ROUND 2: World Champs 70.3

Friday was all about relaxing, walking around, and just trying to lay low. We got to meet Madonna Bouder which meant all good fortune for me. At every major event she’s been at that I’ve competed in, an encounter with her has meant good results.
It was beautiful out. Sunny, warm and the wind was still whipping but warmer. I did a run and bike with Wade as the Wilson’s arrived late Thursday. We caught up and made plans for race day. We checked in our bikes and made our way to Rita’s for our pre-race fix. We did a good amount of walking, but it was worth it because of the weather.
By the time we got back we heard about the swim change. Due to the rough winds on the Gulf of Mexico, they moved it to the bay side which meant for a change in plans not only for the athletes, but the race crew. They did a great job changing things and no one really seemed to mind. But the run from the swim exit to the bikes now was a bit longer.
Not much to worry about for me and it would actually be easier since we were to enter the water now one at a time. No gang bangin with everyone in all at once. We reheated our leftovers and were in bed before 10pm.
I was ready, I was prepared.

Surprisingly we both slept good. No tossing/turning. Just good sleep for both of us. We got up at 4:30 as we were to meet the Wilson’s at 5:15. It was great weather. In the upper 50′s, no wind at all, and was to get up into the 80′s. That didn’t stop me from lathering up in Aquaphor for both insulation properties and reducing any chafing from the wetsuit.
As we walked to the transition areas the place started to take on that race atmosphere beginning with the customary “branding” of our race numbers on us. I was all collective and confident. My legs were a bit achy from the past few days but nothing major. As we set our gear up Gina and Deb prepared their plans for how they would manage keeping track of our progress.
Soon the sun was on the horizon and they were calling us into our Wave Corrals. Think a major running event where you set up based on your pace – HOWEVER we lined up based on our preassigned age group waves. Wade was in #4 and myself in #9. As I waited in line inching towards the dock, I assessed myself inwards. I gathered everything collectively and channeled my strength. I took 3 deep breaths and soon made my way into position. Each went single file and once you stepped onto the timing mat, you were on the clock. I stepped on the mat and jumped in.

At first it was real cold but after a few strokes the water was fine. Since we entered one at a time the only thing that got in my way was a few strands of seaweed. I also got to drink a few sips of the bay during the swim. Very salty. The only hinderance was the sun rising ahead. It actually threw me off one bouy but they had guys on surfboards making sure you stayed course.
Stroke, stroke, smooth, kick hard around the bouys. Everything about the swim was right on – get into a groove, settle in and get out unscathed. The only tactical thing would be exiting the water by the dock. As I passed a few people in the prior 2 waves (you could tell by the swim cap colors), they had athletes funneling into a ladder area and exiting 2 at a time. A little jostling occurred here but nothing major. I was out and ready to hit the roads.
The jog from the swim exit to the bikes was a bit extended due to the swim change. Once you got the wetsuit off (they had “strippers” but all were occupied so I just dropped down and did it myself thanks to extra lube I had on). It was very warm now so it made for an easy quick change and off onto the bike. I straddled the Black Widow and off we went.

I activated my Polar and got into a good gear to crank. With my new Flash Point race wheels (thanks Ilan) evrything was humming nicely. It was only a matter of time though before the illegal pelatons were to form. It is illegal to draft on the bike, but as customary in this race’s history, the flat course enables packs to form and groups of 10-20 is not unusual to see. The dangerous thing is due to the amount of space blocked off to ride on the roads, when they come by, it’s usually single file and easy to get tangled in.
There are usually a few crashes due to this and I saw a few people on the side of the road already down for the count being attended by medics. The police in the areas counties do a great job controlling traffic. My plan was to follow these packs as they went by, but ease off the last rider into the required 3 bike length zone to avoid a penalty. Then I would manage that pace until the next group came along. It was working great. I was pacing well, and my heart rate kept me honest. Lovely.
The ride was going swiftly, but I was way hydrated enough to work my “release” of excess water. By the halfway point, I tossed one bottle and kept the one with my Monster in it. I grabbed a Powergel at an aid station and hoped it was an espresso based flavor. Turns out it was a Raspberry Cream which tasted just splendid! I paced every 5 miles and kept on target. My goal was to finish in 2:30 and I was way ahead of that. I didn’t consume much since I was still releasing water and started to increase my pace as I got past the 40 mile mark.
As I passed the city of Largo, the packs got a little tighter and made for just a crank fest. All eyes on the road now and I made enough room for myself to get distance from such groups. I knew the finish was ahead and my body felt fine so I started to really push it once I hit the 50 mile mark and knew I was hitting my time goals. In a flash, it was back into the transition area and time to change for the run. It was another good jog from the bike to the tent, then back out on the road. Great volunteer support! They made everything smooth and easy for you. Awesome and a big Thank You!!!

Now it is time to rock. I felt great and started my run right in pac-man mode. Behind my SwissEye shades, my intensity was well disguised and established my focus. I saw Gina and gave her a thumbs up. I asked about Wade and she said he was out on the course and ok. He had about a 20 minute head start based on his wave so it was a point to try and catch up to him. My first mile was 6:30. My heartrate was in range and my goal was to get in mode by 3 miles. As I made my way up the bridge (which was the only “hilly” section) I heard “Go Mark Carbone!” It was Nick Frank. He raced Pro and was walking. I asked how he was. “Ok” as he waved me on. I pointed at him and said, “Just finish!”
Once over the bridge I dipped into an open Port-O-John and made my final “release”. That small stop made all the difference. Though I had to balance since it was uneven and rocking, it enabled me to flush everything and as I jumped back out, it was game-on! I quickly made it into 6:10 pace mode and though I could feel the heat coming on, it was very manageable. I passed Wade at mile 4 and he was all smiles. We gave each other a tap and onward I went. All business now. Nothing could tamper me. I knew with a solid run I would smash my PR, it was just a matter of how much. As I made my way to the turnaround for the second loop, I was on all cylinders and just sped up. Sipping a drink at each aid station, it was just a matter of counting down the miles now.
At mile 11 I let it rip. I had a few sub-6 mile splits and I just thought of how 3 years ago at this point I had a ring in my hand and was a nervous man. Now I was a fired up runner with the woman I love waiting at the finish. Faster I pushed. The crowds came to life, a sprint to the finish. Done!!!!!!!!!!!

The short finish area made you stop real quick as volunteers assessed you and cared for you. I walked out of the area not needing medical, but my hug from G. She ran up to me and told me I smashed by record and goal time! We hugged and kissed – she nevers minds how smelly I am or now covered and caked in patches of salt all over me. This is what it’s all about for me now. Not only cause even after a hectic 2 weeks, but we both got to this finish line together and now could really celebrate. That’s the best recovery aid I could think of after a race.
I was feeling a bit nasueated as everything caught up to me and had to walk around a bit to “calm down”. We eventually made our way to Deb and waited for Wade. He too would cross the line in a PR!!! We all were in celebrate mode as we gathered and shared stories. He actually got a bike penalty by getting caught in a group but he still did a PR! Nothing could dampen his spirits this day. And it was only 12:30.
The only thing I could handle was a Lo-Ball Monster. Ahhhhh, tasted so well as I nursed that back to a better feel. We sat down for a bit to rest, then walked to get all our gear and walk some more back to the hotel. The atmosphere was a party. Music blared, the announcer read off each finisher’s name and it was all hugs, photos, and smiles. The sun was out, hot, and the weather was what we all expected. This would be a long day extended until we ran out of energy.

The atmosphere was electric as we walked back to the hotel once Wade and I got all our gear and bikes together. Wade and I retold our stories and both of us were very happy. The announcer was calling off the names of each finisher in amplified sound and the cheers were all around. Everyone was in party mode – family, friends, volunteers, and those just hanging out. With athletes from around the world here, you heard German, Spanish, Aussie, South American, you name it.
We all walked back to the hotel with the sole purpose of jumping in the pool. My head was burned since I wore a visor and it was painful to the touch. But the pool soothed and cooled everything down and refreshed us all after a long day. I did lather the BioFreeze after showering and considered putting some on my head. From here, Deb and Wade went to their room to relax while G and I showered, stretched and tried to catch 4:30 Mass. We walked a good bit to the church but it was so nice out, I didn’t mind one bit. We had a lot to thank for the blessings this day – and everyday.

G checked the results before we met the Wilson’s for dinner and sure enough – the breakdown was:
30:33 for the 1.2 mile swim
2:24 for the 56 mile bike
1:19 for the 13.1 mile run – totaling with transition times into 4:21, good for the top 300 overall out of some 1500. Wade Pr’d in under 5 hours even with that 4 minute penalty. And yes, it was good to see that Nick did indeed finish.

Was no problem falling to sleep before 10pm. We woke today to another beautiful day. I did ride the bike for a bit but only to loosen up and stretch. Then it was breakfast, pool dip/lounge, beach dip/lounge, back to pool/dip lounge and writting this journal. The events down here also enabled me to open a few doors with connections and will lead to opportunities down the road, so we are both looking forward to such options.
Tonight, it’s just G and I again over a nice dinner as we continue to talk and enjoy our stay here. We have discussed quite a bit and with great progress as we prepare now to head back to Charlotte. It has been a great trip and one certainly in the memory books. Clearwater Beach will remain for us a place worth revisiting.
Our time.

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