The inaugural Revolution 3 Florida race was held this past weekend in Venice, Florida. The race, a 70.3 distance (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) event, was the capstone to Rev3’s series – and as such had a pretty large crowd of professional triathletes. Venice is on the southwestern side of Florida, about an hour south of Tampa. Typically, this quaint little town has beautiful weather, and the Gulf of Mexico is typically as calm as a lake.
That was not the case this weekend.
Hurricane Sandy blew up last week, and passed close to Florida on Friday evening, bringing not too much in terms of rain, but a significant amount of wind. And when I say wind, I mean W I N D. Saturday brought sustained 30-35mph winds with higher gusts. On Sunday (race day) the winds dropped to a “gentle” 25mph sustained breeze, with gusts approaching 40mph. These winds had a huge impact on the Gulf, turning the “lake” into an angry, swirling mess.
I made the drive to Venice from Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon, arriving around 4pm. I got checked in to the race, wandered over to take a look at the Gulf, and ran into a few of my Team Rev3 teammates. We met up at Sharky’s by the Pier for dinner and fun. It was really outstanding to get to finally meet a few folks that I had only previously met online! After dinner, I headed over to the hotel and watched a little football while wearing my NormaTec boots.
As luck would have it, I awoke on Sunday to an email from Rev3 that the swim had been canceled. This didn’t really bother me too much – given how bad the Gulf looked on Saturday. The benefit of the swim being canceled? Transition was open a little later and I didn’t have bust a move to get out there at the crack of down. So…..I took my time getting ready, went down and enjoyed a custom-Fairfield Inn breakfast (waffle and peanut butter on a bagel), and headed over to transition around 7am.
I rolled into transition and easily found my spot (thanks to the amazingly cool Rev3 name tags at each rack). I was racked near other old dudes in my 40-44 age group. Without the swim, the start for the race would be a time trial start, with us lined up outside of transition and then running in “as if” we’d just come in from the swim. We were not allowed to run in with our helmet on or bike shoes or anything like that – so I set up my transition just like I normally would.
After I set up, I wandered out of transition and watched the pro men and pro women take off. Here’s a general observation – it appears that one of the pre-requisites to being a pro triathlete is that you must be tall! I think most of the guys were easily six feet. Even most of the women looked 5’6″ or better. There were NO short pros there. And they were all rail-thin. Once they pros started, I headed back over towards transition and found several of my Team Rev3 teammates. We hung together right at the opening to transition and watched the men and women come in from their run and head out to the bike. Following that, we all got in line (numerical order….just like grade school) and waited for our chance to start.
Once we were allowed to start, we had to run into T1 “as if” we were entering following the swim. I had no issues running in and finding my spot. I did struggle a bit with my aero helmet (somehow it seemed to tighten itself — or it could be that one of my kids had played with it and screwed it down so it would fit their head). After trying to squeeze that thing on my melon, I got my shoes on and ran out to the mount line. I contemplated trying a flying mount – but it would have been the first time doing it in a race, and I just wasn’t comfortable with that yet. Time in T1: 1:17.
The bike course was a big loop – starting out heading south along the Gulf for 25 miles. At 25 miles, we made a left turn and started heading back north and then west. The road surface was generally pretty good. Most was on 4-lane highways with a bike lane. The roads were open, but police and volunteers were at every intersection. I didn’t have any problem with cars at all. In fact, some folks in cars were cheering us on.
My plan heading in to the race was to do the ride in just about 3 hours…most of my solo training rides have been in the 18-19 mph range. I knew going in that the first 25 would be fast with a tail wind, but that the way back up would be brutal. And guess what? Mother Nature didn’t let us down. I went out pretty strong. My average speed over the first split was almost 22 mph – quite fast for me. That said, I could have gone faster. I purposefully didn’t push a huge gear and just spun easily. I didn’t want to burn my matches. I think I was about the only dude who took that approach. Guys (and gals) were out like they had rocket packs on. More than one dude passed me like I was in reverse.
Once I made the turn at 25, it was almost as if I ran into a solid wall of wind. The winds were sustained 25mph with gusts up to 40mph. I honestly think this was the most harsh wind I’ve ever ridden in….and since I live in Florida, I ride in wind a lot! I was blown all over the road a couple of times, and I don’t ride with deep dish rims (my aero wheels are about 50mm).
I did see quite a bit of drafting going on – especially as we fought through the wind. It was so difficult not to get caught up in it. That said, I didn’t see an official until almost mile 40 – and once I did see him, I probably saw him 10 times. I didn’t see anyone get carded though.
All in all, I was pretty pleased with my bike. My overall bike time was 3:07:23 (17.9 mph average). I took 19 minutes off my bike split at Rev3 SC, and still felt OK as I came into T2. I did a flying dismount and ran into transition thankful that the ride was over.
I’ve really practiced my transition this year, and have been quite pleased with my results in general. Whereas I used to put on my shoes, visor, race belt, etc. while in transition – now the only thing I do before I start moving is put on my shoes. I take care of the rest while I’m running. Same approach this time, but the key difference is I was running sockless and needed to spray my feet with TriSlide – and guess what – I forgot to set it out at my spot. So I had to run over to my transition bag, dig it out, spray my feet and then get into my shoes. Wasted precious time doing that. Time in T2: 1:50.
The run at Rev3 Florida is a 2-lap run that is actually quite nice. The first two miles lead you out of transition and pass the finisher’s area, then down a road that is literally right along the Gulf. That part of the run was the windiest, too, as there was really nothing blocking the winds coming in from the Gulf. The run then leads out onto a causeway for an out-and-back on a concrete sidewalk type path. The view was fairly nice – waterway on one side and an airport on the other. The run was pancake flat (as you’d expect) and all of it, save maybe 1/10th of a mile, was paved or concrete. There were aid stations at almost every mile – the one exception was on the causeway. There was an aid station right as we turned onto the causeway, and one at the turn-around…something shy of 1.5 miles down the road.
I actually started the fun fairly poorly. My legs were just spent from the bike. I literally had to walk 3x within the first mile just to get my heart-rate down and some feeling in my legs. After that, I went along with my plan of running and then walking the aid stations. The first couple of miles were among the most difficult, but I really started to get my legs by about mile 3. I hooked up with a guy and gal and ran about three miles with them. It was great to have someone to chat with, plus their pace was right on where I wanted to be.
I took a lot of fluids at every aid station. Water. Gatorade. I poured water on my head at every station as well so I could keep cool. At mile 5 and again at 8 I took salt tablets – which were really helpful.
All-in-all, I was not too displeased with my run. I wanted to run about 2:15 – clearly I was off that a bit with a total time of 2:25:28. That being said, my PR for a run segment in a race of this distance is 2:24 – so I was pleased to be right at that mark again. My overall pace was something like 11 minutes per mile, but that takes into account the walks. When I was actually running, I was keeping a 9:30 or so pace.
After I crossed the finish line and gave up my chip, I grabbed my finisher’s medal & shirt, a water, and a Gatorade and wandered around a bit. I made my way over to the NormaTec tent and signed up for a session there. While I waited, I watched the pro awards ceremony. That was cool to see (except for the fact that almost all of them looked like they had gone back to their hotel and showed up & then came back). I then experienced 25 minutes of pure bliss wearing NormaTec boots. After that, I cruised through the post-race food area, decided I couldn’t eat any of it (even though it all sounded really good – jambalya, Mahi-Mahi, etc) , saw some friends and teammates, and then left so I could make the 4 hour drive home.
OK – I’m partial to Rev3 races in general (given the fact that I’m on the AG team), and this race certainly lived up to the Rev3 promise! The venue was beautiful, the volunteers were absolutely amazing, and perhaps surprising, the locals were totally in to the race as well! I saw lots of folks out in their yards watching us go by on the bike. People cheered us on from their car. Sharky’s at the Pier was a great restaurant with an outstanding vibe.
Rev3 certainly couldn’t control the weather – but they did their absolute best to make the best out of the conditions. This race will absolutely be on my race calendar again next year.
I certainly owe a debt of grattitude to my sponsors. First to Revolution 3 for having a great race series and for putting on a top-shelf race in Venice. To PowerBar for outstanding nutrition products that really kept me going (I’ll write later this week about how effective my nutrition strategy worked out to be), to Pearl Izumi for amazing cycling shoes (Tri Fly IV Carbon = my weapon of choice) and run shoes (Iso Transition). Additional thanks go SBR Sports, the maker of TriSlide – an aerosol lubricant that kept me from rashes and blisters and all other sorts of discomfort, and to NormaTec – who makes an active compression pump that really works wonders (and without which I probably could not have made the 4 hour drive home). And while I didn’t use their products during this race, I love and really appreciate Blue Seventy and Swiftwick for their support.