Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coach Mari’s Florida Challenge Aquabike Race Report!

In October, along with fellow PTC members, Gabriel and Judd and my friend, Kristi, I signed up for the Florida Challenge Half Iron-Distance Triathlon (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run).  This was a FANTASTIC way to stay motivated to train over the winter!  Also, I’ve done this race before (when it was in October) and was excited to go back and take it on again.  Unfortunately, I suffered a nasty case of shin splints at the end of the year which put me out of running for the majority of January and February.  Yep!  Even the Coach gets injured!  <wink>  Realizing I would not be ready to run 13.1 on April 15th, I decided to change my registration to the Aquabike (1.2-mile swim and 56-mile bike).  Yes, I was a bit disappointed, but was thrilled to have the Aquabike option.  My other options included 1.) Recruiting a relay partner to run 13.1 for me, but felt like that was a bit too much to ask, 2.) Quitting after the bike.  Dang it!  I’ve never had a “DNF” after my name in my nine years of racing and I wasn’t going to start now.  NOT AN OPTION! 3.) Drop down to the Sprint.  Just couldn’t bring myself to drive to central Florida for a 400-meter swim, 8-mile bike and 3.1-mile run.  When I noticed the Aquabike division, I jumped right on it!  TIP: If you are ever in this situation, make your decision and contact the Race Director right away.  There were several athletes who tried to switch two weeks before the race and they were not allowed.

Up nice and early!  That’s me on Race Day!  I prepared my favorite breakfast: Fruit smoothie, hard-boiled egg and V-8 juice.  I packed a few last minute items, loaded the car and was off to the race site with my friend, Kristi.  We got parked and headed to transition.

On my way to transition, I asked one of the official race organizers about the finish for the Aquabike racers.  As of the day before, they were thinking of adding a different finish line for the Aquabikers.  He let me know we should just come in to transition and hand our timing chip to the timer at the finish line.  <sigh>

After everything was set up in transition, I headed out for a warm-up run.  It was nice to get away from the crowd and clear my head.  It also helped to calm my nerves.  The sun started to come up and it looked like it was going to be a really pretty day.

I dropped my running shoes off in transition, grabbed my goggles, swim cap, wetsuit and headed to the lake.  I slipped on my trusty Orca neoprene get-up and decided to do a little bit of swimming before the start.  The water felt fantastic!  Something happened that has never happened in a race before: A wave of extreme relaxation came over me.  I was ready to race!

I lined up in my chute and was off!  The swim started like a bunch of others I’ve done in the past.  Lots of arms and legs moving about and bodies battling for position.  No worries!  I’m a fairly strong swimmer so I didn’t mind being right there with them.  I decided to hug the inside of the buoys for the rectangular swim.  A point in time came in which I was swimming alone.  Hmmmm.  I just kept trying my best to sight in the bright sunshine.  Then, a guy on a kayak came and told me to get back on course.  Oooops!  I was cutting in to the rectangle a little bit too much.  THANKS to the volunteer in the kayak for not letting me cut the swim course.   I kept on swimming and did not worry that I may have swum a few extra meters in the process of going off course.  Then, there he was…a guy in a green cap!  Yay!  I just passed someone from an earlier wave!  Oh, then there was another one…a guy in a red swim cap.  SWEET!  I just passed someone from two earlier waves.  Nice.  With that boost of confidence, I swam all the way until my hands touched the sandy surface of the beach.  I was up and out of the water in 30:51.

As I exited the water, I was surprised to see the wetsuit strippers.  I pulled down my wetsuit halfway, got on my back and let them rip that sucker off of me!  I ran to transition, quickly put on my helmet, bike shoes and sunglasses.  I grabbed my bike and I was out of transition in 2:12.

I got on my bike after crossing the mount line and started the ride.  Then, I realized I completely forgot to rinse off my feet after the run through the sand.  Oh well.  If I get chafed, at least I won’t have to run with sore feet.  (Luckily, this didn’t create a problem at all during or after my bike ride.)

This is a tough bike ride!  Folks don’t realize that there actually are hills in central Florida.  My Garmin calculated a total elevation gain of 2,103 ft, which included the beast titled, “Sugarloaf Mountain”.  All good!  I was ready!  Since I didn’t have the run to look forward to today, I decided to go pretty hard for the ride without exceeding Zone 5 too often.  I knew if I went too hard, I would poop out prior to the end of the ride and that is not a good feeling.  I held back just a bit until I conquered Sugarloaf Mountain which was at mile 26.  Awesome!  Now it was time to GO!  I continued to stay on top of my nutrition, which was my long-distance formula of infinit.  I also stuffed two Accel Gels in my pocket in case I started to feel like I wanted a kick.  It turned out that I didn’t need them.  The infinit worked like a charm.

As I headed back to Lake Minneola for the final 7 miles or so, I asked myself, “Do I really need to go this hard?”  I knew I was competing against 5 other females who were racing the Aquabike, however I didn’t see them in my starting wave.  There was a bit of a mix up with our swim caps.  Aquabikers were supposed to have purple caps.  I got a blue cap.  I went back to exchange mine for the purple cap.  When I lined up in the chute, I was the only one with a purple cap.  Hmmmm.  Whatever!  I tossed the thought to slow down out the window and kept on riding at a decent clip.  When I came in to transition after 3 hours, 14 minutes and 34 seconds, I crossed the timing mat and by habit, I RAN my bike to the transition rack.  Wait…I’m done!  I took a deep breath, slowly racked my bike, slipped off my helmet and bike shoes, put on my flip flops and walked over to the timing guy and turned in my chip.  My race was over in 3 hours, 47 minutes and 35 seconds.

Was I sad?  A little bit.  Was I glad?  Yes.  I felt like I gave it my ALL on the course and that was a GREAT feeling!  I got some water and watermelon to recover.  Then, I met up with Gabriel and Judd to hear about their race.  They both enjoyed the bike course too.  We chatted for awhile before we went our separate ways.  I wanted to cheer for my friend, Kristi, who was still on the run course and eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sip my Kroger sparkling water.  Kristi was smiling each time she passed me, which was awesome!  She had a fantastic race, which included a big smile at the finish line!

When the awards ceremony started, I had a feeling I probably placed in the Top 3 in the Female Division of the Aquabike.  I was super-pleased to find out that I placed 1st AND was 18 minutes faster than the 2nd place Female.  Oh yeah!

I’m not sure I will sign up for another Aquabike race.  Skipping the run just didn’t feel the same.  However, it was a really cool experience to race and not hold anything back!  I’m definitely glad the multisport world has these options available!

I’m really looking forward to my next race: Macon Rock N Rollman on Saturday, June 2nd.  I’ll be RUNNING the 13.1 miles <YAY> with two relay partners who are also my athletes.  Lisa F. will be swimming and Drew S. will be biking.  It will be another opportunity to practice going hard for a portion of the race.  Stay tuned!


  1. Fantastic race and fun report! By the way that is a way cool photo of you on the Kestrel! Great job adapting and taking home hardware!

  2. Awesome race, Mari! I thought about doing an aqua bike for one race (can't remember which...) and I wondered if it would kind be weird finishing in T2 instead of with an actual finish line. NIce backpack - I love useful trophies :)