Escape From Ft. Desoto – 2009 Edition

Well spring is here and it is triathlon season again. Actually there have already been a few races in Central Florida, but for Team CurbCrusher the season starts with the Escape From Ft. Desoto, or at least it did last year and this year. Since this race was on Easter weekend and we had family obligations on Sunday, we didn’t try and camp at Ft. Desoto. Lady and Little CurbCrusher had Easter oriented activities that they wanted to tend to on Saturday, so there was no interest on their part in making the trip to St. Pete. Since I didn’t want to get up at 4:00AM to drive over, I traded in some Marriott points and spent Friday night in St. Pete.

Well, with the night before being spent in St. Pete, it was possible to sleep an extra half-hour or so. Because of the race being on Easter weekend the park had asked them to move the start time back , so it was changed to 7:00AM. I’m sure at the time this seemed like a good idea, but the weather had a different plan. When I arrived at the North Beach parking lot, it was so foggy (well it was dark too) that could only see a glow where transition was. As with last year the check in procedure was well organized, and I was able to zip through getting my packet, shirt and cap. A walk back to the car to retrieve the bike, and then a trip to the body marking and chip pick-up made me ready to set up transition. I’m not sure if some people didn’t show up, or if the reduced the number of bikes on a rack this year, but it felt like there was a good bit more room on the bike rack. I was able to get everything set up in plenty of time and wander down the swim start.
Of course it turned out that there was plenty more time. A thick fog was over the beach, and even though the buoys were set in the water, they would fade in and out of view as the fog moved around. As 7:00AM approached, the organizers postponed the race until 7:30AM.

Swim – 12:30
Ok. That’s a heck of a lot better than last year. BUT, it seems they may have had problems setting the buoys in the fog, so the it is likely that the distance was more like 600 – 700 yards instead of the intended 880. The water temperature was advertised as 74, and it was a bit cold when you first jumped in. However, it didn’t take much past the first buoy to get warm. The waves were sent out six minutes apart, and while this meant I started 30 minutes after the first wave, I think was good in that is spread the 1000 athletes out over the course better. Unlike last year’s race where the swim felt crowded the entire way, it really seemed to empty out after the first buoy (once everyone gets around me), and there was plenty of room to swim.

T1 – 6:59

Straight forward transition. The reason it takes so long is that you have to run from the beach to the transition area. I don’t know what the distance really is, but race organizers include this distance in calculating the 4 miles of running advertised for this race. T1 is non-eventful. Bike jersey, helmet and sunglasses on, then sit on the bucket and get shoes and socks on. Grab the bike and run out of transition. Mount up and on my way.

Bike – 31:23

I messed with my bike over the winter, raising the saddle and the handle bars, and it feels a lot better riding. Not a lot of wind this year, although I hears some people complaining about a headwind after the turn around on the bike. I was very happy with the ride, over a minute faster than last years ride, and I felt good at the end of it. Maybe it was because I was in the next to last leg starting, but the bike course seemed less crowded where I was riding, but I could see large clumps of people coming the other way. As a matter of fact, looking at the penalties, it seems there are a lot of drafting violations, probably a result of the number of people on the course.

T2 – 2:30

T2 is fairly non-eventful. Rack the bike, change shirts, grab by race number belt and make a pit stop. It took a minute longer than last year, but that’s a combination of the pit stop and changing shirts. In the past I’ve always biked and run in the same shirt, but when Lady CurbCrusher gave me a bike jersey last year, I started using it on the bike. It is sort of nice to start the run with a dry shirt.

Run – 42:06

I’ve talked before about how much I just LOVE running. I had really hoped with running the half-marathon this winter and my increase in mileage that my run time would improve. It’s two minutes slower. That was a disappointment. The run starts down the bike path from North Beach to the fort, and along the way you pass the one mike mark. I look at my watch and see that I did that mike about 9:30. Ya-hoo! There’s some hope here, I might just knock off some time from last year’s run and race total. Even as we run past the fort and walk up the stairs, I’m feeling pretty good. After some water and Gatorade though, and going down the stairs, my body starts wanting to slow down. I can feel the energy just emptying out of me, and I just get slower and slower. Once I started back on the beach, with no shade, it became a chore to run. I alternated running and walking on a five min run to one min walk ratio, but even that seemed difficult, but I did finally cross the finish line.

Post Race — 1:35:29

So even though I thought the run was going to kill me, it turned out OK, I was two minutes faster than last year. That’s a good thing. I ended up 57 out of 67 for the age group, and 805 out of 1000 overall. A result I’m happy with. This race is well organized and the post race food is great. I filled up on pasta and chicken before heading back to Orlando. I think of all the events that I’ve done since getting back into triathlon, the Ft. Desoto is the best run and most fun.

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