Around 8:40 or so, Karel lined up near the front of his wave just behind the inflatable swim start sign. Karel went into this race with a lot of swim confidence as he has been working really hard with a swim coach/masters team at UNF on his swimming skills. As a cat 1 cyclist turned triathlete and just learning how to swim 15 months ago, Karel has come far in both his endurance and efficiency as a swimmer. But all of triathletes know that to be a great triathlete you need to be able to exit the water relatively fresh - with a body that can bike and then run to the finish line.
The great thing about this specific swim course is that it was designed really nicely for all levels of swimmers. For Karel, the numbered buoys and 3 specific turn buoys allowed him to pace himself but also mentally swim strong throughout the swim. Also, Karel liked starting in the water, after jumping off a dock. Karel has expressed that the mass swim start chaos is not something he looks forward to so the smaller waves alongside smooth water conditions presented the perfect race start for Karel.
35:08, 458th male, 92 age group
Karel exited the water just over 35 minutes which he was really happy about as that was his same time with a wet suit from Branson 70.3 last year. Karel knows that in triathlons, you have to forget the past and be in the moment and every race is different so you can't compare race times. So even if the swim wasn't as good as it was at Miami, he always says "forget about it and move on. Let what happened happen and don't try to make up time on the bike because of a slower swim." When you give your best effort you must always accept it with no regrets or wish-I-would-have's.
The hardest part of the swim was getting out of the water. Karel said they had to climb a few stairs to exit the water and then it was a jog to transition. But other than that - Karel was really excited about his swim time. He also felt much better exiting the water and not exhausted for the bike. Yay progress!
56 mile bike
Amber and I had a little time to kill after our guys were on the bike so I grabbed some food from my bag and cooler and we sat on the ground in Bayside Market Place to enjoy a few snacks. I also charged my phone as it was super active all morning with updates on Facebook and Instagram.
I estimated that Karel would be a few minutes in transition and depending on the wind, I was thinking between 2:20 and 2:25 for his bike. I didn't discuss times with Karel before his race so I used the Ironmanlive tracker for his 28 mile split to guesstimate his return time.
Karel and I spent the night before studying the course map - specifically the first few miles of the bike so that Karel would know exactly how he was leaving transition and what to expect in the first few miles of the race when the body is acclimating from swim position to bike position.
Karel exited the water in 92nd place out of his age group of 524 (35-39) males.
Karel new he would be passing a lot of people since he was in the 22nd wave (out of 26) so the goal of the ride was to race smart for a strong run. Karel has been craving a sub 1:30 run off the bike but he had a lot of work to do on the bike to move forward in his age group placing to be pushed by the other guys in his age group for that strong run.
Karel said that the course was simple - out and back. There was a slight tailwind after the turn around but overall, Karel said it was mostly crosswinds.
Karel was able to maintain a good pace to the turn around and averaged around 24mph for 28 miles (1:09). I wasn't sure how the wind would affect him on the way home but knowing Karel he is not the biker who would overbike the first half of a race. If anything, Karel likes to save his effort and I knew he wouldn't overbike this course so I figured he would be at around the same time -give or take a minute or two- on the way back. The one downside to this course for Karel was that it was pancake flat. Karel and I both prefer rolling courses for it gives us a chance to stretch the legs and change position on the bike. Karel gets really tight in his adductors and hip flexors which is relieved by getting out of the saddle. But on this course - Karel stayed aero, had all his nutrition on the bike and stretched as needed throughout the race.
After passing groups and groups of riders on the way out, Karel was stuck on the way back. With 3133 participants in the race, let's just say that many athletes were enjoying a free ride and according to Karel, it was like a team time trial out there. Karel was unable to pass 4 abreast on the road for then he would be risking a penalty for crossing the middle line. So I guess you could say in this race you are only as fast as the pack in front of you.
Karel has had his time racing bikes for most of his life so it would be easy for him to draft in triathlons for it is normal in cycling races. But the difference between bike racing and triathlons is the individual effort needed in tri's. Although Karel misses being in the hurt box at his crit races, he really enjoys the solo effort and having no one to blame but yourself for how things go on race day. In other words, in cycling races you can have a great day but get dropped from the pack that is having a better day. In triathlons - it's your own effort and either you race smart or suffer.
Karel ended up having a slower ride (relative) on the way back because of the massive groups of riders so he was a bit bothered by the craziness on this course but happy that he was about to wake up his run legs. Even though he wasn't quite sure how his legs were going to enjoy running 13.1 miles at almost noon time and up a bridge four times, the mind knew it was time to run and the body had no choice but to follow.
I was so thankful to my Facebook followers for everyone was helping me keep up with Karel on Ironmanlive.com. I managed to catch Karel on the way into transition area and the set-up for the Miami 70.3 course was really great for spectators to see athletes riding into transition area through the middle of downtown.
The course had many road closures in the downtown area which was great for getting around the swim/run course rather easy. Campy was starting to get a little exhausted but he had just enough energy to smile and cheer for all the athletes on the course. He was super excited to finally see his daddy.
2:22:17 (23.61 mph) - 19th age group, 125th male
13.1 mile run
After passing 396 people on the bike course in 56 miles, Karel transitioned in less than 2 minutes and was off for the run. The run course was an out and back course, 2 loops. The course was not forgiving on the legs and running in the middle of the day was also another challenge for the body.
I stayed near mile 6 so that I could see Karel heading back from his first loop. Thankfully there were a lot of tracking mats on the course to record his chip for frequent updates. A former nutrition athlete of mine, Roger, was a lifesaver for I was able to know about when Karel was coming. Holding Campy and my camera was taking my love for multi-sports to the extreme. BUT, I managed to catch Karel both times.
When I saw Karel he looked great. He had been averaging between 6:23-6:57 min/mile with a few slower segments (relative) on the bridge. Just like on the bike, Karel had all his nutrition with him so he relied on his Nathan fuel belt and then grabbed ice/water at the aid stations for sipping and cooling. Karel usesInfinit Nutrition and a custom formula that I created for him for the bike and run. Karel said that the aid stations were running out of fuel on the run so he was happy he had his own nutrition.
After seeing Karel again, starting loop two, I could tell that he was going to give it his all. That's what I love so much about Karel - absolutely no excuses. It is what it is, all that he has, 100% of the time. I've watched Karel race bikes for 6 years so I have experienced the rush, the highs and the lows that come with bike racing. But I can't help but remember that Karel just started triathlons last year and although a very talented and gifted athlete, he trains really hard using our "train smart" philosophy.
At around 1 mile, Karel had moved into 17th place. Nearing mile 9, he was in 13th place. I could tell from his splits that he was getting tired and later did I hear that Karel was really suffering on the run in his hip flexors. He said he was super tight and just couldn't get his legs to freshen up. With all things considered, it was just after 1pm and running up and over a bridge four times doesn't make running any easier. But, no giving up for Karel - ever. He will push til he can't push any more.
I was also so happy that I spotted Trimarni athlete Caitlin on the run course who later finished her first Half IM in just over 7 hours! She looked amazing the entire run and I was just so happy for her!
I made my way to the finish line because I didn't want to miss Karel's finish. Of course...I missed his finish after waiting over 20 minutes in the most perfect spot to see him coming and then move over to the barricades to video his finish. I have no idea how I missed him but when the announcer said his name I was so sad that I missed his finish!
The finish line was in the park area so it was really easy to find athletes after they finished.I walked with Campy to the area where athletes were exiting the finish line chute and waited, and waited and waited.
I wasn't sure where he was and I was concerned that I wouldn't find him and it would be really hard to find him with so many athletes and spectators around if he was in the park area. I knew he wouldn't go far as we planned to meet at the finish line area but I waiting and waiting and no Karel. I knew the medical tent was near by and I couldn't see Karel in there so I figured he had just collapsed somewhere to rest his aching legs.
After Karel and I made our way to an empty grass area, Karel told me that he ended up in medical because he was on the verge of blacking out at the finish. Medical iced him down and after a few minutes he was ok to walk alone. Neither Karel or myself have ever received an IV after a race.
After Karel rested a bit and received some happy celebratory kisses from Campy, we walked (as Karel hobbled) to the parking garage so that Karel could get his backpack with his change of clothes. Karel went to our friend's hotel to shower since he had his room key and I hung out at the market place for another 30 minutes so that I could see Caitlin one more time on her way back to finish her race. I also cheered for the other athletes and spotted my friend Dee Dee who also finished her first half IM.
After Karel showered, he grabbed his bike and gear from transition and met me back at the car. Not surprising, Karel started to feel the normal waves of "I feel OK" to "I think I am going to die" so he just sat outside the car on a curb in the parking garage for a good 15 minutes. I put an ice pack on his neck from the cooler and went to the market to find him something that would help him feel better.
A fruit smoothie did the trick and Karel was feeling a bit better after a few sips. He also had a little bit of milk and some grapes post race, along with a Coke and Water (and a few electrolyte tablets).
Nearing 3pm, we were ready to hit the road for our 5 hour trip home. Karel rested, Campy was passed out in his bed and I drove home.
Karel finished 14th age group with some crazy tough competition out there.
His run was 104th overall and 94th male.
Finishing time: 4:33:37
Well Miami - thanks for the memories. Miami 70.3 is complete.
Another race in the books and another chance to thank the body for what it allows us to do. Crossing finishing lines is great and it makes for great stories when we walk funny after the race. But the best part of our life is being able to live every day to the fullest. We love to use our body and racing gives us a means to release all that energy. We love to travel and racing gives us the excuse to see new sights.
We love setting goals and working hard for them. Sometimes we don't reach goals on race day but it doesn't stop us from enjoying the journey to get to another starting line and remembering where we were when we started the goal setting process.
Racing has no guarantees. There is no magic trick to ensure a great race day performance or even a finish at all. But racing is more than just getting a medal and a t shirt. It tests you when you are weak and vulnerable, it makes you discover a lot about yourself and it forces you to return to your "normal" life as a stronger and more grateful human being.
No matter how a race starts or how a race finishes, what counts is your gratitude for what your body was able to let you do on that very day. So long as you keep yourself nourished and well, hopefully there will always be another race.