March 16, 2021 - Return to racing in 2021! Awesome weather, good swim, great bike and sorry shuffle of a run but I had lots of fun!
Training & Preparation - I began ramping up my diet and training after January 1st. My training consisted of 2-3 Zwift rides per week with moderate to advanced elevations, 1-2 indoor pool swims per week focused on form and endurance, and 1-2 runs per week with short to moderate distances due to ongoing right knee pain caused by diminishing cartilage. My diet consisted of very low to moderate carbohydrates and no alcohol.
Travel - My SCICON bike travel bag purchased in 2020 made for optimum and secure transportation of my tri bike on Delta with only a $40 fee. Delta is maintaining open middle seats and enforcing all COVID-19 guidelines. We had no issues with travel and arrived in Florida one week before the race to spend time with friends.
Race Day - We were staying with friends who live 45 minutes from the race site. An early rise and breakfast before the commute started the morning off right. Race day jitters caused several trips to the restroom but I felt lighter and prepared to race before dawning my wetsuit and heading to the swim start.
Swim - The water in Lake Minneola was very clean but had a dark brown color which apparently is caused by Palmetto leaves that fall into the lake. My wave started at 8:21am and I intentionally avoided the rush of athletes running into the water since my normal open water pace is 2:10/100m. The water was warmer than expected at about 74 degrees so my short sleeve wetsuit was very comfortable and I started off pretty strong. My rhythm slowed as a caught up to a crowd of other athletes and others from the following wave caught up with me. This is when I shifted to swimming in the 'outside' lane except when making bouy turns. The crowding also make me pause for sighting more often and slowed my overall pace. I exited the water at 44:00 minutes.
Bike - I had difficulty getting my Garmin 945 to switch from swim to bike so to avoid the distraction I stopped the watch and forged on using only my mounted bike computer to gauge my speed and time. The first 7-8 miles were flat and fun and we rode around the lake. Shortly thereafter some hills began to present themselves as part of the 1,317 feet of elevation for the 26.8 mile course. My training on Zwift was paying dividends here as I managed my gearing to power up hills passing other athletes and soaring down hills hitting speeds up to 32 mph. Note that I drove the course the previous day which helped me prepare for road conditions, hills, turns, and possible dangers along the way. And there were many turns so constantly reminding myself to raise the inside pedal was a good thing. I had one Boom Nutrition and probably drank 20-25 ounces of water infused with Skratch during the ride. I knew the run would be sunny and hot so hydration was a focus for me. Overall, I felt very strong on the bike and completed the ride at 1:35:09 with an average speed of 17 mph.
Run - Let me start by saying I left everything I had on the bike but didn't realize that until the first few hundred strikes of my feet on the pavement. The Great Clermont Triathlon quickly became the Great Clermont Shuffle for me. In addition, the lack of cartilage in my right knee still has me feeling unstable and not able to take full strides with favoring my right side. The run course was an out and back along with Lake Minneola bike path with was an asphault surface with very little shade. Water stations were strategically placed and plentiful. In fact, I found myself probably drinking too much water as I could feel it sloshing around in my belly during the run. I also had half of a Ucan bar in the first mile. I found it difficult to chew while running so eating only half was fine for me. Other athletes along the way were pleasant and supportive. Spectator fanning was spread out along the course but they were supportive as well. I finished the 6k run at 1:31:23 which is slightly below a 15 minute pace. Not nearly as good as my 12 minute pace 4 days earlier for 3 miles after a 1,000m open water swim.
The Finish - The finish line was probably a mile from transition which diluted the activity and spectators. A half mile out and spotted a target male athlete of similar age and ability and began to chase him as motivation for me to pick up the pace. I caught him but was too tired to keep the pace and I started walking again. 1-2 minutes later I regained my composure and was able to pass him and maintain the pace to cross the finish line. I finished 23rd of 25 in my male age group and 263rd of 297 in overall Olympic distance.
Summary - I'm very pleased that I successfully completed the race having not raced in 2020 and this race in particular was canceled in 2020 only 16 hours in advance of the race. My registration was deferred and I was happy to return to Florida to enjoy a few days of relaxation with friends prior to the race. My plan is to continue my training regime for swimming and biking while trying to improve my running pace as the summer approaches. I will relax my diet to include more carbs and some social alcohol consumption provided my weight is not negatively affected more than 3-4 lbs.