On Sunday the first wave of the St. Anthony's Triathlon was scheduled to splash into Tampa Bay at 6:50AM. Earlier in the week there was a concern around the water temperature being too hot (a reading on Friday was 79.1 degrees and the age group wetsuit threshold was 78.0). A bunch of us went for a swim on Saturday and it was choppy but I've been in the drink in worse conditions on multiple occasions. My wave, Clydesdales over 40, a.k.a. fat old guys, was scheduled for a 8:05 start. Based on the choppy conditions, I was rationalizing that my swim wasn't going to be great but the temperature of the water dropped to 74 so there was no issue expected with the wearing of the neoprene.
The alarm clock went off at 3:50AM, I ate some PB&J for breakfast with a Gatorade to wash it down and met some folks in the hotel lobby at 4:30 to head over to set up transition. It was the typical race experience once I got to the transition area as I went though body marking to get my age, number and the fat guy "C" on my leg. They asked me if I was planning on wearing a wetsuit and I enthusiastically said "YES" so they then marked my left hand. I entered the transition area and started setting up my stuff (the dividing of my gear into 3 separate clear gallon zip lock bags helped organize me fairly well). I finished setting up my run and bike stuff and was just about to pull out the wetsuit and the announcer said there was an important announcement. THE SWIM WAS CANCELLED FOR AGE GROUPERS DUE TO UNSAFE CONDITIONS. The pros, though, were going to swim.
First I thought it was a joke. Most people in transition weren't paying too much attention to the announcements as they were still focused on setting themselves up but after the announcer kept repeating it again and again it started to sink in. The revised plan was to have a time trial start with all the athletes going off in race number order every 2 seconds after the last pro finished the swim. The time started at the swim out and we would then do T1, bike, T2, and finally the run.
This threw a wrench into my whole pre-race strategy. I raced this race in 2008 and blew myself up on the bike. This resulted in slow bike split and caused me to effectively walk the run. This year I had trained a lot more and was stronger (and lighter having lost 30 pounds in the last few months). I was going to govern my effort by RPE with a power meter and my original plan was to try to average a little over 200w, backing it off if I saw the wattage over 250w. I figured without the swim I could go a little harder hoping to push the average to about 210w but to still keep 250w as the ceiling. The gotcha was that the unsafe water conditions were due to the choppy water and the chop seemed due to the strong winds. I estimated with winds at about 20mph.
Out on the bike I found the the wind odd. There didn't seem to be any spot with the wind completely a tail wind but also it wasn't completely a head wind either. It seemed always annoying but not as bad as it could be. I had a strong bike leg but overshot my power goal averaging 223w (NP229w). Even so, I wound up taking almost 12 minutes out of my bike split from last year. Of course, I constantly was concerned about going too hard on the bike as I wanted to leave something for the run.
The run was a challenge for me going into this race. I hadn't run more than a couple of miles at a time since I hurt my calf a few weeks ago. My plan was to start slow, walk through the water stops, and see how long my leg will stand up. It was also getting hot. What a surprise - hot in Florida.
The StA run course is a generally flat out and back. The wind was still annoying (and more noticeable on the out than on the back). I ran it per my plan, hydrating at every stop and, although slow for most real athletes, I set a PR for the 10k. I wish I knew how I did that but I wasn't going to complain.
Overall I took a lot of time out of 2008 and was very happy with how I did but the lack of the swim left me a little wanting. I'm sure that it was a tough decision to make and it was made with safety in mind. Some history probably colored their decision as I found that someone died in the swim in this race a few years back.
So here is my dilemma: Should I count these splits as part of my PRs? I'm saying yes but there could be some debate. I also have to find another Olympic Tri on the calendar to make sure this performance wasn't a fluke. I'm fairly sure I'll do this race again next year.
A happy day in the rockstar triathlon world.