It’s hard to judge, when you run lots of different types of races, when you’ve run your ‘best’ race out of all of them. My fastest paced race remains a race I did years ago when I first started running. It was a 4 mile Thanksgiving morning race that I finished with an 8:45 per mile pace. My best race up to this point though was probably my Gasparilla half marathon that I finished just over 2 hours and beat my own goal time by a couple minutes…not to mention blowing away my PR. The Moss Park Tri wasn’t quite on that level. I actually did beat my goal time of 3 hours and blew away my PR but I think I have a lot of room for improvement in this format of racing. There were times though on the bike where I actually felt like I was ‘racing’. I was determined not to let certain people pass (I know my limits…) and my better than expected bike time was why I managed to come in so far under 2 hours.
The course itself is in and around Moss Park in SE Orlando, close to the airport. The swim is in the lake that’s in the park and then the ride and run go around the area with the run staying entirely inside the park. The bike mostly was not in the park which isn’t too surprising. It was a beautiful day for the race. It was warm, as Florida is wont to be in the summer but surprisingly not overly hot and humid. I managed to get to the race location at about 6:15 which gave me a full hour to pick out my spot in the transition area and get my gear set up. I felt a little silly since I took my stuff in with a roller bag and most people just carried theirs but it sure made things easy! I had my wetsuit with me but it stayed in the bag…the lake was quite warm and the wet suit would have been uncomfortable.
Once I was set up I ate a few Gu Chomps and moseyed on over to the start area. I’m sure there are longer swim to transition runs than this but it seemed really far to me. Since it took me about a minute to run it, I’m guessing around 1/10 of a mile. The lake was a huge improvement condition wise over the ocean when it came to the water being calm but I have to say I much prefer swimming in salt water than closed bodies of water like lakes. The tannins made the water look like tea. It was a pleasent swim though. I could tell how much better shape I was in than the last time. I’m still slow but I definitely passed some of the sprint swimmers on my 2nd lap so I felt pretty ok about that! After I hopped out of the water I ambled back to the transition area half running and half walking since the rocks hurt my feet. 8)
Transition felt slow to me but without having to de-wetsuit it was actually fairly reasonable. While I can get better here, its not that important ultimately since I’m so slow elsewhere. I do want to try and keep my transitions at a minute or less in the future though since I managed that here. Compared to my first race I cut about 5 minutes off my total time by getting in and out of transition. Both times it was about the same. Get shoes on, take a shot of Gu, mouthful of water and go.
The bike was my biggest improvement for the race. I finished the bike in about 1 hour 20 minutes which is 12 minutes faster than my previous attempt. The course was really quite nice with some gently rolling hills in places but mostly flat. I’d say its not the fastest course I’ll ever ride since there were quite a few turns and five complete 180 degree turn arounds. I tried to take turns as fast as I could but the turn arounds were all a bit tricky so I’m sure they cost a few minutes overall. I was very happy with this ride though this is an area I want to see some big improvement in still. I think 20 – 22 mph is a completely reasonable expectation for a 25 mile ride. There was one guy doing the sprint race that was on a mountain bike. He was determined not to let me pass him and I’ll give him props for riding that thing as fast as he was. But I felt like since I was on a road bike I absolutely had to beat him back to the olympic turn around (I doubted he was going the full race) and I did manage that.
The second half seemed like it was going to be much lonelier than the first since now there was just olympic distance riders left and I doubted very much that I’d be catching anyone this late into the race. I wasn’t wrong though I did get caught by someone else! Strangely he decided to slow to my pace when he caught me and mostly stayed behind me (not drafting…off to the side) or up next to me. We joked around a bit about being so pokey and about 3 – 5 miles before the end we passed 3 riders tending to a flat. I asked if they were ok and they said yes so I continued on. There was a turn around not far away at that point and on the way back the guy I had been riding next to for probaby close to 10 miles stopped to help them. I can only guess he was tired since there were already 3 people working on one bike and they didn’t actually need help. I decided I wasn’t going to let him catch me again and I made sure to crank out the last couple of miles which was a long and mostly straight road.
After I dumped my bike back into transition I got off on my run and I could tell how much better my legs were for this race than the last one. I still only finished with a 10:30 pace and that’s something I really want to improve but that beats my previous by over a minute per mile which is pretty huge. I at least felt like I was running. Now despite being Olympic, this running portion was definitely about .5 miles shorter than a full 10k for reasons I can’t imagine so that definitely gave me a great run time of 00:56:35. The run was really nice. I’d say about 1/3 to 1/2 was completely shaded and and there were 3 water stations around the loop that I did twice. This was a pretty lonely run since I was definitely towards the back of the pack and by the second loop the sprint racers had all long since finished their race. I did almost catch up to a pair of runners right before the end and if this was the standard 10k distance, I would have definitely gotten them since I was only a few feet behind them by the finish line. But it wasn’t…and I didn’t. 8) On the first loop I did have something sting my ear. I’m not sure if it was a bee or what but it definitely hurt for a moment and then there was a bump on my ear the rest of the race. It eventually went away and I’ll never know what it was. I do know that I ran a bit faster the next time I ran through that area.
Since I finished second in my age group I got a medal (I should have had a picture taken) but then there were only 2 people in my age group so, um, not an amazing achievement. Finishing 25 minutes faster than my previous triathlon was a bigger accomplishment. Even if the road oourse was a half mile longer, I still would have shaved 20 minutes off my time and come in under 3 hours which was my goal. I did about 5 minutes faster overall in transition which is a pretty big improvement. I was also significantly better prepped for this race. Last time I had one water bottle for the whole race and I used part of it to wash my feet after the swim. It wasn’t even full before that so I did 25 miles on about a half a bottle of water. I also had no fuel with me. This time I had fuel, 2 bottles for the bike and 1 bottle for the transition area. The race started 45 minutes earlier which kept the overall race cooler and I wasnt dealing with a ski injury. That all added up to a much better race.
Epic Sports Marketing did a pretty good job running the race. They weren’t enforcing that I saw but there was noone drafting the course which I saw a lot of at Marineland. Drafting is a great way to ride a bike but its a no-no for USAT events and it annoyed me when I saw it at Marineland because I can average 22 mph without breaking a sweat when I draft. 18 is hard work when I don’t. The only issue came with the results. I knew based on the clock at the start and finish that I finished in under 3 hours. The results on the website claimed 3 hours 10 minutes which ended up being 18 minutes off the time I expected. Looking at my watch for how long I was running and biking, I could see both of those were very wrong. I didn’t know my swim time or transition times but I didn’t trust any of it was right. I’d expect the time on my watch to be off by a minute or two based on when I push buttons but not by a combined 15 minutes for swim & run legs. They did adjust the times, including my swim, which makes me wonder how they recorded it. The two people I finished just behind were also wrong.
Overall it was a great race at a really nice venue. I thought it was run pretty well but I probably won’t do it again. I’m happy they fixed my time when I asked but they were horribly off and I never did get an explanation. I’m also not really interested in doing another tiny triathlon. I’d like to do a race with at least 500 – 1000 in the field.