This is my 4th consecutive year at St. Anthony's, in Saint Petersburg, FL. I say "at" because in 2009 I was diagnosed with a tibial stress fracture the week before leaving for the race. I went anyway and planned to swim, bike, and dropout. That year, 2009, the swim was cancelled for everyone but the Pros, so I did the bike and dropped out. Not terribly satisfying, but better than nothing.
In 2010, I had not started jogging until Jan, after taking about 8 months off doing any running. Still biking, swimming, some water jogging, and strength. Having not really run for almost a year, I went knowing I was not going to really run the run. I swam hard, bike hard, and then jogged the run. I felt pretty good about the whole thing.
Coming into this year, I have been swimming a lot, and fairly hard, and biking a lot, and fairly hard. In fact, April 2011 was the most time I had put in on the bike since I started keeping track of my training in April 2007 (As a side note, my first season was 2006 and was 5 duathlons).
I did not have any real goals going into the race. I try not to for the first race of the year. I just hoped to go hard and get a feeling of where I am at. At this time of the year, what I am most curious about is where I am in terms of stressing my body. How will I react, physically, mentally, and emotionally transitioning from swim to bike and bike to run, and attempting to go at a race pace this early in the year.
The day of the race, the air temperature felt warm, but the wind was coming off the water and made it feel cooler. As I do for every race, I arrived early. As expected, it was a non-wetsuit race, the measured water temperature was 78.5. The unexpected announcement, the swim course was moved. Start and finish moved, and the entire thing was shortened from the standard 1.5km to 1km. The course moved north of the transition to a beach start and finish in an area with less waves. Apparently, a reef provided some protection from the waves. The usual swim course has a beach start, goes along a pier, turns north, comes back and finishes at the sea wall with a metal staircase as the finish. The fear was that the high winds, causing waves, would push swimmers into the seawall and then the waves would just make the swim very difficult. The new location had the swim closer to the shore and a beach start and finish. While waiting to start (I had about an hour and half plus wait for my start) the announcer stressed how they went over many options, including no swim, and this was what they felt was the best option. I agree, I would rather have shortened swim then no swim at all. Another hitch with the new swim location, is that the transition was now about a third of a mile run from the swim finish to the transition area. The run was on the cement bike/run path along the shoreline. The shorter swim, plus the longer run, added a new dynamic to the race.
I took a fairly non-aggressive position for the swim start, a few rows back and on the left side, the turn bouy being on the right. I felt it was a good position to start from to avoid the log jam at the turn. I think I made a good decision. The first turn was close to the start and it jammed up. I made a pretty clean, but wide turn. All-in-all the waves were not that bad, for most of the swim they were going left to right across my body. I have a decent abrasive, and a little painful, mark under my arm, near my armpit. I assume this was from left arm rubbing against my side as the waves pushed me on that side.
The swim went pretty good, the long run to T1 sucked, but it did not suck as bad as I thought. I thought it would be more painful and I would be more winded. Surprisingly, I was not. Once there I got in my bike stuff and took off on the bike.
I started out a little easy and built up. Took some fluids in and got comfortable. The course has a lot of direction changes, which is good when it is a windy day. It means that you are not spending too much time with headwind, as opposed to an out-and-back course where you might get a tailwind for half and a headwind for half. The course is mostly flat, there are no steep uphills, mostly inclines one would call "false flats".
The biggest irritation of the day was the number of people in my AG, clearly drafting. To top it all off, there was a guy on a brand new Trek Speed Concept who drafted off me for at 10-15 minutes coming into T2. I sped up and I slowed down, and he just stayed on my wheel. To top all that off, as he passed me going into the final stretch before T2, he thanked me for pulling him. What an a-hole. The most I could muster at the time was a, "Not cool". Interestingly enough, he got into T2 before me and left after me, and did not pass me on the run. After the turnaround, he was at least a good few minutes behind me. If you are going to cheat (draft), at least pass me on the run. Come on?! What was your cheating good for if you can't pass me on the run?
Anyway, the bike split was my fastest split on this course in my 4 attempts. Almost exactly the same as 2009, when there was no swim and I had fresh legs.
The run is flat, and it was hot and humid and my legs felt pretty tired. I could not turn them over like I so badly wanted to. I am guessing this is due to a lack of brick work and a lack of speed work. All-in-all I was pretty happy with my run, all things considered. The month of May will be speed work and brick work month..
I crossed the finish line pretty exhausted. I was overheating and thought I would vomit. Thankfully, I did not. I could not stomach much food in the tent after the race. About 45 minutes into the ride home I was able to stomach a large portion of pulled pork on garlic toast, with fries, at Sonny's BBQ. Yum.
I was very happy with how did in this race. I am "coaching" myself this year and I am a little nervous how things will go without the structure of someone coaching me. It seems so far so good.
Pro-Triathlete, David Thompson, from Saint Paul, finished in 13th place. His first time finishing out of the top ten in this race. There were 54 Pro men in the field, and more than 20 women. Largest pro field there ever? I think so. To see David's thoughts you can check his blog at: http://thompsontri.blogspot.com/
David puts up a pretty comedic race report through a computer animation called TTN (Thompson Tri News) that should be checked out.
There was a 19 seconds difference between first and third place for the Pro men. I would love to have seen that finish. The winner was Filip Osplay, with Matt Reed second, and last year's winner Cameron Dye in third.
Dan Hedgecock, an Elite Male out of Saint Paul, finished 4th in the Elite race. It was his first time at St. Anthony's. He works at Gear West Bike and Triathlon. Congratulations to Dan.
Here is a history of my times:
2008 St. Anthony's
Swim - 30:58 (1:53/100yds)
T1 - 3:38
Bike - 71:48 (20.8 MPH)
T2 - 3:42
Run - 52:54 (8:31 min/mile)
Total Time - 2:42:57
AG - 121 of 231
Overall - 1258 of 3351
2009 St. Anthony's - Bike Only - 70:43 (21.1 MPH)
2010 St. Anthony'sSwim - 29:36 (1:49/100yds)
T1 - 3:12
Bike - 75:10 (19.8 MPH)
T2 - 2:27
Run - 58:33 (9:22 min/mile)
Total Time - 2:48:56
AG - 156 of 287
Overall - 1264 of 3192
2011 St. Anthony's
Swim (shortened to 1km from 1.5km, no wetsuit) - 17:56 (1:48/100yds)
T1 (includes about 1/3 mile run from swim finish to T1) - 5:49
Bike - 70:44 (21.1MPH)
T2 - 2:45
Run - 55:04 (8:53 min/mile)
Total Time - 2:32:18
AG - 110 of 239
Overall - 980 of 3125