At the beginning of the year my wife decided she wanted to try her hand at camping on Amelia Island (only an hour or so north of Jacksonville and close to the Florida/Georgia border). Last year we visited the island for my disastrous Olympic/International distance triathlon, the Amelia Man Triathlon , resulting in a discouraging end to my inaugural season of triathlon and athletics as my bike developed three blown tubes in the first miles of the bike course(read it here). While last years race did not go as anticipated, my wife and I fell in love with the island and its smaller, less crowded charm. Of course last year we stayed in the dingiest hotel, but my wife really thought it would be fun to camp at Fort Clinch state park, just miles from the Main Beach on Amelia Island for her birthday. I recognized an opportunity to redeem my faulty cycling tubes from last year as I knew the Jax Tri race 2 would be held while we were there (the Amelia Man Triathlon was cancelled due to volunteer and weather issues). The wife relented since the run portion ran through the very park we were camping at and so I signed up for my second Olympic/International triathlon of the year.
So far this distance of triathlon has not gone well for me. Last year I had three blown tubes and got my first DNF on the bike. Earlier this year my back spoke broke on my bike, resulting in twelve miles of riding hills with the rear break engaged which left my legs past exhaustion by the time I got to the run (read about it here). I figured the third time was the charm.
All week I did some running, allot of ocean distance swimming and I rode the bike course. It had been raining off and on and the temperature and humidity danced up and down all week, but mostly the humidity and heat did not linger for long periods as the rain pushed it away. Towards the end of the week as race time neared the humidity and heat started to rise and stay high. On the morning of the race the temperature and humidity felt thick and I knew that if there would be one day of terrible oppressive heat and humidity today would be it.
Because I was camping only a couple of miles from the beach where transition was setup I just packed my tri bag and rode my bike to the event. Once there I got setup and then worked to calm the nerves and get ready for the ocean swim start. I was ready to race.
The Swim: .93 Miles/ 00:35:06
All week I had practiced swimming distance in the ocean, sometimes two miles while other time three miles. I love distance swimming in the ocean as its so random and requires some thought regarding how to handle the waves and conditions at any given moment. As I moved to the beach with the rest of the athletes the sun had come up and was hiding behind some thick clouds. I took in the scene of athletes spread across the beach and working to acclimate to the ocean. Everyone was doing their own thing to warm up and get ready to start the day and the race. At this point we no longer were a group of triathletes, but individuals racing and striving for a finish line. I think its this point the race really starts and not the moment of the horn going off.
The waves were not moving in any particular direction and looked a bit choppy. This was going to be fun. The buoys were set and suddenly the distances we had to swim became real. For me, in ocean swimming, the buoys always look super distant and the waves crashing into the shore further add to the feel of difficulty that lays ahead. The race was starting and the first two groups of Olympic distance triathletes were off. I was next and I got ready to start my swim. I took one last look at the layout and began to calmly breath and prepare for the swim ahead. The horn went off and into the water I went, wading til the water calmed enough to start swimming. Without fail waves still lifted me up for a bit longer and I just kept aiming for the buoy ahead. Three orange buoys and then the yellow, a turn brings me parallel with the shore and I am swimming and looking for the next orange buoy that would lead me to the next yellow and then the path to the shore and the end of the swim.
For the most part the swim is uneventful, the waves and tide is not horrible but its lack of definite direction adds some challenge. I swim and stay calm, crawling and moving through the ocean, one stroke and body twist at a time. I turn at the yellow and its time to speed up a bit, time to get to the shore, into transition and onto the bike. While I focus on my final leg of the swim I dodge around several jelly fish floating along in the water. I mentally prepare myself for what needs to happen once I am on shore and into transition. I avoid some more jelly fish and keep moving. suddenly my hand hits sand and I am up and moving to the swim finish line and under the water spray to help remove salt from the body and into transition.
Transition 1: 00:02:20
Transition went pretty smooth, but coming from the beach I walked more trying to catch my breath. There was a bit of a hike to get from the beach to the transition so I am sure some of my time went there. Overall T1 went as planned and I was out and on the bike pretty smoothly.
The Bike : 24.7 miles/ 1:33:19
Jacksonville and Amelia Island have no hills and are basically flat with an incline grade less than 2%, thus the bike leg was flat. I often ride with numerous climbs and I figured this would be fun and fast bike leg for me. As I existed transition I realized that out of the four Clydesdales (triathletes over 220 pounds), I was currently in second. After a bit of time on the bike, I was passed by one of the other clydes and I moved into third place. I found out later that the person that passed me often rode and trained on flat roads and had worked up his leg endurance for biking on this terrain.
I had ridden the course earlier in the week and I realized there were unique challenges to riding on flat terrain. The first challenge involved resting the legs. On the flats, resting the legs meant the bike slowed down. On hilly courses, the uphill climbs are slow, but they are often followed by a thirty plus mile an hour down hill which the legs can get a quick respite without loosing speed. As I headed out of transition I got my bike speed up to sixteen to eighteen miles per hour and I held it there for ten miles (I usually average fourteen miles per hour). After a while I started to wear out at this pace and after the long bridge crossing I slowed down to fifteen miles per hour to conserve some leg energy and because I was getting exhausted with the continuous leg motion required to maintain my speed. The entire bike leg I kept hoping for an uneventful bike ride with no drama like my past races and that is what I got. I finally pulled into transition, legs a bit spent from the continuous pedaling required from riding in the flats. A pretty solid bike time for me, with a little bit more riding in flat areas i should be able to push the endurance on my legs more.
Transition 2: 00:01:45
As I entered transition I realized I was the second to last person into the transition area. I was not too upset with this as I did start in the third and final heat of the swim and I am slow. I also knew that I had third place as long as the other clyde who was behind me did not overtake me. I made a swift transition and got myself onto the run course.
The Run: 6.2 miles/ 01:37:13
The race run leg went out to the road and into Fort Clench State park, where I was camping. One advantage of the run in the park was the natural shade and tree canopy the native vegetation provided. My Timex Global Trainer had started to have battery issues earlier in the year and days before these issues combined with a broken watch band left me without a way to pace myself on the run. I tried to count seconds and allow myself to walk and run the course. The humidity and heat at this point were horrendous and at every water stop I dumped as much water on myself as possible. At mile three of the run, the sores I got from the going sock-less at my last triathlon opened up and I could see the toe box of my running shoes start to turn red. For a mile or two this hurt, but after a while I was so focused on just running that I no longer noticed the hurt.
On the bike I had started my nutrition regiment and had worked through a few gels. I took the last gel in my stash at mile two and continued to work through some energy chews while I ran. The aid stations had hammer gels available and I took a few of them and stashed them for later. I realized with the ratcheted heat and humidity and based on how my body felt, I was going to need to work through a little bit of extra nutrition. I continued to push on and before i knew it I had completed four and a half miles and only had two to go. My legs were a bit spent from the bike and the running was slow going. I just focused on putting one foot down at a time and pushing forward. I took a gel and a minute later, before it had time to kick in, I hit the wall hard. Suddenly the entire world shifted, I was so dizzy it was hard to move forward in a straight line. I slowed down and gave the gel a minute to kick in, once it did all was right with the world and I was able to run the remainder of the course.
I existed the park and headed for the transition area and the finish line. As I was the second to last runner over the finish line, there were few people there and the crew had started to pack up. I pushed for a strong finish and was overall happy with my final time, even though I was the second to last runner on the course.
Final Official Time: 3:49:44
I gathered my things and went to watch the remainder of the award ceremony. I hit the recovery tent which had cookies, sandwiches, meatballs and recovery drinks. I gathered a small buffet and sat down to cheer on award recipients. Finally they came to my division, clydesdale and they announced the first and second place winners, my time was too new and so I informed them of my time and I was awarded third place. I found out later I was only fifteen to twenty minutes behind the second place finisher and the fourth place finisher was about the same behind me.
I finally had an Olympic distance triathlon without bike drama. My time was acceptable, but with a little work I should be able to lower it quite a bit. I blew up on the run and it was slower than I wanted, but with the heat and humidity I will accept it. I realized I have work to do in this distance, but compared to the sprint distance triathlons, I love this distance. I have one more Olympic distance triathlon at the beginning of September which I will be looking to have a better performance. In the end I finished and I got third place in my division, not a bad way to end my vacation. Til next time.