When I first started looking to fill up my 2017 race calendar, I wanted to get one early season Tri in to test progress through the winter months. Last fall after finishing with a huge Half Iron PR, I knew the first race of the season would be a half. I went looking online and came upon the Florida Intimidator Half in Clermont, Fl. Clermont is a world class Tri destination for early season training; it’s got the swimming, the boardwalk running trail, and most importantly all the hills in Florida it would seem!
Last time I had raced in Florida was 2013 on Kennedy Space Center for the now discontinued Rocketman Triathlon. I was visiting Matt at the time, my good friend from College, and he had said he’d probably do a Tri one day. Since I was seriously planning on doing this March race, I roped him into signing up for the Sprint Tri the same day as me.
Going into a Half Ironman this early in the season, I wasn’t expecting very much from the result other than gauging my overall fitness. After last fall, I took 3 full months off structured training and really enjoyed it through the Holidays. I came back into January feeling very refreshed and ready to take on 2017 training workload.
In the weeks leading up to my race, I tried to do most of my biking outdoors. I knew that with a course with over 2000ft. of elevation gain as an early season race, I would have to get my long rides on real hills, the trainer just wouldn’t cut it. I lucked out a few times with some great weather in February for group rides, but most of my 60+ milers in March were in freezing temperatures. Pedro and Adam can attest to the misery of those rides and on several occasions we came home not fully realizing the extent of our frozen extremities. Other than those rides, I did most of my training solo. I tried to keep up with the strength training, flexibility and focus on my early season swim fitness. Unfortunately my run fitness stayed very flat as I had a Hamstring issue 5 weeks prior to the race and decided to take 10 days off to not waste a whole season by pushing through it.
Race week, I took my taper seriously! No extra miles, no unnecessary time spent standing. Got an average 7-8hrs of sleep each night and come race morning I felt great. Tori and I headed to Orlando on a Thursday afternoon and decided to relax a little on Friday prior to the race at Cocoa Beach which is an 1hr from Orlando where we were lucky enough to have our friend the Sun make an appearance the whole afternoon.
Race morning Matt, Tori and I drove to Clermont where the race was taking place. Matt and I each got our race packets, I help him setup up a few things in transition and I went off to do my pre-race run. I was torn going into the swim whether or not to wear a wetsuit or swim skin. After feeling the water, I decided I was happy with my swim fitness level and would not risk overheating with a full wetsuit. The Half Iron Race went off an hour prior to the Sprint Tri; the horn for the third wave went off and I entered the water taking my pool training into the open water of Lake Minneola. Almost immediately, my left shoulder started to tighten up, I wasn’t sure what it was but figured it would ease as the swim progressed. My swim felt fairly smooth outside of the shoulder issue. I came out 5th in 30:34 which I was l disappointed with considering I had been pacing in the 1:10 per 100yd in the pool. Open water is a whole different animal that I will conquer before the next race.
I ran into transition and saw Matt and Tori cheering me on. The sandy grass transition area made it a bit difficult to not fill your shoes with sand but I did my best; slow 2:34 T1 later and I was exiting to the bike course. I got into my easiest gear to climb out and start and smooth and steady push to the front. I had planned on staying steady for an 1h15 and see where I was on the course. At that point, I checked and was 30miles in and had just passed the lead biker and was now behind the pace Cop car. (A few things that really made me nervous were the amount of traffic on the road, especially the wide-load 18-wheelers carrying farm equipment, and also the fact the lead vehicle should have been a pace bike instead of a car as the car trapped traffic and when the shoulder disappeared, I nearly found myself in a creek). I slowed my pace and decided to keep my Normalized Power around 245Watts for the remainder of the bike. Coming into the transition, there was major mishap after the cop car stopped prior to transition entrance. There was no arrow or volunteer signaling the final turn and I ended shooting passed the intersection and going down a hill having to loop around; cutting through sand pit and doing a little cyclocross for a 100 meter on the tri bike to make it back to transition. I ended tacking on about 1/2miles and entering transition in 2nd place; still maintaining the top bike split of 2:27:58 on course with 2165ft on elevation gain.
As I sped through transition in 1:29, I thought about pushing my run and try to hold 6:35/miles. The lead runner was 30sec ahead and I finally passed him at 2.5 miles. I continued to build my lead and felt very strong and kept pacing well until mile 8. At this point the heat definitely started getting to me. Most the training runs I had done were all in freezing temperatures, and I realized I was now in survival mode trying to keep the fluids in check. I had gotten ahead of myself, surging too early. The eventual winner soon passed and it started to become a real struggle as my hamstring issue from a few weeks back reappeared keeping my pace to a speedy 7:30 pace shuffle. I continued to push but eventually got picked off at mile 12 and mile 13 ending with a 1:32:12 half Marathon off the bike.
I crossed the line knowing I had given it my all on the run and excited to have finished in 4:34:51 just 3min behind the leader in 4th Place and 1st in Age Group . I was very pleased with my fitness in the early season effort and know that the tri season hasn’t even started in the Mid-Atlantic and North East where I will be doing most of my racing this year. Tori, Matt and Kristen were at the finish as we waited for awards and Matt and I talked about his first experience. Matt had a great time and is definitely ready for another tri this season, glad I was able to be there for his first one!
4:34:51 (S: 30:40 T1: 2:34B: 2:27:58 T2: 1:29 R: 1:32.12)
Florida Intimidator Half Iron
Age Group Triathlete enjoying the World through triathlon and eating Cheez-It!