Originally I had wanted to do Ironman Gulf Coast 70.3 as my first race in 2018. I hadn't heard great things about Ironman Florida 70.3 and it is really early in the year. I had never done a race that early (first full weekend of April). However, when they announced it as the North American Tri Club Championships, I immediately changed my schedule to accommodate this race.
I knew it would be a great Big Sexy weekend. When they initially announced it, they said that the tri club awards would be based on your top 5 point scorers according to the age group points rankings. I tried to recruit some big sexies last year that I knew were fast. We had over 60 BSR 'mates sign up for the race. There was a lot of training encouragement (and lame jokes) on the facebook page. I think some of it was from Russian 'bots.
I left the house around 8am. It was about 8 hours driving time down past Orlando. A few of us rented houses in this subdivision 'Champions Gate'. It is actually in Davenport, FL right off of I-4. As normal, I stopped for lunch at Subway. The traffic wasn't bad until I hit Orlando. I don't recall ever going through Orlando without hitting some traffic. I stopped at the Publix that was right off my exit to grab some garlic bread for dinner and a couple other things. I got to the house at about 4:30pm.
|All the lasagna's|
Staying in the house with me was 10 other BSR 'mates:
Mark (and his mom)
Jamie (1st year BSR)
Nicole (and her husband)
Jason (and his wife) - Who I met when I raced Muncie
Hugo (and a friend) (1st year BSR)
Anastasia (and her husband) Who I met when at Chatt 70.3 last year
Eddie (who lives and Tampa and only stayed Saturday night)
Kitty (who I met at Chatt Worlds last year)
|I believe I'm telling Big Sexy not to be such a pansy on the run|
It was a pretty lazy morning. I just slept in as long as I could. A bunch of us just hung out around the kitchen area drinking coffee and having breakfast. I had a bagel. Jason had flown with his bike in a Ruster bag . . . for the first time. I did my best not to regale him with the absolute horror story that was my first trip with my bike in a Ruster bag.
Somehow he got Chris McDonald to come over and help him put it all together. Including installing his ICE Friction chain! Wow, that went above and beyond the call. On a side note, I don't think I would ever put a chain on that close to a race, but to each his own.
Eventually we headed down to the race site. I hitched a ride with Nicole and her husband (Shannon). We were to have a team pic at 1pm. We got there and it was like a big BSR reunion. Being that this is my 5th year on BSR, I pretty much know everyone, unless it's their first year. Ah the magic of Social Media. So we made a decision to check in first before we got together for the pic, as there were some late arrivals.
After that we headed back to the house. I did a little shakeout ride with Jason, Nicole, and Kitty. It was really windy. I didn't feel very steady on my bike and that worried me some. We just rode for a half hour. Then it was time to shower and get ready to head over to Chilis for the team dinner.
|With Big Sexy and La Fabulosa|
|Obligatory Team Pic|
At Chilis we had taken up about half of the entire seating area of the Restaurant. Wyman was there to host, as he is the CEO of Chili's parent company. It was great to see him again. We met in Kona, and hung out a lot at Chatt 70.3 a couple of years ago. Really great guy. We ate and talked for quite a while before we left. We just came home and crashed.
Then I checked all the swag in the bag.
Slept in again, and Kitty and Shannon made breakfast for everyone. That was pretty nice. I did a little shakeout run with Jason and his wife just in the neighborhood. We saw Mr. Big Sexy along the way. It wasn't as windy, and I felt ok, not great.
Jason and I headed down to the race site just after lunch just to check everything out. We had a little trouble figuring out the flow of transition since they had not marked entrances and everything was gated off.
|The bikes in the "garage" at the House|
We did see bike out and that the BSR spot was a really good one close to bike out. They put all the tri clubs together, so all us Big Sexies had consecutive numbers.
They were not making you check your bikes in that afternoon. There were some storms predicted to come through at afternoon and/or evening. So I decided to just bring my bike race morning, since we had that option.
The parking situation seemed to be pretty similar to Eagleman. There is no parking lot, but a lot of street parking in the adjacent neighborhood.
After we got back, I went to shower and shave. I had decided to do this race in a brief. Budgysmugglers. The banana hammock. Speedo. Old school. My buddy BSR Chad raced one at Chattanooga 70.3 Worlds last September. He was saying how it wasn't a big deal, comfort wise. As the months wore on, there was some chatter about it on our team facebook page. So I kinda decided it would be cool. Since we were getting special BSR kits just for this race, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. I got the tri top to wear upstairs. Then I was going to wear my BSR Kona brief that we all got for the Kona Underpants run a couple of years ago. It's just a swimsuit, no padding. So it's cut a lot narrower than anything else I wear.
You were warned. I had to shave like I've never shaved before. I never wear anything thats' not at least thigh length. I used to swim in a 'square' suit, but I don't even do that anymore. I did a 'test run' shave the week before the race just to see how it would go. Meh, it was so-so. Undaunted, on this Saturday afternoon before the race I shaved all parts even close to showing smooth and clean. Honestly, though, I'm not sure how people do it on a regular basis. And I'm not sure what I did for Kona, but I don't remember it being such an issue.
|Ready for Battle|
|All the stuffs|
Then it was time to chill and put the feet up. Kitty and Shannon again made dinner with potatoes, chicken, and green beans. It was really good, and a good prerace meal, before and early bedtime.
Sunday (Race Day)
I had my alarm set for 4am, but as I've said, race day alarms are useless for me. I was up at 3:40. I just wanted to get down to the race site and get a good parking spot. I made a bagel with peanut butter and ate that with a banana. Pumped up the tires on my bike. Packed up and headed out about 4:15.
Traffic at that time was very enjoyable. It's actually a pretty direct route from our house, just 27 south to 17 east. I took just 20 minutes. As I came into town, I turned down 4th street. I found a pretty good spot right there on the northeast corner of 4th and Oak Street. I sat there for a little bit just to make sure it was ok, since there was no one parked on Oak Street on that side of fourth. Soon after I parked everything started filling up very quickly, so get there before 4:45 if you want a good spot.
I left my swim stuff in the care, figuring on coming back. I took my bag with all my other gear and my bike and headed toward transition. I saw BSR Ben and Lisa from AZ walking with Chris M so I joined them. The entrance to transition was on the very far side. I got body marked quickly as there weren't too many people then.
|Get them Gators!|
I went back to the car, got wetsuit, and left my swimskin and my phone. I grabbed my food and headed back to transition. It was fun having transition with all my BSR mates. Lots of talking chattering, helping each other out. It was a lot of great positive energy and not all that nervous energy. I got to talk to Brian and Daniella with Lowman Endurance coaching who I have met many times with all my trips to Chatty over the last years. They both KQ'd at Chatt last fall. I was hoping some of that speed could rub off on me.
Time to head out of transition. I decided to put the wetsuit on my legs before leaving transition. I will admit I was a little shy to show the world my clothing choice here or down by the water. I kinda sat at the end of the row of bike near the bushes and got my wetsuit on my legs. I then headed over to the swim start.
|Obviously I'm thrilled to start the swim|
I saw Chris M with BSR Michael and we talked for a bit. Chris helped settle my nerves. I found Ed and met his family. Soon it was time to jump in line. I went through the line that had formed on the beach along the water. I got in the water (you were not allowed to do a warm up swim) and waded in a bit. I'm sure everyone else that was "just getting used to the temperature" was doing the same thing I was: Peeing like a Russian Racehorse.
So for the first time at this race, they did a total rolling start. This is the same as they have been doing at Chattanooga for the last couple years. Although here they actually did have signs up and tried to keep it a little more organized than Chatty. There is more room here, so that does help. They had signs for under 30 min, then 30-33, 33-35, 35-37, then 38 to I think 44, then 45+. With a wetsuit and no current, I have swam from 35 to 38 minutes. But I figured I lie like everyone else, so I lined up in the 33-35 min area with several BSR people. They didn't have any physical corral or ropes or anything. You just stood there.
Soon they played the national anthem. Every once in a while you could see a jet ski zip along the side of the lake, evidently to scare off the gators. They were supposed to start at 6:50 and they said it would take an hour to get everyone in. With all the cloud cover it was a little dark, so they started at 6:55 letting the first people go. You could see them running in and not swimming for the first little bit. The line seemed to move slowly at first, but as we got closer it seemed to go quicker. I don't think it did, but just mentally it seemed like that. About 7:10am I crossed the timing mat.
37:19 Officially 67th AG, 360th Male
Garmin had 37:17 for 2,220 yards (1:41 hundred yard pace)
I ran for as long as I could before I dove in to swim. The water seemed cool, and felt pretty good. I just tried to follow the stream of swimmers ahead of me. It was a little congested along that first stretch. More so than I can remember in other rolling starts. I tried to start out smoother and not kill myself the first couple hundred meters. I definitely felt "wetsuit smooth".
Everyone talks about how crappy this course is with all the turns. And, honestly, I usually don't like a course with a bunch turns as well. For some reason, I kinda liked the way that this course broke up the swim some. It's not just an 'M' shape, it's like a block style 'M'. There is a short straight segment at each top and the bottom of the M, so there are 7 segments total. It actually helped me mentally thinking about where I was on the course and that the next turn wasn't that far off. Many courses, that first segment or after the first turn it seems like the next part takes forever.
But all that didn't stop me from seeing someone do the Breast Stroke! Seriously, when will it end? But I just made my turns, tried to keep swimming straight and keep focused. Someone gave me some sage advice before the race not to make a wrong turn on the swim. I took that advice to heart.
I didn't feel like I got passed by too many people, and I even passed several. So I feel pretty justified about picking my starting position. I can always say that I *hoped* to swim sub 35.
Looking at my splits, I did slow down as the race went on. I didn't really feel too tired until that last segment. I really had to focus there and keep my strokes up. The end did seem to drag on a bit. I swam until I grabbed mud, then I got up. The volunteers were yelling about some hole, but I must have missed it. I gathered myself and tried to run up the ramp.
Garmin had 3:30 and 0.27 miles
I didn't see any wetsuit strippers, ahem, I mean peelers, running up the ramp. I was relieved. I had been a bit worried about using the peelers and having them pull the suit off my legs and only getting the wetsuit off. I was concerned about there being collateral pullage as I was not in a one piece suit. Especially considering that I liberally pre-lubed the area with Ruby's Lube this morning.
I got the suit down around my waist easy enough. You had to run all the way around transition. Once at my spot I pulled the suit down and then stepped on one side with my foot and pulled, then the other side until it was off. It's kinda like a T1 dance. I threw some more lube on down there, put my helmet on, then my shoes. And I was off.
2:18:11 Officially, 1st AG, 5th Overall
Garmin had 2:18:05 for 55.93 miles (24.3 mph avg) on 217 watts (VI=1.018); 1,014 feet of gain, 88 cadence, 159 BPM.
|Big Sexy showing off them mad photog skillz|
The temperature felt good, and once on my bike I felt pretty settled. I had heard the first part of this course was pretty flat. I just tried to tuck my head as much as possible to stay aero. My original goal was 225 watts. Through the first part of the course there is a lot of turns. At one point after what seemed like a dozen turns, I looked down at my Garmin and saw I was only at 11.8 miles. I'm like, wow, there are a lot of turns on this course. Looking at my Garmin map there are about 19 turns in those first 12 miles!
One of my buddies warned me about some of these turns coming up on you quickly. One of the turns did surprise me quite a bit, but I managed to keep it on the road. See, I was expecting turns like at an intersection. There were several turns were the road just did a 90 degree turn right in the middle of no where. For no apparent reason. Other than it's Florida. There were some longer stretches in the rest of the course.
So with all those turns, I averaged 221 watts through the first ten miles. I felt pretty good. I was passing people pretty regularly. I was a little congested at times, but overall not too bad. That's one thing I like about these rolling starts (like Chattanooga). I'll admit it: you can kinda lie about your swim and get near the front of the race. If you are in wave 15, you don't get any choice, and you're passing 3 and 4 wide for the first 20 miles.
|"Moooving on Up", 38 AG spots in 29 miles|
Sure enough looking back on it now, the 28 mile mark puts you on the southern tip of the course. The next 15 miles were a little more tough sledding. Here you hit the hills of the course, with over 500 feet of climbing in these 15 miles. (As opposed to 190 feet in the first 25 miles). I was able to maintain pretty good watts averaging 222 through that stretch.
During the climbs, when I would get out of the saddle, it was when I noticed the effects of my "kit". When I got back in the saddle, I would have to adjust some. A few times it took me a little bit to get comfortable again. So I tried to stay in the saddle.
Over the next 10 miles to mile 50, my watts started dropping off (217 watts), but my speed through there was pretty good (25.6 mph). The last 6 miles we had a bit of a headwind. I didn't feel too tired, but again my watts started dropping off. I mean 50-55 was 215 watts, so not crazy bad, but my target was 225 so that wasn't good. Then with the headwind those 5 miles were only a 21.3 avg.
As we got back into town, I needed some relief. I couldn't get it going until that final short stretch on Ledwith Avenue. So all these people are lining each side of the road cheering like crazy. I'm coasting down that hill, letting the pee fly like there is no tomorrow. I haven't had cheers like that just for going potty since I was 3 years old. I coasted into transition as my power avg dropped to 217 watts.
Garmin had 2:20 and 0.23 miles
Perfect dismount. I made the short run with my bike to my spot. Not a lot of bikes in there at this point. I put more lube on. Socks and Shoes. Hat and Glasses. Grabbed my race belt and started running. Of course I had to run all the way around through transition. As I was doing that, I grabbed the gels I had in my race belt, pulled them off and stuffed them in the back pocket of my kit top. I had 4 gels and took them all out. I was concerned about the gels flopping around on my unprotected skin.
1:34:25 Officially 7th AG, 60th Male
Garmin had 1:34:37 and 13.14 miles (7:12 min/mile), 574 feet of gain, 161 cadence and 173 BPM
I came out of transition actually feeling pretty good. I kept an eye on my pace for that first mile, making sure I didn't go too fast. I saw Chris and Erika had all the Big Sexy banners setup in the first half mile of the loop. I came through there and got a few high fives and it definitely gave you a shot of energy.
That second and third mile had some pretty good hills in them. There was a lot of concrete running. Not a fan. Most of the way through Eva Park and then along 10th street as well. It didn't feel too hot, but it was a bit humid. Those hills were rough the first time through, but I was just thinking 1 down, 2 to go. I had passed a couple of BSR's Paolo and Adam, smacking butts as I went.
Coming near the end of the first lap I was at a 6:41/mile average, and I felt pretty good about that. Looking back at the Ironman.com results, I was 8th off the bike and then quickly moved into 5th by mile 2.2 of the run. But the second lap started to get rough. The hills were killing me. I may have to rethink my hill training strategy (i.e. not training hills). Those next 4 miles I averaged 7:12's, and it was a struggle.
I reached mile 9 back near the Big Sexy area. Chris told my I was in 4th at that point. So I was just thinking hold on. Very soon after that a guy in my age group passed me. I tried to match his pace, and I stayed near him for quite a while. This last 4 miles was just about survival. Paolo passed me back. I was dying on the hills.
I really had hoped to have more fuel in the tank for the last lap here. I drained my bottle on the bike, along with 3 gels. I really didn't feel like I was lacking nutrition. I had 2 gels on the run, probably should have made myself take more in. I did have a salt pill every 2 miles, so I don't think that was the issue.
|Ewww. Old Man Butt.|
4:35:50 Officially 4th AG, 37th Male
Garmin had 4:35:49 for 70.83 miles and 3,703 calories
I stagger through the finish, glad to be done and quiet the screaming in my thighs. A volunteer grabs my chip then I get a medal and a hat. I grab some water and drain the whole bottle. I walk the rest of the way through congratulating some guys I saw on the course.
I head over to athlete food, not because I'm hungry, but want some soda. I grab a cola and find a seat. I see BSR Adam come through the food line and he takes a seat next to me, looking pretty rough. We chat for a bit. I get another cola. BSR Paolo joins us at the table as well.
Adam is talking, then he stops. Then his eyes close. Then he starts to pitch forward. I catch him and push him back in his chair. Paolo and I start talking to him, you ok man? I try to give him some cola, but it just dribbles down his chin. A lady there seems concerned, so I ask her to go get medical. I still can't get any cola in him, so I decide we just need to take him to medical.
|Party on the Course!|
At the car, I grabbed my phone and confirmed that I had finished 4th. So turns out that guy that passed me must have been a lap down since I don't remember him at the finish. I gave my wife a call and talked about the race as I headed back down to the race site. I went by medical and saw that Adam was out, but was sitting on a bench right outside. He still did not look too good.
I headed on over to where Chris had all the BSR stuff setup. They had coolers of beer, which was awesome. We just hung out, drank beer, and cheered all the BSR 'mates that were still on the course. I hadn't noticed the signs they made until after the race. I saw one during the race, and it had sponsor logos on it, so I just thought they were all like that. But BSR Erik and his wife and BSR Jodi had made up a dozen custom signs for certain people making fun of something or another. Of course mine was swimming.
After we thought most people had come through for the last time, we packed up and headed back over toward the finish. I went to the athlete food and wolfed down two chicken rice and cheese tortillas. Then I went over to the Tri Club area where they had free beer. A bunch of us hung out there for a while as the final few finishers came through.
We all headed over to the awards area and hung out there. They cycled through the awards, and I got mine. They started going through the Tri Club awards, and to little surprise, but huge applause (of our own doing) Big Sexy Racing won the Division II North American Championship.
The cool thing about this award was that it was not just based on total points. They did indeed take your 5 highest point finishers (going by the AG points system). We didn't win just because we had 56 finishers. We won because we also had some quality at the top. Bobbe won her AG (F70) and then I was the second highest point earner. Plus we had another high finish in M45, and then M40 and F55.
|Me and Kitty|
After the awards and all the pictures, I headed back to the house. There was a bunch of food that Kitty had made and some leftovers, so I ate quite a bit then. There was also more beer. Everyone was pretty much hanging out and talking about the race. Eventually a shower opened up and I was able to clean up.
|Me and the Real Diehl|
After a little while, I got hungry again and went out with Hugo and Kathy to this Burger Craft place. The avocado burger was simple amazing. Or I was really hungry, cause I scarfed down onion rings and finished up Kathy's fries as well.
|I'm really not sure why I have a "Big Sexy" hand on my brief area.|
|Nothing stands between Big Sexy and his ice cream|
I decided to get up at 6 and head out early. I packed everything up, or just threw it in the car to worry about later. I said some goodbyes and headed out by 6:45am. Traffic (as usual) was bad in Orlando. Once I got past the metro area I stopped at Waffle House for a hashbrown bowl and some coffee.
Didn't hit any traffic the rest of the way, and once past Jacksonville I stopped at Wendy's for a Baconator sandwich. I mean really, if you can't eat like crap for a few days after a race, what's the bloody point? So I got home by 4pm, and spent a bunch of time unloading and unpacking.
So overall it was just an amazing weekend. It was so cool to meet so many BSR people. Many I have known for years. They have been on the team as long as I have (5 years) but we've never actually met. It was also cool be be able to spend more time than just a dinner with them. At the house and after the race. It really felt awesome to be around such great, positive people all weekend.
Obviously I was hoping to do better than 4th. I was happy with my swim and my bike. I felt good on the bike and didn't really feel like I was dying at the end like Boulder and Chatt Worlds last year. Plus to get the top time in my AG and 5th overall on just 217 watts says that I'm Aero AF. But I fell apart on the run. The first lap was on pace, the second lap was 30 seconds slower per mile than pace, but the last lap was a minute slower per mile. And I felt like I was pushing. My only consolation is that I talked to Triathlon Joe (some of you know who he is) after the race. This spring he ran a 1:21 open half marathon, but he could only muster a 1:41 on this run course.
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|The race accolades just don't stop. Here's one I got a week later for beating a red light. Plus Free Video!|