Monday, November 1, 2010

Miami 70.3 Race Report

Well, the inaugural Miami 70.3 has come and gone. Boy, am I pooped. Thumbnail sketch: the swim seemed overly long, the bike was a joy, and the run was like doing hill repeats in Dante's Inferno. Following is my race report.

Friday Expo: Tri buddy Jerry and I arrive at the Miami Hilton around 11:45 AM for our number pickup at the Expo. While this is a first time event, WTC should have their act more together for registration. I end up waiting in a line for about 45 minutes before I'm told that this was the line for participants without USAT cards. Worse, there appears to be no line for people with USAT cards. Then, you have to go through 3 lines to get your number, pick up your bib, then get your chip. Kind of ridiculous. In any event, Jerry needed to pay his $10 for his temporary license, so I would have wasted the time anyway.

While waiting in line, I start up a conversation with a guy named Ricardo. It turns out he is also from Fort Lauderdale. As we chat, up walks another couple of tri buddies, Ellen Itzler and her friend David. Turns out Ellen and Ricardo are training buddies. Small world. Ellen tells us the manditory pre-race lecture didn't reveal much other than the fact that the revised run now calls for 8, yes 8, bridge crossings over the road to the Port of Miami.

After getting our numbers, I buy a "Miami 70.3" bike jersey and decide on the spot to wear it for the bike and run portions of the race. Jerry & I listen in on the course review, then head over to drop our bikes at transition. My spot is right under a large tree and I wonder if this will be a hassle in transitions. Jerry, who got his race entry through a buddy whose company was one of the event sponsors, has a sweet spot near the front of the swim in/run out entry/exit with a spectacular view of the fountain and waterfront. After dropping the bikes, we grab a quick bite for lunch at Bayside.

Race Day: I pick up Jerry at 4:55 AM and we have an uneventful drive down to Miami. After parking at Bayside, and getting by the security at the Bike Out gate, we set up our transition areas. Knowing it was unlikely to be wetsuit legal, we left our wetsuits in the SUV. My area under the tree becomes less crowded as other competitors decide they don't like begin crowded by the tree and relocate. Great, now my transition area has plenty of room. After pumping our tires and doing the Port-O-Potty thing, Jerry & I chill on a bench in transition until just before swim time. As I'm in the 4th wave, I head over to the dock we will jump off of ahead of Jerry.

At the dock area, I spot Ellen and give her last good wishes. She is off in the wave ahead of me. Since it's her first 70.3 event, I wonder if I'll see her again before the finish. I get in line in the group of 50 and older age group. Of course, the race organizers once again give us the silver/gray caps. They must think this is so funny. Before I know it, it is time to jump off the dock. When I hit the water, I go fairly deep. As I finally surface, I get hit by another competitor being pushed into the water by the organizers. Hey guys, no need to injure us before the event.

The Swim: As the gun sounds for my wave, the water feels good. It's still dark out, but I can see the first buoy up ahead. The current, which I can't feel is with us, so I get to the first buoy with ease. Thus, I think the swim will not be so bad. However, after that first turn, I can't see the second buoy. It feels like I swim for long periods without making the headway I believe I should. Apparently, the current is more than I can feel. It seems to take forever to reach the second buoy. Likewise, on the next leg, it seems to take much longer than I expect to sight and get to the third turn. Worse, I think that the 3rd turn must be the finish as I've been in the water 45 minutes already. Nope, there is another leg to complete. I come out of the water in 1:06. My worse time at this distance ever. Not sure if the course was long, the current was worse than it felt, or I was under-trained for the swim. Probably a bit of each.

T1: As I run to transition somewhat dispirited, I take solace in the fact that the bike is next. As I fumble getting on my socks, shoes, bike shirt, helmet and arm bands (I need the sun protection), the announcer tells the spectators to watch the athletes in transition. He comments that "Some athletes go through transition like a Swiss Watch, other like Swiss Cheese." I look up at a female athlete who is waiting nearby as part of a relay team and say, "I guess that makes me Swiss Cheese." T1 time: a pedestrian 7:15.

The Bike: The bike is my favorite portion of long triathlon events. You're on the bike for a long time, and you're still pretty fresh. This was no different. I felt good on the ride, except for the fact that some of the streets were pretty narrow and it got a little dicey when large groups of fast riders with Zip Wheels came by en-mass. While I imagine it's hard to get separation in the early miles on the bike, these groups of 6 to 10 riders were clearly and massively violation the "No Draft" rules. I saw one rider who was drafting so technically beautiful off of another rider that I admired his drafting technique. The lead rider was not going to get separation from this guy hugging his wheel. It reminded me of some of the climbs up Alp Duez in the Tour de France. They lead guy would cross to get the guy off his wheel, but this rider (#2025) countered his every move. As I noted that most of these guys were in their mid 30s to mid 40s, I decided it didn't effect my "old guy" age group ranking, so I should stop worrying about these mass "No Draft" violations. With the narrow streets, there was no room for any course monitors to ride a motor-cycle. I just can't figure out whether the violations are intentional or not.

There are lot of turns on this course, so there was a lot of braking and accelerating work to be done coming out of the turns. My biggest concern was running out of fluids. My stomach doesn't handle Gatorade well in long endurance events. I brought two water bottles with a mix of Heed, which my stomach does handle. I left my third water bottle position open for hand-offs at the 3 aid stations on the course. When I got to the first station, they only had Gatorade. I grabbed it and noticed that the plastic wrap was still on the bottle top. After failing to pry it off with my hand and my teeth, I tossed the bottle away as too much trouble. The second station was so small, I blew by it before I noticed it. After the turn around, I realized I was getting to the end of my second water bottle of Heed. By the time I got to the last aid station, I'm borderline dehydrated. I grab what they have, which is again Gatorade. I drink some and note that the stomach will not be handling this well. However, as I have no choice, I keep the bottle and take small swigs when I can.

As an aside, my friend Ellen apparently did dehydrate on the bike course. She apparently stopped at an medical station and was given 2, yes 2, IVs and was advised to go to the hospital in an ambulance. She somehow got back on her bike and completed the race. I've got to arrange a luncheon this week to hear her complete story. I later saw Ellen on the bridge and she looked fine. Way to hang in there Ellen!

The winds were supposed to be around 13 mph out of the NE, so I thought the return portion of the ride would be a struggle. Luckily, it was more of a cross wind most of the way and I was able to ride in the mid 18s most of the way. My ride time was 3:02:24 and an average of 18.4 mph.

T2: T2 was pretty uneventful and a lot quicker, given that I only had to change shoes and restock energy gels. T2 time: 2:44.

The Run: When I originally signed up for this event, the run was supposed to be 2 loops over the MacArthur Causeway. Thus, I knew there would be 4 uphill bridge runs. I didn't know until the week of before the race that the run course was redesigned to go over the Port of Miami bridge 8 times. While a slightly shorter and less high bridge, it's not that much shorter. I don't think anyone looked forward to this run. While I was able to run the flat parts of the run, I and just about everyone else had to walk at least part of the uphill of the bridge. I ended up running until my heart rate couldn't handle it, I'd walk a bit, then run, then walk again until I reached the top. I would recover on the down slop side of the bridge, but every time I had to go up that bridge, I'd wonder if I could finish the race. I felt like I was bonking on each climb. To make matters worse, the bridge was totally exposed to the sun and it was hot. To the race organizer's credit, they had well stocked water/ice stations about a 1/3 mile after the bridge on each side. Thus, it was a battle to keep hydrated and from overheating on each climb. As I said in my summery, it was like running through Dante's Inferno. I saw most of my friends on some portion of the bridge climbs, and we cheered each other on. But it was not fun. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I think a half ironman events are crazy because you end up running in the heat of the day. This event reaffirmed that belief. I just had no idea I had signed up for a hill workout to boot.

Once I was finally done with my 8th bridge run, I knew I was home free. I zipped up my bike jersey, took a last water cup about a 1/3 mile before the finish and was able to pick up pace for the finish. Just before the finish, I hear buddies John and Tony on the sideline and reach out to high five them before I finish. Run time: 2:33:18, Final overall time: 6:52:10. Not my best, but not my worst half ironman event. It is in the books and my triathlon season is over for 2010. Not sure I'd recommend this event based on the 8 bridge repeats, but otherwise it was a good event. I'd hoped for cooler weather this late in the season, but it is South Florida.

Now, I get to sit back and watch my tri buddies, both local and in blog land, do their Ironman events. Count me as one who will be glad to be a spectator for a while. Best of luck to John, Bob, and Chloe in IMFL this weekend. Best wishes also to Bob & Melissa in IMAZ later this month. I'll be following all of you via computer.


  1. Nice report. I did this race and you captured a lot of the same complaints and things I noticed. Overall I thought it was a giant disaster!!! I will never EVER forget those bridge repeats in that sun. I've never walked so much in a race in my life, including the full Ironman. I hope they can turn it around next year.

  2. Congrats on finishing a tough event. Even WTC admits there were so many problems with this race, that they are giving every athlete that finished a complimentary race entry into any of the 70.3 races in 2011. Not often WTC gives free entries - pick a good one! Thanks for the good thoughts on IMAZ.

  3. Great Race Report and congratulations on the finish.


  4. Nice RR!

    I'm wanting to throw this into the mix as great timing for me.

    As an IMSG racer hills don't bother me (Bridges roll overs)

    I'll note the run humidity at peak heat time of day though, I guess this race should be called "Miami Heat" as IMSG is known as "Mtn Massacre"...

    Again thank you for writing a gret race report...