This weekend marked the end of my triathlon season with the AmeiliaMan Olympic distance triathlon. Up to this race I had completed four sprint distance triathlons and I wanted to complete my inaugural season with a big challenge and Olympic or international distance triathlon. The AmeliaMan triathlon is hosted on Amelia Island just north of Jacksonville Florida and utilizes the islands terrain for three triathlon distance races: sprint, international and half distances, all running concurrently. As this event was located in a beach environment I figured I would mix a tiny vacation into my race as well.
Heading into this weekend my biggest fear was swimming in turbulent, wave crashing ocean for a mile. I swim in lakes, but not in bodies of water with currents, riptides and crashing waves. To alleviate this fear I spent an hour on Saturday familiarizing myself with the ocean and swimming in this immense, uncertain body of water. I discovered once I got passed the waves, swimming was similar to open water swimming except for the water tasting full of salt and a directional current. After an hour and a quick out and back 600 meter swim I felt confident about swimming in a choppy ocean.
I followed my swim with a quick, slow, deliberate 12 mile bike ride and made sure my bike was operating properly. As I rode up part of the bike course, I knew this bike route would provide some fast numbers as it was pretty flat and fast. I checked everything over and all looked well. Race day though, my bike would surprise me and throw me out of the race.
One of my favorite things about this race was the night before spaghetti dinner. This was a time for all the athletes to get together, have a meal and get to know each other. I wish more races would involve something like this as it was really a cool way to spend the night before the race. After a couple of hours it ended and I went back to the wife and the hotel and went to bed, with everything prepared and ready to go.
Race Morning: Pre-Race
Race morning I got up and prepared my breakfast. I had packed specific foods with me as I do not mess with nutrition before a race. I went downstairs to get a cup of coffee and to begin my pre-race mental exercises to calm the nerves and prepare for the day ahead. I started doing this on the second triathlon I entered and have found it does wonders for my preparedness on race day. Eventually I mozied over to the transition area and got myself setup. Setting up transition at this point was a no brainer as I have done it several times this season.
After I was all set up and friendly with my rack mates ( another habit I got into was getting to know my rack mates as it makes everyone much happier and no surprises occur at your transition spot. I checked the bike again and I was ready to go. Turns out another blogger acquaintance grammadog/Mary (now friend) decided to do this race also and so we chatted a bit while waiting for the push to the beach and pre-race meeting. It was great catching up and sharing stories and basically jut calming our nerves.
While I calmed some fears the day before, I was still worried a bit by the ocean swim. As we moved to the beach and each distance broke into groups, some of us started to immerse ourselves in the ocean. I do this as its just part of my mental preparation. I can feel the temperature so it does not shock the system and then I start running through the swim, transition and other parts of the race. This calms and prepares me for the race. At this time the sun was just beginning to come up over the ocean and I wish I had a camera as it was a very special moment. All of us triathletes, brimming with nervous expectation as the sun rose lighting up the clouds and highlighting the athletic shapes. It was stunning and emotional and probably my favorite swim start to witness.
They let the half distance go first followed by the sprint distance and then Olympic went last. I was in the last group to go and got to see how different people handled getting pass the waves. Overnight some of the buoys moved and we were informed that the only buoy we had to go around and keep on our left was the last of four heading out to the ocean. The group before decided to cut to the left of the buoys. This would have been good if the current was not pushing north, thus making going around the buoy a bit of a struggle. I realized there was more strategy involved in this swim than most of my other lake swims. I figured I would try to keep the buoys to my right til I hit the one that was out of line, then I would go to the right of it and straight over to the turn buoy, thus using the current to help push me around the buoy and towards the next buoy that would take me back to shore.
The horn went off and I away I went. I walked past as much surf as possible as I had seen previous waves start swimming too soon and have to pull up, walk and then start again due to crashing waves. I found a good patch of sand that took me a bit of a ways to the first buoy and then I plunged in and calmly started swimming. The first few minutes are very important in a swim for me as they help to calm me down and set my pace for the rest of the swim. I got into my rhythm and began my stroke/sight swimming. Sometimes I could not see a buoy over a swell, so I just continued to swim and sight til I could latch on to a buoy.
The plan worked well and I caught up to the wave before. I felt great swimming so far out and in such a wild ocean environment. At one point in my swim my hand came down and pushed off of something squishy and rubbery. i did not let it bother me, just pushed on. My swim felt great, even though there were times I struggled with the tide while moving sideways to the shore, I just had to angle myself at those points to get the tide to help push me. By the time I ran over the timing mat, out of the water my watch registered 33 minutes.
The transition was pretty standard and I am not sure what my time was. I made good progress as I got everything on and got going pretty quickly. As I mounted and turned at a corner my back tire swayed and immediately felt funny. A ways down the street I knew something was wrong and got off to inspect the tires. The back stem had separated from the tube. I worked to replace it with my spare. As soon as I put air in the tire though, the replacement tube blew up. I had no other option but to head back to the bike start and the race officials.
After a little bit of a walk, I was about to hang up my day when some people I met the night before saw my plight and began to rally around me to find me another spare tube. After about 45 minutes I finally had a replacement tube on my bike and I had air and all seemed good. I had a good deal of time to finish before the bike course would close. After a quarter mile my back tire made a loud bang and I knew my day was over, my bike had taken me out of the race. A spectator gave me and my bike a ride back and I informed race officials I was a DNF for the race.
Final Thoughts: On DNF and Other Things
This was not the way I envisioned my final, fifth, triathlon for the season and my first Olympic distance race. While I was irked, oddly I accepted that these things sometimes happen and there was little I could have done about it. I had a spare tube. I checked and triple checked the bike the morning of the race and the day before. I felt great and ready to race on race morning, I had done everything in my power to prepare physically for this race. It just was not my day. It sucks that it ended this way, but I have learned to accept that these things happen.
Besides the DNF finish, I had a great experience on the swim that I know I will always remember and cherish. That ocean swim was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had as a triathlete. Seeing the sun come up over the ocean just before starting the race and surrounded by other athletes was incredible.
Also getting to share some time catching up and swapping stories with granmadog was awesome. Later on Sunday after the finish of the race we got together to discuss the race, unfortunate outcomes, her old Kona memories and share a bit of bubbly over the race and the season. I could have talked with her for hours as she is an amazing tough woman who I admire and respect even more now that I got to share some time with her. Also, I want to thank her for she is the first person I have discussed triathlon with that I feel truly made me feel like I was an athlete in my own right. She truly understands what all this craziness means and she treated me like I am an athlete in my own right. Thank you.
So not the race I was hoping for, but a great experience nonetheless. I will be back next year to finish this race, for now its some time to reflect on the season and start planning the next. For now its time to do some healing, rest and recovery. Til next time.
- OMG!!!! Race Week Is Here (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- Lake Lanier Sprint Triathlon Race Report (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- My Busy/Not Busy Weekend (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- Why Triathlon, Why Now? (fitchickstri.wordpress.com)