I got egged into signing up for this Olympic distance triathlon back in December by a friend. I had the Paris Marathon scheduled for 2 weeks prior and didn't think I should do an event so soon afterward. Given that the prior year's event turned into a duathlon with the swim portion canceled due to rough surf, however, I did feel a strong desire to return to complete the whole course. In the end, I'm glad I did.
The surf in the pre-dawn hour before the start of the race looked fairly calm. However, having grown up in the area, I knew the Tampa Bay waters near the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg can get pretty choppy. Being a very popular race, there were a total of 32 waves. I was in wave #23 which was scheduled to go off at 8:31 AM. It was a little frustrating to have to watch so many athletes start and just hang around waiting for my wave. I did get to see a couple of friends go off in their waves, and finally put on my wet suit about 20 minutes before my wave. The water felt warm and calm near the shore. Once my wave went off and I'm swimming the outbound leg of the swim, however, I note that there are steady rolling waves coming out of the south. On turning north for the cross leg, these rollers actually lifted and assisted the swim north. It did take a little longer to get the buoy sighting as I had to sometimes wait for a roller to subside in order to see the next buoy.
The real surprise came once I turned west for the return to shore leg of the swim. Those once helpful rollers kept trying to pull swimmers north while the buoy markings required swimmers to angle in a SSW direction. I tried to hug the buoy line tight, but the extra effort going against the current made me wonder if I was making progress. At one point, I turned around just to make sure that I was indeed moving up the line toward the shore. I think whatever wave assistance time I gained on the cross leg was lost on the return leg. I come out not knowing whether that was a good or bad swim, but note it took me 39 minutes for the 1500 meters.
Getting out of the water, I accidentally hit the stop button on my Garmin watch instead of the lap button for T1. When I get to my bike I also had some trouble getting out of my wet suit. It bunched at my left leg where my chip strap was around my ankle. I missed having the wet suit strippers (sounds more exotic than it is) that helped me at IMAZ. On exiting the transition area, I realize my Garmin mistake. I hit the start button and hit the lap button twice to get it on the bike leg, but now have no idea what time I spent in T1.
The bike was interesting in that there were some winds that seemed to blow out of the west and the south at different times. I think they were a net neutral as I did slow some into the wind and got some decent speed when the wind was at my back or backside. I did manage to pass a good number of other riders in both instances, so psychologically I felt strong. In these events the head and the heart are very interconnected. Your perceptions are almost more important than reality in that your mood effects your output. In any event, my bike felt good. T2 was a little over 2 minutes, and I was off on the run.
I had feared the run due to the late wave start. I knew that the sun can get hot pretty quickly this late in April in St. Pete. Fortunately, the wind kept it feeling somewhat cooler and the course winds through partially shaded neighborhoods. At each water station, I took a couple of sips of Gatorade, and tossed a cup of water over my head. Additionally, there were some locals with their hoses out on the course offering to mist runners as they ran by. Thank you misters. I made sure to get misted by everyone offering a spritz.
In past years, I often would get cramps in my hamstrings on the second half of the run, but since learning to take electrolyte tablets for the ironman distance, I seem to have this problem licked. Not only did I not cramp, but I felt good and strong. Instead of being hindered by having run the Paris Marathon 2 weeks prior, I think my conditioning for the run was better than in past years. I felt strong and started passing runners on the return leg of the run. My final time was 2:58. This is my second sub 3 hour Olypmic tri without cramping issues. So now I will focus on improving the swim and bike to move that number down.
After the race, it was time for the after party! The St. Anthony's organizers do it right. Beer, fresh fruit, pizza, and a live band. What more can you want?
Meanwhile, over in Madrid, buddy Wayne completed his 3rd European marathon in 5 weeks. Crazy? Yes, but he's having a great time touring. Heading Westward, buddy John and his friend Carl participated in the Long Horn 70.3 event in Galveston, Texas. John told me afterward that they also had some wave action in their swim and it got quite hot on the half marathon. But they finished and are both in good shape today. Me, I'm a little sore. Perhaps that's the carryover from the marathon. If so, I accept the consequence and will rest up this week before getting back into training.