Ironman Haines City 70.3 - (spectator) race report

There are athletes who love to train and athletes who love to race. Some enjoy one or the other and some enjoy both.
It's very easy to get so overwhelmed and anxious about the end result of a training journey that you may find that you are only defining progress or success by a finish time or place (or both). This puts tremendous pressure on you, as the athlete, to always think about how you need to perform on race day to have a great race.  If your only way to define development is in a certain time or place, you may limit your ability to discover true greatness. Sure, we all want to be fast and strong and this can happen with a smart training and fueling plan and race day execution but there are times in every athletes's season when you have to simply race for the best effort possible that you can give on that day and not chase times or placing. Every race is different.
Sometimes, that best effort will give you a personal best time or podium spot but many times, that race will help you grow, learn and develop to someday, reach your ultimate athletic potential.

Rarely do I hear athletes thanking their body that they were able to cross the starting line. There is so much that can happen between the day you sign up for a race until you step foot on the starting line. And when you are so focused on results, you overlook a critical and necessary part of reaching your full potential....being healthy and strong enough to meet the demands of your upcoming race.

The scary and exciting part about racing is there is no way to know what can happen with your body during the race until you get started. And at no point during the race can you predict the future.

Sometimes, you just have to be thankful for what you get to do, with the body that you have. There's nothing wrong with having goals and feeling ready (or not) but regardless of how you feel before the race, you just have to show up on race day and let what will happen, happen. It's with the "best" races that you spend less energy on what could or may happen and remain confident, brave and strong with what you want to happen. You do your best to pace your own race to set yourself up for success and with every moment during the race when the odds aren't in your favor, you find a way to overcome those odds to prove to yourself that you are capable of so much more than you ever thought you could do with your body. 

After a 6 hour drive to Jacksonville, FL on Friday, we spent the night at a friends house and then on Saturday around 8:30am, we made our way 3 more hours to Haines City, Fl. Wow - it was hot coming from Greenville, SC!! This is our first time in 10 years (for me and more for Karel) living outside of Florida for almost a year so adjusting to seasons vs being warm all year long has been strange. 

When we arrived to the race venue we attended the athlete briefing at 12pm for any last minute changes/rules (ex. new drafting length rule in effect) and met up with several of our 12 Trimarni athletes who were racing. I was the designated sherpa for our group but it is part of our normal pre-race routine to always attend the athlete briefing. 

After the briefing, Karel and I put on our riding gear and heading out for a 1 hour spin. With Karel racing, he did a few pick-ups and I treated this as a workout for me since it was super challenging to stay on Karel's wheel for his 2-3 minute pick-ups. My legs were burning but it was so fun to ride aero on flat/rolling roads and to find a rhythm (something we don't get to do where we live near the mountains). Karel didn't even have his race wheels on but wow, he was fast! 

After our ride (and Karel did a short run for 10 min off the bike with a few pick-ups) we made a stop at the local Publix grocery store for food for the next 24 hours including food for Karel's pre-race dinner meal (rice, chicken, bread and salad) and his pre-race morning meal (similar foods but never the same amount for each race - this race: Bolthouse yogurt drink, oatmeal, bread with jam and milk). We both were super hungry after the busy day of traveling and working out so we both ate a meal around 4pm and then just snacked the rest of the evening.
Karel's typically diet is very carb-heavy with lots of bread, grains and starches, moderate (but enough) protein and a very plant strong diet with lots of fruits and veggies. Pastries, coffee and chocolate are also part of his normal diet so race week is no different for him in many ways. There are no off limit foods for Karel - just no alcohol race week (he makes up for that day after the race).

We stayed with a friend from Key West (Roger) at a rental home which was nice to have a kitchen and room to spread out. 

The positive energy was building with a few other athletes in the house also racing and by 9pm, everyone was in bed for an early wake-up call. 

At 3:50am, we woke up and by 5:20am we were out the door to head to the race. I fueled my spectating duties with a bowl of oatmeal with almonds (from Veronica's Health Crunch), milk and raisins and made a PB Sandwich for later with lots of fruit. 

It was fun to be on the sidelines and be there for our 12 athletes. At 6:30am, most of the group met up for a team picture and then everyone did their own thing (warm-up) before their wave start. 

I positioned myself at the swim exit to catch all of our athletes when they got out of the water. The swim course is a bit strange with many turn bodies (the course looks like a M) so lots of spotting is involved. 

With Karel in one of the last few waves, I was able to spot all of our athletes before seeing Karel. 
Karel felt really good in the water. He said he felt very smooth with a good catch and never felt anxious in the water. Although Karel would love to be faster in the swim to position himself better with the top athletes, he will often swim for efficiency over speed to ensure that he does not exhaust himself in the water on race day as newer swimmer. Karel and I swim a lot (often 5 times per week) just so he can keep his feel for the water. Some days he doesn't feel good but just being in the water helps him feel more confidence for race day. 

1.2 mile swim: 
Time: 35:43
41 age group, 212 male, 250 overall 

After all our athletes exited the water and started the bike, I had time to kill so I went for an hour run on the run course. It was so neat to see so many other spectators running - something that I don't get to experience when racing. After my run, I put on a non-sweaty shirt and got rid of my Nathan Fuel belt and grabbed my food/drinks and headed out to watch our athletes come in from the bike with a few other Trimarni athletes who weren't racing (Ryan, Mike, Heather and Adam). It was so great to have so many Trimarni teammates out on the course and on the sidelines. 

I spotted Karel as he neared his last turn toward the dismount line and we all cheered loud. 

I know what you are thinking.....Karel is smiling!!! I guess we made him laugh.

Oh and that orange kit is specially made for Karel from Canari. We love our Canari family and they spoiled us with a full line of seasonal training/racing gear in a "Kona edition" orange for us both. Thank you Canari! Karel absolutely loved racing in his short sleeve tri suit - he found it super comfortable and absolutely no chaffing or overheating. 

Karel didn't have any goals for this race (that he discussed with me) but he did tell me that he wanted to be between 2:20-2:25 to feel happy about his bike performance. Not knowing how he would ride on flat roads with all the climbing we do in Greenville (and averaging 16.5-17.5mph for most of our rides), Karel rode in and looked really good off the bike so I knew this was a great sign that he was feeling good.

Karel ended up riding 2:19 which he was really happy about. He said that he felt really good and he didn't have to push as hard as he thought for the ride that he had. It's always a fine line for Karel as to how hard he can push with his bike racing background but still be able to have fresh legs for the run. Karel doesn't go by power when he rides but still has his gadget for race day to check in as needed. But Karel typically goes by feel as he knows what he wants it to feel like and what it should feel like to run well off the bike. With more experience, Karel continues to dial this in.
Karel consumed 2.5 bottles of his custom INFINIT drink (around 280 calories each bottle) on the bike and a few Clif blocks. No extra water from aid stations.

56 mile bike: 
2:19:11 (24.14mph)
13th age group, 45 male, 45 overall 

Hello game face!
This run course is super spectator friendly with 3 loops and a perfect section for seeing athletes twice within a 10-15 min time-frame around mile 3-4.
The only thing Karel said to me was "it's hot" but other than that, he was a man on a mission. I guess all our hill work and "slow" form focused running paid off as Karel was able to hold sub 7 min/miles for the entire half marathon even though the majority of Karel's long runs are often slower than 7:30 min/miles.
Karel said that he felt really good until the last loop of the run and then things felt hard (which is to be expected). It was nearing 90 degrees out which was hot for everyone but certainly something that Karel and I are no longer acclimated too after moving to Greenville last May. 

Karel wore his fuel belt (as he always does in every training sessions - even the short runs) with 3 flasks, each with OSMO (80 calories). He grabbed ice/water from the aid stations and used the Base Salts capsule and licked salt from it when needed.
He said he felt really strong and his form stayed good throughout. He was even able to build his effort by holding back in the first loop (by feel) and stopping at aid stations (yes, even speedy Karel stops/walks when he runs).

As Karel was making his last loop, I cheered on a few more Trimarni athletes and then headed to the finish to watch Karel finish. I was thankful for our friends Kristen and Trent who were sending me text updates of Karel as I was so busy cheering that I couldn't check my phone for stats with all the pictures I was taking. (a big thank you to Ryan and Adam for also taking awesome pics of the Trimarni team). 

As a coach, it's great to be on the sidelines for my athletes as several needed me throughout the day. Sometimes it was just a high-five or cheer or a quick discussion on nutrition, pacing or mental strength but whatever the reason, I just love being there to see them in action. 

Racing with them is also fun and I can't wait to race at Challeng Knox in May. 
 Because of the wave start, the clock showed the start of the race (at 6:50) so with Karel starting after 7:30am I had no idea what time on the clock he would finish. I watched and watched and finally, Karel came sprinting down the finish. 

It was only a matter of time before Karel gave himself the reward of racing hard and giving everything he could for 70.3 miles.....he finally let his legs rest.

13.1 mile run: 
1:29:39 (first time breaking 1:30 in a half for Karel!), 6:50 min/mile average
Total: 4:28:38
7th age group, 20th male, 20th overall
Wow - a sub 4:30 time got Karel 7th age group. Crazy fast times!
There was some tough competition out there to challenge Karel to dig deep. 

This is proof that sometimes a best effort isn't about the place or the overall finish but instead, what you put into the race to get the best outcome possible, on race day with your healthy and strong body.

Sending a HUGE congrats to all the Trimarni athletes who raced amazingly well.
Everyone finished what they started!!

Trimarni coaching athletes: Haines City 70.3: 
Tricia Ann - 7:50:56
Maggie A - 7:18:43
Stefanie S - 7:00:47
JoAnn J - 6:40:53
Jim N - 6:27:20 (first time half ironman finisher)
Nick - 5:41:00
Colleen - 5:38:24
Christian (pre-built plan) - 5:36:38
Mike M - 5:36:34
Rob J - 5:26:03
Kevin D - 5:22:12
Josh G - 5:03:2
Wlad - 5:01:56
Karel - 4:28:38

For more pictures of our awesome athletes in action, check out the Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition facebook page.