Ironman Florida 2015 Race Report

Ironman Florida 2015

Ironman Florida (IMFL) was not the race I was supposed to finish but it was the race that I did finish. I had registered for Ironman Maryland and traveled up to the race site in early October only to have the race cancelled thanks to Hurricane Juaquin. This cancellation caused an additional 6 weeks of training and anxiety.

WTC informed us that they would send out an email after the rescheduled date of October 17th with an opportunity to choose a race to attend. Ironman Florida was going to be my choice because of all the FW Tri Club teammates that would be racing. My application was accepted and in the email was told I would be receiving a final registration email.

Weeks went by without the email and finally on Thursday October 29th I told Karen that if I did not have an email by 8am I was not going to race and would instead run the Little Rocky 50k Trail Race I had already registered for. At 9am on Thursday I received the email and immediately replied and was in. That night we made travel arrangements and before I knew it we were flying to Panama City Beach.

PRE-RACE

On the Thursday before the race our crew went for a practice swim in our wetsuits and the water felt great. After that we hit the road for a one hour ride and then a 2 mile run. It was on the run that I could feel the heat and humidity and knew that staying hydrated was going to be the key to the race.

The next day, Friday, we went to the practice swim and I jumped in the Gulf or Mexico without a wetsuit and had my ass handed to me by the current and breakers. Immediately my anxiety level went up and if the reports of wetsuit optional were correct then I was going to wear a wetsuit. Having raced Ironman Texas in 2011 and 2012 without a wetsuit I had no need to prove to anybody that I could do it. Couple that with the fact that I am not close to claiming a podium and/or Kona slot then I really had no reason to not wear a wetsuit.

RACE DAY

When the alarm went off at 3am I woke up full of excitement knowing that race day had finally arrived. It had been a long training journey, both physically and mentally, and I was ready. After a quick breakfast of coffee, toast, peanut butter and bananas we jumped in the car to make the 10 minute drive to the shuttle that would take us to the race start.

As I walked into transition I saw the President of our club and he told us that our race results would be posted in the overall but not age group and that the points we accumulated would count toward the TriClub Program. Once I heard that the idea to wear a wetsuit was cemented as I had a thought that if the water looked calm I would race wihtout it.

After putting water bottles on my bike and additional nutrition in my transition bags I went and chatted with team members. Hanging out with them took a lot of the nerves that comes with a race start away. We took the obligatory pre-race photos and made our way down to the beach. Clad in my wetsuit and looking at the water I knew that wearing one, for me, was the absolute correct decision.

SWIMIronman Florida Swim

Ironman Florida is a rolling start and we got loaded into the corral and nobody tried to find the right spot to start in. It was a mass start without the wading. As I walked toward the water and jumped in my body said to me: it's go time. I tried to swim but consistently hit somebody or was hit by somebody. My anxiety kept creeping up and up and up. I started to breaststroke until I could calm down but that never really happened during the first portion of the swim.

At one point I found a floating mattress and swam towards it and hung on. I took my goggles off and cleaned them but this was nothing more than a delay tactic. Once I felt my heart rate slow down I started swimming again. My goal was to swim buoy to buoy and at each buoy I would breaststroke to try and regain my composure. This worked great and I got to the first turn buoy where my competitive side kicked in, anxiety lowered and it was game on. From that first turn buoy to the finish of the first loop there were no issues. I got out of the water and saw 44:xx on my watch and thought I would be in line for a 1:30 swim which is right where I normally am.

As I went through the arch I saw that the beach was non-existent but thought I should run down and jump in the water where the start was but noticed everybody getting in the water right away and volunteers pointing to the water. HOLY SH*T what a bad idea that was. At 5'7" and 145 pounds I got smashed by every wave coming ashore and it took what seemed like forever to finally make it to the buoy line. Had I been a kid on a summer vacation that would have been awesome but as an athlete just trying to get the swim overwith that was a tough scenario to face.

At the buoys I swam with no issues at all. Barely touched a few feet and was barely touched the rest of the way. Once I reached the breakers it was like body surfing until the last wave just smashed me from behind and knocked my goggles up and over my head. I was able to have one strap stay on my head and flip them back into position to finish the swim. I checked my watch and saw 1:35 and could not figure out how the second loop took 51 minutes when I swam the entire time with no issues then realized that the diagnol took all that extra time to fight through.

 

BIKE

IMFL Bike Start

In and out of transition in about 8 minutes I was running out and handed my bike. Time to pedal for 112 miles while staying composed to not push too hard. As I exited the bike out arch I saw Karen and my buddy Dog Bait yelling and off I went.

My goal for the bike portion was to ride at the high end of my IM watt range which is 135w-155w. If I stayed composed and did not chase anybody I would set myself up for a really good run. I passed my teammate Julie (Jell-O) at Mile 10 and felt very comfortable with where I was. The wind was blowing in our faces but it was light and I never felt like I was exerting too much energy.

All throughout the ride my 5 mile splits were anywhere from 14:30 to 16:00 and I knew I was staying steady but after 60 miles I realized I had not urinated once. I tried multiple times after that but I had nothing. I changed my hydration strategy from every 5 miles to every 2.5 miles and I still did not have an urge to pee. This was starting to cause some concern about how I would perform on the run but all I could do was keep drinking.

Around Mile 70 I hooked up with another athlete and we played the game of passing and being passed all the way through to the end. Along the way I passed another teammate at Mile 90 and he looked good. Still worried about my hydration I looked at my shorts and did not see any salt stains so I just kept on trucking.

As we were about to enter the main street back to T2 we were stopped by the police because an ambulance was screaming down the highway. There were 4 of us just stopped waiting. While the wait was short it was odd and now the four of us were all bunched up and all at the same level so it looked like we were drafting off of each other the entire time.

A referee pulled up on us and not wanting to get a penalty I hauled ass and pulled away from the other athletes. As I rounded the bend in the road I slipped my feet out of my shoes and dismounted. Handed my bike and my helmet to the volunteer and into the changing tent I went.

RUN

Ironman Florida Run

A hat, a race belt and some nutrition and off I was onto the run course. In my hand was my bike computer because while on the bike my watch beeped low battery. Not wanting to be without technology I quickly took my computer off my bike and hit the reset button and then start button as I left transition.

For 5 years the one major goal I had for Ironman was to break 4 hours at the marathon. I have been close with 4:09, 4:06, 4:06 and 4:02 but wasn't sure that IMFL was going to be the day because of the 6 week break between peak traning for Ironman Maryland and the start of this race. Just run became the mantra but my legs felt trashed right from the start.

I saw Karen around the 1.5 mile mark and had already laid down 8:15/mi paces. When I saw her she yelled to me: SUB-4......You Got This. I went past her and a few moments later thought: F*CK NO I do not. It was humid beyond belief and the run was hard already. My next split showed 8:5x and I told myself that Endurance Nation says to give 6 miles to the course at :30/mi slower than goal pace and thought: OK you are right where you need to be.

This is when the pity party for myself started. My legs hurt, I was drinking a lot but still did not have the urge to pee and dehydration worry set in. I kept running but the walk breaks at the aid stations felt as if they took forever. When I reached the turn around point in St Anthony's park my watch beeped agin with low battery. F*CK ME. Now what? Pity party kept going and walk breaks took longer and mile splits were in the 10:xx range. I was in a total funk and practically threw in the towel on the idea of breaking four hours.

As I was entering the aid station return in St Anthony's I looked at my watch and it was a black screen. I did not want to take my bike computer out because I was afraid what I might see. I decided it was time for a new strategy:

  • Run 2 miles or to the aid station after 2 miles
  • Pick up water, gatorade and coke then start running again
  • Repeat to yourself: How bad do you want this? Are you willing to suffer for your goals? Are you capable of reaching your goals?

If the answer to that last question was affirmative then keep moving but if it was not then the immediate response would be Susan Manville's words to me at every Ironman race I have done: Man The Fuck Up. Those four words would get me going again.

Around Mile 9 I saw Marni Sumbal and she asked me how I was feeling. Told I had not pee'd, was not sweating and had the chills. I could not tell what my heart rate and I was not happy. She told me to take walk breaks when needed and drink coke/gatorade and tell myself that this was not how I was going to finish the race but only a part of the race.

That little pep talk helped and I was off and running again but this time with sheer determination that I was not going to give up. I got to the end of loop 1 and people were yelling at me that I looked good and had a good pace. I reminded myself that I only had 13 miles to go and to keep moving.

I felt my pace pick up and my strides were purposeful. My aid station stops were very brief and I was passing people left and right. I kept repeating my questions and the Man The Fuck Up mantra. Before I knew it caught up to the President of the club and passed him then another teammate at mile 23 who I did not think I would catch.

My legs were in total pain but I blocked it out because I wanted to break 4 hours but I also had zero clue as to what my time was. As I ran past the last row of spectators and heard positive reinforcement words my pace picked up even more. I turned the corner and another athlete was there and he said to me: Great job. I told him the same, fist bumped him but I was well beyond running past him by the time I yelled out the words. I reached the finisher's chute and lights glared and the spectators hung over the barricades with hands outstretched. I smiled as big as I ever had knowing I just ran the IM marathon of my life.

I crossed the finish line and saw Karen and she yelled you did it. I had no idea what she was talking about because I needed to go to the med tent because I was worried about dehydration.

While sitting in the med tent area I asked her about my run split and the volunteer next to her pulled up my time and told me 3:58 and I yelled, fist pumped and was elated to have finally joined the sub-4 club.

Ironman Florida Finish

CONCLUSION

My overall time at Ironman Florida was 11:27 which puts it as the second fastest IM I have raced. The sub-4 marathon and fastest bike split rank it right at the very top of overall experiences and overall happiness in regards to performance.

Ironman Florida, while considered a terrific race for a first timer, is HARD. It is flat and can be fast but the swim with the current and breakers is tough. Beyond that is the fact that you are going to spend 95% of your time in the aero position and using only one group of muscles because there is no climbing trashes your legs. There is no reprieve on the run either. There is zero shade and with no elevation change you are again only using one group of muscles to power yourself over the 26.2 miles.

VIP and FinisherVIP (Karen), Goat (Jeff) and Myself

Thank you for reading, for your support and encouraging words. This race does not end the way it does without you. Thank you.

DID YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE? SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS:
Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

Related Stories