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Race Recap – Ironman Haines City

May 28, 2012

May 20, 2012.  The first Ironman 70.3 race for brother and sister and oh yeah some guy named Lance destroyed the field in a record-breaking day.  Not too bad for a first time venue in small town Haines City.

The race did not sell out (just over 2,000 registered athletes 1900 started) which seemed odd since the 7-time TDF champion was toeing the line.  Here was a photo taken of him hammering the bike where he averaged a ridiculous 27.72 MPH over the bike.  Oh by the way he also ran 5:47 miles to win his first Ironman 70.3 as a professional.  Congratulations to Lance and for setting a new course record. (more photos to follow)

Now back to the real reason we are blogging.  Julie and Dan raced not only in their first triathlon together, but their first 70.3.  I assure you there will be many more to come as Julie is now addicted and has already been looking up Lake Stevens 70.3 .  That is because she wore out the race course in her first half and finished with a big smile on her face.  For never racing that distance and in the Florida heat she did very well.  (Swim – 40 min, 3:03 bike and a 1:58 run) – yeah 24th in her AG.  I am so proud of her.  My goal was a little different, I wanted to break 5 hours and unfortunately I am writing tonight not having done so.  I was in good shape with 85% of the race done – unfortunately there was that last 15%.  I swam in 37, biked in 2:30, but finished with a 1:58 run (after running the first 4.3 miles at 7:40, next 4.3 at 8:45)- finishing at a disappointing 5:12.

This was the first year that this race was held in Haines City, it moved from the Disney area where it had been held at Camp Wilderness in the past.  That was the site of my first half and after racing that venue vowed never to race there again.  When the venue moved I decided that I would like to return to this half (especially since it was 2 hours from me).  The venue was a quaint, small town.  If you are looking to make this a long vacation I would recommend staying closer to Disney.  There was not much to do in the area and dining options are limited (I think everyone racing ate at the Olive Garden and Carabba’s).

We actually stayed in Davenport, FL which was about 15 miles from Haines City and stayed at a nice resort called Regal Palms.  It had a nice lazy river (which was not so lazy) with a slide – I recommend not going down head first as I hit my forehead on the edge and got a goose egg the night before the race.  HAHA.  We rented a 4/2 house on the resort with a screened in pool.  The accommodations were nice although not a big fan of a $90 cleaning fee since we had to take off the sheets, take out the garbage and tidy up the house- we did this to ensure we got our $250 deposit back.  One thing we discussed when we left is that the bed spreads smelled like they hadn’t been washed in a while and we were told to take the sheets and put them by the washer but nothing was said about the comforters so we wondered when is the last time they were actually cleaned.  As an FYI..our friends who stayed in one of the condos on property had a problem with fire ants and had to move to another condo.   There was a Publix right around the corner and a great local pizza place (Mia’s Pizzeria).

Race Venue:

We showed up to the race site on Friday and checked in.  They had plenty of volunteers on site and the check in process went very quickly.  All staff was friendly in my experience.  After checking in, we went to the expo where we had a few things to pick up.  The expo was smaller than some of other events such as St. Anthony’s Triathlon, but was adequate for what we needed.  The one complaint we had was in the Ironman tent.  Julie had purchased a 2XU tri suit, but ultimately decided that it did not fit the way that she wanted it to.  We went back to the tent and she was told that they do not take returns they only offered credits.  I found this ridiculous as first off the tri suit was $260, second off she never left the expo site and all the tags were still on the suit.  We decided to go back on Saturday and try again – we ended up being able to return the item, but it was a pain.

As far as the transition area went, the area was set up as best it could it be at the venue.  My one concern was since there were an abundance of first timers they were taking liberties of the space they were using and bags and coolers were being packed between bikes which made it difficult to get your bike off the rack.  I find this extremely annoying as my bike is larger than most and my seat post is very high (higher than the rack)  so I had to angle my bike to get it out from the rack and navigate all the “race essentials people felt then needed).  I think the officials could have paid a little more attention to what was being placed within the racks.  In addition, the race allowed people to check their bike in the day of, which I enjoyed, but made the ease of getting into transition take a few extra moments.  They had plenty of volunteers body marking and it moved as quickly as could be expected.  There were plenty of port-o-potties and they venue actually had a nice playground for younger children.

The swim was in Lake Eva.  Since Florida is in the midst of a serious drought the water levels were very low and you could actually stand about 250 feet into the lake both going out and coming in.  With the lake being low it also kicked up a lot of mud and dirt from the bottom of the lake and made for a very dirty swim (if you wore white when you came out it was a brown-ish color).  Exiting the water you ran up a beach area and into transition.  Exiting T1 was a narrow shoot and was crowded especially since many novices felt they need to have their shoes clipped onto their bike.  I heard many athletes were falling and causing a dangerous exit which I encountered coming off the bike

I was part of the last wave to go off (M30-34 was split into two groups) so we had a crowded bike course.  When you left transition you took a right and had a little incline you had to navigate.  The first 28 miles were relatively flat, but had a decent amount of turns-it helped having the wind at your back for the majority of the first 28 miles.  Once you made the halfway turn the race course became significantly different.  The wind was in your face the last 28 miles, and although none of the climbs were extended or more than probably 200 feet, the course became an up and down course.  If any of you are familiar with Clermont, Fl the course mimicked what you would experience there.  I averaged 3 MPH less on the back 28 and was disappointed until I saw that most athletes (including Lance) experienced the same.  Below are the breakdown of my miles over the course:

Miles 1-5

17, 22.5, 24.1, 22.8, 23.9

Miles 6-10

21.6, 23.9, 24.3, 22.6, 26.4

Miles 11-15

24.3, 22.1, 25.8, 26.1, 24.8

Miles 16-20

25.1, 23.5, 26.2, 24.6, 24.3

Miles 21-25

25.0, 24.5, 24.4, 22.7, 25.5

Miles 26-30

24.5, 25.1, 17.9, 24.3, 24.1

Miles 31-35

24.0, 19.2, 19.9, 20.5, 19.8

Miles 36-40

16.2, 24.1, 20.4, 18.4, 19.5

Miles 41-45

22.9, 21.2, 22.0, 22.0, 21.7

Miles 46-50

20.8, 21.8, 22.6, 22.7, 21.5,

Miles 51-56

20.7, 22.6, 18.7, 19.6, 19.8, 19.6

Coming off the bike I leave my shoes on my bike and hop off.  As I was coming into transition I got sandwiched by two other athletes and one jerked his bike in front of me as I was running and I took his pedal right to my shin (I guess a mark to remind me of this race).  As I was running through transition I realized leaving my shoes on my bike was a bad idea as the sun had heated up the asphalt and my feet were on fire.  I had to run through almost all the bikes around a corner to get to my rack.  The only good thing was I was close to the run out.  The run course consisted of a three loop run.  I had not checked the run course and did not realize that about .3 miles into the run there were consecutive hills (probably 80-100 feet in height) that caught your attention very quickly.  After making your way up the hills you made a right into a residential neighborhood and had an ever so slight incline before taking another right and finding your way downhill (and in a slightly shaded area).  Athletes then proceeded around the lake and into a triangular one mile loop (within the main loop) which turned out to be great for spectators because if you stayed there you could actually see your athlete pass you six times.  Bad news for the athletes this was out in the sun and got to be hot towards the end of the race.  After navigating the triangular loop, athletes took a left turn  and worked up another slight incline (which seemed more daunting on the final lap), one last aid station before making on last right turn back to transition.

Overall, I enjoyed the race.  Didn’t care too much for the swim, but I think the water levels had a lot to do with that.  The bike course was challenging at times and not a flat pancake ride which makes athletes think while on the course especially while navigating turns.  The roads were bumpy at times as you were out on country roads for the majority of the race.  I might be wrong in this assumption, but the elevation gains I thought were similar to the Augusta bike course only here you did not get the benefits on the downhill as much because most descents were followed by turns.  The run course was great for spectators, maybe not for athletes.  I have never seen so many walk during a run on a 70.3.  It was fair as it was not a flat run and of course it was Florida in May so you had heat and humidity.

The one thing that was disappointing was the crowd participation.  There were only a handful of spectators out on the run course (except for near transition and the triangular loop).  I do not think the town was ready or understood the magnitude of what an Ironman 70.3 race is and brings to the community.  I will chalk it up to, “it was the first year” and it will get better.  I raced Ironman Augusta the first year and the city and people were amazing.  I guess I just didn’t see the people of Haines City as inviting or involved as I would have expected.  I mean for a small city to have the excitement of a big race come to town I thought they would have turned out a little more especially with Lance racing.  This was just a small disappointment in a weekend filled with the excitement of seeing family and racing with my sister for the first time!  I will race this race again which is more than I said after Camp Wilderness.

Congratulations to all finishers and big brotherly love to Julie on an incredible finish!  I am so proud of you.  Now on to the next challenge!

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