Posted by FLATOUT JIM
Getting there was a story in itself. The important thing was that I qualified just like all the other participants. This was simply an awesome event. Clearwater Beach is a small enough community that a couple of thousand athletes and their families pretty much fills up the town. Being a World Championship event, the set up and the atmosphere was unlike any other event I have ever taken part in including Ironman Florida. Among other things, one cool thing about this event was that with the wave starts, my age group had time to watch the start of the pro field, and even watch a good number of them exit the water.
The swim was a single loop salt water swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Conditions were ideal. Low wind calm seas, again unlike my Ironman Florida experience. I started out and tried to pick up a draft, but after a couple of hundred metres I found myself swimming too hard to try to bridge from group to group. So I started to relax and concentrate on my technique. Stretch out and finish my stroke. When I turned the second buoy and started home, I peaked at my watch and read an unbelievable 16 minutes. I felt good so I just went with it. Coming home I got a little disoriented with the sun directly in my eyes. I started to see some different colour caps and assumed I was getting passed. Then I realized that I was passing them. I had bridged up to the next wave, and finished with a 34:17 personal best for 2000m.
Transition felt like forever, but ended up only being less than 5 minutes. The volunteers were awesome. They helped with everything. The bikes were racked by waves and that meant the racks were empty up to my mine making it very easy to find my bike. Out onto the course, it took very little time to settle in. The course whined through the streets of the town of Clearwater, and in the residential neighbourhoods, we only had a single narrow lane. When you get passed by packs of 15 and 20 bikes, with three abreast, you have to be very careful not to get clipped. About an hour in, I saw what looked like a mountain bike up ahead. As I got close, I realized there were two guys on the bike; it was Ironman legends Rick and Dick Hoyt. I couldn’t help but to give them a wave and a yell as I rode by. Nearing the end, I was starting to hurt and really had to bear down and concentrate to stay in the aero position. When I finally crossed the bridge, and returned to transition, I was 2:52:34. A little short of my goal of 2:45, but still a little better than Corner Brook.
In an event like this, you can’t help but to push a little harder than you would at a local event. And even though my bike split was less than spectacular, I did ride hard, and so I was concerned starting the run. As I made my slow exit out of transition, my legs slowly started to come around. I passed a couple of people hobbling along, likely starting their second lap. Across the causeway, and then up over the bridge. The route was nearly dead flat except for the arch bridge that joined Clearwater to the beach, and which was built to allow boats to pass under. It really isn’t that big a hill, but after hammering the bike for almost 3 hours, it felt like Mount Everest. There were still bikes coming in and I thought, Thank @#%& that’s not me. The run turns through some really nice neighbourhoods with lots of big trees for shade, and with some big gated houses. I stuck to my plan of walking at the aid stations and taking in fluids. On the homestretch, back across the causeway, I felt good enough to skip the last two and keep running at a good pace. There was a local radio station with a video truck blasting tunes as we ran past. I requested some TRAGICALL HIP, and the DJ looked at me like I had 10 heads. Guess good ole Canadian rock don’t make it this far south. Back through transition and into the finish chute. My finish time of 5:38:23 was about 9 minutes faster than Corner Brook. Short of my goal, but a PB just the same.
The cool thing about doing a race in Florida is you are doing a race in Florida. Even though the event was over, I still had a finishers banquet, complete with fireworks, on the beach at Sand Key Park, and still had a week of vacation coming. From a triathlon point of view, I am now trying to figure out how to get back to Clearwater.