The 10th annual Suncoast Triathlon took place on October 22nd at Ft. DeSoto Park in Tampa Bay. It was a sprint triathlon with a .33 mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.
This triathlon was put on by Florida Race Place Magazine who also is responsible for Escape from Ft. DeSoto and Top Gun triathlons at the same location. Additionally, they put on road races and other triathlons around the state.
I have raced all three triathlons put on by FRP at Ft. DeSoto in the past (last year’s Suncoast recap here), and I feel very comfortable at any of them. They are great for both first time triathletes and seasoned veterans, and while each event is very similar, they each are marked by something distinctly different – the weather.
For Suncoast, the late October date always makes things iffy. It could be a balmy, muggy day or a windy, chilly morning. This year it was on the verge of a blizzard. Temperatures were in the 50’s before sunrise with a high in the low 70’s. The water was around 71 degrees making this a wetsuit legal race.
Packet pickup takes place at Bill Jackson’s in Pinellas Park on Thursday and Friday afternoon prior to the race. While I think Bill Jackson’s is a very cool adventure store, getting there after work during rush hour traffic isn’t very fun. For the first time for this triathlon series, I opted to pick up my packet on the morning of the race. This meant I had a 4 am wakeup call.
I was one of the first people to arrive at Ft. DeSoto so the line for packet pickup was non-existent, I could zip in and out of the bathroom instead of using a port-o-potty, and I could get first dibs on the bike rack.
After picking up my packet, I headed back to my car to get organized and grab my gear. After getting body marked, I headed into transition which was nicely lit, contained many friendly volunteers, and numerous port-o-potties. I found my rack and was the second bike there. After looking around to see the coveted spot all the other early birds took, I opted for the very first spot closest to the “aisle.” After quickly racking my bike with my helmet on the handle bars, I laid down down a towel with my socks, cycling shoes, running shoes, sunglasses, race belt, and hat. I did a quick mental check of what gear I put on during transition, and I was out of there.
Phew, I totally escaped the crowds, and I could even hit up the real bathroom again without waiting in line.
Back to the car I went to stay warm, jam out, and read the paper. I had nearly 1.5 hours to kill. The wait is by far the worst part of triathlons. Luckily I was in one of the first waves, or I could have easily had an extra hour of sitting around.
With T-minus 30 minutes until the start of the race, I headed back to the bathroom (which had now formed into a gigantic line) and walked the short distance along the beach to the start.
It was a beautiful morning, and I was ready for whatever was to come. Well, maybe.
When racing in the summer months, I play the waiting game in my race outfit (TYR tri shorts and a Nike dri-fit top), but when it’s cold out, I stay fully clothed (long pants, fleece, and ski hat) until the start. I take off my clothes minutes before my wave is set to go, and I fetch them after the race! I ran into a few friends who asked if my wetsuit was on under my clothes. I opted not to wear a wetsuit though. I’m a strong enough swimmer where I would lose more time trying to get the damn thing off than I would gain on the swim.
During the national anthem, I stood in the water which was warmer than the air, with my hands around my body, shivering. I’m a wuss.
When the pink caps were called to toe the line, I stepped up to the front ready to roll. The announcer said 2 minutes until our start, so I pulled down my goggles.
SNAP! The strap on my Swedish goggles popped. Shit.
The blue goggles below are assembled with the string and nose bumper-thingy that come with the goggles; however, the metallic goggles are shown with an elastic nose strap that is cut from one of the longer straps when assembled. I put mine together like the metallic pair because I like to be able to adjust the strap based on what I’m doing – training v. racing. However, the elastic nose strap has a short life and can snap easily. Today was one of those days.
Luckily, I was prepared. I asked a volunteer to borrow scissors when I was headed to the start and I took a little extra strap and cut a new nose piece to stuff in my bra (classy!). What can I say? I’ve been in these types of situations a time or two in my life.
So when my goggles snapped with less than 2 minutes till my start, I quickly reassembled the nose piece. The only problem was that THAT nose strap snapped again. I seriously was thinking, “Holy shit. I’m not going to make this start. I can’t swim without goggles.” Luckily, I was able to bite the strap with my raptor like teeth at a decent enough angle to thread it back in, and with 20 seconds to go, I was ready for the race.
Awesome. Things aren’t starting off so well.
3-2-1… go… and off I went running into the gulf. I had an awesome start. No one was in front of me and only a few pesky people touching my toes. I made it out to the buoy first and started settling in for the short swim. I felt something “floating” by after I passed the buoy, but I thought nothing of it… until .33 miles later I was running out of the ocean and the volunteer said, “You lost your timing chip.”
Awesome. Strike two.
Despite these two hiccups, I still had a decent swim. The water was pretty rough out to the first buoy and to the last buoy, but when I turned to head for the shore, I caught a nice little wave into T1.
Time: 10:26 (caught by the volunteer)
Rank: 1/25 age group
I was a little miffed that I lost my timing chip. I was racing Suncoast sans watch for the first time ever to avoid the whole “uh. Why am I not going faster?” pressure I often put on myself. I was looking forward to checking out some splits after the race though. Oh well. The race goes on…
The run to transition was cold. My feet were numb from the swim and the run in on the pavement was really painful. I sucked it up though and made it to my bike. I stumbled to get my socks on (should have brought a different pair) and couldn’t get my damn bike off the rack. So much for scoring the good spot. When trying to pull it off the rack, the pedals got stuck in the cross bar of the rack. Live and learn – I’ll wear my favorite orange socks next time and I’ll rack my bike in a “middle seat” close to the aisle. (The only time I can comfortably stand a middle seat.)
I finally got ‘ole Tino out and ran out of transition. I had a little trouble clipping into my bike, but I think part of that was my nerves/cold feet just not cooperating.
Time: Who knows I lost my chip on my swim
Rank: At this point I saw one girl in my AG pass me.
Once I was clipped in, thoughts ranged from, “damn my feet are cold” to “holy shit, I’m smoking (23mph)” to “these socks are really annoying.”
Too bad the “holy shit, I’m smoking” didn’t last the whole bike, but I did feel much stronger than past races. That makes sense though… I have been spending more time in the saddle.
For once in my life, I passed people on the bike. Of course, plenty of people passed me, but I felt strong! And that was the whole point of this race for me. I didn’t care about my time (at least not while I was racing), but I wanted to feel good! And that I did. (Don’t be jealous of the awesome look they captured.)
Time: Who knows, did I tell you I lost my timing chip? Probably about as many times as I told the volunteers as I entered and exited each transition.
Rank: Not sure, but I spotted a few youngins whiz by me
I thought I was going to face plant unclipping from my pedals, but I some how managed to keep it together. Thank god. I don’t think I could take another strike. One more and this game would be over.
Off the bike and into transition I ran, where I quickly racked my bike, took off my helmet, changed into my running shoes and was off with my hat and race belt.
Time: Did you hear?
Rank: Not sure.
Right out of the run I was feeling pretty good. I passed a girl who smoked me on the bike – too bad she wasn’t in my age group – and I settled into things. By this time it was warming up as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Ed was right when I was crying about the race day temps. This was perfect racing weather.
I put one foot in front of the other and tried to pick targets to go after. I’ve never actually felt this good during the run part of a triathlon. I normally die on the run. I was encouraging others to keep going strong, when normally it is the other way around. Mission accomplished and I hadn’t even crossed the finish line.
Despite feeling good, I was still ready for this party to be over. I was hoping I missed the 2 mile marker and would be pleasantly surprised when I hit 3, but I wasn’t so lucky. That last mile I was just looking for the finish and ready to get this over with.
Before I knew it, I was on the straight away to the finish line, and I once again was telling anyone who would listen, “I lost my timing chip.”
Time: Not sure, did you get the news? I lost my timing chip.
Rank: Who knows, but some road warriors definitely ate me for dinner on this leg.
After tracking down the timing people and making sure they got my final time, I was off to find the free massage tables. I’m such a whore for free massages. My calves were both really tight which they worked on nicely, and I always throw in the upper shoulder/back area as a concern just for a little extra something-something.
I grabbed my clothes from the start, chatted with a nice lady on the walk back, and checked out the final stats.
Official Time: 1:15:46
Rank: 8/25 age group
All and all, I had fun, felt awesome, and enjoyed a beautiful Saturday morning at Ft. DeSoto park. I can’t wait for next year’s races. Sprint triathlons are the perfect “non-comitial, training doesn’t have to dominate your life” distance.
For now… Tri season is officially over which means I need to get myself back in the pool like yesterday and pick up my running game which I’m not taking too seriously. That’s all fine and dandy though. I ultimately want to have fun and feel great with whatever I strive to do.
Oh, I also started CrossFit for some weight training, which is kicking my ass x10. It’s time I wrap this up because my arms are actually sore from typing this novel. Thank you Cross Fit. I also have to hold onto the sink when I sit to pee, and I have to fall into my car seat because my legs don’t want to hold me up.
My friends tell me it’s gets easier. I sure hope so.
Coming soon – Adventures of a first time CrossFitter.