This past Saturday I raced and finished IRONMAN Florida with a time of 8h11 scoring another Top 10. If there’s one certainty about Ironman racing nowadays is that every single event with a professional field will attract a huge amount of talent and incredible athletes. Panama City Beach, FL, also delivered cold temperatures which mwould revealed optimal for amazing performances.
The swim in the Gulf of Mexico is always a bit tricky due to the high winds that can often produce a massive surf. This time around on race morning, the swell Gods were nice to all triathletes and gave us little surfing and even cooled down the surface of the water enough for that one spot where they measured it to be a wetsuit legal swim for all the field, pros and age groups. I’m almost certain everyone was pleased with the decision given it was 47F that morning and once you pee inside the wetsuit, it stays warm for a little while longer. A friend told me.
This 2-loop course is always very eventful, either for the amount of dolphin diving we all fail to do correctly and efficiently or by the amount of reverse breaststroke face kick you get hit by on the second lap when we swim thru the back of the age group wave. So much on the line: including your nose bridge and eye sockets, who are always lucky to survive. Out of the water in 52 minutes and change and on to the worst part of the entire race: the blast freezing initial two hours of the bike.
I hate the cold. Its great for performance – mine and everyone’s in general – but if I liked the cold, I would have chosen to live in Boulder, not Scottsdale. And because you just rolled your eyes too loud, I must say that everyone out there felt exactly the same for those first 2hrs of riding. The course is pancake flat on paper but on a city where there is a Waffle House on every block, there had to be a twist to the batter: it was slightly windy. It’s a course where you grind your 55×11 for over 4hrs with no points of “let me just relax for a second here” and never ending straightaways. The 18 wheel semis what went by provided a slight drop in power as you got sucked into their draft for a second but that was about as much as you would get. You can’t even see where the road finished ahead of you most of times and while you’d think the trees would provide you some cover from the wind, in reality it feels like you have it in your face for the vast majority of the course. I stuck with Taylor Reid most of the way – small guys must join forces – as I knew he would pace it wisely, except for the two times he almost got hit by a car and adrenaline really kicked in for a few minutes and spikes in power. It is a fast course and after talking to Andrew Starykowicz at end and he saying he’s in excruciating pain for the entire bike course pushing the pedals, I will use that lovely idea for my entire training in 2020. I will also use the speed at what Joe Skipper rides his Quintana Roo as reference. We have the same bike so I will prove I can do it as well.
By the time we got to T2, I got bunched into a pack containing Raul Tejeda and Brent McMahon. Tyler Butterfield was also in T2 by the time we got there and all these three took off to the marathon like bullets. The pace at what they went out hit me like when you try to pull your blankets up and punch yourself in the face. It doesn’t really matter what pace I went by at half way point because it’s not a race for best halfway split. It’s a race to the line and it’s a full marathon, so if I went by halfway at a 2h36 marathon pace, joke is on me because no one runs that fast after a 112 mile ride. Oh wait…
I felt great, I feel like my nutrition strategy was on point but after getting hit by the pace out of T2, I got hit again by it at around mile 17. This time it hit me more like a chair. At that point I was holding the pace by a bobby pin and it started to come loose. Despite being against my believes, science, common sense, the universe and all the yodas, I always seem to run the marathon faster by doing just this: going hard on the first half and just try to hold on for dear life on the second half, even tho you try to fake it so hard when you go by your opponents on any out and backs, that Barbie would look real. Meaning I’m really above average at running after having blown up. While running hard for a good 2/3 of the marathon, ahead of me were some incredible athletes, Ironman champions and true superstars, that did not break. I’m extremely proud of how I handled the day, how I felt for the vast majority of the race and leaving it all I had on the day on that course. I did fade a bit on the final 10km and ended up with a 2h49 run split but YOLO. All of the top 10 at this race proved that there is a new established standard at Ironman racing: you need to break 8hrs to win races, you need to run sub 2h40s marathons off hard rides and that’s my aim for in 2020.
I’m looking forward to the next few weeks where I will step away from the rigid lifestyle this sport demands and regroup for next season. I already have a good idea of what the year will look like and I hope I can continue to keep everyone entertained for another successful season.