This was Ironman #8 spanning the years of 2010 - 2016.  I’ve raced IMFL twice, IMTX twice, IMCDA twice and IM St. George once.  Chattanooga would be my eighth go at a full Ironman distance.  Intensity and training load this season was similar to years past with the exception that this was the first one I’d trained for a race in early fall.  The others had been in late fall, late spring or early summer.  So the heat I trained through for this one was the most brutal.  And my data showed it.  My speed was noticeably slower in both the bike and the run (swim not really a factor being first sport and in cooler water).  But you can’t ask for “better” conditions to train in than north Florida in the summer if heat acclimation is needed.  Additionally, Tallahassee and Leon County’s topography have a lot of similarities to what the Chattanooga course offers up.

Earlier in the year I’d competed in a marathon in February, and I’d raced the IMChoo 70.3 back in May.  So I had kept my run strong and had a preview of most of the course in a race format.  I felt like I’d prepared quite well for this race both physically and (more importantly) mentally.  In years past, I’d hoped to have the magical day where I qualified for Kona.  But since my last Ironman in Texas in 2015, I’d become a bit more realistic.  My training for IMTX felt to be pin point accurate and as dedicated as I could manage.  I felt fully prepared and in the best shape of my life.  But on that day, I was broken by the heat and humidity.  Over the next year, I realized that I really wasn’t going to be heartbroken if I qualified or not, because I came to see how much I truly enjoy just getting out there to race with others and take on the challenge that is presented by a race of this distance.

In prep for IMChoo, I tallied around 8 rides over 75 miles (4 over 100) and 7 runs over 15 miles (2 over 20).  This was lower than I’d done in the past, but it seemed they were beating me down more than normal.  Heaviest weeks carried up to around 15 hours of workouts including 3 hours swimming, 8.5 hours biking and 3.5 hours running.  It would be great to get more, but life is too busy.

I’ve always kept a somewhat healthy diet, but my wife Sandy has really helped to keep me on the straight and narrow.  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that beer and ice cream are part of our diet.  But as with anything, we try to enjoy these in some form of moderation.  So getting in the right nutrition played a big part.  And me being a South Georgia boy, let me tell you, I cannot wait to eat some fried chicken now that the race is over! But in the final month or two leading up to the race, I really cleaned up my diet with no ice cream and very little alcohol.  That can be as much a mental boost as physical.

Sandy set us up with a hotel within a block of the Ironman village, which was massively important in making life easy on us.  There was no driving required to check in, to get to transition or to visit the downtown of beautiful Chattanooga.  It was all walkable as any well designed city should be. And we took our boy (dog) Hitch with us.

We got in town on Thursday.  Ate pizza at Lupi’s which was really good.  We slept in until at least 7:30 am which we never do.  Friday I did a 30 minute easy run to loosen the legs and see parts of the course I knew would be rough on the body.  I also drove the run course twice to visualize what I would do on race day.  Otherwise, I hung around in the hotel and did nothing much.  Again, we slept in until 7:00 am or later.  As they say, the sleep you get two nights before your race is most important, so this was key.  Saturday, I took the bike out for a 10 min spin to check the gears and make sure all parts were working smoothly.  I also did a 10 minute run with some pickups to break a sweat.  Then the team met up at 9 am on the other side of the river and we swam for about 10 minutes.  The first half was upriver and second half downriver.  There was a solid current pushing downriver which was great news.

Everyone dispersed and I hurried back to the hotel to get my bike and race day bags checked in by noon.  Then I sat down to watch my Georgia Bulldogs get annihilated by Ole Miss.  That was rough, but at least the pain was over quickly and there was no time to stress.  It helped having Robby, Brad, Morgan and Sandy there to small talk with and pass the time.  That night, Sandy made a wonderful dinner of fettuccini pasta with broccoli and real cooked meatballs.  That was really, really good and a perfect pre-race dinner.  We were in bed by 9:30 pm.

I got up at 3:00 am.  We had coffee (I drink a lot of it) and walked Hitch.  I was in line for transition setup by 4:20 am which opened up at 4:30 on the dot.  I placed my Garmin 910 quick release onto my bike, turned it on and calibrated it for power.  The plan was to do the swim and bike wearing the wristband and then place the quick release back on for the run.  I pumped my tires to 105 psi assuming the heat of the day would take them up towards the normal 115 – 120 psi I like.  For nutrition, I had three scoops of Accelerade in my aerobottle and three more in my bottle in my cage for 700 calories.  I put in a few ice cubes to keep the taste from getting too rank in the heat.  In my bento box, I cut 6 Shot Blok packages (1,200 calories) in half and placed them with cut side facing up.  I got in and out of transition within 15 to 20 minutes and went back to the hotel to use the bathroom and get in the truck with Sandy who drove me up to the swim start 2.4 miles upriver.  She had made oatmeal for me with strawberries, granola and milk.  I’ve found this is the best breakfast for me before a race.  I ate as we drove to the race so that I’d finished it by about 5:30 am.  That is about 2 hours before race start, so I ate a package of Shot Bloks (200 cal) at 7 am.  Otherwise, I was drinking coffee and Gatorade while waiting.  It is a rolling start, so it is first come, first serve.  I got there early enough to be in the first 500 or so people in line.

RACE START – SWIM (2.4 MILES DOWNRIVER): 51:18, 1:19/100m
The pro men started at 7:20 am.  Age groupers started about 5 minutes afterwards.  I think I hit the water maybe 4 or 5 minutes after the gun went off.  The water temp that morning was 83 degrees, so it wasn’t close to wetsuit legal.  I wore my speed suit on top of my tri shorts with no shirt. It was fun walking down to the start and feeling the excitement build.  I had studied the course and seen the river had a big bend in it.  The course required everyone to keep the buoys on their left.  The river bent to the left and then curved back to the right.  So as soon as I hit the water, I sighted and kept a direct line forward to where the buoys were very far to my left and I kept a straight line as best I could.  It seemed a lot of swimmers stuck to the buoys which I thought added a lot of distance and was busier water.  I had mostly clear water and was able to maneuver around lots of people without banging.  As I reached the first bridge, my left foot totally cramped up and I had to point my toes to work it out as I kicked.  I started kicking with my right foot only and eventually it cramped up, too.  I swam for a time with no kicking and then the cr
amps subsided and returned as I went.  I just kicked as I could and worked hard with my arms.  It wasn’t too concerning knowing the river was pushing me in the right direction already.  Soon enough, I reached the red turn buoy and it was up to the steps.  When to the transition bags, I got a volunteer to zip down my speed suit back.

Inside the transition tent, I opened my bag.  Two young kids maybe 15 years old were there to help.  Before I knew it, they’d pulled everything out of my bag without asking me.  It was a comical scene. First, I look up and they’d pulled the socks out of my bike shoes where I’d carefully placed them.  The other one has my bike helmet in his hands trying to jam it on my head!  I said, “Wait guys!  Slow down.”  I was laughing out loud at the situation knowing they were trying to help but had no clue what to do.  Then one grabs my bike shirt not realizing I’d carefully packed it with nutrition, salt and sunglasses and they all go spilling to the floor.  The other one grabs my transition towel and starts trying to dry my head off. At this point, I got them to drop everything and asked if they’d just open my Gatorade bottle for me.  I got everything on, ate a Shot Blok package (200 cal) and chugged about 10 ounces of Gatorade before I took off.  I ran probably a football field length or more in my bike shoes and was surprised at how fast I was able to move.  I grabbed my bike, ran across the mount line, clicked the start button on my quick release, clipped in and off I went.

BIKE (116 MILES WITH +4,000 FEET ELEVATION GAIN): 5:29:29, 21.1 mph
CLICK HERE for bike file
The bike route is somewhat of a lollipop, where you do the loop twice and then return.  The forecasted temperatures were expected to peak at 94 degrees later in the day.  They actually topped out at 96.  So knowing that, I made sure to hold back quite a bit from what I had originally planned.  The course is a mix of rollers throughout.  There really aren’t any hills that are brutal.  There are some that are hard and a bit long, but all are manageable with the easy gears.  This course is one of using momentum to your advantage, so in some spans it was worthy to push a bit out of the comfort zone to get up over the next hill and carry down the backside with speed.  Within about 30 miles, I was riding by myself for the most part.  I had a fast enough swim that I passed a few people but mostly got passed by a lot of uber cyclists.  It was great to be riding solo and not at a similar speed to anyone so that I could zone in on my plan.

The first aid station was a solid 15 miles out, so I timed finishing my first aero bottle of Accelerade by then.  Just before the station, I poured my other bottle of Accelerade into the aerobottle and drank down the rest out of the bottle before tossing it at the first station.  I grabbed a Gatorade, chugged some, and stuck it into the cage made empty by tossing my original bottle.  I also grabbed a water bottle and sprayed myself before tossing it.  I never stop my bike at the aid stations.  Throughout the bike, I took half a shot blok packet (100 cal) every 30 minutes.  With the heat, the bloks were soft and easy to chew.  The course has some magnificent views of the countryside.  Traffic was well controlled and I had no incidents.  The town of Chickamauga was a big lift, too, with all of the community out and cheering the competitors.  My goal power was around 200 to 220 watts and heart rate aiming for around 140 BPM.  On the uphills, I tried not to let power go over 300 watts when possible.  On the downhills, I tried to keep it from dropping under 175 watts.  This worked well to my advantage in that I never went too hard or too easy.  HR only once fluctuated all the way up to middle 150s, but held in the mid to upper 130s for the most part.  Overall, I could have pushed the bike a good bit harder, but that would not have left much in the tank for the run.

Over the day, the heat continued to rise and by the second loop, it was out in full force and baking.  I’ve had a problem with hot spots in my bike shoes all season (and for years).  In training, it typically kicked in around 60 to 70 miles into my rides.  This time, I was lucky enough that it didn’t start until after 80 miles.  By the 95 mile mark, it was hitting the very bothersome point.  Over the remaining 20 miles, it got worse to where it was borderline unbearable.  As I made it through the City and down towards the dismount line, it was probably the greatest moment of the race when I took my feet out of my bike shoes for the flying dismount.  By the time I finished the bike, I’d taken in 2,000+ calories for around 360 cal/hr.  This was made up of 700 calories from Accelerade, 1,000 calories from shot bloks, and the remainder from Gatorade I picked up along the course.  I felt quite good coming off the bike, but hesitant to expect a strong run with the heat.

I handed off my bike to a volunteer after dismount, ran down grabbing my bag and headed to the change tent.  Once in the tent, I changed from my bike shirt into my tri top, drank 10 oz of Gatorade, put on my headband/sunglasses/race belt and headed out.  I made sure to get sun block from volunteers when leaving the tent.  It was nice that they had spray on vs the rub on lotion.

RUN (26.2 MILES WITH +/-1,300 FEET ELEVATION GAIN): 3:32:12, 8:05/mi
CLICK HERE for run file
Immediately out of transition we were taken up a long ascent.  Holding back was the key.  By this time, it was just after 2 pm and the temperature was well into the 90s.  There were already people walking up that first hill, so I could tell who had pushed the bike too hard.  Every mile or so, there were well stocked aid stations.  As one ran through, they had ice, ice water, Gatorade, pretzels, gus, fruit, coke, Gatorade, ice water, ice and ice sponges generally in that order.  The volunteers were nothing short of amazing, and I cannot say enough how helpful they were.  I stopped at every single aid station and dumped about three cups of ice into my shirt and shorts, dumped ice water on my head, drank ice water and drank some Gatorade.  Doing this throughout is what saved me in the long run.  It was so hot that I saw the pros doing the same thing.  By the time I was on the run course, the lead pros were going by on their second loop.  I ran with the pro Matt Hanson for about 2 or 3 miles.  I could tell how tough the day was with the fact I could hang on with him for so long.  Eventually, he dropped me like a bad habit!  Going up the highway was totally exposed for the first 4 miles or so.  Then coming back on the Riverwalk provided shade and some general downhill which was nice.  Then there is a short, steep hill that was quite brutal.  Soon after, we were spit out onto the bridge that took us across the river to the torture otherwise known as Barton Avenue.  Running up that was brutal.  Once over, you have a nice downhill and wind back into a beautiful neighborhood and come back out to Barton Avenue.  At this point, the previous downhill is a nasty uphill.  But once over that, we carried down to the river and crossed over the wooden pedestrian bridge.  That is probably the coolest part of the course with the feel of the wood underfoot and the views across the river basin.

At the end of this pedestrian bridge, the second loop starts (it is also where one turns home to the finish line after their second loop).  I still felt pretty good, but my quads were starting to pulse a bit.  Heading back up the highway, I caught and passed first place in my age group.  It was pretty funny actually.  When I passed, I was walking and dumping ice into my shirt while he was standing still doing the same.  It was like a race in slow motion, very slow motion.  I think both of us were more concerned about keeping ourselves cooled than what the exact place was at that point.  I kept on and when I hit the 19 mile mark, my body started with the classic Ironman fade.  I could feel my systems wanting to shut down and sleep.  I made it up that nasty short hill and back onto the bridge to cross the river.  Sandy was there and said I was in first place but it seemed like some guys were right behind me.  After telling her I was fading, she said, “Just run hard.”  That lit the fire and I started pushing harder.  I made it over Barton Avenue and back barely holding it together.  Once I crested over Barton for the final 1.5 mile stretch home, both my calves locked up with Charley horses.  I literally ran through them which was pretty excruciating but bearable.  I skipped the final aid station and just kept pushing.  I saw Brad and Robby on the pedestrian bridge cheering, but I had no energy to even smile at that point.  Finally turning down the last hill to the finish line, I felt a wave of relief for the first time of the day.  I made it down the finish chute and crossed in a final time of 10:02:54.  I had to go to the medic tent afterwards to be observed and given water, coke and chicken broth.  They took good care of me.  It was one of the tougher days I’ve faced, but in the end, holding back was the key to success.

Seeing all of my friends out there played a massive part in keeping my mind positive.  My wife Sandy was the reason I was so well prepared, and she has been the biggest supporter of me from day one through the finish chute.  She is my rock and always will be.  I am so proud of all of the friends and athletes who headed up to Chattanooga to take on this wonderful race on a very tough day.  Whether you crossed the finish line or didn’t, you are a champion in my book for toeing the line at this great race.  Chattanooga, a city Walter Kronkite once called “the dirtiest city in America”, has rebuilt itself into a destination city that knows how to “put on the dog” so-to-say.  I will definitely be back to this community to enjoy what it has to offer.


RACE day is tomorrow!!!  As they say, the hay is in the barn. The race is simply a culmination of all the work put in the prior months. We have 10 athletes/coaches competing in IRONMAN Chattanooga and Coach Stephanie taking on IRONMAN Augusta 70.3. Each and everyone has earned their spot on the starting line. The conditions are forecast to be hot; however, we are ready! All those months of training through the Florida summer heat has prepared everyone well!

IRONMAN Chattanooga

Becky Cahill - 914
Robin Bennett - 904
Michelle Harrison - 1651
Charlie Boyle - 1118
Wayne Thumm - 230
Alison Glass Thumm - 150
Melanie Rhodes - 1603
Jo Curry - 1027
Charlie Johnson -526

IRONMAN Augusta 70.3

Stephanie Liles-Weyant - 1295

For those who are racing, when you are on course, reflect back to all the days you were out on the roads earning it. Think about the sacrifices you made to make it to the starting line. Remind yourself of the support that family and friends gave you through months of training. Best of luck to our athletes and everyone else on race day!

Live tracking will be available during the event at: http://www.ironman.com/

GUEST BLOG: DisneyBride (DB) and DisneyGroom (DG)

Recap: 2016 Ironman 70.3 Florida Relay
Written by: Monica and Walter Clemence

I've heard it said that every athlete will get a DNF at some point. It is just a matter of when.  Well, this is the story of mine.

Most of our readers are runners, not triathletes, so this recap will go into some detail describing the process and also things unique to this event. I am telling this from a Back of the Pack perspective. You know those people that are the last ones to cross the finish line? That's my tribe.  If you are a triathlete reading this, I apologize in advance for the over-explanations.  This was also our first time at a long distance triathlon event so everything was a new experience.

Our plan was this:  DisneyGroom would swim 1.2 miles, DisneyBride would bike 56 miles, DisneyGroom would run 13.1 miles to equal the 70.3, a half Ironman distance.  Since this event was a team effort,  the recap is written by both of us, DisneyBride's sections are red, DisneyGroom's sections are in blue.

Expo, Packet Pickup
We arrived late Friday night for a Sunday race.  Our hotel was about 8 miles from the race location. The race itself is held at the beautiful Lake Eva Community Park in Haines City, Florida.

Saturday morning we headed to the park.  Ironman Village was an outdoor expo. There was a stage, a handful of vendor booths, and a few larger sprawling vendor tents for specialty cycling, running, and tri apparel and gear.  If you forgot bike shoes, nutrition, shorts, bras, socks, even if you forgot your bike - whatever... you could get it there. The Ironman branded merchandise tent was absolutely MASSIVE. They even had changing rooms.

There was a booth to rent racing tires, which I thought was interesting.  Also there was a large pen for pick up and drop off of bike transport. It was a private company that coordinates bike shipping internationally and domestically for those athletes that fly in or otherwise cannot bring their bike themselves.

Packet pickup went smoothly.  Relay teams had their own table for checking in and picking up our bibs, swim caps, and getting our athlete wristbands put on. I had a minor freak out the day before when I realized I did not have my USAT card with me for check in. (Every athlete participating in a triathlon event must have one.) But thankfully someone told me about the member card app, I downloaded it and viola! I had a digital version.  But as it turned out, no one ever asked for it.

There was another table to pick up your timing chip (the tracking anklet), another table for shirts and race bags, and a final one where a volunteer stuffed our race bags with sponsor swag: Red Bull, Clif Bars, Lava magazines, cold therapy packs, Old Spice items, and one nice touch from name sponsor, UCF: gold Schwings for our race shoes.  Everything moved VERY quickly and we didn't have to wait in any lines.

My coach had instructed us to do several walk-thrus of the transition area, and several other people in our tri club whom have done this event in previous years also stressed the importance of doing this on various occasions. Apparently this transition area is trickier than others. And so it was.

We started from the beach where you exit the lake, then found the Relay tent where we and all the other relays teams would hand off our timing chip.

Then we looked for Swim Out,  which is the entrance to the Bike transition.  The racks were numbered. I found our team number and was dismayed to see that the relays racks were the furthest from the Bike Out.  Also Bike Out and Bike In were one and the same. This means to start my bike leg, I had to put on my helmet and bike shoes and run through transition with my bike past all the other bikes to head Out to the bike mount area, and then get on my bike to begin the course.  Then when I came back after completing the 56 miles, I would have to dismount, and then walk my bike all the way back through the transition to rack it.  I envied those people near the exit and the top level, because they only had to run a very short distance with their bikes.  I'm a klutz, and it is not easy to run in cycling shoes, much less while rolling your bike along.  What also made this transition a little tricky is that it was an outdoor parking lot with two levels, and you had to wind around from the bottom to the top level to get out.

Practice Swim
Athletes wanting to 'test out the waters' so to speak, were given the opportunity to swim in the lake the day before the race.  Lake Eva is closed to swimmers all year long.  It is only open for swimming to triathletes registered for this race and only during the race weekend. So unlike the run or bike course which we can access any time we are in the area, this is the only chance we have to get into the water before race day. The buoys were already up for the course the next morning.  There were kayaks, jet skis, and plenty of personnel and volunteers patrolling the water and the shores for safety.

We put on our timing chips and crossed under the arch just like we would on race day. The timing chip also allowed race staff to track which athletes went in and came back out.  We had from 11am - 2pm to go in and out of the water as much as we liked.

I'm glad I took advantage of the open water swim time.  The course is an "M" shape and the turns can be tricky.  The opportunity to swim out to the turns and see them from the water was definitely helpful on race day.

Athlete Briefing
After his swim, we went to the stage for the athlete briefing to receive any additional race instructions.  I'm glad we did not miss this, because they announced a lot of important info not in the athlete guide, including course cut offs.

I knew the swim cut off was 1 hour, 10 minutes after your wave start, and I knew the bike cut off was 5 hours, 30 minutes after swim start, and the run cut off was 8 hours, 30 minutes after swim start. I also knew that Ironman race cut offs are very strictly enforced - ruthlessly so.

But they announced that the aid stations would have cut offs as well.  WHAT THE WHAT???

I had actually emailed Ironman with this question a few weeks ago, and received the response that they do not and would not have aid station cut offs.  So this was news to me.  The second aid station on the bike course at Mile 33 would have a cut off of 11:45 am.  The third aid station on bike course at Mile 43 would have a cut off of 12:30. When I heard this, my heart sank, because while I felt okay about making the first cut off at aid station 2, with the worst of the hills between those two stops, it would be a struggle. I went up for questions at the end of the talk and asked him to confirm the times for me. The race director said "yes, these are the aid station cut off times, but really it is just for athletes that cannot continue."  Words that would come back to haunt me.

A runner friend of ours, Bill (blogger at RillaRuns) lives nearby and he popped over to hang out with us for a bit.  Then at 2 pm, bike check in opened.  I went and got my bike from the car and brought it over to transition.  I showed my event wristband and was admitted to the bike area.  All the racks were arranged in numerical order according to bib numbers, and a  very nice touch, on the rack itself - stickers with the individual bib numbers had been placed on there and were spaced neatly apart with plenty of room. This would make it easier to find your bike, and also prevent anyone from moving your bike to squeeze their bike into your rack (can happen at other races).

I found my number, racked my bike, and let some of the air out of the tires.  My coach had put this instruction in my race plan and I was glad she did.  Apparently with the heat, the tubes might pop if left out for so long. Then I left my bike there.

Doesn't my bike look lonely?

Sounds crazy but I had a very bittersweet moment leaving her overnight.  I joked that I now know what parents feel like when they drop their kids off at summer camp.  My bike and I have gotten really close these past several months.  I have to depend on my bike for training and race day, so I try to take good care of her, and don't even keep her in the garage. Some of you might relate to this, but most of you just probably think that sounds nuts. I'm okay with that. Suffice to say leaving her in the care of strangers was weird.

Then that was it.  We went off to find food, because by now we were starving. There were a few food trucks and vendors there, but surprisingly for an event full of ridiculously fit people, it was mostly carnival style junk food. There was one vendor with smoothies and fruit, but it was mid afternoon and we needed a substantial meal. We ended up going to Sweet Tomatoes in Kissimmee. We actually eat at this location before about half of our runDisney races. It's a buffet with plenty of vegan options, so we were all set.

A quick stop at Target for some provisions, then we went back to our hotel for the earliest bedtime I have had since I was a toddler.

I got Tritats (temporary tattoos with your bib number) for Disney Groom and we put then on, since his arms and legs would be uncovered during the race.  I would be covered in cooling sleeves and compression socks.

Race Day

Four a.m. wake up.  We got dressed, grabbed our transition bags and my bike pump and headed to the start. Street parking may have been plentiful earlier, but we missed out.  We paid $10 to park on the grass by a church a few blocks from the park.  It was pitch black out, the neighborhood is not well-lit, and I was relieved I was not trying to navigate my bike through strange streets in the darkness.

I briefly stopped at Body Marking, to get my bib number put on my arms, and the R on my left calf designating Relay. If I were not doing a relay, my age would be placed prominently on my left calf instead.  There is no room for vanity regarding your age in triathlon. It's right there for the whole world to see.

I got to my bike and DG pumped the tires for me.  I filled up my Speedfil (hydration system) with ice and coconut water, loaded my pockets with a few wet wipes in a ziploc baggie (3 words: Race Day Portapotties) and I put my nutrition (Hammer nutrition bars that I pre-cut into cubes) into my bento box. For my coach reading this: yes, I did bring along extra packets of Skratch powder to mix up my hydration drink at aid stations.

Don't we look great? (She says sarcastically.)  Still trying to wake up here. It felt chilly and we put on all the clothes we had with us to try and stay warm.  Our friend Bill came by to hang out with us again for part of the morning.  After DG left for the swim, I was very glad to have someone to chat with to distract me and keep me from getting too anxious.

The relay start
The race starts in waves, like corrals in road races. But unlike road races, where you are seeded according to your pace - in triathlon it is according to age groups. Each wave is provided a different color of swim cap to identify themselves. Some triathlons may also have designated waves for Elites, PC (physically challenged) athletes, Relays, Athenas (women weighing over 165 pounds), and Clydesdales (men weighing over 220 pounds).  To compete as an Athena or Clydesdale, you have a weigh in the day before the race to prove what you weigh.   This event had some of these classes, but not all of these. As you can see from the guide below, we were assigned the last wave at this event. That is not always the case for relays. But what it does mean is that each course for the swim, bike, and run will be closing right behind our wave.  So slow relay athletes (raises hand) are more likely to get swept off the course than slow athletes in earlier waves.

To put it in runDisney terms, imagine you are in the last corral for the marathon, and even though you trained very hard for 9 months, your pace is exactly a 16:00 min/mile.  You have no margin for error - no potty breaks, no character stops, no photos, not even stopping to tie your shoes, or catch your breath at a water stop.  If you stop, you will get swept.  Well, that's what we were up against.

The first wave started before sunrise. That must have been interesting swimming out into a dark lake.  With a 8:05 swim start, at 7:30 I headed down to the beach to line up.

I will say this about the swim- there is no training to prepare you for getting kicked in the face!  After getting kicked, I did manage to get into a pretty nice groove.  I don't feel like I swam too far off course at any point, and I probably should have pushed myself a little harder.

One note on doing this particular course. Make sure to swim all the way to the shore on your exit.

I stood up about 15 feet from the water's edge and took two steps before falling into a hole that was deeper than me.  Apparently, someone had told me about this (I think it was DisneyBrides's coach's husband actually), but I had forgotten by race day.

I did manage to swim the course within about 2 minutes of my goal.

Transition (T1)
I was already dressed in cycling gear, gloves, bike shoes, and ready to go when DisneyGroom arrived from his swim. As soon as I saw him running up the ramp, I fastened my bike helmet.

DG ran up to the tent and as he handed me his goggles and swim cap, I handed him his glasses. Then he removed his timing chip and placed it on my left ankle (left side so as not to bump against bike gearing). A quick good luck kiss and I was off.

I ran into the transition area and grabbed my bike off the rack. Since relay was the final wave, most of the lot was empty of bikes and athletes, so I wasn't fighting any bottlenecks on my way out.

Felt like it took forever maneuvering my bike through there. No one was running though, or really appeared to be hurrying.  I had been to a Transition Clinic the week before put on by my local tri club, Gulf Winds Triathletes. and I picked up several timesaving tips.

At last, I went under the arch and crossed the Bike Mount line and got on my bike to start my race. You start on an uphill. It's a little steep (for Florida) actually. I could hear my coach's voice: Always always always start in an easy gear, especially on an uphill.

WOO HOO!  It was happening at last!

My legs started pedaling, and my feet instinctively clipped into the pedals like they had a mind of their own.

I had my Garmin 910xt mounted on the handlebars already.  So I started it up and went to Virtual Racer. I had preloaded the bike course, set it to 4:15 (my goal pace) and planned to 'race' against it to help keep me on track. You know the rule about nothing new on race day?  Yeah - I broke it. I had watched a youtube video and thought I knew how it worked. NOPE.  It was showing a 4 hour pace and I could not figure out what any of the data fields were... Ooops!  I would have to ride naked and blind for 4.5 hours! I shut it down and restarted it, but still had the same 4 hour pace and screens that didn't make any sense to me showing.. well crap... now what?

But wait, I had my Garmin Vivoactive on my wrist. This would save the day!  It was already synced to my speed and cadence sensor on my bike, so those started right up, but it was not synced to my recently replaced heart rate monitor, so I would later find that no HR data was captured.

I put my Vivoactive on the handle bars but I didn't have time to tighten it down. All this is happening while I am riding the first 1 1/2 miles of the course, rollers (back to back hills) through a suburban neighborhood. To say I am not the most elegant of riders is an understatement, so rather than risk my continuing to wobble and possibly crash, I just left it loosely wrapped on the bars.  This was okay for most of the ride, but if the asphalt was uneven or cracked, occasionally it would knock loose and spin around face down, or the right button would get bumped against the bike stem and the timer would pause.  I would notice it a minute or two later, and I had to restart the timer. Probably happened about 5 times. So my recorded data is not perfect.  C'est la vie!

So many thoughts and emotions running through me those first few miles.
Scared... of crashing
Worried... that I will get a leg cramp or a flat tire...
Nervous... that my stomach might decide to stage a mutiny many miles away from any facilities,
Fear... of getting attacked by a pack of wild boars (more on that later),
Disbelief... that this is really happening at last,
Joy... that I got to be outside on a gorgeous Florida day,
Awe... over the adaptive and challenged athletes I saw competing out here this morning,
Wondering... just how far can I go today?

But most of all - gratitude.

Gratitude for the absolutely perfect weather conditions,
Gratitude for my wonderful Triattic triathlon coach whom prepared me for this day,
Gratitude for my amazingly supportive husband and relay partner,
Gratitude to our friends that showed up to cheer for us today,
Gratitude to my bike shop, Higher Ground, in Tallahassee, for the bike fittings, gear, and advice to help me become a capable cyclist,
Gratitude for everyone involved in the race- athletes, cops, volunteers, race officials, spectators, and
Gratitude that I am blessed with good health and strong legs that are able to transport me 56 miles.

I had never seen it during the morning like this, but I began to recognize the bike course from previous visits. Last September, we were in Orlando and we came down and drove the bike course all the way through. During Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, I brought my bike and rode the first half of the course to become more familiar with it.  Then again in March, we came down and I rode the second half. I don't like surprises, so I wanted to know what the road conditions were like, where the tricky turns are, what kind of hills I will have to climb, etc.  I knew which landmarks to look for, I knew which hills would challenge me the most, and I knew which roads were in DESPERATE need of repaving  (Lake Marion, Jim Edwards cough cough). Also I had seen wild boars during each of these trips, the first time we drove here we saw a whole pack (even got it on film here) and I was hoping and praying I would not see any on race day.  I reached down and pulled out the safety whistle I was wearing around my neck, under my jersey.  The shrill noise might not frighten off boars that may charge at me, but it made me feel better having the whistle, if only to alert others.

The bike course loops through mostly farmland with a few neighborhood clusters along the way.   There are lake views during some portions, but the most striking thing are the citrus groves.  On previous rides here, I found myself suddenly surrounded with a very familiar smell.  In Walt Disney World, EPCOT's popular ride, Soarin' has a moment where you are flying over orange groves. The scent of oranges fills the air - powerful, sweet, tart... then quickly it is gone.  Imagine riding on a bike past miles and miles of citrus trees; you are surrounded on both sides of the road.  It is absolutely heavenly. On race day, I knew I would encounter citrus groves at various spots along the course and I was eager to get to them. It literally took my breath away, and I sniffed the air like a dog hanging his head out of a car window.  (You can see the oranges look ready to be picked.)

During these first few miles, I was passed by several other athletes. I don't really know how many, but at least 30, perhaps more. As they came up behind me, many shouted encouraging words. So I did the same.  "Looking strong!  Keep that pace going!  stuff like that. There were maybe 5 or so athletes that snuck up and whizzed past without so much as an 'on your left' to warn me.  I shouted 'Have a great race!" to those riders too.  

By Mile 5, I began to have ... umm...  discomfort in the lady bits area.  This happens sometimes. I had put on TriSlide at 4 am, and it was now 9:30am. It's supposed to last through a full day, but maybe it was wearing off?  I looked at the clock and groaned... how the heck can I endure this for another 51 miles? I moved my butt further back on the seat and that took the pressure off.  Miraculously, it didn't bother me the rest of the ride.

Because the bike course is just one big long 56 mile loop, there are very few spectators.  Well maybe they were there for the previous waves, but there was not much excitement happening at the end of the pack, so if they were out earlier, they were gone by now.  When I did see a spectator, I shouted Thank You! Every single cop I saw on the entire course, I shouted Thank You! Every volunteer who caught my eye, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

I am slow.  I was anticipating being out on the course for over 4 hours.  You may not ride side by side with other athletes, when passing you have 25 seconds to put a distance of six bike lengths between you, or you risk a drafting penalty.  Race conditions are not conducive to carrying on a conversation with anyone.  I've run for four hours before, and always had other runners nearby to talk to.  I've been on group rides where I can chat with other cyclists. But here I was, my first long distance race on a bike, I found myself faced with only my own thoughts for company. There was nothing else to do, so I smiled, waved, and said thank you to everyone I saw. It was the only human interaction available to me.  But the more I did this, the more cheerful I became.  Yep, my small grinch heart grew three sizes that day.

I reached the first aid station, about Mile 17, and my coach will cringe when she reads this... (sorry Jo) but I didn't stop to refill my Speedfil bottle. I had plenty of fluids left to get me to the next aid station at Mile 33, so I grabbed a water bottle a volunteer was holding out, took a quick swig, then dumped it all over my arms, neck, and back.  The temps had started climbing and this cooled me down and felt great.

I was invigorated by the cool water and picked up my pace.  Then I settled in to enjoy the mostly flat road, because I knew that would come to an end soon enough.

At almost exactly the mid point of the race, the real hills begin.  Now, this is nothing if you live in Colorado. But for a Florida resident... these are Hills with a capital H. Long gradual climbs over a mile long.... ugh - the worst.  Shorter steep ones... also not fun - for a chubby girl.  I must have been having one heck of a great day, because I made it up all those hills, butt-in-the-saddle, slow and steady.  My friend Ashley told me later, she saw some athletes walking their bikes up the hills.  For all the months grumbling about training on hills, and for all my stubbornness in learning my bike gears,  it all came together.

I got to the second aid station, Mile 33 at 11:29, 16 minutes ahead of the cut off! Yes!!! I really wanted to keep going. But this time I knew I had to stop.  I yelled out to the volunteers, I'm going to pull over and I need water.  There was a row of tables bunched together pretty close together and there were many volunteers standing in front of the tables.  I rode past the first table with water, the second table with Gatorade, the third table with GUs, the fourth table - had chocolate chip cookies,  and finally there was a break where I could get off the road. I unclipped and discovered my legs forgot how to stand upright.  ha ha.  I carefully dismounted and I am standing there --- no water nearby.  A volunteer approaches.
Me: May I please have some water?
Volunteer: ummm... There's umm... no water over here.  Hang on... (turns back and shouts) Do you have any water left?
I hear:  water? .. no... these are my bottles, I am drinking them..
He looks back at me, I am too stunned to say a word, but I must look pretty pathetic, because he says, I'll find you a water and runs off towards a table far away from us. Before I can ask him to bring me two bottles, he is gone.
He comes back after what seems like AGES later and hands me a bottle. We fill up my Speedfil to the top and the bottle is empty.  It is now really hot and I wanted to dump a bottle on myself. I tell him, I'm sorry - I need more water.  Off he goes again, running towards that faraway table. The only table apparently that still has water.  He comes back and I take a few swigs, then dump the water over my arms, back, and down the front of my jersey.   I hand him the empty bottle and get back on my bike.

I am now nervous about being on the clock. I don't know how many minutes this was, but I told myself, I was slightly above pace for the first half, so once I get past these hills, I will make up the lost time when the course gets flatter again.

As I am leaving, I notice a car with a Bike Tech sign parked at the far end of the aid station.

Similar to road races, there are designated spots after the aid stations where you can toss your cups on the ground (in this case - bottles) and volunteers will pick them up.  In triathlon, if you are caught tossing trash outside of these designated zones, you could get a penalty for littering. I had heard of this, but this was my first experience with them.

Well either a lot of athletes got penalties or the referees missed this section because the following mile of road was an absolute landmine of bottles and gel wrappers. It was a quick down hill and then up hill, and here is where the real trouble started.

I am very slow climbing up hills.  A turtle wearing a blindfold could beat me.  I go so slow that I am sometimes in danger of toppling over because I am not moving forward fast enough.  It only happened once... okay twice... during training sessions months ago. I've worked on my gearing for many weeks to get better and I have improved.  But I wasn't prepared for the obstacle course of race trash.  I changed gears too quickly without enough momentum, and boom... my chain dropped.  I tried to spin out of it, but no... man down. man down.... MEDIC!!!

I had no choice.  I unclipped, dismounted, and moved my bike into the grass. I was thankful that I had learned how to put my chain back on.  So I get the chain back on, sighing over my now filthy grease covered hands, and get back on to ride.

This is where I remember the last rider of the day passing me.  A woman with long brown hair and a red and white kit. I had seen several athletes with flats or bike trouble further back. I know some got moving again and passed me but not all of them did.

I advance maybe 5 feet. Loud scraping, chain catches hard,  my bike jerks and I almost fall over.  I dismount again.

I didn't know anything about bikes several months ago. I didn't even have a road bike until last September when I began to train for this event.  So I had to learn bike lingo and basic repairs quickly. Well this had happened to me before.  I knew what to look for and sure enough there it was.

Behind the front derailleur and chain there is a small flat aluminum plate that is mounted to the bike frame. Not all bikes have it, but carbon bikes will often have one to protect the frame from this: a dropped chain taking little bites or making gouges.  That little chain guard was bent. And it was bent A LOT. The dropped chain caught on it and pulled it partially away from the frame.  It was now sticking out far enough that it scraped the chain and did not allow it move freely. My bike shop has fixed this before for me, but I didn't have shop tools at my disposal. I did have a tiny little folding multi-tool kit in my saddle bag.  I pulled out one of the Allen keys and set to work trying to push in the skid plate and flatten it back down, at least enough that the chain would clear.

I also noticed that the Bike Tech vehicle I saw earlier was headed towards me.  I did the best I could, and by then bike tech arrived. I thought about saying - No, I'm good and then trying to keep going - scraping and all. But I had an expert there, so I had him look at it. He checked it out closely, ran it through all the gears, asked me about the clicking noise, said he didn't notice any scraping, then he made a slight adjustment to the derailleur. There was actually still some mild scraping, and I knew I would need to get to my bike shop back home and have this repaired. But it was good enough to finish the race.

I said Thank you and he said he would be out here if I needed him.  I asked is there another bike tech further up the road, he said - no, it's just me - until the end of the course.  I got back on my bike... uphill starts..ugh..  and kept going.  I glanced at my Garmin... it was 11:48. That was it. I knew at that point I was done. Unless I suddenly sprouted wings, I won't make the next cut off.  It was the hilliest stretch of the course, and I had nearly ten miles to go in 40 minutes. Easy peasy for many, sure. But even with a few downhills, I knew my pace would end up averaging 10 and 11 mph until I got back on the flats.  My one consolation was that I had already made it up these hills last month without having to get off and walk my bike, so I knew I already knew I could do this course.

Well, as much as it sucked, I would do like I did at Princess Half Marathon in 2013, when I knew I was behind pace and sweeping could happen at any moment.  I would just keep going until a race official told me I had to stop.  And not a moment sooner.

I had not gone more than 1/2 a mile when a motorcycle cop rides up next to me:  Hey Monica!!!
(I am thinking: How do you know my name? It's not on the bib, and I'm not wearing a bib anyway.)  Instead I say... "Was I speeding, Officer?"  I am not sure he heard me, but he smiles then says - your friend is waiting for you at the top of the hill.  Holding a sign and everything! So don't go thinking about giving up. You keep going!

It was like a Fairy Godfather appearing out of nowhere with a message of hope.  That was exactly what I needed to hear at a low point like this.

I wasn't sure if the 'friend' was our friend Bill from earlier, or if it was another friend, Ashley. She lives in Lakeland, about an hour away, and I know her from the Athena Triathletes facebook group. In fact, she rode the back half of this course with me last month as a training ride.  She was not racing today, but said she would come out to cheer.  Athletes are prohibited from having ANY communication devices on the course at any time during the race: no ipods, no radios, no mobile phones (gasp! I KNOW!), not even cameras (including Go Pros). It's an immediate DQ (disqualification, not Dairy Queen).  Without my phone this morning, I had no way of knowing if she ever came, where she was, or anything.

It had to be her.  I really hoped it was her. Ashley is pretty awesome and has the coolest job, as an operations director for some major endurance events.  She is living the dream.

I kept going. Hill after hill, after hill. After hill. The motorcycle cop came by again. "Your friend is wondering where you are. Keep going! You are doing great.  I'll ride up ahead to say you are almost there."  He caught me right when I was out of breath, so I didn't get to ask who it was, I just nodded and kind of smiled pathetically.

Around Mile 39, I see this crazy woman wearing donut leggings and holding a neon green Go Monica! sign.  Unmistakably Ashley. I start waving.  I yell out Thank you!  Without stopping I ride by and I ask her to send a FB message to Bill that I had bike issues and am behind pace, but I am still going.  I thought at the time Bill might still be with my husband and he could pass along the message. She says okay, and I continue on.

More hills..

At Mile 41, I hear a car behind me.  I've had several cars behind me all day, but they have all gone around as soon as the oncoming lane was clear. This one didn't.  Other cars pass, but I can hear the same engine - close behind me. I flash back to 2013 Princess again,  the line of sweeper vans snaking right behind me. I remember wishing I hadn't looked back and seen them.  This time, I didn't look back. I didn't want to look back.  I kept my eyes ahead and kept moving.  I saw the turn I needed to take and the 3rd aid station right in front.  It is now 12:35. A man walks out into the road and stretches out both arms. The universal symbol for 'I'm blocking your path'.  He says very simply, "you need to get off your bike."   So I do.  Then I see other athletes and bikes being loaded into vans. I don't know how many. I saw at least four, there were more already in the other vans.  I'm standing off to the side awaiting further instruction, and a volunteer walks over to me and whispers.. "just go!"  I say, huh?  He says, "if you are fine, and your bike is fine... then just go. It's a public road - they can't stop you!"  I ponder this for a moment.  And am sooo very tempted.  The course cut off is 1:35, so really I have one full hour remaining on the clock to get just 13 measly little miles.  The worst of the hills are behind me, it is mostly flats. I feel good, I could totally do this.   The volunteer says to the man in charge, the guy who stopped me -- " hey, why not just let her finish?"  One word response: NO.   He looks at me and says.. "well that sucks." I know, dude. I know.  I see Ashley drive past. She says she messaged Bill, but he had already left Ironman Village and wasn't with my husband anymore. My husband didn't know what was happening...  I had no way to reach him, and all I wanted to do was get to him.

Loading bike into SAG wagon
I had about 5 minutes of standing around in the chaos of people and SAG wagons, and packing up water tables, where I could have made a break for it.  But I didn't.  Maybe they wouldn't notice me for a while. .. hmm.. They had cars and could catch me before I had gone even a mile. I accepted that my race was truly over.  Some might have pitched a fit about unfairness, and in some ways I don't think it was fair that I had to stop, when I was able to continue. But I looked around at all those people there. They all have a job to do, and most are giving up their Sunday morning for no pay.  I really didn't want to be THAT person, the one that causes problems. I fully intend to do other Ironman events, and I don't want to get banned or labeled a troublemaker at my first one.  No, I will be good. This time.

I got in the van; there was another athlete there with his bike. We waited what seemed like a very long while. I tried a few times to converse,  but he had not been having a good day, so I was mostly quiet after that.  The SAG wagon driver got a call, and gave the other person our bib numbers. Then he asked us to turn in our timing chips.  I asked him to ask the person on the phone to please notify my husband in the relay tent what was happening.  The driver was a volunteer and this was his first experience with a tri. He had a lot of questions about the bikes, how the race works, etc.

He then tells us about a woman they picked up earlier that morning with a punctured tire. He describes with some horror, the massive meltdown she had, crying, screaming, tears, uncontrollable sobbing, the works. Then how she wanted to call around and put another tire on her bike to continue her race.  Newbie that I am, even I knew that was against the rules.  The volunteers had been talking about it all morning and some were really shaken up by it, because how do you handle someone completely freaking out like that?  Okay, now I am really glad I didn't cause a scene, or even put up any kind of protest.

Having someone that was chatty kept my mind occupied. I was okay, but was not looking forward to seeing my husband's face and telling him that he wouldn't get to run.  I love him so much and I know he worked really hard with swim training all these many months.  How he put up with a messy house, and me spending a lot of money and time on this new hobby obsession. How could I disappoint him like this?

The van dropped us off and I saw that they had taken both my tires off to fit bike in the van. The back tire is tricky, with the chain assembly, but after a few minutes, I got them back on, good enough to stay on, but not secure enough to ride. Then I asked "what's next?"  I was told - "just head back to transition".  So I started walking my bike that way.  As I got closer I saw DisneyGroom waiting in the relay tent with one other person. He got excited and waved. Then he looked confused, probably because I was walking my bike. From this far away, I realized he did not get the message that I was swept.  By this point, there was still 35 minutes before the bike course would cut off, and bikes continued to stream in.  He thought I had finished the course and was coming to do the hand off.

I was about 50 yards away when I stopped and slowly shook my head. He stared at me for a moment, then he turned and left the tent. It was the only time that day that I wanted to cry...

But I didn't cry. Not on race day. I never went into transition. I had turned in my chip. If there was some other step that we needed to do, then I missed it. We had our race shirts, a couple of items I got at the expo, and our race bags.  But this is the first time we came home from a race with no medals.

Watching DisneyBride walk up to Bike In and not riding her bike was scary.  I couldn't tell what the problem was.  When I finally got to her I was just so relieved she wasn't hurt. I didn't care about the bike or anything else.  But, it did alert me to a something other relay teams may want to think about.  Without communication devices and no quick way to get to her, I was left thinking the worst.  A simple predetermined hand signal could have alleviated the issue. Guess it's time to review the divers signals handbook.  It should work pretty well, even if you are seeing each other from far away.

Here I am, two days later, and I admit to having some regrets that I didn't make a break for it at the 3rd aid station. The race director's words at the athlete briefing came back to haunt me "the aid station cut offs are really just for athletes that cannot continue".  That wasn't me.  

I did my best. Could I have done any better? I don't think so. My hydration and nutrition was on point.  I trained for headwinds and hills and got through those just fine. The delays I had with the water at the aid station, with the chain guard - maybe they could have been avoided. Maybe not.  This was not my day.

My bike splits here, broken into every five miles tell the story.  I am doing better than average (for me) splits early on, because I know the back half of the course will be a lot slower.  Why? Several reasons:  1) Will be around 12 noon, hottest part of the day.  2)  Fatigue kicks in.  3)  Surrounded by mostly miles and miles of farmland and without any buildings or tall trees nearby to block the wind, the headwinds can be strong enough to knock you off your bike.  But 4) The biggest reason of all: because the hills  really start to kick in right around the midpoint of the course.

In order to finish within the cut off, I needed a 12.4 mile/per hour pace.  Easy right? For me, that is doable... on flats.  But on hills, that's where I struggle.

Gravity. Big girl. Up hill climbs a mile or more long.  Not exactly a winning combination.

And on the hill climbing is where my pace will drop to 10 mph. And there are a fair number of climbs on this course.  It's not Utah or Colorado kind of hills of course, but definitely more than you would expect in Florida.

Oh and we did meet up later with my friend and super awesome cheerleader Ashley. Aren't those tights the best thing ever?

My DOs and DON'Ts

So you think you might want to try a tri or a tri relay?  Well besides the obvious, being able to swim, bike, and run - these are some of the things I've found unique to this sport that were a big help to me.


1) Know the rules. And there are A LOT of rules. There are sanctioning bodies that govern triathlon events. In the US, that is USAT. Before doing any tri event, be familiar with the rules. Penalties could be issued if you are caught breaking the rules, and there are even penalty boxes where you have to sit out of the race and serve your time (like hockey). Repeat offenses or serious offenses can be an automatic DQ (disqualification). Often the DQ comes after the event, but if you are caught in the act, this means you might even be kicked out mid-race, depending on what it is you did. Race directors of individual events may add more rules unique to that race, so always read the athlete guide.

2) Find a coach. I am not someone that needs a lot of hand-holding. Until I do. And then I really need it.  Last summer, when I signed up for this 70.3, I reached out to a few local triathletes I trusted and asked for recommendations.  Am grateful to Robin for sharing her coach with me. I love my coach. Jo has the patience of an angel and I trusted her immediately, a rare thing for me.  She has been there every step of the way, through all my triumphs and setbacks in training. For race day, she had a detailed plan written for me, and I tried to follow it to the letter. She has done this course before, and it helped a lot having something to refer to.

3) A triathlon team.  If you don't have a coach, or even if you do, training with a team will help you improve. I'm the slowest swimmer, cyclist, and runner on my teams (Triattic and Gulf Winds Triathletes) but I have learned a lot from group rides, brick sessions, team swims, and other events.

4) Fuel. Meticulously plan and train with your nutrition and hydration. Eat something about 30 minutes to one hour before your race. If you are doing a relay, this is tricky, because you have to estimate when your team mate will be coming in to hand off to you. Find out what your race will offer and try to train with that. I can't tolerate Gatorade or Powerade, which is what most road races and triathlons offer on the course. For all my long rides and runs, I've been using Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix. The pineapple flavor is my favorite. I also prefer real food over GUs and gels. So I brought my own nutrition too.

5) Special gear. Besides the usual bike, tri kit (adult onesie), cycling kit, shoes, etc, we got some special items.  DG is a strong swimmer, but he also can't see without his glasses. Corrective goggles (Speedo Vanquisher Optical)  because it will be much safer for himself and for the other swimmers if he can actually see where he is going.  In a pool, this isn't that big of a deal, but in open water, sighting (spotting markers to swim to) is vital.  He also got prescription sunglasses to protect his eyes while running in the sun.  My special gear:  Speedfil hydration system, a 40 oz bottle with a tube assembly - because I am so clumsy if I mess with bottles while moving at race pace I will most likely fall and Gatorskins - tires that are not designed for racing, but are thick and durable for long distance riding, with a reputation of being flat-proof. While nothing is 100% flatproof, they came recommended by my bike shop and a few other cyclists I spoke to. Most triathletes will not touch these, because they want the lightest weight possible for everything on the bike. I'll take security over saving a few seconds of speed.

6) Do Believe in Yourself. One more time.

Believe. In. Yourself.


1) Nothing new on race day... I decided to test out Virtual Racer on my Garmin for the first time that morning. Such a bad move, it was almost comical. My backup Garmin came through. Most people don't carry two watches, but this tri geek tried to be prepared. (See what I did there...)

2) Gear: Don't go overboard and get more than you need. There are thousands of tri-specific items on the market and the only limit is your budget. Get the basics, learn from other triathletes in your community, then figure out if you need anything special (like corrective goggles).

3) Don't disregard the rules. There are penalties on the course if you do.  And the tri community is small, so we will all hear about it.

4) Don't freak out.  Okay, this may be unavoidable. But if you do freak out, don't do it on race day.  I had my freak out 3 weeks before my race.  I had come down to Haines City to ride the course, and it was really hot, and I was really slow. And when I looked at my Garmin data, I had a meltdown and decided I couldn't do it.  I even talked to a woman I just met (a good cyclist though) about taking my place on the bike relay, and then I would be the runner.   I'm glad I talked myself out of that craziness.  I worked really hard for this. I received a great piece of advice. "Do your best and remember you are there to have fun." Sounds so simple, doesn't it?  And on race day - it actually was.

5) Don't make yourself crazy trying to control what you cannot actually control.

The weather. Unless you were born to a virgin in a manger, am pretty sure you have no say in how windy, how humid, or how hot it is. Be prepared for a monsoon or a scorcher.
Course conditions.  Wildlife encounters. Crappy roads. After the race, write a letter to the race director or the Mayor of the town you are racing in.  Let them know. But on race day, you gotta roll with it.
Aid stations. Provisions and set up. Yep, I was frustrated with the accessibility or lack thereof of water at the second aid station.  I don't know if there was water at every table earlier and they just ran out? or if there was only water at the first table all along.  Which logistically doesn't make sense because if an athlete needs to pull over, and many do, the only place to do that is after you pass all the tables. There was nothing I could do though.  And having an adult temper tantrum would have solved nothing.
Other athletes. The other guy in the SAG wagon with me had crashed.  Two other athletes had zoomed past him and sharply cut him off. He flipped his bike and was pretty shaken up. You can hope most other athletes won't act like this - but nothing you can really do, except hope they get busted by an official.
6) The final Don't should really go without saying.  DON'T GIVE UP.  We saw a blind triathlete with his guide, an amputee, and a paraplegic athlete.  Seriously! Those guys were amaze-balls! They were out there crushing their race.  If they can train and race while adapting to the challenges they have, so can you.
So as I said starting out, everyone will get a DNF some day.  I have mine out of the way, and now I can focus on the business at hand: more training, more races, and more adventures for Team To Infinity and Beyond.  This was our second tri relay (but it was the first long course distance) we have done as a team, and it won't be the last.

If you have read this far, then YOU deserve a medal.

Run Happy!

Meet DG and DBCLICK HERE for original post from DB.