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Ironman Florida, Still Rising

Ironman Florida has been run and won. I walked away with a smile on my face, a new personal best across the board, swim, bike, run and I hold onto a feeling that I am still rising. With 2 months till my 32nd birthday I am cautiously optimistic that I can win of these damn things as I am now entering the peak age for endurance racing. When I scan the results and look at the splits it is not out of the realm of possibility for me to take off 20-25minutes on that course in those conditions. I am more confident today than ever that I can split 4:25 and 2:38 in such conditions… The most important thing I will take away from this race was that I proved to myself that I could run well after riding 180kms, the confidence got a big boost by finally going under 2:50 for the marathon. To be 100% honest, assuming I could run without severe pain, if I hadn’t of had that bike/run I was going to have to take a long look in the mirror about the next couple of years and my racing plans as even with the obstacles I have overcome this year, I still should have run under 2:50 and I did just that!

As I wrote in my previous blogs I had been fighting a niggle in my knee and just 2 days before the race I nearly called my parents to tell them not to come because I honestly did not think I was going to be able to finish the marathon and my knee pain returned 3 days before the race. Consequently I arrived to the start line the most relaxed I have ever been. My plan was to swim hard, get onto the bike, and attack until I found the second pack, then relax and go as I felt.

It couldn’t have worked out better. I swam comfortably the first 1200ms and sat in the group I was with but as we turned towards the beach to finish our first lap the group slowed way way down so I moved out to the right and went to the front pulling us home and then had open water pretty much the rest of the swim. I felt absolutely fantastic coming out of the water and seeing that time on the clock. 56 and change. Boom!

The first 60km were pretty hard with lots of surging going on as the few riders I was with started catching people in front of us. As we turned into the wind just about half way our group slowed just like in the swim and I was afraid we were starting to lose time to the leaders so I went to the front pulling till the turn around where we got a glimpse of what was going on in the front. At the half way the guys started working well as we pushed on a bit. It was an honest pack with a marshal riding next to us the entire way, everyone was playing by the rules. I tried staying off the back to keep the effort steady but knowing that I am not super fit on the bike at the moment I really tried to ride with in myself and get my calories in.

As we made the turn back towards the beach we picked up the huge tail wind and this is where riding with the group cost us some time because I believe we didn’t take advantage of the wind, I think too many of us were thinking about the upcoming marathon. Would of should of could of, I was happy to come off the bike riding 6 mins faster than last year and was completely collected! I need to thank John Cobb for his amazing saddle and for fitting me just 2 weeks ago as I believe I had my break through run because of the way I am now sitting on the bike. Look for John’s soon to be released video’s on bike fits so you too can get set up like a triathlete should be!!

Coming out of T2 I attacked the run immediately as I didn’t’ know how my knee was going to hold up and over the past few weeks it didn’t hurt while running fast, it was the easy running that bothered it. I opted to wear a watch this time and I was glad as my first mile was 5:40, second 5:50, and then settled into 5:55-6:00 for the next 10km or so. I felt amazing and no doubt the perfect temperature helped with that!! At about 20kms it started to get harder and I could sense my pace was slowing a bit but coming through the half marathon splitting 1:19 a small smile came over my face and the monkey on my back was starting to slip off… I hung tough till mile 15 but had to stop to pee, I had been holding it in for about 2 hours. I was also starting to feel sick. So I stopped and walked the next 2 aid stations taking in drink and collecting myself. That 3rd 10kms was tough, real tough but I moved along. At this point I knew I was in 8th or 9th place but had no idea how far back 6th was (the last paying place)…I put my head down and went as hard as I could the last 8kms. The lack of running I had done over the past few weeks started to take a toll as I had the sledge hammer hitting my quads feeling that is all too familiar in a marathon. But I didn’t care because I knew I was flirting with a sub 8:30 time. Coming towards the finish I had sense of relief that came over me, I finally shook the monkey off and I could physically feel it! I was running on air that last mile. As I came down the finishing shoot I was so happy to see my parents smiling faces for the first time all day and was glad I didn’t make that phone call a few days earlier!

I was relieved to have escaped with no knee pain and it was the best I have felt post race. After changing my clothes we headed straight to the pub where my old man and I shared a beer and I ate a fantastic burger!

I am now mid drive home to New Jersey as I was able to bum a ride with some of the folks from my local club, The Sandyhookers. With a healthy body and a mind full of motivation I am now mapping out the next few months but I am faced with the reality that many Professional Triathletes face,… how far will my money take me?? It’s unfortunate that despite having the best race of my life, finishing 8th place, and going under 8:30 I walked away with $0 in prize money. Maybe I will write a blog about this topic as it is a complete embarrassment for our sport. But what do you do? Do you walk away and say poor me?? What if the 3rd place finisher Justin Daar had of walked a few years ago when he was making a steady rise up the ranks?? He never would have found out that he had an 8:18 Ironman in him…

Its been an expensive fall for me with too much traveling and not enough winning and I have some medical bills that must be paid from my operation, so I am going to pass on going to Ironman Cozumel as even though I had a great day on Saturday Brett and I don’t think I am fit enough to back this race up with another one in 3 weeks. Instead we think it would be better to use that money and go to camp with some of the others that are headed to the Gran Canaria Islands. I wonder if the lad that makes it to the quarter finals at Wimbledon has to worry about being able to afford the trip to his next training camp or tournament???

But, having said that I have to thank each athlete that I coach because without them I would not have been able to continue to train full time this year and I want you to know that you were all on my mind in those middle miles of the marathon. Thank you for your business and it’s an honor to coach each of you. And big congrats to you Eric Chet for just missing sub 10hours but running a 30minute P.B. for the marathon, yep there was no walking from him on Saturday. Eric is signed on for another year as we try and get him that coveted Kona slot. It was great sharing some beers with you as we cheered on the final finishers.

As always thank you reading!
SD

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