Up to now, this blog has pretty much been about RV trips and travel. That will continue to be the main focus, but I’m going to start adding post of a triathlon nature, or at least a post when I run a race. This is the sport where you your swim, then get on a bike and ride for a while, and finally run a bit to round out the day. Just to be up front, I do not run Ironman length or even International distance races, I stick to what is known as sprints, anywhere from a quarter mile to three-quarter mile swim, a ten to twenty mile bike ride and a three to four mile run. The CurbCrusher’s first triathlon was back in 1990 in Tavares, FL. From then until about 1998 I ran about three or four races a year. Following the birth of Little CurbCrusher in 1998, there were a couple of years of one race a year. Basically, after 2000 I retired. Starting in 2006, Lady CurbCrusher noted that CurbCrusher appeared to be a little over his GVWR. So in October of 2006, Team CurbCrusher made an appearance as I struggled through a sprint at Moss Park . I did two more Moss Park tris in 2007, and I finally decided that 2008 would be a full triathlon season. So here we are at the first race of the Team CurbCrusher season, Escape From Ft. Desoto.
Ft. Desoto, located in St. Petersburg, Florida is a great place to camp, and consistently voted one of the best beaches in the nation. Having camped there twice in the last couple of years, it seemed like it would be a great place to run a triathlon, and the Escape From Ft. Desoto race has been around for more than 20 years, so it just seemed like I needed to seek out an entry form. Unfortunately, by the time I signed up for the race, the campground was already full, so it wasn’t possible to combine a motorhome trip with the triathlon. But that didn’t matter, I still got to race.
Well, since the CurbCrusher’s didn’t camp the night before the race, it meant an early morning. Until the Saturday before the race, Lady and Little CurbCrusher had planned on sleeping late. Then they thought about how they could turn the post race time into a beach day at North Beach, and plans changed. So the plan was for a 4:00AM wake up and a 4:30AM departure from Orlando, hopefully putting us at the North Beach parking lot by 6:15AM or so. Well, all good plans go awry, so at 4:22AM with neither alarm having sounded, I woke up and looked at the clock. With a loud sounding of reveille, and much rushing about, we departed the CurbCrusher home at 4:42AM, twelve minutes behind schedule. The drive from Orlando to St. Pete was uneventful, and we arrived at the race site around 6:30AM.
Check in was very efficient. Show your USAT card, pick up a green waiver that you have to sign. Get your envelope, go around the corner, get a shirt, swim cap and your on your way. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Transition was more of a zoo. But a well organized one. Get your body marking, walk and find your bike rack. The racks were a little jammed. It would have been nice to have had a bit more room. However as I was leaving there was an official in my bike rack area discussing at least one, maybe two bikes being mis-racked. So maybe there was more room than I thought, just some thoughtless person had their bike racked in my section.
Of course one of the preparations during this point was to put my number on my shirt. Over time Lady CurbCusher has always complained that she can’t find me at races. So I have a new shirt, bright yellow. This is the first shirt I’ve raced in that has no horizontal line across the front. As I will learn later, I am apparently very challenged when it comes to lining up the race number on the shirt without such a line. I pin the number on the shirt with the four pins provided. Grab the goggles and head down to the beach.
The Swim – 17 Minutes
Well, you walk a half mile down the beach to the swim start. The race is supposed to start at 7:30AM, but it takes a few extra minutes get everyone corralled together. A tribute to Veterans, a moment of silence, and then we all sing the National Anthem. The first wave lines up and the horn blows. It’s about 7:36AM, but that’s good, we’ve started. Inside the ropes, since I’m in the second wave, and wait for three minutes.
The swim is fairly straight forward. You go out from the beach a few yards, turn left at the orange buoy, then swim parallel to the beach past three green buoys, and turn left again at the next orange one and at the end you’ve covered a half a mile in the water. Well it is simple until you are out there with a couple of hundred other guys. You pretty much walk to the first buoy, it would have been nice to have swam starting about half way, because the water was up to your waist at that point, but there were so many people still walking that you couldn’t navigate. Then everyone starts swimming. This means you get to slap some people on the head, and grab some legs, and you get slapped on the head and feel hands climbing up your leg. This goes on for about five minutes. This is usually the part of the race that really freaks out first timers, I know it did me the first time I raced. But usually if you just plug on you get to free space in the ocean and can concentrate on swimming. Not on Saturday. It was fairly crowded the whole half-mile. It wasn’t until after the green buoy three quarters of the way through that there was some swimming room.
T1 – 6.5 minutes
Out of the water. On the left is Lady CurbCrusher trying to take a picture. The problem is that everyone is wearing black swim suits and has on the same color swim cap. So you have to yell out. I think she got a picture. Now its about a quarter mile run or so to the transition area. Up the beach, through the park and down the long row of bikes to my rack. I reach for my shirt and pull it over my head. I hear a ripping sound. It seems that I’ve put the number on so that it is at about a 45 degree angle from horizontal, and it’s half way under my left arm, instead of in the middle of my chest. Oh well, too late to worry about that. Fortunately the ripping was the number, and not the shirt. Now grab the towel, sit on the ground and put on socks and shoes. Get back up, put on the sunglasses, and then the bike helmet. Grab the bike and run to the bike start and mount.
Bike – 33 minutes
The bike course is nice. We go all the way to the other side of the island where the road turns around and back. Its about 10 miles round trip. The race organizers have done a great job, they put big, bold markers at every mile. The first two and half miles are into the wind, then you turn so that the wind was mostly at your side, maybe a little in the front quarter. This is good, this means when you turn around and come back there’ll be a tail wind. I split my Gatorade drinking up to about a third after the first two miles, a third halfway through, and then I emptied the bottle at the 8 mile marker. Coming into the T2 I see Little and Lady CurbCrusher again. I holler and she gets a couple of pictures of me getting off the bike.
T2 – 1.5 minutes
This one is basic. Run through the transition are, put the bike back on the rack, put the helmet on the bike, put the shades in the helmet and run out the back. Slow down (Ok, I’m not really moving fast at this point, but I like to think that I slow down) and get some water from one of the fantastic volunteers and have a drink.
Run – 40 minutes
I hate running. I really do. They have a version of this sport called Aquabike, where you swim and bike. I really should look into it. But I have a feeling if you tell people you are an aquabiker they think you have some kind of bike you ride in the water, whereas if you say you run triathlons people know what your talking about. Do I really have time to explain this? I should probably stick to tris. This is the kind of thing you have time to think about while your running, because it helps keep you from thinking about the pain. The first half of the run is on the bike path from North Beach to the fort. There is a little shade, the occasional palm tree, but we are headed into the wind, so it doesn’t feel too hot. There are a lot of people passing me (like I said I run slow). I am following a couple of thirty something women (in triathlons you get your age written on your calf as part of body marking) and they are carrying on a conversation about a variety of things. They stop to stretch a bit and I get to pass someone. I’m starting to feel good. I pass the mile mark in about 10:55. This is good, a sub 11 minute mile after swimming and biking is certainly not a bad thing for me. In a 5K road race I can do about a 9:50, so this is only a one minute penatly, I’m starting to feel good.
The two thirty somethings come around me. I tell them how they are damaging my self esteem by going around me after I passed them. They tell me not to worry, they’ll be stopping again soon. We chat a bit about how much we all hate running, and then the fort looms ahead. We run down the side of the fort, then turn and run up 40 stairs. Ok, I walked up the stairs. There is a water station at the top, so I grab a cup of water, and then head down the stairs. The route now turns to the beach, and there is no shade. Even the palm trees (as pitiful shade as they offered) are not present, and now the wind is at your back. So for me that means I all of a sudden realize that I’m sweating since its now in my eyes. Gee, that makes it feel a lot more like work. I pass the thirtysomethings again when they stop to stretch, so I get a little self esteem back. This last until about 2.5 miles when I hear behind be “Hey its the yellow shirt guy, we’re going to pass him again.” Ok, so now my self esteem is gone again, but, hey, I’m headed for the finish line. I pass the three mile marker and realize that I’m at close to 36 minutes for the run. That’s not bad, I’m under 12 minute miles.
Finally in about four minutes the finish line comes into view. There are people watching so I run faster and try not to look tired. One day I’m going to get a good picture out of this. Lady and Little CurbCrusher are there and holler and I look over, another picture.
So I’m fairly happy, I was shooting for and 1:40 or less and got a 1:37 and change. Ended up 58 out of 61 in my age group and 682 out of 1000 entries. I’m happy. I’m not going to the Olympics anytime soon, but its good enough to get my psyched to go to Ormond Beach the end of May for another sprint.
Like the entire race, the post race food was fantastic. There was all the usual stuff like fruit and Gatorade and water. But there were also hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, pasta and my favorite, chocolate layer cake. I’d have run another mile for the cake. Any event that servers chocolate cake can’t be bad.
The organizers and volunteers put on a great race. I don’t know if they can be complimented enough. The event was well organized, and it was well run. I don’t think there is much of anything they could have done to make it a better race.