Arriving in Tampa after an uneventful flight was quite the shock. It was warm, damp and totally beachy. By the time we got to our cottage it was nearly midnight. We were staying in a little one bedroom cottage about a block off St. Pete's Beach. I put together my bike that evening and we hit the hay. Friday morning we awoke to a cloudless sunny sky. I was itching to get to the beach, but we needed to hit the store for breakfast and lunchy items. Friday was spent unintentionally sunburning the smitherines out of ourselves. I had one goal for friday - have fun and don't get burned. Yeah, kinda blew that one! At first we thought we would be fine, but as the evening wore on we realized we were in big trouble.
Saturday we woke early and got to the race site for a pre race debriefing by Steve and Andrea. They did a great job of explaining the course while keeping a casual tone. We had to turn our bikes into transition that day, and boy was transition HUGE. It was by far the largest transition I have ever seen, with over 4000 competitors. That evening we met for a group meal over near our cottage at a very nice Itallian place called Gigi's. Everyone was festive, Troy and I were just hoping our sunburns would heal.
I slept great before the race. I think having the sunburn got my mind off everything else as I was just trying to send healing thoughts to my skin.
The morning of the race I woke with very minor sunburn pain and I was ready to go. It was totally cool to travel to the race with Troy. We cranked up the music in the car and didn't have to worry about 2 year old eardrums. We were rockin' out. Transition closed at 6:45 am but my swim wave started at 9:00 am. Nice huh? We arrived a bit close to transition close time and I luckilly got set up and out of there with 4 minutes to spare. Troy and I parked the car and we headed over to find a shady spot to chill, stay calm, and watch some of the bikers come by. It was nice to be "around" the course, but not really involved, and thus able to keep my excitement curbed.
Fifty minutes before my swim wave start I went for a fifteen minute run and then walked over to the swim beach, got into my wetsuit and got into the water. The water that day was 74 and thus legal for age groupers to wear a suit, but not for the pros. I did a rather long swim warm-up, swimming down to the first buoy and back about 4 times. I got in the crowd with all the other light blue caps and I was really calm, but a bit stern, and for some reason very focused. I was very within myself, and nothing around me seemed to make me nervous or bothered.
Swim: Run Run Run, Dive into the water. Spit, Ack, Salty. Swim Sight Swim Sight Swim Sight. I wanted to sight often all the way to the first buoy since I always get lost in the first portion of the swim and usually end up way off course. For the first time I stayed on course and swam straight...for awhile! The swim was broken into three legs and when I made the second turn to start the third leg I could see starfish on the ocean floor. I was totally mesmerized by this. I was so excited that I swam off course and a guy on a jet ski had to get me going back in the right direction. The swim exit is a set of stairs that you have to swim up to and climb out of. This part was really cool, one of my favorite parts of the swim. I looked down at my watch and saw 29 minutes. With all the choppy water and the starfish, and the getting slightly lost I was ecstatic! I gave Troy a thumbs up!
T1: I ran into transition, straight to my bike between row 45 and 46 (Crazy, huh?). Wetsuit came off perfect (because it's too big) and I was on my bike quick.
Bike: The bike was wild. This course was flat, and fast with lots of turns. Luckily Steve has really trained us how to turn so the entire Practical Coaching team sailed through the bike portion. The course had a lot of people on it since I was in the last swim wave. I was passing a person at least once every 5 seconds. I went by hundreds of people. Drafting laws were a bit hard to enforce, but since I was passing people so often I felt safe. Half of the Florida police department was on the course keeping us safe. I felt so safe in fact that in many points in the race I relaxed my upper body, put my head down and peddled as hard as I could. It was such a top notch race!
T2: In T2 I had a really bad thing happen. I lost control of my bike (I was holding it by the handle bars) and the back of it slid out to the side and hit a lady that was running behind me. I am so trained to stay calm during adversity during races that the lady yelped and I just kept running. I didn't apologize and I just feel horrible about it. After I racked my bike I had the hardest time getting my shoes on. I had to stop, take a breath, calm down, and try again. They went on that time. I still feel bad about hitting that lady.
Run: Exiting transition was so cool because I could see Andrea and Julie up ahead. As I ran by Andrea I gave her a pat on the tush, she was looking great and running super strong. Soon I passed Julie as well, and was able to tell her good job. The run course was an out and back through a swanky neighborhood. There were huge shade trees and bomber aid stations every mile. So totally awesome! I took it out at a very conservative pace and just tried to ramp it up. I looked for ladies in my age group and wasn't seeing very many. I would see a lady ahead that looked young so I would go catch her...only to see she was 33 or 31 or something not in my age group. I did this the whole way and did pass a few people in my group. Everyone on the course and along the way kept commenting about my awesome pace. I was just crusin, but it was tough to weave through all the runners on the course. I saw Michelle, Nicole, Jenna, and Sarah on the course. It's always awesome to see friends! Apparently I never caught up to the leader in my age group. I pushed hard...but not too hard into the finish and standing there was a lady that looked my age. I checked her calf and sure enough she was 27. It turns out she had from 40 seconds to 1 minute on me the entire race. Just out of my visual!
I was really ecstatic to find out I was second in my age group. My FIL Roger called Troy and let him know the news and it was just icing on the cake. This race was the most fantastic race I have competed in. Afterwards they had oodles of food for the athletes and free beer for athletes, spectators, anyone who wanted it. SO WELL RUN! So totally cool.
The whole team waited and waited and waited around for the awards ceremony to see me get my award. It was unbelievably sweet of them. We even saw Bree Wee, but I was too shy to say hi to her!
Ahh, I am still basking in the great race euphoria, we will definitely be back next year! I highly recommend this race. Fantastico!