Well still riding high on the emotions of becoming both an ironman and a married man we jetted off on honeymoon to New York and Florida. As a wedding present Em had entered me in the Disney World Olympic Triathlon on the 23rd September. I knew that it was going to be hot so I managed to get 2 runs in in the few days before the race, going out at 7am for 30 minutes before the sun came out, it was still in the mid 80’s !!
We were based at Treasure Island on the west coast in Tampa Bay, so I picked up my hire bike and headed off inland to Orlando. We checked into our Disney hotel and I went off to register and rack my bike. Had a quick look round the race expo and bought some GU gel in expresso coffee flavour ( quite nice stuff actually ). Figured out where the course was and had a good look at the lake and went back to the hotel for a relaxing swim and jacuzzi.
4:45AM RACE DAY – had a phonecall from Mickey Mouse ( seriously ) to wake me up, had some cereal for breakfast, it was cinamon based and would come back to haunt me in the swim. Caught the shuttle bus to the start with a load of serious looking American triathletes, was a little more reasurred when I got to the venue and there were people there of all shapes and sizes. Dawn was breaking and the temperature was already in the 80’s, boy it was going to be hot.
7:43am – my wave runs down the beach and into the water, bloody hell its not cold ! Water temp was 85 degrees. We had just had a warning from the race director that nose clips were mandatory because there had been an outbreak of a rare amoeba that can be fatal to one in ten people if ingested through the nose. 4 People have now died in central florida lakes in the past few weeks because of it. So its not the Alligators you have to worry about its the single celled organisims !!
The swim was tough, wetsuits were banned and although I’ve swam 1500m in a pool without one, its completely different to open water. I really struggled and about 400m into the swim my breakfast came back up ( know how you feel Dave ) and all I could taste for the rest of the swim was bloody cinnamon. I threw up again towards the end of the swim as well. I think 3 waves passed me on the swim and I really felt like it would never end.
Out of the water and running through the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at a Triathlon, there were thousands of people on the lake side and around transition. Saw Em briefly, took my time in Transition to lather on loads of sun screen and dry my feet. I would be biking in my running shoes as the bike had toe clips and not my usual clipless pedals. I was out of the swim and T1 in 49 minutes.
Off out on the bike for the first couple of miles through the crowds before hitting the long straight roads around Disney where there were no spectators. The bike I was riding felt good and was responsive although I couldn’t figure out the bike computer at all. The roads were completely flat and I passed loads of people. The course had been changed for safety reasons so instead of the usual 40km were were doing 56km. I was drinking lots of fluid because it was hot and picked up an extra bottle at the 20 mile feed station. This part of the course had what was described as “undulating hills” I would describe them as low level speedbumps, I didn’t even change gear. It was a good day to be a criminal in Orlando because every junction has two police cars and a motorcycle outrider, there must have been over a hundred police officers on the course and they had closed one lane on the 192 state road ( the busiest in Orlando ) for us.
The last 6 miles of the bike i couldn’t feel my hands or my feet due to wearing running shoes and not bringing any gloves. Got back to transition and stopped to talk to Em and have my photo taken whilst putting on more gallons of sun screen. Grab my cap and off out on the run. Bike and T2 was done in 2 hours.
The run can only be described as hell, now don’t get me wrong it was pancake flat, thousands of specators, and very scenic but I just died. I was running from 11am and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The heat was 93 degrees and I felt it all, By mile two of the 10k I was reduced to walking ( mile bloody two !! ) and from then on I walked through and after every feedstation for a few minutes whilst I drank loads of water and powerade. At one feedstation I filled my cap with ice cubes, within a mile it had completely melted but boy did it feel nice.
I saw the mile 5 mile marker and after finishing my drink was determined to run to the finish, in reality it was a shuffle but I’d made it. I had ran, walked, stumbled my way through the 10k in 78 minutes to finish in 4 hours 15 minutes or so. And the irony was as I approached the line the heavens opened and loads of cooling rain fell !
I found the whole experience brilliant, to compete in a big, supurbly organised triathlon unlike anything I’ve done in this country but at the same time I found it more physically draining than the ironman because of the heat. And I probably was still recovering from my endeavours of the previous weeks. Was worth it for the great medal though.