Augusta 70.3 was all new. The venue was different than I’d ever experienced before. The swim start was far removed from transition, Cindy found me by the Grace of God, the finish was far removed from transition so any way you set it up there were issues for bike and gear recovery. We figured all that out and on to the races! It was a wet suit optional race for the first time in many years. I swam the down river 1.2 miles in my swim skin making the change a little easier for the bike, that is if one remembers to peel it completely off before applying the bike shoes, then one has to remove said shoes, take the swim skin completely off, then reapply the bike shoes. Not that that is what happened to me, but it could happen.
Off I went on the 56.6 mile bike ride. The course didn’t look that hilly from the car the day before the race, but the hills were long and relentless, and the heat of the day was building. Three bladder stops were frustrating, but the 9:12 AM start time for my swim wave raised havoc with coffee and fluid consumption from the morning. This was a start contrast to the Clermont, Great Floridian the next month where I rode a non-stop 37 mile ride in complete comfort. All in all not a bad Half Iron ride. By the time we were racking our bikes at Augusta for the run portion of the race, it was well into the 90’s already. Another 60-65’er arriving at transition same time I did told me, “I’m not going out there in this heat.” I congratulated him on his wisdom, and started running. Hmmmm. Well, I’m careful about maintaining a healthy heart rate when I run so…what’s this? No heart rate data??? Had to run by feel in what later was reported as a high of 97 while we were running. But it was a dry heat,” No one ever really believed.” Turns out it’s a quirky programming thing, because I had to run Clermont Great Floridian with the same issue.
Well, the run was good all things considered. I’d had a cortisone injection on Thursday before we left for the race. The L-4 and L-5 were no problem. My hip is another story. Still running at 185 pounds, and five years ago I was running these distances at 175#. There’s a message here for you Clark! At the 7 mile mark I needed to be “at the fire station” by something:30″ I was 2 minutes late. They took my timing chip. No way was I going to stop. I kept running. About the 9 mile mark an official asked me to run on the side walks if I was going to continue. I did. Instead of negotiating the loop the loop of the finish line, I ran to my bike. Well, walked and ran to my bike along with Cindy. I turned in a 70.3 effort, just no finishing bling to show for it. Those of you who know me also know there will be bling, I just make it myself! These races truly are about the journey, and the jouney continues.
On to Clermont GFT October 22, 2016. It was cold on Saturday morning. Good news for wet suits, bad news for the last wave start AGAIN. Thanks to Cindy and Maureen I was able to wrap up in towels and blankets to await the start. At least transition was traditional!! I almost drowned in the swim. Enough said. Breathed in a bunch of Lake Mineola water and couldn’t clear my lungs for a scary moment or minute or two. Managed a 33 minute swim. Less trauma in transition than at Augusta, they had army cots to lie down on and the wet suit peelers were awesome. Bike ride about 2:40 non-stop minutes. Up and over Sugar Loaf and the other challenging hills. Easy transition into the out-back, out-back, bow tie course that was pretty pleasant, nice breeze and plenty of shade, but once again no heart rate data showing on my screen. No matter, I was rolling out my 4 minute run/1 minute walk routine, and it worked like a charm. Finish, finisher medal, finisher shirt, lots of smiles photos, and God is good, all the time, season finale.
Lessons from this race and the season: Keep moving. It’s the message all along, right back to 2011 when I started this racing thing. There aren’t defeats, there are teachable moments. I learned to check my heart rate monitor. I learned if you are going to race in the hills you have to train in the hills. Injuries can happen. I’d been very healthy up to this 2016 season. I have a deeper appreciation for my friends who have struggled with injury. There is no off season. Strength and conditioning and some pre-hab, maybe, but no off season. Cross train. Get the kayak out. Eat smart. You can’t out-train poor nutrition.