Following Louisville this year I decided to race Ironman Florida. Around 6-7 weeks out from the race I wrote down my goals for the event: Swim: 51
Transitions: 5:00 combined
Gives you 8:17:00
What really happened:
Transitions: 4:50 total (2:50 and 2:00 for T1 and T2)
Total time: 8:18:02; good enough for 3rd overall on the day.
The finishing time was almost exactly where I wanted it to be, but the execution of getting there was a little off. I started the day with a mediocre swim. I made some tactical errors in the first 10 minutes of the day and found myself having to swim in no man's land. This resulted in starting the bike around 3-4:00 down from the group of people I wanted to ride with. I was a little concerned as the IMFL bike course tends to favor strength in numbers, but I felt good from the get go and started to chase.
We had somewhat favorable conditions on the bike because the majority of the wind would be in our face for the the first half of the bike. The second half of the bike has a tailwind about 40% of the time with the last 10K being into a headwind. They made some changes to the course last year and it was my first time riding it, but the bike course still utilizes much of the same course and I'm quite familiar with how things play out since I have raced here 5 times before (03,05,06,07,09).
I made some headway through first 40K of the bike and moved up about 3-4 places. The wind wasn't terrible, but it was noticeable and I tried to keep the pressure on all the way to the turnaround of the first out-and-back (about halfway). This was my first chance to see what was going on: Basically a group of three at the front (with Ronnie S), another group of three (with Eduardo Sturla and Maxim Kriat), then 2-3 more athletes peppered between myself and the second group.
I hit the turnaround and was pretty excited to finally have an extended tailwind. I did my best to keep my head down and kept hammering away. With Ronnie, Eduardo, and Maxim up the road, I knew I had to keep the gap as close as possible.
The course offers a new out-and-back just before the 100-mile mark so I got the chance to see the groups again. It looked as though the first group had gained time on me (they had), but the second group was still within the same range. At this point I also realized I was riding in 7th so I had moved up pretty nicely since finishing the swim.
I came into T2, transitioned as quickly as possible and started the run. The first few miles splits had me right on ~6:20/mile (or even a little quicker), but I wasn't making up much ground on anyone at that point. I kept things rolling along and around mile 9 I saw Brooke and she told me things weren't really changing. The gaps were holding as everyone was running well.
I finally moved up one place around mile 11 and I could see that 2nd-5th weren't totally out of reach at the turnaround (halfway point). It was right at this time that I crossed paths with one my AG buddies on the run. He quickly asked me how things were going. Honestly, I hardly ever respond to anyone when I race (even my buddies), but this time I said: "I'm going pretty well... ...but so is everyone else." I realized that all these guys were racing tough and they were not going to roll over so I could move up.
I caught 5th place around mile 16, then I caught 4th around mile 18 and I could see 3rd place up the road when I entered the park. As I closed in on mile 20 I was within striking distance of 3rd, but I was also hurting. The gap had been coming down pretty rapidly, but the last 50 meters seem to take me nearly a mile to finally close down. With less than 5 miles to go I moved alongside 3rd place and he started to match my pace, but I eventually broke free and started to move onto the home stretch. I had hopes that 2nd place might be somewhere within reach so I did my best to keep the hammer down.
As I went into the final couple miles I knew 2nd place was nowhere near, but I could see I still had a chance of setting a new run PR so I did my best to stay on point and I eventually made my way across finish line in 8:18:02. I was just a few seconds off that 8:17 goal, but I felt totally spent; I had nothing left. It was great to finish the season with an 11 minute PB and a new bike+run split PR. I was also happy to post my second Ironman podium finish of the year.
And that's all she wrote for 2011.
See you next year,