Panama City Beach Florida November 6th 2010. I never went away on spring break when I was in college and for some reason I think that has scarred my for life as I feel I never went through that right of passage that most collegians do to sow their wild oats. So perhaps that is why I feel I have to "negative split" life these days. PCB is arguably the spring break capitol of the world and every march thousands of college kids descend onto these beaches for endless parties, drinking and debauchery. However, in November, the beach shores are mostly barren the air cool save for the 3000 triathletes who come to prove themselves on this flat and fast course.
The venue in PCB reminds of my first triathlon in seaside heights, and ocean swim with waves, a flat ride along the seaside and a run on the boardwalk. Although the run in PCB is more of a windy loop through the local residential neighborhood and wildlife preserve, the first 2 parts are reminiscent of a typical jersey shore race.
The swim was the warmest part of the whole day I think in the deep water the temps were well into the 70s F. I had an ok start but lots the main group after about 400m - I got into a small group with fellow NJ pro Jacqui Gordon (by way of south africa) and my old training partner Erika Csosmor from Hungary. The three of us pretty much hung together the entire swim trading leads every once in while. The pace was perhaps a bit too pedestrian as we exited a little over an hour.
3 weeks ago I did the Hunterdon Half which was a race that had similar condition 37 degrees at the start of the race. It eventually heated up on the bike and I had to peel layers off. For this race I was UNDER dressed having only a thin vest and nylon (non thermal) arm warmers. As soon as I exited transition my feet were frozen trying to run on the cold ground. I got on my bike and started to pedal but my body was so cold it was hard to get any power to the pedals. I remember doing this experiment in the Exercise Science Lab at Rutgers where we had to submerge our arms in ice cold water then squeeze a hand grip dynamometer. Always the grip strength would go down after being cold. The same was for me on race day and I was struggling just to keep my watts over 200.
mounting the bike under-dressed in T1 brrr it's cold out there!!
Finally I was joined by some company as these Florida races are notorious for pack riding. I saw an old friend former pro Cameron Loos in the group. I hung on with that fast pack for about 10 miles but then lost them in a turn. I think that group contained the athlete with the fastest age group bike split of 4:24 - faster than the fastest pro at 4:31. So I rode another 15 or so miles on my own until we got to the bumpy section of the bike course where there were cracks on the road every 5 meters - it was horrible! like biking on a sidewalk. I dropped my water bottle and decided to go back for it and stopped to take a pee break. It was at that time a group of riders passed my containing my fellow NJ elite triathlete Scott Duprex. Scott was sitting comfortably and eventually I think ran an Ironman PR marathon of 3:26.
I eventually got caught by a slower group of age group riders at the special needs station. I switched camel backs containing my EFS/Carbo pro concoction and rode on. The pace was much slower than that first group I was with but I was content as I was already having some spasms in my quads. I was turning my salt stick dispenser to get some pills but I think it must have broken somewhere along the way to I just had to rely on the fluid in my camel back and some bananas at the aid stations to relieve the cramping.
When the weather was so cold my pedal stroke that is usually smooth and circular went to straight up and down mashing - so my quads were already fatigued. Finally we reached the end of the bike and I was happy to get off and attempt to run.
So as many of the other guys my first 10K felt great! I passed the house where we were staying. My next door neighbors was a group of girls that live in memphis tenn. They were all dressed up in Sexy costumes and were cheering everyone that went by. This was probably the highlight of most of the guys racing. It has become tradition almost like the topless aid station at mile 8 of the wildflower triathlon.
So I started to unravel in the middle 20K of my marathon. Perhaps it was not eating my gel at every 30 min interval, perhaps it was the fatigue from the bike, or blowing my taper by not having adequate sleep on race week - whatever it was I was not having a good day. so I got thru the end of the first loop and the first half of the second loop with a mixture of walking and jogging. Finally I made the decision to stop feeling sorry for myself, I finished what was left of my redbull in my fuel belt, and started running. I made a pact with myself that I would only stop at aid stations the drink and I did. It was good to use my running muscles again! my slow jog muscles were already tired. I passed fellow pro Marek Nemcik from the Slovokia on the way in - I gave him a friendly tap on the butt and ran my final 2 miles to home. One last high five to my sexy dancing girl neighbors and then my last mile to the finish line. I finished in a time of 9:48. I might have been 9:47:58 had it not been for my handstand finish. I was a new ironman PR for me just 3 minutes faster than last years Chesepeakeman where I was 9:51. It wasn't the time I wanted but as long as I keep going in the right direction I am satisfied.
this pic wasn't taken in FL but since the official race photos weren't ready at the time of this posting this will have to do :)
Ironman Florida 2010 will not be a memorable one for me as it was just a mediocre performance for me but I will remember this race as it was the first race where an athlete of mine qualified for Kona. Catherine LaCrosse in the women's 40-44 age group. After having such an up and down year filled with injuries and set backs she was able to pull it all together for this race and finish strong with a 3:42 marathon just a few minutes slower than me!!
Also this race was the first time my friend and fellow NJ pro Scott DeFilippis broke the elusive 9 hour barrier and finished 11th overall! I can take some credit for his performance since it was I who introduced him to the superstar coach Brett Sutton who transformed Scott into the uber triathlete he is today. So congratulations to Scott you are now on the triathlon map!!!
South African Tri stars Jacqui Gordon and IMFL race winner James Cunnama, with the Jersey boys: Scott DeFilippis and me
Lastly I must say it was hanging out with my old friend and my homestay for the weekend Jarred Thweatt and Cheryl Senter-Thweatt and my new friend Tom O'Kelly that really made this race special. It was Jarred and Tom's first ironman!! It is these friendships that I have made through sport that I will continue to cherish through the years. These are the real treasures of the sport, not the medals, trophies and plaques. Thanks guys for a great weekend!
Finally I must thank my sponsors who helped me get through this weekend: My new title sponsor Avalon Chemists of NYC owned and operated by Calvin Moy. Tri Bike Transport which saved me a ton of time and money taking my bike to and from FL. Also Elite Bicycles of Philadelphia PA, First Endurance Nutrition, Personal Best Nutrition, Shady Day Sunscreen, Rotor bike components, and Newton Running and last but not least my small personal support group- Twinkle and Lilly who have sacrificed many early morning hours of sleep to get me to the swim starts on time.
Clearwater here we go!!!
myself, Tom, Jarred, and Keith Celebrating after the race