The previous post was a review of the FD3 Triathlon Series as if it was a product. Below you will find a more detailed account of my personal experiences during the race. Let me know in the comments section if you have any feedback on which you prefer or any relevant comments.
Idina Menzel was singing “Defying Gravity” when my alarm clock announced it was 4:15 a.m. and that it was indeed time to rise. It was the first time in a while, that I wished I could hit the snooze bar on race day. Usually, I wake up with a bounce in my step, but today was a little different. Not that I was not taking it seriously. If training with Jon Noland and Tribal Multisport has taught me anything is that you do not “toe the line” if you are not going for the win.
My coaching methodology is a little different, but I have made a lot of progress with Tribal, so I have stuck with this mentality for my own training. My coaching niche is very different as well. While I train newcomers, or returning clients to the sport, Tribal trains athletes. I have learned a lot in my time with Coach Jon Noland, and I find myself a better coach and athlete the more I do.
Nevertheless, the words were echoing in my head. “If you are not going to go all out when you toe the line, then don’t.” I knew once I got out there and saw my Tribal peeps I would be ready to go.
My head cleared after taking some calories from a pre-workout drink, and inhaling my vitamin supplements. I felt more like myself, so I quickly grabbed all my gear I prepared the night before, racked my bike, and headed out.
I tend to get a kick out of driving to a race. It’s my time to contemplate my strategy and lessons learned while being surrounded by my own environment.
The YouTube soundtrack to the Rise and Shine video was blaring over my radio speakers as I approached the parking lot. The full spectrum palette of colors were being displayed before me in tri-kits, helmets, and bikes as athletes were in all stages of preparation for their own challenges.
Check-in & Set-up
My preparation was completed prior to my arrival, so the only thing I did was grab my backpack from the trunk, remove my bike from my rack and stroll into the check-in area.
Triathlete’s tend to always worry about their bikes, and I am no exception. I have been privy to plenty of stories of cyclists colliding head first with other cyclists, inanimate objects and people, where the first words muttered upon becoming conscience were not, “I am hurt” or “Is the other person ok?”, but the fearful question; “Is my bike alright?!” It doesn’t matter if they have a broken arm, leg or collarbone the first question is the same.
With that kind of mentality it is obvious we all tend to be security conscious about our bikes, but I have to say I do not carry that fear with me at a race venue. I tend to believe two things; 1) the event planners have adequate security and 2) there are plenty more expensive bikes than mine around.
Multirace, as always, provided one rack at the entrance to the check-in area in order to allow the athletes to rack their bikes in order to keep the congestion down. Of course, due to the aforementioned insecurities, most of the local triathletes did not utilize the racks, therefore it was ended up quite crowded when I arrived around 6am.
There was a table with two volunteers checking-in athletes and I ended up in a line with approximately 15 people, so I waited about 10 minutes to receive my bib, bike and helmet stickers. However, the swag/t-shirt, body marking and chip distribution stations were less than a minute each, so overall it was a very smooth experience.
I had already bumped into a few other athletes I knew including my own client, Laura, whom would be defending her Age Group First Place finishes she earned in the first two events in this series.
Sweat already started rolling down my arms as I rolled my bike into it’s nesting place among the other carbon fiber speed machines in the transition area. I was fairly quick to set my bike and running shoes, towel, helmet, hat, sunglasses and race belt at the front tire of my bike, when the rest of the crew started to notice I arrived.
Miles and Ted, decked out in the same Tribal camouflage tri-kit, found me and as we started socializing, Rick, Laura, Nick and Coach Jon had also joined in just as a photographer was strolling by. We didn’t let that opportunity go to waste..
As we chatted on our way to the beach, the beginning of my race anxiety started to creep into my stomach. No matter how many races I do, no matter how densely populated the field is, the nerves always pop up right before showtime. The only difference is, I know to expect it now.
I jumped in the 83 degree Gulf of Mexico, to warm up and get a feel for the water. It was unusually calm with a low tide which would make the swim fast, but would also allow for some of the less experienced swimmers to walk over the shallow sand bar in the beginning and the end of the swim course. Sometimes, it could make it hard to swim around them. It is one thing to pass, or swim around another swimmer, but a walker is a like an immovable object.
The swim is not my strongest portion of triathlon, but I have really been putting an effort in to become more efficient. Three years ago, I would probably be one of the athletes overjoyed to have places in an 800-meter swim to be able to walk for a bit, but I have realized through my training, and as a coach, it is not efficient and could be detriment.
Running or walking in the water utilizes a great amount of quad and hamstring strength of which is needed more on the bike and run. While, some of the other athletes, including myself, might actually be faster running in the water, it would likely cause a slower bike and run split, therefore not very cost effective.
I turned back toward shore just as one of the volunteers started corralling us out of the water in order to start the festivities. The nerves were still there, but much less intense. Having the opportunity to be enveloped by the water, and feel the grade of tension on my forearm as it pulls through the water always calms me down prior to a start of a race. That feeling is a reminder to my psyche that says, “Yo…Brad…this is nothing you haven’t done a thousand times before, either in training or a race.”
Our Aussie announcer, gave his last instructions on the swim course, the first wave lined up and the triumphant siren of the air horn went off. First, was the open wave, then the under 40 age groups, and at 7:07 am that same horn saturated our ears to send me and the 40 and over age group out into the salty current.
Running out in to the surf was not as easy as jumping into the pool. Low tide kept the water even more shallow than usual, so duck running was all we could do until it was deep enough to dolphin dive and then finally start a good freestyle stroke.
I was able to swim to the first buoy pretty fast and it was smooth sailing from there. I have been working on a long reach with a two-beat kick then driving the hip down as I pull through. I will say it is probably the most efficient technique where I can stay relaxed, but it is far from fast.
During this race, I was surprised as I approached the second buoy and reached to find another foot there. My inner dialogue reacted with “What? I caught someone?”. I moved to the left and passed him. I continued swimming and reached and hit someone thigh. Now this was getting a little crazy. I don’t pass people on the swim, they pass me.
At the final buoy prior to turning to the beach, everything seemed to come to a halt, as people started walking because it was shallow. For a few steps I did the same just to get around some people, but I felt so good I actually wanted to swim. When I found clean water, I continued swimming towards the finish.
My goal was to cross the mat at 15 minutes flat. I came out of the water, crossed the mat and hit the button on my watch as it glowed 15:10. An audible, “Wow, I’ll take it.” came out of my mouth after recognizing how close to my goal. Last month at the FD3 #2, I walked out over 17 minutes, so I was pretty happy at that point.
Transition #1 (T-1)
I must have conquered my efficiency goals, because I had a ton energy to run into T1. Of course I passed my bike and had to double back, but that was only a few seconds. I put on my helmet as I slipped my bike shoes on and slid my bike back and under the bar as I headed to the mount line. I clicked my watch as I crossed the mat at 2:59. A different oral comment came blurting out which was a little negative compared to the first one since my goal was 2:30.
The ride started like a rocket. I was able to pick up speed fast and reach goal power within a few seconds of turning onto the main road. The course would be two loops around Fort DeSoto Park.
Last month, I just wanted a strong bike, and I went out completely on feel. This time I wanted to stay at between 85 and 90% of my FTP (Functional Threshold Power). FTP is the maximum power in watts that can be held for 1 hour, in my terms, from fresh to dead. Currently mine is calculated at 225, so I wanted to stay in-between 191-202 watts.
The wind is usually pretty intense at Ft. Desoto, but we were lucky the last two races of the series. The wind was mild for the previous race and at this point I could feel the cool air against my tri-kit causing that goosebumps sensation, but still not as intense as the last few training rides I participated in here.
I started passing people down my right side without any challengers coming behind me until I the roundabout, marking the end of the first loop, came into view. At that point the phrase “Good Job Brad, keep it up” came from a passing rider, crystal clear as if he was walking next to me. That rider was my coach, Jon Noland, screaming by on hit BMC Time Trial bike.
I kind of expected it. Jon was competing in the Sprint Distance, so he started about 10 minutes behind me and as he swims much faster , and he bikes at around 25 mph versus my speed of around 22, it was only a matter of time, but I was happy to have held him off for almost my first, and his only loop.
The second loop felt a little tougher, but the miles clicked by and I stuck to my game plan. I continued to pass riders, but I did get caught by one and I used him the last five miles as a motivator to push a touch harder.
As the dismount line came closer I loosened the straps of my bike shoes and started to slip my feet out. At the line, I left my shoes in the clips, dismounted and ran to my transition space. I hit the button on my watch as I crossed the mat, but didn’t look at the time, but it ended up 54:35 while my goal was to be under 55 minutes.
Transition #2 (T-2)
Again, I heard the sound of Jon telling me “Relax Brad. Smooth is fast” as I departed transition in 1:03 where my goal was 1:10. It was probably pretty clear my astonishment as “Yeah Baby!” came spitting out of my mouth as I crossed the timing mat.
My thoughts ventured to the last FD3 race. It was extremely hot and I ended up doing a little more walking then I wanted to, so this time even though I had a time goal, my inner monologue was telling me to just keep running. “If you keep running the time will take care of itself.”
The first mile is all on hard packed sand, which was even harder due to the rain experienced the night before. This made it a little easier to navigate, but the sun was really beating down, and the temperature was starting to rise. As I rounded the corner toward the asphalt path, my watch vibrated and chirped at the first mile. I looked and was happy to have run under a 9 minute mile which lined up with my goal o 55 minutes or under.
The first aid station, held out Hammer Heed, and water, which both were deliciously ice cold. I grabbed one of each, downed them and kept running.
My legs started to get heavy, but I knew it was more because I needed three miles for my legs to transition and gain my rhythm. At the 1.5 mile aid station I grabbed 2 cups of water which I downed one and poured the other down my back. That felt so good, as the water was still ice cold.
The turnaround brought me back to that aid station where I grabbed one more cup and doused myself. I could feel the sun heat my skin to an uncomfortable level. The sweat was starting to creep into my eyes, and the suffering started.
I ended up slowing down a bit, but I kept running. As I was passing the finish line in order to start my second loop, I could hear my friend Josh, yelling for me to get going as I walked through the water stop there to pick up some hydration. It was only a few seconds before I restarted on the beach path toward the fourth mile marker.
The second loop was more like the first, which was surprising. I expected to feel like I needed to slow down more, but I didn’t. I had more in me than I thought. When I passed the 5 mile sign, I was relieved, but felt like I even had more to give. I picked up the pace a bit in anticipation of the finish line and then I decided to progressively get faster as that last mile clicked on.
I looked at my watch, thinking 1.2 miles to go, then before I knew it I only had 0.7 to go, then 0.5 and when I could see the finish line, I picked it up. The only thing running through my head was Finish Strong, and the faster I get to the finish, the faster I am done.
I crossed the finish line and realized I was completely spent.
One volunteer gave me a medal, while another detached my timing chip from my ankle, and a third handed me a cold bottle of water.
As I stumbled to the back of the finish section, my client Laura found me. I asked how she did, and disappointingly she told me that she placed third. I was overjoyed, but she didn’t feel the same.
It was noticeable that this race was more populated than the last race, so I knew she would have more competition then the prior races. I asked about her time, and she told me she hadn’t looked yet, so I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her toward the timing table. The volunteers took our bib numbers and gave back slips with our times on them.
Laura PR’d again, and wouldn’t you know it, so did I, by 6 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.
I ended up finishing the run in 55:04 which was pretty much my goal time, and a final time of 2:08:47. That time put me in 8th place in my age group, which I was happy to be in the top 10. I wasn’t going to be standing on the podium, but I was happy with my performance and my PR.
I am not the fastest, but I continually strive to do better than I did the last time. In July I PR’d this race by over 15 minutes and in a month I PR’d again by another 6 minutes. While I did have time goals, of which I was a little off of, I did what I came out to do.
The best part was Laura and my Tribal buddies had a stellar day. Yelena picked up her second Female Over-all win. My former client and Tribal buddy Josh, picked up his Age Group win. Rick won the Masters division. Miles ended up with a 2nd place AG, and of course Jon again took the Overall win in the Sprint.
We did find out that since Laura took 1st in the first two races of the series and 3rd in the last, she won 1st place in her age group for the series. That was very cool and I am so proud of her for that accomplishment.
The rest of the time consisted of socializing, and eating as usual.
The experience of this race was stellar. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Sprint or the International Distance triathlons. Just be prepared for the climate and the possibility of a windy bike and challenging swim.
What did you think of this format of a race review versus my first post? Do you have a favorite race that could be enjoyed by other triathletes or duathletes?
I would really appreciate your feedback in the comments below.
Carpe Vitam! (Seize Life!)