"That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased." Ralph Waldo Emerson
WARNING: LONG REPORT AHEAD
Short Report: Full Aquabike in 8:45:00
The training plan I am using for IMFL has a half Ironman 8 weeks out from race day. I did not feel I needed to do another HIM, nor was there one that fit the schedule. Many people I know who have done full IMs however, have done full AquaBike races for training and Redman had one 6 weeks out. I thought that would be the best thing for me to do, so I signed up.
I left for Oklahoma City Thursday after work and got there late in the evening. I checked into the hotel and watched tv to relax. During the show I kept hearing what sounded almost like constant knocking and I kept thinking “this better not happen tomorrow night” as the race was Saturday morning. Eventually I figured out it was actually a “gurgling” coming from the pipes in the restroom. I made a note to tell the front desk Friday morning.
Friday morning I slept in a little bit and then got up and headed over to the race sight. They say never do anything new for race day, but several people had convinced me to get some race wheels and try them out and I wanted to ride my bike with them Friday to make sure all was ok. I also wanted to check out the race venue. I took my wetsuit and stuff in case I decided to swim, but by the time I got down to the water they were not letting anyone else in the water. That was fine with me. I got on the bike and road on the path around the lake for about 30 minutes. Wheels seemed fine, so I packed up and went to find some breakfast.
After breakfast and a shower I decided to drive the race course. The bike course changed this year. Last year it was a two loop course. This year it would be a four loop course, so it wouldn’t take too long to drive. There were lots of 90 degree turns, some really rough roads, and a few decent rollers. There was also one section indicated on the map as a “no passing” zone. It wasn’t too long so I figured that wouldn’t affect me much.
After that I grabbed a sandwich from Subway and a quick 45 minute nap. Then it was time to head back to the race site and check in. I got my race numbers and my race swag and then decided to try to find the massage people. The website had said they would be there and my back was killing me from the very uncomfortable bed at the hotel. Found one guy and it turns out they have had low response in the past so they decided not to offer massage this year. However, since I was there he said he would work on me. The best thing was he knew how to kinesio tape and I know that works on my back, so he taped me up.
While there, they were also doing the first of the athlete meetings so I sat in for a bit to see if there was anything new I needed to know. Remember those rough roads? Well, normally in a triathlon on the bike you have to stay far right or you get a penalty for blocking. The roads were so rough in areas they told us we could ride where we felt safe and we would not get penalized. Yeah, they were that bad.
At that point it was getting late and I decided to go ahead and check my bike in. Then I would go back and pack my special needs and transition bags and bring those in the morning since that was an option. So I left my bike on my spot and headed to get some pasta for dinner.
Once back at the room I started laying everything out. I was glad I did this race with all the bags, etc. because that’s how Florida will be and it was a little bit different for me. I would be able to get to my bike in the morning so I had to think about what went on my bike and put that in its own bag. And I wanted to use the change tent even though I didn’t really have to so I packed a swim to bike bag for T1. I also packed a special needs bike bag just to get use to that. Then I had my run stuff. Even though I was only doing the AquaBike I was going to do a brick run after, so I had to have that ready. The other thing I had to do was put my “tattoos” on. This race had your race number as temporary tattoos. That was neat, but the numbers were huge and covered all of the top part of my arm. Then it was time for bed.
The alarm went off nice and early race morning. I got up and got moving, ate my prerace meal and got dressed. Made my nutrition for the bike and put it in the bags. Made sure I had all my bags and headed to the race site.
At the race site I turned in my T1 and special needs bags, got my bike set up, and set up my run stuff for when I was done. Several of the girls doing the aquabike were doing it in prep for IMAZ or IMCozumel. I wasn’t the only one doing this as a training race. When it was time, I put on my wetsuit and headed down to the water. Water temp was 74 degrees according to the race director.
As a full aquabike participant, I would be going off in the first wave with the full distance athletes. While smaller than an Ironman branded race, this was still good for me to go off in a mass start with male and females. When they announced 30 seconds until start, I started my watch and waited for the gun to blow.
The starting horn actually startled me a bit, but I dove in the water and started my swim. I had started on the right hand side about 3 deep back. Next thing I know, however, I’m inside near the buoys. It’s my natural instinct to want to hug the buoys and get the shortest swim I can. The interesting thing in this swim that I noticed was that there were lots of people walking. The course was a rectangle course and the first long leg ran parallel to the shore. And apparently, the water was shallow enough almost the whole length of that leg that people could stand up and walk if they wanted. Many people did. I did not. I thought to myself “I won’t be able to stand up in Florida if I get tired, so I’m not doing it here”. Yeah, I know in the beginning at Florida I will be able to walk and at the end, but if I’m out at the far buoy I won’t be able to stand. Besides, I wanted to SWIM the 2.4 miles.
That first leg, I did get kicked, I did get an elbow to the head that made my ear ring, and I did get to “enjoy” a little bit of the washing machine effect of a mass swim start. That was good for me mentally. As I rounded the first turn things seemed to be thinning out a little. It usually does for me as I am not one of the faster swimmers. The back side of the loop was deeper water so no one could walk here. It was also an area with pockets of colder water that actually felt good but made me glad to have the wetsuit on. As I round the last buoy to head back to the start I decided that when I got there I would stand up briefly to check my time and then swim again. At Florida, we will actually have to get out of the water and cross a timing mat, so I wanted to kind of simulate that. I got back to the start, stood up and saw 43 minutes on my watch. I was very happy but just hoped I could keep the same pace for the second lap.
The second lap was much less congested. In fact, when I would breath I would also check to make sure I wasn’t the only swimmer still out there. As long as I could see another swimmer I was ok. And I just kept telling myself that this was a training day and I would make the cutoff time, so what difference did my time really matter. I got in my groove and swam.
I was happy to round that last buoy and head into the finish area. I swam until I reached the volunteers who were standing at the start of the boat ramp. I stood up and made sure I was safe on the boat ramped, glanced at my watch and saw around 1:28, smiled and then started unzipping the wet suit. I got it unzipped and got the sleeves off and then headed to a stripper to let them do the rest. I only had one lady helping me and the wetsuit got a little stuck coming off my ankles, but she managed it and helped me up. From there I headed into the changing tent.
As I said before, I didn’t really need to use the changing tent, but I wanted to go through the motions. I had put stuff in baggies thanks to advice from more experienced ironman finishers and that seemed to really work. I got my socks out and on my feet, I put on my HR strap and turned my garmin on, I put on my gloves and my sunglasses, set my shoes aside, stuck my extra nutrition in my pocket and then shoved my goggles, cap and wetsuit back in the bag. I left the bag there, grabbed my shoes and ran to my bike. I waited to put my shoes on until I got to my bike because it was a pretty long run and I could run faster without them. When I got to my bike I got them on quick, put my helmet on and took off.
Leaving transition was a little interesting as we had to go a certain way and that meant lifting the bike up onto the sidewalk, down the sidewalk for a bit, and then back down into the parking lot. Not a big deal, but not as fast as just rolling the bike out. I crossed the timing mat, crossed the mount line, got on the bike and took off.
For a little bit it seemed like my computer was bouncing around. It would show 13mph then 24mph then 18mph. I didn’t really know what speed I was going but told myself to not push it. I had 112 miles to go on some pretty rough roads.
I am notorious for having to stop and pee at about 20 miles or around an hour of being on the bike. I had hoped to make it through at least on loop before having to stop, but those rough roads heading out seemed to jostle my intestines and my bladder and I knew there was no way I would make it. At the halfway turnaround spot there was an aid station and I decided to stop. Unfortunately so did several others so I had to wait, but let’s just say it was worth it.
Once I emptied myself and was back on the bike I felt great. At least until right before you get back and turn to head to transition. For some reason that spot was a huge wind tunnel. It was a false flat, but nothing steep and it was all I could do to go 10mph. I thought maybe my wheel was rubbing or something and seriously thought about stopping to check it, but once I made the turn I picked up speed again and knew I was ok. Later I would find out other people had problems there as well.
I made it through the second loop without stopping and was still feeling pretty good. I have been told that special needs at Florida is around mile 50, so I had told myself I would stop at special needs which was at the 56 mile mark. Besides I had 2 empty bottles and needed to mix more infinit. And while there, I might as well use the potty, right. While I was waiting for an open potty, a volunteer brought me my special needs bag and I grabbed a few peanut m&ms out of there. Another volunteer brought me cold water to mix my bottles. It worked out well. Back on the bike for 2 more laps.
The third lap went fine, but you could tell the half folks were done because the course was a lot less crowded. It was good because you didn’t have to worry about drafting and when you went through the rough spot you could pretty much ride in the middle of the road. The third loop went fine and I thought I could make the fourth loop without stopping. However, it seemed the sun was finally warming things up and the heat was getting to me. I decided to stop at the mid way aid station this time and drink some cold water as well as dump it on my head. I did just that and it felt great. After that, when I passed an aid station I grabbed a bottle of water at the start, drank several sips, squirted some on my head and then chunked it at the end of the aid station. This worked well.
After doing the loop so many times I knew exactly where I was on the course and exactly how much I had to go until I finished. I pushed it hard on the smooth spots, put it in an easy spin gear on the rough spots and climbs and even got out of the saddle in parts just to get off the seat for a while. My legs were feeling great and I was happy. I had a huge smile on my face coming into transition. I stopped, got off my bike, headed to my rack and went through the motions of putting my shoes. From there I headed out to officially “end” my race. At Redman, they make the aquabike folks run out of transition just like everyone else, but then you turn a different way and actually cross the actuall finish line. It’s a long run out, but I liked the concept and got to cross the finish line.
Once across, I got my medal, some cold water and my finisher shirt. And then I headed out for a short brick run. My training schedule for the day had me doing a one hour brick run after my long bike. But since I did a longer bike than the schedule called for I decided I could do a shorter run.
I started out running and felt good. And for a while I was actually on the run course for the race. After I got a lot of “you’re doing good” and “keep it up” and “good job” comments I didn’t feel right about that and headed off course. And this meant I didn’t pass any aid stations and didn’t have any water. And it was hot. I did a 9/1, then 2 4/1s and then I walked back to the transition area. I got 35 minutes in and decided that was good. Grabbed some more cold water and headed to the massage tent to get my much needed massage. After that, it was time to load the stuff and get back to the hotel for a shower and some food.
I was very glad I did this race and very pleased with how my day went. I know now that as long as I stick to my nutrition and stay positive that I CAN finish Ironman Florida. I also have an idea now of how long it will take me to do the swim and the bike and know how long I may have for the run.
Sunday morning I went to the awards banquet and found out my time was good enough for 2nd place in the female masters division! (Masters are 40 and older, so it pays to be 40 now!!!) This is probably the only time I’ll get an award for this type of distance and I’ll take it.
Now I just need to get through the next six weeks of training.