It is hard to believe that only a couple of days ago I was swimming in an outdoor 30 yard pool with the Key West sun on my back! But that’s the life of a triathlete with a full-time job to pay the bills, right? This was a quick trip and I had headed south with a mission – to dust off the cobwebs and let my body know that we will most definitely be gearing up for racing season. After all is said and done, I have to say that for a first year event things went very smoothly and I would definitely recommend this race for anyone looking for an early season tri.
My race began early Saturday morning as I caught the shuttle from my hotel down to the transition. One of only 3 people on the shuttle, it was like having a private taxi service! As we rode down the empty road, I could tell the wind would definitely be a factor as the palm trees were blowing fiercely in the moonlight. In transition I put everything in order, and had plenty of time to catch the next shuttle over to the swim start. This was only a 15 minute walk, but why waste the time on your legs if you don’t have to?! Once again there was no issues with any of the shuttles or transportation, so I have to hand it to the race organizers there!
Over at Smathers beach, the start for the full iron distance was pushed back about 15 minutes until the sun was fully up. That meant I had another hour or so to hang out, which was fine by me. It was really easy to find a quiet section of the beach and watch the sun come up over the ocean. I took in the scenery and was pretty relaxed as I watched the other waves start out:
(photo taken from @ChuckDennie’s Instagram…..I don’t know you, but thanks!)
With my newfound swim confidence after swim camp, I lined up right on the front and was pretty well able to identify the girls I would want to stick with. Our wave started, a few running steps, some dolphin dives and we were off! At one point the course turned and took you right into the winds – which also means right into the waves! As I was getting tossed all about and struggling to sight the buoys, I was at least glad that the rough conditions were giving me something to take my mind off the chance of Portuguese man-o-wars in the water! Due to the sighting issues with all of the waves, I swung pretty wide on one of the last turns but a kayaker corrected me and I don’t think I lost too much ground. I was able to maintain sight with the other pink caps I had headed out in the front with, so I felt good about that. As I headed in to the pier, we were swimming through shallow water and I must have passed about 15 men who were walking it in! And not a walk which was kind of a jog through the water. They were doing the creature from the
blue black lagoon walk, slow and sweeping with their arms dragging along, no sense of urgency whatsoever. I did not understand!
Onto the bike…..and into the wind! That’s right – 28 miles of pure headwind. For once I felt strong despite the heavy wind, and I was able to gain a good bit of ground, passing one girl around mile 15. Just after the pass, I saw some commotion in a parking lot to my right, and flew by a sign that read “aid station”. Uhhh….what?!
So, races apparently have these things called “mandatory pre-race meetings” which I generally tend to avoid. I do thoroughly read the athlete packet — I just tend to stray away from things with high concentrations of other competitors in one spot. Well, this ended up not being the best decision here, as it was told at the meetings that due to the fact we were biking on an open highway, it wasn’t safe to do normal aid stations – they would all be lots to pull off into. By the time I pieced all of this together I was well past the point of no return. I was also just about empty on water. At that point there wasn’t much else to do other than nurse my bottle of calories for the hydration there, and wait for the next stop, shortly after the turnaround. I ended up stopping for 2 bottles here so I could make it all the way in.
Having a headwind the whole way out did of course mean the best news ever: tailwind on the way home! I am pretty sure I have never had the chance to ride 28 miles uninterrupted on essentially flat ground with a 15-20 mph tailwind at my back. It was just as awesome as it sounds like it would be! Having ridden to the turnaround in 1:26, I ended up back in transition with a total bike of 2:36 – so you can do the math there!
As I headed onto the run I knew it was going to be both a mental game and a task of managing conditions. The heat was of course one thing, but the wind was again a factor – now we’d be running a few miles into that same headwind on each of the 2 loops. I was able to see the girl behind me on one of the out-and-backs and so I knew I had a small cushion to work with, but it wasn’t until further into the run I saw the woman in first place. She looked strong, but I knew I could at least hold my place if I played my cards right.
The wind ended up zapping a lot of my energy, and being a relatively small race there was really no one around me to keep pace with. It was a little obvious that many of us had probably come from climates that were a far cry from 84 degrees and humid! The final 5k of the run takes you out into downtown Key West, down Duval Street, and through the crowds. And a couple times that literally meant through the crowds – many of the tourists had no clue what was going on, and since part of the run course was on sidewalks you were dodging people as you ran. Not ideal, but also not the worst. I will say it was super cool to run by the southern most point on the continental US! Not many race routes will take you that close to such a neat attraction.
The race finished in a park area, where pizza awaited. I had indeed held on to second place and came in just over 5 hours. Not a PR by any means, but it was definitely the best start to a racing season I’ve had which is a great sign. And, to take second place to a professional – well, can’t complain about that either! I was able to meet many of the other local competitors and it was nice to get to know so many new faces. Many of them had come up to tell me about the Rev3 races they had done, and which they were thinking about doing this year. It was really fun to get to connect with so many people and I hope to see them at a Rev3 race this year! Then I was even able to snag a ride in the back of a pickup truck with my new friends back to transition, where I rode my bike the remainder of the way back to the hotel…..and just in time, as the Raven’s game was starting!
Thanks for the photo Maria!
Overall I am really pleased with how things went. I definitely hit the ground running and it added the fuel to my fire for IM Los Cabos in 8 weeks! Maybe this early season IM stuff really isn’t so bad after all 🙂 Unfortunately I have yet to discover any other race pictures from the event, but I’m pretty sure that I looked like this the entire time anyway, so I’ll leave you with this to fill the void: