by a long shot. At 1:09:25, I was 22nd on the bike, while the rest of the top 10 overall finishers each had top 10 bike splits. I was fine with this, figuring it’s all part of experimenting and learning how to race tris.
Again I had a slow (1:14) T2, but got onto the run course feeling noticeably fresher than I had the prior week. I picked off my first runners in the first quarter mile and spent the rest of the run reeling them in. By this time it was in the 80s and quite humid, but I still felt fine and doused my head at each aid station. The nice thing about an out and back course is that you know where you stand. On the bike, I knew I was top 10 out of T1, and I could keep track of how many people passed me. Nearing the turn around, it’s easy to count back from the leader to figure out exactly where you stand. Same thing on the run. So, as I continued to run people down, I knew I moved in to top 10 somewhere around 1/3 or 1/2 of the way through. I’m not gonna lie – it’s just downright fun to pick people off, and it’s hard not to stand tall and put a little more oomph and confidence in your step when you pass them – I don’t care if you’re passing for 1st place or 200th place.
I ended up crossing the line in 2:15:25 with a run split of 40:48 – again, an under-performing run, but better than last week. This was good enough for 6th overall and 2nd in my AG, so I was fairly pleased. The competition wasn’t super stiff, as I already intimated talking about swim splits above. As further evidence of that, my run split was good enough for the 4th fastest, so not a ton of run speed among participants. All in all, though, it was a fun race, well run, and another notch in my belt towards becoming a triathlete!
Here’s a picture of me with my trusty steed post-race. I think the chest hair is hurting my aero- and hydrodynamics:)