Going into Florida 70.3 in Orlando, I knew two things. The race has a reputation for a very hot run course, and that I was not ideally trained for the event. I had come off a knee injury which kept me out of training for 6 weeks in January and February; had to ramp up first for the London Marathon the third week of April, and then had to switch over to triathlon training. Not ideal.
Pre-race. My buddy Jerry and I drove up to Orlando early Saturday morning. We didn't figure in the extra time that it takes to be bussed over to the race site and so ended up spending most of Saturday afternoon getting signed in, shopping at the expo, and getting our bikes into the transition area. What normally takes a couple of hours took about 4 1/2 hours. We finally checked into our hotel at about 5:30 PM and were able to meet with our friend Maria for a pasta dinner around 7 PM. Then it was back to the hotel for pre-race preparation and off to bed.
We awoke Sunday morning to ski filling thunder and lightning. A front was moving through the area. We turned on the local weather forecast. It looked like it would just clear by the time the transition area would close. Not wanting to stand around in the rain, we delayed our depart for the parking area a bit. By the time we drove, parked and got bused over to the staging area, time was getting tight. We got body marked and headed to our bikes. I lose sight of Jerry and don't end up seeing him until after the race. Unfortunately, the race organizers decided to stick to their schedule, and I found myself barely able to set up my transition area before the call to leave the transition area goes out. I am able to pump my back tire, but I'm having trouble getting a reading on my front tire. I pump, but the needle swings wildly, letting me know the pump is not adequately connected to the tube valve. I try to reconnect and re-pump with the same result. At this point, I'm being told to leave the transition area. I put the pump in some nearby bushes and hoped I had enough air in the front tube.
Swim. I meet up with buddy John, who is in the same wave as me. Having hit the port-o-potties just beforehand, we don't have long before our wave is off. Because it was on a lake, it was calm and should have been a piece of cake. But because I didn't get enough swim practice in before the event, my time wasn't what it should have been. I probably cost myself an extra 10 minutes on this leg.
T1. As I enter transition, I hit was I think is the lap button to switch over to timing the transition. It turns out I hit the stop/start button instead. I get to my bike and decide I'd better recheck the front tire. Good thing too, as when I find my pump and attach the valve, I note that I only had 80 pounds of pressure in the tire. I pump to 120, gear up and head to the bike out. As I'm ready to hit the lap button for the bike leg, I realize my goof. I start the watch and double click the lap button to get to the bike leg timing.
Bike. The winds from the front that blew through that morning gave us a nice head wind for the first 5 miles or so. For some reason, my legs were tight early on anyway, so it didn't make for a great start of the bike. At an out and back turn around, I think I spot my buddy John Clidas about a half mile ahead of me. I shout out his name, but get no response. After a while, my legs get warmed up and I start enjoying the ride. However, as I didn't get in as many long rides before the event as I probably should have, my neck starts to get sore during the second half of the ride. I'm also getting sore being in the saddle. By the time I completed the ride, I was dying to get off the bike.
T2. As I rack my bike and start to change, I note that my socks are dry and comfortable, so I skip a planned sock change. I get on my running shoes, restock my nutrition supplies, and head out for the run.
Run: As I started the run, I was surprised at how good my feet felt in my running shoes. I don't know why this was, but they just felt comfortable and the socks felt good. My feeling good was not to last. The first mile, which is supposed to feel awkward, felt find. However, between mile 2 and 3, I began to feel resistance and soreness in my right knee-cap. By the end of mile three, I begin to worry that I could re-injure the knee. I give very serious consideration to dropping out of the race. Since the 3 loop course are about 4 1/4 miles each, I decide to ease up on the pace and take walk breaks at both the aid stations and the mile markers. This seems to ease the discomfort. By the time I get back to the transition area, I think that I can make a second lap if I'm careful. Near the end of the second lap, I spot my buddy John on a turn around. As I'm about a half mile ahead of him, I assume he's on his 3rd lap and I'm way behind. I see him at about the same place again on the 3rd lap and realize I probably got ahead of him in T2. Long story short, the knee holds up, but is not happy. I finish a couple of minutes ahead of John and get to see him and another racer bolt for the finish line in final kicks of mutual encouragement.
We all meet up after the finish and congratulate each other on our finishes. Our friend Maria took 4th in her age group, so we were excited for her. I ran into another tri-buddy, Eric Levy, who also did a stellar job. Jerry did well, but wanted to do slightly better. He was doing the event as a step up IM Coeur D'Alene. This was also supposed to be a training event for me to do Coeur D'Alene, but that was before the knee injury. At this point, I was happy to just finish the course.
Lessons Learned. I learned a couple of lessons from this course. First, if you don't put in sufficient training, you can finish, but you'll have more aches along the way. Second, my knee can no longer handle the stress of a long ride followed by a long run. Thus, IM Coeur D'Alene is out of the question. In fact, if I want to avoid re-injuring my knee, 70.3 events are a bad idea. Thus, I'll probably stick to sprint and Olympic distances in the future. Who knows, maybe I'll get in more interval and speed work and actually get faster at these shorter distances.