Saturday, April 17, 2004

Race Report - Escape from Ft. Desoto 4/17/2004

Hey Everyone - I completed my second triathlon this last Saturday, April 17 and felt pretty good about it! I convinced 3 co-workers (John, Mike and Ricardo) to train and compete in the Escape from Ft. Desoto triathlon. This made me the veteran of the group with one under my belt from last November. This race was a 1/2 mile open-water swim in the Gulf of Mexico, a 10.5 mile bike ride and a 3.1 mile run including an evil stair climb up to the top of Ft. Desoto and back down the other side.

My race stats went something like this:
Overall time 1 hour 13 min 56 sec
Swim 12 min 14 sec 51 yards/min
Bike 32 min 07 sec 19.6 mph average speed
Run 25 min 51 sec 8 min 20 sec average mile pace
Placement in age group 23rd out of 66 racers, ~35 percentile
Placement overall 205 out of 714, ~29 percentile

We had a fun day and everyone met their own personal goals for the race. I think I've hooked all three of them to do more races over the summer and we're also looking for a race to run as a 3 man relay. It's been a great excuse to train and get fit and we all had a blast.

This link to the race web-site contains info about the race as well as the official results

Photos are on-line

Race Diary - 2004 Escape from Fort Desoto sprint triathlon
April 17, 2004 - really early

The day started at 4:30am when the alarm went off and Michelle and I wearily got out of bed. The Friday night before, Michelle and I had hosted the Cub Scout Blue & Gold awards banquet which we co-chaired and had been busy taking down rented 8 foot tables in the church hall and cleaning up until about 10pm. I think my eyes closed at 11:30pm and 4:30 came quickly. I had packed my bike and transition items the night before, so I just needed to shower, eat and get my last few race items together. We were on the road to St. Petersburg at 5:10am and arrived at Fort Desoto park shortly after 6am. I knew we were in trouble when I spotted the huge, 60 foot US garrison flag blowing nearly horizontal in the morning wind...the same wind I'd be riding into for a portion of the bike. We parked and I realized quickly it was dark and chilly this morning as I unpacked my bike and put air in the tires. There were enough cars coming and going that I was able to see what I was doing well enough to get 120 lbs in the tires for the race. I loaded everything up, including Michelle with my stuff, and we walked over to the race registration area for check-in and body marking. In these races, they take a fat magic marker and write your number on each arm, down the side of each leg and write your age on your left calf. Having everyone's age prominently displayed lets you size up your competition and also feel wimpy when a 55 year old blows by you on the bike or in the run. Ahhh, the competition!

Off to the swim start - 7:15am
After check-in, and getting my bike and equipment staged in the transition area, we located the other PwC Tri-Guys (Mike, John and Ricardo), took a few photos and made one last bathroom stop before the walk up the beach to the swim start. As we came down the sandy trail to the beach, I could see the orange and yellow buoys that marked the final turn of the swim finish about 150 feet offshore. I looked way up the shore and just barely visible on the horizon, obscured by the curvature of the earth, was the swim start. OK, I exaggerated, but it was a lot further than I expected. I've never really marked off a half mile of Florida gulf coast before, so seeing nearly 9 football fields of open water between the yellow buoys made me begin to wonder why I got up this morning. The water temperature was a brisk 69 degrees which made it legal to race in wetsuits. I had borrowed my "Ironman" neighbors full-length, racing wetsuit and decided to use it for the race, if for nothing but the comedic memory of trying to get out of it after the swim in the transition area. We snapped a few more photos, took small warm-up swims to check the water and then gave our attention to the announcer and the national anthem. After the singing and a big cheer, they called the first wave of swimmers to the starting chute. The elites and young guys go first, followed every 3 minutes by another wave of athletes. I was in the 3rd wave and wearing a fetching pink swim cap like the other 65 racers in my age group. Ricardo was in the second wave wearing a blue cap and he was off! Our group was called and I took up a position on the right of the main start group, so as not to get run over by the fast swimmers or catch an errant foot or arm to my goggles. They gave a blast of the horn and I was off, high-stepping over the waves and out to a swim-able depth where I plunged into the chilly water and began to freestyle. I could feel people hitting my feet while I tried not to swim directly into the kicking feet ahead of me. For a while, I was sandwiched between 2 other pink-caps and our arms were dangerously close to tangling as we each struggled to break free from the pack. We quickly came up to the yellow buoy which signaled the time for a hard left turn and a long strech of swimming parallel to the shore. Every few strokes I would lift my head and look forward to sight my next buoy so I didn't get off course. Traffic was beginning to thin as I found my rhythm and moved my way down the course. I was feeling pretty good and when I was about 2/3 of the way, I started to see blue cap swimmers. This was a very good sign as I'd caught the group that started 3 minutes ahead of us. I didn't know it at the time, but I must have passed Ricardo somewhere in there as I came out of the water 4 minutes ahead of him. I saw the final yellow buoy and hung a left towards the shore, swimming until the water was too shallow and then I got to my feet and ran up the beach, headed for the transition area. I peeled my wetsuit off to my waist and kept running until I found my bike. I wasn't too hard to get out of the wetsuit, but I just had to smile remembering how awkward I felt when I did this in the privacy of our bathroom at home...not exactly a graceful dance. I snapped on my helmet and shoes, put on my sunglasses and grabbed my bike and hustled out of transition and jumped on.

The Bike - Race start + 14 minutes and 30 seconds
I felt good as I got started on the ride, but quickly felt the headwind as I pulled out onto the main road. I was passing people, paying careful attention not to draft or break any of the other cycling rules about passing or riding close to others. I was feeling the headwind and couldn't get my speed up to my target of 20 mph. I was stuck somewhere between 16 and 18 for most of the first few miles. I knew the pain of the headwind would become my friend at the turnaround, so I kept pushing hard until I saw the turn. I got a new blast of energy as I rounded the turnaround and headed back with a nice tailwind helping push me on. Somewhere in here I hit my maximum speed of 24+ mph and I was feeling good, but a little thirsty. I was riding with my hands down on the aero-bars and I reached for my drink bottle. The cap was stuck down so as I was focused on pulling it up so I could grab the bottle and take a drink, I ran right off the road into the gravel and grass. I quickly forgot the bottle and got both hands back on the handlebars and maintained control as I bumped along the side of the road and was promptly passed by a cyclist I has just zoomed by a few seconds earlier. I managed to keep myself upright and cut back onto the pavement and set my sights on the rider who passed me. I got back into a groove and passed him again and kept going. I did manage to get a drink without falling off my bike a little later, but as I found in training, it's all about peddling, sweating and breathing hard. I was doing all 3 and felt pretty good about my speed as I came into the second turnaround. I made the turn and headed back into the headwind and heard Mike yell "Go, Dave Go" as he sped by towards the 2nd turnaround. Mike had started 3 minutes behind me and was closing the gap fast as I approached the end of the bike ride. I saw the turn-in at the end of the bike course and shifted into a lower gear to get my legs spinning faster in anticipation of the transition to the run. My hopped off my bike and ran it back to my spot and quickly changed into my running shoes and grabbed my hat and was off.

The Run - Race start + 48 minutes and change
The 2 signature traits of the Escape from Ft. Desoto race is the stair climb and decent at the beginning of the run and the first mile on semi-loose sand. I was breathing hard coming out of the transition area and headed for the stairs. I saw Michelle snapping pictures and I approached the base and made the left turn to begin the climb. My calves didn't feel so good and I was afraid they would both cramp up if I pushed it too hard, so I took it a little slow up the steps and down the other side. My calf muscles immediately went into complaining mode as I started out on the loose sandy run, but I learned from training to not listen to your leg muscles much when you're in that first 1/2 mile after a bike ride. Nothing you do feels right and my neighbor Scott described the feeling as having "baby giraffe legs" and I agree. The first mile felt really slow and my split time confirmed a 9 minute mile pace. I was looking forward to the solid pavement and a cool drink of water at the mile marker. I watched the volunteer with 2 cups of water extend them to the runners ahead of me. The first one grabbed a cup and chugged it down and the guy directly in front of me was waving him off, but at the last minute decided he did want it, reached for it and while failing to actually get his hands on the cup, knocked it out of the volunteer's hands. I watched as my cup of water was now making steam on the pavement as I pounded on by avoiding the numerous empty paper cups littering the trail. I was still thirsty and fresh, clean water was not my friend today. I picked up my pace and ran just over an 8 minute mile for the second mile and was trying to find the energy and focus for my fast-paced last mile. In training, I'd focus on an object in the distance, concentrate on my breathing and form and start to fly, but I never quite got it all working as well as I hoped. It was at this time that I thought Mike would catch me. Every time I heard footsteps approaching, I assumed Mike would call out my name and we'd race it in. Well, Mike was not far behind and while he didn't catch me on the run, he did beat my time by about 1:40. Mike is much faster than I am and I was looking forward to chasing him to the finish line for a faster finish. As it was, my 3rd mile was just under 8 minute pace and I had a little left for the sprint for the finish.

The Finish - Race start + 1 hour, 13 minutes and 56 seconds
I did it! I finished my second triathlon and felt pretty good about how I'd done. The real fun began as the rest of the PwC Tri-Guys started to finish and we all started taking pictures and swapping stories. We heard about John's chain problems on his bike just outside of the transition area and hear about Ricardo's swim. His wife was getting concerned that he might need to be rescued since he'd been out there for so long, but he eventually made it in and after a leisurely transition, ran the rest of his race strong. Mike was our fastest and made up great ground on the bike and during the run and finished with an amazing 1:12:16 time. Not bad for a first-timer. After we all re-hydrated and pigged out on the snacks at the after-race buffet, we headed our separate ways, wheeled our mighty bikes back to our cars with our racing packs in tow and vowed to do it again and again!

We're hooked!

On the drive home...
We had just left Fort Desoto park and a car pulled up next to us and franticly motioned us to roll down our window. We did and they guy and girl asked if there was actually an In-N-Out Burger in Florida! They had seen our license plate frame and were from San Diego and were hoping that there was one of these great burger joints in FL. The girl actually exclaimed that she was a vegetarian ( a Vegan in her words ) and she'd happily chow down on some In-N-Out if she was given the chance. We all laughed and wished there was, but there isn't...yet! Take a look at to see what I'm talking about.