It was this race a year ago that marked my entry into triathlons. It was also the one year anniversary race for wife Salome and buddy Jacques. Thus, we approached this race with a bit of excitement. Not the usual pre-race keyed up excitement; more of a party, let's have some fun, kind of anticipation. The race gave us a one year anniversary gift of good weather, calm waters, and lots of friends participating in the party.
At the package pickup at the Parrot Lounge on Fort Lauderdale Beach, we ran into several friends and met a number of new ones. The pickup situation was a little complicated by long lines and cloud bursts of rain forcing people under awnings and me into the bar. A happy hour beer would help pass the time waiting for the rain to stop. Buddy Tony had already worked his way through the packet pickup and had staked out a seat at the bar talking up a couple of first timer triathletes. I ordered a beer and started running into tri friends old and new. I spy Jerry McFarland and a group of his friends who were ponying up to the triathlon scene. I gave what little advice I could for transitions, but mostly encouraged Jerry and his group to simply enjoy their first triathlon.
After a couple of calls from Salome, I step back outside to wait in line. Jacques and his family soon arrive and we all process through number, cap, and chip pickup. Jacques mentions that he and his wife Christine had an early date at the Parrot Lounge years ago. Tony comes up pressing another beer in my hand, so I insist that Jacques split it with me in celebration of this anniversary tri.
Salome is suffering from what ends up being food poisoning (undercooked fish from the prior evening) and decides to decline Tony's invitation to go out for a pre-race pasta feed. I suggest Franko & Vinny's Pizza Shack around the corner. We call co-blogger John to meet us. John is back in town from a business trip to the Northeast. He is in Ft. Lauderdale just long enough to do wash and repack for a week long dive trip with buddy Roger and another friend to Honduras. As we catch up during diner, John expresses a bit of envy about our participating in a tri the next morning without him. No sale dude. You're the one going on a week long dive vacation. The envy goes the other way round.
As I get home, Salome is feeling worse. A bit nauseous. She goes off to bed after getting her gear in order. I work the bikes getting them ready for the morning. Next morning, she seems a little better. We gear up and bike over to meet up with Jacques. Its so cool to be close enough to a race start that no car is needed. We arrive around 5:50 to get a good rack placing since its an open racking event. First come, best spots. Jacques is cited for a missing handle bar cap and is forced to improvise with a quarter and tap. We agree that we should all carry spare end caps because you never are aware when one of these suckers falls off. We also agree that we could have make a few bucks selling caps to all the other participants who were also surprised to find they were missing a cap. There must be little pixies that steal these off bikes in the night.
We get our stations set up and run into buddy Ken Merkel and his wife Ana. Ken was into the triathlon scene years before us and was the guy who talked us into getting into this whole madness. Unfortunately, Ken was forced to take time away from the tri scene for the last year. We were thrilled that he was returning to the fold. However, no effort to get back in goes without a hurdle or two. Ken had signed up for this event and the next day's tri in Key Biscayne when they were scheduled a week apart. In addition, the prior evening he tweaked a back muscle that had him in real discomfort. However, Ken wasn't letting this stop him. He would get back on the horse/bike.
As we wait at the Ocean front for the start, we keep running into more and more friends. There is simply nothing like a local event to bring the local community together. We take group pictures and warm up swims. The water could not be calmer. Its warm and clear with no perceptible current. Tony is off with the first group which includes the elites and the 45-59 age group. Next up, Iron Carrie goes off with the blue caps. Jacques & I are both in the 3rd wave and line up. The starter counts down the last 5 seconds and we are off.
The only problem with a sprint is that the swim distance is so short that you don't ever find enough space to call your own. I get the classic kicks in the head and side as I try to find my way out of other swimmer's way. Before I know it, the swim is done and I'm running through transition. My friend's had talked me into running this long transition run in my Teva sandals. While I am now able to pass a lot of barefoot runners, I end up distracted in T1 trying to get excess sand off my feet. I'm so distracted that I initially forget my bike helmet. Fortunately, I realize this before getting to the bike out area, so no penalty. As I come out of T1, Jacques is right next to me.
I was pleased with my bike as I came circle Birch State Park in the 23 to 25 mph range. As I go along A1a, my rate keeps in the 20 to 21 mph range: good for me. Tony, meanwhile, is cooking with an average of around 25 mph. The police assisting with side street traffic are a little off their mark with several participants almost getting whacked by cars entering the course. I have to shout off an officer about to waive a car right into me. Salome loses her water bottle in her bike portion (we were able to retrieve it later). She, too, is almost clipped by a car from a side street.
As I come towards the end of my ride, my right calf starts to give me warning signs of cramping. I try to focus on have my left leg do most of the pulling. As I dismount and start to pull off my bike shoes, both calves start to give me warning signs. I slip into my shoes and take off out of T2. Sure enough, about a hundred feet into the run, my calves start to cramp. I curse and stop to walk about 10 yards. I'm able to start running again, but have to watch my speed in order to keep the cramping at bay. I think I did not have enough recovery time from the marathon and the pace of a sprint tri was just too much, too soon. I'm able to pick up pace a bit at a time and start passing people. The 1.7 mile run is over before I know it. My time: 56:40.
Tony's bike time gives him the best time of our immediate group in 53:27. Iron Carrie is up next as 56:23. Jacques is on my heals at 56:55. Jacques' wife, Christine was taking pictures on the run course. Immediately after passing by her, I hear her shout out Jacques' name. I realize he must be reeling me in. I somehow manage to keep him at a distance, but this is going to be a coin toss in the future. The guy is matching me at too many stages. For now, I'm still ahead in the run. But I've been beat by other friends using the stealth draft, so its going to get interesting. Ken had issues with his back, but was right on Jacques' and my heels. Thus, the friendly competition amongst friends is getting interesting. Better train on that dive trip John.
Salome comes across in 1:06:09. She was pleased with her consistent swim, but the food poisoning kept her from pushing too hard on the bike and run. At the finish, she really felt awful. I found her a bench to sit down. After a while she started to feel better, but she doesn't advise competing with food poisoning. However, as a "I can do anything" Greek woman, she would not give into a little thing like food poisoning.
Jerry came in around 1:13, but time is irrelevant for your first triathlon. He seemed to have enjoyed himself. We hope to see him at other events. I could go on and on with other friends' results, but you get the picture. It was a fun and social event. Publix put on a very nice after feed. A good time was had by all. Well, maybe not Salome so much, but she wouldn't have missed the anniversary tri.
Tomorrow, we watch Lance and Alberto battle it out in the Swiss Alps in Stage 15 of the Tour de France. Just a little competition amongst friends.