Monday, October 1, 2012

Life's A Beach Triathlon

When I first started planning my travels, I had the idea that I should try to do some sort of race in each location I settled in. Since then, lots of things have changed about my trip, but I still want to try to get in some races. And since, all told, I'll be in Florida for about two weeks, I really ought to count this as a real destination. When I realized this, I started searching for some sort of low-key, fun race I could jump into.

Enter the Life's a Beach Triathlon in Daytona Beach. When I found this race online, I determined that it abolutely fit the bill and signed up immediately. It's a short race, a "super sprint" if you will, but marketed as a "Slacker Triathlon" with the word "cowabunga" splashed all over the website. 200 meter swim-- wear floaties, fins, use a boogie board, whatever! 5 mile bike-- on the beach. Mountain bikes or beach cruisers, strongly, strongly suggested. And 2 mile run, through the sand. With a few "obstacles," just for added fun. The biggest trophy goes to the LAST place finisher (i.e., the one who "enjoyed the course the most."). There was absolutely no way I could look at this as anything but a fun race, and that's exactly what I needed. So I arranged for a mountain bike rental and rode it exactly once before the race.

My super aero ride

This race started at noon on Saturday. I'm sure there was some sort of reason for that, something to do with tidal patterns or what not, but I'm not sure what I think about a Florida race starting at 12:00. It was a bazillion million degrees when we started (ok, maybe 88, close enough). I did, however, appreciate the sleep-in time, and I'm also glad I had some extra time to figure out what to wear. See, I really, really, really didn't want to show up to this race looking like a tri-dork. I didn't want to wear anything with big logos or a kit or anything like that. Definitely NOTHING bearing the Ironman name. I knew lots of people would be all festive-like, competing in costumes, so I went as far down that road as I could, selecting my most colorful swimsuit, throwing some plain black shorts over top of it, and calling that my race outfit.

I went to throw my (generic) gear into my backpack, and then realized I'd made a big mistake. The only backpack I brought down to Florida was the one they gave us at Ironman Wisconsin, replete with the Ironman name and logo plastered all over it. That certainly wouldn't work. So I settled on this as my transition bag:

I clearly wasn't the only one with the Lululemon transition bag idea, this was the girl racked next to me

Once I got to the race, I set up my gear and then wandered around the transition area, taking pictures of some of the decorated bikes. Por ejemplo:

In my wandering, I spied a few other experienced triathletes. They were all understated (I only saw one actual tri kit), but you could just kind of tell this wasn't their first trip to the rodeo. Generally, the logos on their shorts gave them away. Or by the fact that they were practicing their swim start entries. Or, just generally, warming up (I opted out of that one). One lady did have her Augusta 70.3 visor on, she was the easiest to pick out. Another used her St. Anthony's Triathlon bag as her transition bag. I knew.
Eventually noon came around, and I headed to the start line. Soon, the race started, and out we went for what was perhaps the most difficult "200 meter" swim my life. When I signed up for this race, I sort of scoffed at the 200 meter swim. With a swim that short, what's really the point? Hardly enough to even get wet. That little swim killed me. First, I'm not so sure I believe it was 200 meters. But it could be that I have no sense of distance anymore. More importantly, we had to swim straight out into the ocean, against the waves, which were quite sizable at that time (I don't know wave sizes but they were taller than me), then turn and swim parallel to the shore, with the waves crashing into us, then back in. I'm sure there are techniques for these types of ocean swims, but I've never experienced anything like those waves in a race and I had no idea what I was doing. I'd be swimming out, and then suddenly a wave would pick me up and throw me back towards the shore, like a ragdoll. And I'd start all over. It was like being in an endless pool. Once we made the turn, every time a wave would crash, it would throw me onto my back, sputtering salt water and wondering if this swim would ever end. Suddenly, my fun little race wasn't so much fun anymore, and I kind of wished I'd taken a floatie with me. Seriously.
Not sure this does justice to the size of the waves. Trust me, they were big!
I finally finished the swim, spooked and spent, and then had to army crawl under this thing. That one hurt.
Out onto my mountain bike, and the course took us 2.5 miles up the beach, and then 2.5 miles back. I passed a couple guys in the first couple minutes, and then didn't see anyone. I had a feeling I was winning the thing. So I just pedaled as hard as I could. This race was "fun," yeah, but at bottom, I'm slightly over-competitive, it was still a race (they actually had timing chips and results and awards) and I wanted to work it as hard as I could. My legs were not happy about this, the first hard effort I've put out in weeks, nor were my lungs. But forward I went, breathing hard, gasping, snorting. But at the same time, I did remind myself, several times, to look around and enjoy the moment. How often do you get to ride on a beautiful day, right along the ocean, much less race there?

After a lightning fast transition (pretty easy when you don't even need to change your shoes), I headed out onto the run and was directed up the beach, into the super soft stuff. Mean. Just mean. But after 200 meters or so, the course took us back down onto the packed sand and I breathed a sigh of relief. I ran hard, really hard, with no concept of pace, but just telling myself that it was only two miles and I could gut it out. Except, that first mile.....felt like the longest mile of my life. Instructions were just to run to the Pier and there'd be a turn around there, but it got to a point when it seemed like I'd been running for way more than a mile, and I still was nowhere near that Pier. There were no mile markers and, of course, I didn't wear my Garmin....that would have been the ultimate in tri-dorkiness. But how could a mile feel this long??

Come to find out, it was a lot closer to a mile-and-a-half down to the Pier. For someone who hasn't been training for weeks, that extra half mile each way was, well, significant.

Once I'd turned around, I started counting off time and realized I had about a minute lead on the next guy behind me. And, he was running with his bike helmet on. Not sure what about that information suggested, but it seemed significant at the time.

Coming back, I forced myself to keep on pushing. Part of me wanted to slow down, after all, it was just a fun race, I haven't pushed myself into real discomfort for weeks, and I'm sorta looking like a tri-dork out here working so hard when the next place guy forgot to take his helmet off, but a bigger part of me realized that this was a good opportunity for some mental toughness training. Can I keep pushing, and make it hurt, and embrace the pain, when there's really no additional reward for doing so? That's what I've got to learn to do, and I figured there was no better time to start than now. So I soldiered on, not allowing myself to slow.

Until, of course, 150 meters from the finish, when they directed me to a series of eight or ten lawnchairs I needed to hurdle over. I hesitated a little, surprised by this last-minute obstacle, and tried to figure out a way to make my tired legs get over those chairs. I stumbled through, then took off for the finish line (again). Only to find a wall blocking the chute that I needed to scale. Oy vey!

I went for the short one, duh
But I got over it as gracefully as one who is completely lacking in grace could do, then crossed the line with a big ole smile. I ended up the overall winner, like overall overall. Ahead of the dudes. The next finisher, a guy (not the one running in his helmet) , was in a subsequent wave, and I think he was about 45 seconds slower. At the awards ceremony, he told me he was also someone who did a lot of "real" triathlons, and was just taking a day to do a fun race. So, yeah, maybe I was the dork actually racing at a fun race with obstacles and all, but at least I wasn't the only one.

Me and the mens' overall winner

Whatever the format, it's fun to win a race, extra fun to beat the boys, too, and I'm glad I finished off my season on this happy note. Does it count? Was this a real race? I don't know. Yes, it was fun, but yes, I raced it and worked as hard as I could on this day. Others did, too. So sure, let's call it a real race. I'll take my victories where I can get them.

But most of all, it was a great day at the beach, good to mix things up, a nice ending to my tri season (for real, now). And, I got a cool little painted flip flop trophy....definitely the coolest award I've ever received. That one's going on the shelf (that is, when I am no longer homeless and actually have a shelf to display such things!)



  1. Ha! Way to go out and win a race in your off-season!!!! Hope it was fun too :)

  2. Too funny....hurdles came back to beach chair form! Way to keep racking up the victories! -Jackie H

  3. Tons of fun! We need more costumes in regular triathlons:

  4. Hi Jackie, and thanks! Glad you found your way here:)

  5. Haha SO much awesome going on in this post, I don't even know where to begin. Congrats!