Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. -Dr. Seuss
the island destination
Last weekend headed over to Santa Rosa Island for the last triathlon of the 2011 racing season.
Santa Rosa Island is a small barrier island east of Pensacola and sits between The Gulf Of Mexico and Pensacola Bay. It is a beautiful area and if you have never visited, it’s worth the trip. The crystal blue water and white powdery sand is reminiscent of the Caribbean and for a MUCH lower price tag! 🙂
We made it to the condo, met up with our friends who were joining us, and got unpacked. We scooted over to packet pick up, glanced at the maps of the race course, then browsed around at the expo for a few moments before heading back to home base.
We were all watching the weather closely as it was still over 90 degrees and the humidity was hanging at a level just below smothering. As we ate and settled in for night, it appeared the front would move through while we were asleep. Cooler temperatures would prevail! YEAH!! We all double checked alarms, verified what time we were heading out, said our good nites, and then went to bed.
At some point, during the night, my husband developed a migraine. Normally a shot of caffeine will cure him, but the photophobia that strikes along with the headache leaves him helpless to find such items for himself. He didn’t want to wake me or anyone else so he elected to lay there and hope it would resolve on its own. That really never happens with his headaches and this time was no exception. When my alarm went off at 4am he was still awake and still in acute pain. He told me about the headache and that he was not going to race. I found something with caffeine, turned off his alarm, and left him to sleep. Within 15 minutes he was snoring.
Three racers were now down to two. We grabbed our bags and bikes and headed to transition.
- Transition as sun rises
The front made it! It was 57 degrees and still dropping. The winds were blowing steady 15-20mph with higher gusts.
Yes folks….IT WAS COLD! Not cool, not chilly, but teeth chattering COLD! Everywhere I looked people were doing jumping jacks or running in place just to stay warm.
As the sun started to rise, race directors began calling everyone to the beach as the race was slated for a 7am start time.
long run up from beach to shore after swim
The swim was 600 meters in the Gulf of Mexico. Water temperature was 82 degrees and with the air temperature a windy 55. The water felt great. This race is unique in that there is a bit of a run down the beach to the water and a VERY long run up the shore, to the parking lot, to the timing pad. So the swim time is not only the swim, but also the run through the sand. Or in my case, a brisk walk through the sand. That being said I enjoyed this swim more than any I’ve done so far.
I had decided to swim at a comfortable pace and not go out too fast like I tend to do and it made a huge difference in the overall race.
The goal was to exit the water warmed up ONLY….ready to race!! I was able to take long full strokes, breathe every three stokes, and had no problems sighting. I started at the back of my wave, instead of the front like I normally do, as I was trying to reassure lady who was a tad nervous about the task ahead. I walked down to the water with her and made sure she was ok before starting, but I had no problems passing the other racers or weaving my way through traffic.
jellyfish stings of another racer
I saw a few crabs, some fish, and then there were the jellyfish. Swarms of jellyfish everywhere. I felt a pinprick sensation on my face, then my arm, and then my chest. It took a while for me to realize I was being stung by these obnoxious sea beasts and for split second I popped up and looked around to see if I was the only one having this experience. It appeared no one else was disturbed, so on swimming through jellyfish I went. Eventually I caught the wave that started prior to me and before I knew it, I was done…swimming that is. I now had to tackle the run in the sand!
As I’m running up the sand, I see and HEAR my friend Kerry and her girls. 🙂 This crew should be in a field of sponsored spectators. They follow their dad to all his races and I’ve had them at a few of mine and they are pros!! The signs, the cowbells, and their cheerleader chants definitely get you going at a speed you didn’t know you had available. Their dad was in the swim wave behind me and closing fast, so they got to see us both within a few minutes. Then they hustled over the bike out area to catch us heading out of transition. Pros I tell you, pros!!
The parking lot was huge, as one would expect, with around 1000 racers. I was smack in the middle, but had a good reference point with one of the beach restaurants close enough to use as a spotting point. I didn’t have any issues here other than just trying to get out on the bike course after the hike up the sand. It was very breezy and I wanted to be sure I wasn’t winded when I got on the bike course because I was going to need every drop of oxygen available.
This was an out and back route. A smidge over 9 miles each way. The island has water on both sides so with the front having finally made its way in, the wind was BLOWING like a beast. Yes, I did request this cold front and cold fronts when you live on the water mean wind and a lot of it. Well we got it! Then we were given some more as a bonus. I shifted gears more that 1st 9 miles than I do when I meet hills out on the back country roads. I think I was hoping something would allow me to cut through the resistance a bit better. Once I accepted the fact that there was no easy answer, I just found my happy gear in the big ring and hammered on like normal. My legs were fine, but this was my first outing with the 808s and a fierce crosswind. It definitely took a bit more handling skill and strength to maintain my line and not weave off the road or into a clump of blowing sand.
Prior to the race starting, the director had warned us about those piles of blowing sand on the bike course from the wind. Apparently there had been a few crashes during warm ups so they wanted to be sure everyone was paying extra close attention while riding due to the conditions. It certainly was a challenge and I throughly enjoyed every minute of it. The second half was better than the 1st and while I’ve been told we didn’t exactly have a tailwind on the return, the direction of crosswind made the ride a bit easier coming back into transition than when we headed out.
I was the first bike back on my rack and for some reason I just thought that was so cool. There was a volunteer right next to my transition area and she started talking to me while I was changing and not wanting to be rude I chatted back…Yes it added some time, but I don’t think all that much. Maybe a minute, but she was nice and having to stand guard in transition has to be a pretty boring assignment. I figured a minute to chat with her was the least I could do.
The run was a 5k loop around a residential area of the island. As I ran out of T2 I spotted AquaDoc and BoyGenius on the center divide of the street with Kerry and her girls
screaming cheering for everyone. As I ran by, I asked about the headache, to which my husband instructed me to just run! Spectators lined the entire run course encouraging everyone through those final miles. There was a high school band playing on a corner and people were outside their homes playing music and cheering as well. The residents of the area had made signs to encourage the athletes and placed them in their yards the day before, so it was really amusing to read them all as I ran.
I felt great throughout this run. Yes I was tired. My legs were burning from fighting the wind on the bike, but generally I felt better than I’ve ever felt running a race. I was actually a bit concerned I was moving way too slow, but my Garmin was telling me otherwise….8:30, 8:14, 8:24 was what I was seeing that 1st mile as I glanced every few minutes. Then I became worried about running too fast, so I simply stopped looking at it and just ran. I had a bit left in me to sprint to the finish and so that’s what I did!
Time 26:41 8:36 pace
26.32 is my straight out 5k PR set last spring. So to say I was pleased with this run MIGHT just be the understatement of the year!
Santa Rosa Island Tri is a superbly run event in wonderful destination city. There is so much to do in and around the Pensacola area for the entire family. It really is an ideal race venue to bring everyone for a great family weekend of fun.
The quality of athletes along the gulf coast never ceases to amaze me and the fact that we know so many of them personally is even more incredible. We saw neighbors and old friends alike all here for the event and ready to call an end to a hard 2011 season. Then it was time to crack open a beer and watch some football while the kids swam in the pool.
A great finale to a great season of quality work!
Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with how I raced this event. The only thing I would change, about this day, would be having my husband there to race with me.
One of the most difficult parts, of this sport, is to realize triathlon is an event in and of itself and not merely three separate ones all piled on top of one another. As a swimmer, it was VERY hard to hold back and swim at a comfortable pace when I knew I could go out faster and harder. In the end, I had to realize this wasn’t a swimming event it was a triathlon and that’s how it needed to be raced.
Having the discipline to know when to stay and maintain your present effort or when to go and push harder is an evolving process. As I jump into longer distances next season the ability to properly pace each leg will be increasingly important to having a successful OVERALL race. One day, I hope to have it perfected!! 🙂
Heading out to her 1st Tri
Our weekend finished off on Sunday when the tables turn and we became the cheerleaders to root on a group of brave kiddos at the 1st annual Sea Turtle Triathlon. It was even colder Sunday than it was Saturday and their swimming conditions were far worse than ours, but they braved the jellyfish and battled the winds all to proudly be called triathletes in the end !!
And on that note, the 2011 triathlon season is in the books…..
I hope yours was filled with great happiness and success; exceeding all of your expectations!
Now on to base training…..
Run Happy, My Friends!