I’m back from the Sunshine State with the first race of the season in the books!
This past Sunday, April 19th, I participated in the Lifetime South Beach Triathlon down in Miami Beach, FL, where I took on the International distance (Olympic distance) for the swim, bike, run sport. As the first team race of the year, it was exciting to do what we love with the people we love to do it with. I’ve heard it said - life is better when you TRI together.
Let’s talk about it.
So Friday morning I headed down to Florida to spend the afternoon with my family before heading down to Miami to start the festivities. The convenience here is that I am from south Florida, so a race near my loved ones is a no brainer. Family and fitness….yes please!
Friday evening was the first Terrier Tri team meet-up of the weekend, so about 15 of us got together for a nice dinner together to share some laughs and pre-race tips and tricks. Because it wasn’t the night before the race, most of us splurged on fro-yo after our meal, because why the heck not! Frizz, friends and fro-yo is how you do South Beach. The heat was apparent and we were pumped regardless for what was ahead.
Saturday morning the Terriers met back up on the white sandy beaches off Ocean Drive to host an open water swim clinic to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Coaches and advanced swimmers led dozens of people through several out and back swims in the Atlantic Ocean to test their physical and mental strength before race day. Most of the team was on hand to help out and get in a dip themselves, as it proves to be beneficial to swim the swim before the swim, if you get my drift. (did you get that joke, there?! I crack myself up).
It was HOT. We were all sunburned within 30 minutes which we couldn’t take back. And the water proved to be extra warm, something that reminded us that Sunday’s race may not be wetsuit legal. (That’s when the water is declared warm to a point where race officials decide that competitors cannot swim in a wetsuit to avoid further over-heating complications). So I did a few hundreds yards in my shorts and sports bra to test my buoyancy, which proves ain’t so bad. I actually enjoying swimming free like that.
Soon after the clinic, our coach gave us a chat about some race day procedures we should keep in mind. It was decided that we should in fact do at least a half hour or so of swimming in our wetsuits, in case the race was declared wetsuit legal. The annoyance of getting those things on is beyond words but swimming with it proves its worth…and it’s drowning-proof capabilities! I just love wearing it because every photo I take in a wetsuit makes me laugh uncontrollably. I started the hashtag #wetsuitphotoshoot a while back and it’s still my favorite feed of photos to look back at.
After all the swimming, we dried off and Coach Robert opened the Terrier Tri trailer and we unloaded all of our bikes that he had driven down. My poor roadie C.C. came out with a flat tire in the back wheel (probably my fault for not letting out enough air before loading her on). Changing a tire is basically one of my least favorite things to do, and doing it in 85 degrees is even worse. But we got it done, and soon after I picked up my race materials and brought my bike over to transition to check her in and leave her overnight in her designated spot. Right under a palm tree, C.C. looked like she was living’ the life in the tropics. I took precautions to keep my tires low on air so they wouldn’t overheat and burst like they did on the trailer. I said goodnight and let her know I’d be back in the morning for our big day.
I got back to my hotel room and rested for only a few hours until it was time for our team pre-race dinner. About 30 of us gathered for an Italian feast of pasta, bread and more bread. I stuck with a simple dish of penne pasta with red sauce and grilled chicken and drink my body weight in water. After the meal, I stopped by the drugstore to get a few necessities for race morning: flip flops, extra water, bananas and extra snacks plus, my teammates passed around the loaves of bread they purchased so we could all make our morning peanut butter banana sandwiches (personally, my pre-race staple).
Back at my hotel room, I conducted my usual race prep plan. I spread out all of my gear on the bed to make sure I had everything I needed for the morning. Then, I placed all of the items in my race-day backpack and got to bed by 10pm. This was in fact the best sleep I have ever gotten before a race. There were no nerves for the most part, but that would soon change when I woke.
4:45am wake up. I hit snooze a couple times. 5:15, finally out of bed. I had to sit eat, drink, dress and put all of my race tattoos on. Before I knew it, I was rushing and leaving very little time for my transition set up. Luckily, I was staying across the street from transition, but STILL, I should have been more on my game in terms of time.
This is where it got dark, and I’m not talking about the sky. I get to transition and before I lay down my items, I touch my tires….and the back tire is FLAT…AGAIN!! I had a mini panic attack, realizing that this same tire was just fixed the afternoon before. That means something sharp was inside my tire or I had very bad luck. The positive here is that my coach was nearby and I screamed to him at 6am to come help me fix the tire as I set up my transition. Once he fixed it and put it back on my frame, we discussed how it could possibly be flat when I returned from the swim, or worse, get flat again during my ride. Anyone who hates flat tires, knows the nerves that come into play here, and anger. THEN someone tells me this has been declared a no wetsuit swim, so leave the seal suit behind. Oy vey. THEN it dawns on me that I never ate my breakfast, and I was an hour away from race start (which for me is too late to eat my usual “meal”). Freaking out was my state of mind at the moment, thinking about all the typical things that could and probably would go wrong during my race, if it even made it to completion considering my overall tire could be shot.
Two teammates - Jodi and Jen - walked with me to the swim start and having them to talk to kept me a bit calmer, but I still felt I was complaining like a toddler. I soon sucked it up and realized I needed to go with the flow. I’d make up for some nutrition immediately after the swim, and I’d deal with my tire after I got through that mile in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s probably more important I don’t drown then worrying about a flat tire. So at the race start, I somehow pulled myself together and when that official yelled GO, I charged into the ocean like I had business to do.
The race was broken into two distances - International and Classic. International, which is what most of us Terriers did, was the least popular of the two that day, I assume because it’s early in the season. The International distance, also referred to as the Olympic distance involved: .93-mile swim, 24.25-mile bike, 6.2-mile run. I felt confident that I could do well at all three considering my training has gone very well. But when push comes to shove, you just don’t know how your body will respond and how mother nature might have other plans for you.
THE SWIM: It was my first race swim in an ocean, so I knew to expect a lot of choppy waters which would take patience and mental stability. I really did stay extremely calm which I pat myself on the back for. Swimming parallel to the shore, waves were crashing into me from the SE, so they were coming at me on my left and ahead, which left me to breathe strictly on my right side. I saw swimmers give up after 3 minutes because the water was too much for them. I can’t stress how important it is to swim in open waters before you sign up for a triathlon or swimming race. The pool will never replicate what it feels like out there. Anyway, I took it super easy and got into a groove until halfway through, the classic triathlon racers entered from my right and charged into all of us unexpectedly, which was extremely dangerous and left me to simply tred water to let most of them pass because they weren’t being very polite swimmers in understanding their surroundings. I hate disrespectful swimmers!! I picked up my pace that last 500 yards but still didn’t kill it. I should have, because I was very comfortable and knew I had it in me to push harder. I guess when something is new, you’d rather be safe than sorry. So I emerged after 33 minutes alive and well and ran my way through the sand to transition for round 2.
THE BIKE: I get to T1 (transition one) and my heart beats again. Will my tire be flat again? I touch it…and it’s FULL! Phew! Let’s get this show on the road. So I remove the cap & goggles and rinse off my feet before putting on my socks, cycle shoes, helmet, gloves and sunglasses. I take a deep breath and grab my bike off the rack to exit transition. On the road I’m easing into the ride. I’ve got a mile or so to get situated and get some liquids in my body that isn’t salty ocean water. The ride was not that flat considering we had two causeways to go over, four times at least. I was so afraid of a flat tire that I held back on going to tough out there to avoid riding rough over the many bumps and bruises that filled the roads. I also left behind my bike computer by accident so I was no aware of my speed and could only go by feel, which felt about a 70% effort. Which now I realize is pretty lame considering how we’ve been training. I ate one honey stinger waffle on that ride and drank one full bottle of water with Skratch mix. Nutritionally, I felt fine. Physically, my butt was killing me in the saddle for some reason. I was excited to get on the run and finish this race strong. Final bike time was about 1 hour and 24 minutes, putting me at about 17.25mph. That’s comparable to my NYC Tri speed and I know I’ve improved since then. Not going to lie, was a little bummed to see that. But I was happy about one thing - no flat!!
THE RUN: I enter T2 to re-rack my bike and remove my helmet and cycle shoes. I slip on my sneakers, grab my race belt and fuel and I’m off for the next round of crazy. Running is my most sustainable sport where I feel the most in control and the strongest. I may not be the fastest out there, but I know I can carry myself best on my two feet, even after many hours of activity. But today was a different day, because the sun finally peaked and it was 90 degrees and humid beyond belief. The entire 6.2 mile run was in that sun, with water only every mile and a half, which most people used to pour on their bodies instead of in their mouths. I found a way to do both. I was pretty strong on the first 3 miles and felt kind of awesome. Then when I made that turn to head back, I felt a tad dizzy. I was sure to chew my margarita Clif Blocks and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I did end up walking here and there those last 3 miles to enjoy some patches of shade. I even pulled out my iPhone to take some pics. But I was more excited about that finish line so I put one foot in front of another and pushed myself to the end. When I saw that finish line, I still had 1/4 mile to go and it was all on sand! Yes, sand! A bit rough on the legs but at that point family was cheering and the announcer's voice was getting closer. I sprinted the last 100 years and with a huge smile, because I was all like where is my pina colada!? My run time was 56:01, which equated to a 9:01 minute-mile. That's a weak run for me, one of my slowest, but it's apparent I was not pushing it and the heat was pretty strong. Oh well! It was still FUN!
I finished with a time of 3:01, putting me 10th in my age group (I entered a new one this year - eek!) I can’t really compare it to my other Olympic races (which have been at the NYC Tri) due to different variables like type of swim and differences in race course profiles. So it wasn’t a PR but it was a great race that I pulled a few new experiences out of. I’ve also learned that I am not a racer. And what I mean by that is that I think I lack that thing that would push me to race reckless or harder when I know I have it in me. I guess I’d rather feel pretty comfortable all race long and then finish happy and have no pain afterwards. We've all got our things. I guess I just avoid pain when others embrace it.
Post race, the Terriers gathered for a team photo and celebrations to applaud our 7 teammates who got a spot on the podium within their respective age groups. Woo hoo! So proud to be among such amazing people and talented athletes. Later that day, after we gave our bikes back to the coach to drive back up to NY, I got that pina colada and enjoyed another Italian meal before hopping a plane to come home and go right back to work.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a weekend! So happy to have another exciting (and educational) race under my belt. The next one: Ironman Syracuse 70.3 in June. I think I might need to find something else before then to keep me honest, and from getting bored!
Tri and tri again,