Sunday.  8:30am.

I did it.  I had help, vital help, from all directions, but I got it done.

heavy metal

Iron-distance triathlon.  2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run.

But first things first:  The Apology.  I know this is the first most of you are hearing of this race, because I haven’t been blogging about it.  There’s a reason for this.  If you recall the Taupo experience, my excitement and anticipation, including all the blogging and friend support, led to my having an anxiety event at the beginning of the swim.  In an effort to prevent this from happening again, I tried several things, including keeping this race on the DL.  I’ll tell you about the success in the water, but I will say that it was a real loss (for me) not including everyone in the process.  So that’s the explanation of this sneak-attack race.  I believe this is the only time I’ll have to do that.

Now to the race.  It was the Great Floridian Triathlon (trivia tidbit:  Ironman is a franchise word, a brand name; there are many Iron-distance races that are prohibited from using the Ironman label – this was one – in this case they called it an Ultra Triathlon).  It was held in Clermont, Florida at Lake Minneola.  Word to any future racers:  do not assume that because the race is located in Florida it is flat.  More on that in the bike paragraph.  Jesse, Sam, and I drove down here on Thursday to get settled in and registered.

surveying the challenge

So, back to the swim issue.  This paragraph is probably more info than you’ll want to read if you’re just trying to get a rundown from the race, but it’s incredibly important to the success I had.  Being an emotionally open and adventurous person has served me well my entire life.  I will occasionally do a “sensory check” in the middle of a random moment:  What am I seeing?  hearing?  tasting?  smelling?  I am so greedy about sucking every moment out of life, and I try to stay open to every experience, particularly new ones.  This life attitude very seldom feels like it has a downside, but I have come to accept that it was exactly this desire for wide-openness that created the anxiety event in the water at Lake Taupo.  So I used a different approach for this race, which, as I explained above, included not broadcasting my attempt, to cut down on the pressure.  My informal triathlon coaches, Ali and Liz from the UK (and very dear friends), also suggested limiting my exposure to all the pre-race hype and activity, which I normally would have embraced and participated in.  Between that, and a little chemical intervention suggested by another fellow athlete/physician, I approached race day in a completely different manner than I usually do.

So race day started with our 5:30am wakeup call.  Race gun was at 7:30, and as I cautiously began my swim, I was as calm as I could be.  It feels counterintuitive to the whole “Eye of the Tiger” approach to athletic competitions, but it certainly worked in my case.  My swim was a good deal slower than I usually swim, but that was intentional on my part, and I exited the water no worse for the wear after 2.4 miles.

better exit than last time
scouting the "Florida" terrain the day before race

Into transition and onto the bicycle.  Jesse and Sam and I had driven the course the day before, for which I was grateful, because it prepared me for the hills to come.  It was as hilly a course as I’ve ever ridden.  I was glad to have spent the 10 days before cycling the Natchez Trace, particularly the hilly northern section.  This ride was a 3-loop ride, and I was pretty toasted by the second lap, but off I go on the 3rd, with the knowledge that there is a 6:30pm cutoff for the bike course.  No need to magnify the drama, but I rolled across the chip mat into transition at 6:28, with Sam yelling at me about the time (Jesse was in a bar watching the Auburn/LSU game at the time).  One more set of clothes, and off to the marathon.

starting the timer for the bike course
start of a long, long run

Sam, because he spent all last year in New Zealand and that is the custom, never wears shoes.  The run course was a 3-loop out and back, and because this race is a little more laid back than Ironman events, allowed support people on the run course.  So, yes, Sam ran/walked 8 miles with me BAREFOOT.  When we got back off the first lap, Sam took a little 4-mile break and Jesse joined me (the game was over by then), and when Sam rejoined us, he had on his Chacos.  So these two guys ran/walked/limped with me the duration of the race.  We crossed the finish line at 1:00 Sunday morning in a huge victory for me!!

I am as tired as I look in this picture

We gathered my gear/bike/clothes, threw them in the back of the minivan and cruised back to the hotel, where I showered and collapsed, Jesse showered and collapsed, and Sam collapsed in his clothes and dirty feet while waiting for the shower.  In the light of this morning we surveyed the damage.  I am sore all over – even my hair feels like it hurts.  My top pains:  the bicycle booty, my quads, my blistered feet, my sunburned back, my clavicles from resting 8 hours on the aerobars, and gluteus minimus – the underlying glutes deep in the hips.  Jesse, who only had his worn out sneakers on, has blisters the size of a credit card on the balls of both feet.  Sam’s feet, which are gnarly anyway, are beaten and raw.  Neither of them had been training to run or walk anywhere near this distance, so they are pretty sore in the marathon areas – butt and quads.

Jesse's horrible feet blisters

Now we’re headed back home, where I’ll take a few days off, then jump right back into training for the next race:  Lake Taupo Revisit in March.  I’ll look for some shorter races in the interim, but racing season is really March – October in the Northern hemisphere.

Thanks for reading, and in advance for understanding my need to handle this race this way.  I think I’ll be able to share at least the dates of future races, if not every little detail!

Huge thanks to Jesse and Sam for all the support, both pre-, during, and post-race.  I’ve got to get Sam in the pool for some swim practice….no ulterior motive.

Since Amy has my camera, and I haven’t yet replaced it, I’ve got to extract the pictures from Big Jesse’s.  I want to go ahead and post the story, and I’ll come back and add pictures (the one of Jesse’s feet is spectacular, as is the one of the roach in the hotel room, so check back).

disgusting palmetto roach in the hotel room (and Sam's face)

Thanks for reading and for cheering me on!

Thanks for all the kind words!