After a pretty solid winter of training, I got my season kicked off with Florida 70.3 in Haines City, Florida on April 10th. Training had been going well leading up to the race, but it had pretty much been all indoor riding with zero open water swims and given it was the first race of the season, there was some question marks about how I would perform. Travel had been relatively minimal for work over the past few months and the boys had been sleeping pretty well for the most part (although I have to praise my beautiful wife for handling almost all child wake ups during this timeframe) . I felt bad not having the family join me for the race, but financially it was a bit much for us to bring everyone down so we decided I would head down on my own.
This was NorthEast MultiSport‘s first “destination” race that we would be doing as a group. We rented a house together and there were about 12 of us that raced. I got down to the race on Thursday night and had a great time hanging out with my clients and teammates. I ended up having a lot of work to do so I didn’t get to relax as much as I would have liked, but it was still nice to get away and be in a warmer client.
For those of you considering doing Florida 70.3 sometime, I don’t want to scare you away, but I did want to share this story with you. Tom Frost, fellow NEMS member, got there a bit earlier than I did on Thursday so he headed down to check out transition. When he got there, he saw a sign saying, Caution Alligators – No Swimming. There happened to be a police officer or some sort of official there so Tom asked him if it would be ok if he could swim. The officer’s response was, “I’m not pulling you out of there!” Upon further discussion, the officer then added that its not actually the alligators that you need to be worried about, its more the water moccasins!!! When I heard this story, I have to admit I was a bit freaked out because I am petrified of snakes. It also made me decide to wait for the practice swim on Saturday to test out the water and do my first open water swim of the year.
The day before the race, the practice swim went just fine (the water was actually very refreshing and a great temperature), but when I went to my bike out for a quick spin, my power meter wasn’t working!!! I tried messing around with it for a while and even tried to get some help from the mechanics at transitions, but they told me they couldn’t help me with an issue like that. I was a bit concerned for sure, but decided to look at this as an opportunity to challenge myself and see what happens. This would be the first time I had raced without a power meter since 2009!
The night before the race I ended up staying up much later than I wanted to because the school I played hockey at in college, Quinnipiac University, was playing in the national championship. The game was actually being played in Tampa, which was only an hour away where I was so I was extremely tempted to head over to Tampa to watch the game in person. However, the game didn’t start till 8pm and I wouldn’t have gotten back until too late. Especially since they ended up losing, I made the right decision to pass on going to the game. I was bummed for sure, but still very proud to say that I played for a team that has now played in two national championship games in the last 4 years!
Race morning was relatively uneventful. My power didn’t work again which is what I was expecting, but everything else was good to go. I saw some familiar faces in transition and also got word that it would be a wetsuit legal swim, which is unheard off for this race, but the cooler temps made it happen. I spent some time hanging out with some of my clients prior to the race as my wave didn’t go off until almost an hour after the start of the race. I really enjoy spending time with my clients/club members leading up to a race.
Overall Rank: 70 Gender Rank: 63 Division Rank: 16
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with the swim. I have been continuing to try and improve my swim, but didn’t get as much swimming in as I would have liked over the winter due to travel and family life. I knew I would have to pass a lot of people and because the course was setup in an “M” layout, there would be a lot of turns. I started out in the front row of my wave and try to find some feet to hang out onto. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and I swam by myself most of the race. While I did have to pass a lot of people and there was some congestion for sure, I felt decent throughout the swim. I just focused on my technique and trying to stay in the moment. I got a bit complacent a few times, but when I saw 30:xx on my watch as I exited the swim, I wasn’t thrilled, but wasn’t disappointed either.
Transition 1: 2:12
There is a relatively long run from the water to transition and I had to go up and around before getting to my bike, but T1 was uneventful. I got my wetsuit off pretty well and was out on the bike efficient. Not much to report.
Overall Rank: 7 Gender Rank: 7 Division Rank: 2
As I headed out on the bike, I had a bit of an issue with getting my Garmin Edge 1000 started. At first, I thought to myself, “Oh boy, no power meter and now I can’t even get my computer to start!” However, it finally decided to work I felt a bit more comfortable. I wanted to keep an eye on my heart rate for sure. Since I didn’t have my power meter, I also didn’t have cadence so HR and speed were really my only 2 metrics that I could refer to.
As I started to get into a groove, another guy on a Trek passed me. As a result, I decided I would try to stick with him. I ended up catching him and passed him shortly after so I asked him what kind of a bike split was shooting for and he said 2:15. That was a bit faster than I was planning on, but I decided to just go with it. He and I went back and forth for a few minutes before a fellow Zoot team member rode by us and joined in the mix. After the race, I met him and it turns out it was John Horn who was a really nice guy, had a great day, and will be racing IM Texas as well in a few weeks. The three of us went back and forth for about 10 miles. When not leading, I was sure to keep the right gap between us and keep it clean. I also took my fair share of pulls at the front. The guy on the Trek seemed to be hanging behind us and not taking his turn at the front, but what are you gonna do. We ended up having a race official ride with us for quite some time. I don’t think John and I wearing the same kits did us any favors and the official thought we were trying to draft off one another. However, we kept the appropriate gaps and I can assure all that we kept it clean.
To that point, I would like to mention that just like the pro’s do, it is perfectly acceptable for age groupers to ride as a “group.” This does not mean riding within the draft or riding in a pack like is done in a draft legal bike race or group ride. However, there are advantages to riding as a group. It can really help each rider stay motivated and properly pace themselves for the duration of the ride and also keep each other in check with their effort levels. Ideally each rider does take turns leading. As long as each rider stays out of the draft zone except while passing, this is perfectly legal and I recommend it.
As mentioned, after about 10 miles or so, I ended up pulling away from John and the other rider. It was interesting as I expected John to eventually end up riding away from me, but the opposite happened and I was off on my own again. Since I did start way back, I had to pass hundreds of people on the bike. The course did actually have some legit hills on it so it was much hillier than I expected. There was also some pretty decent wind out there as well. That being said, it was still a pretty flat course, but still had more hills than I thought there would be.
This race was also the first time I was trying out Glukos for my fueling. I had been using it in training for most of the winter with a lot of success so I was excited to race with it and it did not disappoint! I felt GREAT all day and really believe in their products. If anyone is interested in trying it, use the promo code “CTT9192” to get 25% off their products through their website!!!
The rest of the bike was relatively uneventful. I just focused on a good, solid, and consistent pace. I started to get a bit tired towards the end of the ride, but nothing crazy. As the end of the ride approached, I knew it was going to be my best half bike split to date which I was pretty pumped about. I owe a big thanks to My New Ceepo Viper and Jack/The Velo Resource for putting me on awesome bike. I felt I was cutting through the wind extremely well all day. I really love the way it rides and she is FAST! 🙂
Transition 2: 1:26
Again, another uneventful transition. I got right in with my bike, made my changes and was out on the run feeling good.
Overall Rank: 10 Gender Rank: 2 Division Rank: 3
As I headed out I focused on keeping my pace in check, getting my cadence/turnover up, and getting into a good groove. The 3 major hills are on the first half of each loop so I wanted to make sure I didn’t over do it or allow my heart rate to get too high on the hills. There were some downhills as well and I continued to stay focused on my turnover which meant speeding up on the downhills. The 2nd half of each loop was a bit faster than the first half because of the lack of hills so I did my best to comfortably speed up without over doing it. I just focused on getting my nutrition in and getting aid station to aid station.
As I finished the 1st loop, I was feeling good and started giving my overall time a little more thought. Given my swim was respectable and I had a great day on the bike, I knew a PR was doable. I’ve had a goal of going sub 4:10 in a half and knew that was a real stretch, but sub 4:15 was doable for sure. I used that as motivation for the rest of the race. With my growing family and very busy lifestyle, the reality is I don’t know how many more opportunities I will have to PR. I sure hope I’m wrong on that, but I thought about all the training and sacrifices my family and I have made for me to be at this point. I continue to remind myself of this daily, but really used that when it started to hurt a bit. That being said, I felt like I was in control the entire run. As you can see from my splits in Strava, I kept it pretty consistent all day on the run. I did plan to push a little bit more on the last couple miles, but I gave it what I had. I saw a few clients and NEMS members out on the course, which was always nice.
As I headed in towards the finish, I was able to pick it up and I did sprint to the finishing chute. As I crossed the line, I felt great and was pretty pumped to have broken 4:15. The announcer also announced that I was currently had the fastest time of the day. I will admit I wasn’t overly optimistic that my time would hold up as the fastest of the day, but I was still very happy. Here is a link to Facebook video one of my client’s wife took of the live feed.
Gender Rank: 2
Age Group Rank: 1
After some time went by, there was a guy from the 18-24 age group that beat me by a few minutes. However, what was really interesting was there was another guy from the 25-29 age group that had the exact same time as me. When checking the results on Ironman.com, they kept flip flopping us both between 2nd and 3rd. I figured they had the ability to break it down to the millisecond, but was surprised they were flip flipping us. My joke of the day was that he probably didn’t have any kids and since I had seniority on him, I should get 2nd. As it turns out, I did up as 2nd in the results and it was confirmed that I did win my age group which I was extremely happy about. There were some strong guys in my AG and this was a huge confidence booster heading into Ironman Texas. NorthEast MultiSport also got on the podium for our division (division 4) that qualified us for the club championships, which will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico next March.
After the race, we had a good meal, got some ice cream and really enjoyed ourselves. Traveling home was relatively uneventful which made for a great trip. As I say on a regular basis, the thing I love most about triathlon is the people. I had a great time hanging out with clients, club members, and met a few really nice people throughout the weekend. Overall, I would not say Haines City is the nicest of locations, but I really enjoyed the course and it was a relatively inexpensive trip so I would recommend to others.
So what’s up next? Ironman Texas!!! As mentioned, I am feeling good and happy with how my training has gone so I am very excited for this race. This will be my last Ironman before my third child is born in early July. My wife is doing great and we’re so excited to welcome our 3rd boy to the world. That being said, I’ve got a little business to take care of before that. Bring on Texas! 🙂