Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Great Floridian Ultra Race Report

What a crackerjack of a race!!!

Like many people, I thought Florida was flat...well it is NOT. Not in Clermont anyways. The wind and the false flats really work on a person. I found this course more difficult than IMC.

The BIG news is that I had a major swimming breakthrough at this race...I was 4th woman out of the water with a 1:05:16!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I didn't learn this until the end of the race whereupon I teared up and became very emotional. I've been working so hard on my swim, and the last two months I've started feeling really good in the water...a light-switch moment so-to-speak. I knew I was swimming faster than before, I could feel things coming together in the water, but to swim that well literally put me in tears.

I spent most of my life leery of the water -- not knowing how to swim. When I was 29, I had my first swimming lesson -- I remember my neighbour's grand-daughters told me to just swim like I thought I should (so they could see where to start). Man!! I remember taking three strokes and then having to stand up in the pool to catch my breath. Over and over again in the shallow end. Three strokes, stand up, lift my ribs out of the water (because the pressure of the water made me struggle to catch my breath). This is why I am still so emotional about this -- hard work...consistent work pays off. I still can't believe it...

The short and sassy version is this: 1st in age group, 4th woman overall -- 12:19:56
Swim: 1:05:16
Bike: 6:30:39 (One tough mother of a bike course!)
Run: 4:38:25

More deets below:

The swim was a 2 loop affair -- you get out, run across the timing mats and then run back into the water. At the start of the race, people started to line up on the beach and in the water. I kept asking people, do we have to go back to the beach? No one knew, so I decided to go out a little bit into the water between the people further out in the water and the people on the beach.

Had a good warm up swim and the usual pre-race teeth-chattering jitters. Then we were off! I ran flicking my knees out to get over the water (finally my NATURAL running form actually serves a beneficial purpose -- LMAO!!!) and then did a dolphin dive and took off.

The usual mass of people -- green cap to the left of me, pink cap to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you -- Hahahahaha!!

Found a girl to draft off -- I take pride in my drafting ability -- this is one area where I actually brag about. Hee-hee!! Seriously, I do!! Hahaha!! And, I am a pretty good sighter too. She started to swim zig-zag, so I would keep swimming straight, but it seemed we were still swimming the same speed. I would angle in and draft off her again and again, until she went somewhere weird after the first turn buoy. Then I found Mr. Wonderful...

I found the feet!!! I did it!! I found this guy who was swimming much faster than me, but that if I worked, I could draft from. When I catch a good draft, it literally feels like I am being towed along in the water, and I feel my heart rate go down. This was very similar except that I had to keep working to stay with this guy...

He would inevitably pull away, and I would surge ahead to catch him again. Then, he would pull away again, and again I would surge. I only touched his feet once. See? I am a good little draftee! Hee-hee!

The second lap was awesome as I got back on his feet again. He was a poor sighter though, but he was WAY faster even screwing up then I was swimming straight. I learned that pretty quick. So, I allowed myself to swim right behind him, screw-ups and all.

At the last turn buoy, he frigging SURGED and I just couldn't catch him. I surged and surged and made my little arms go like a windmill, and I could see him slipping away. And as he angled away, this other guy was in front of me and I didn't want him to catch my drafting train. So, I just kept on hammering away and I was so happy when I caught up to him again. I really pushed myself during this swim!

Coming out into transition is a bit of a cluster -- there are all these kids that volunteer (bless them) but some of them didn't know what they were doing and I'd have preferred it if they just got the heck out of the way. They didn't really know how to wetsuit strip (at least the one I got)-- were giggling and fooling around, but that's par for the course, eh?

Same as when I ran to get my change gear bag, I almost took out this young girl I have no idea why she was running right in front of me or what purpose she was serving.

Another thing is that women seem to be an afterthought in this race told us which side the women's change tent would be on. I opened the men's tent, got an eyeful and a volunteer told me to go around the other side. I still didn't know where to enter the tent...I finally figured it out though.

The road LOOKS flat, but it isn't. I think that it is this plus the relentless head wind that sucks the life out of you. This was the hardest bike course I have ridden so far. And it is a clean race! You are out there ALONE. At various times you may pass someone, or they pass you, but on the whole it is you out there with the sun, the wind, the sweat. Wiping your salty boogers on the back of your hand and pedaling away. AYE CARUMBA.

The police were out in full force and they controlled the intersections -- these guys were AWESOME and did not eff around. They were serious looking dudes. During the 3rd lap, I thanked as many as I could.

I did miss a turn on the first lap (it's amazing knowing my sense of direction I didn't do more - Hahaha!) , but I figured it out in 100m or so, turned around and made the turn. :)

Coming off the bike, someone was yelling to another kid in transition, "Number 10!" She was too busy talking to her friends, so when I reached her she sort of yelled to FOUR other kids, "Number 10!" Then all four boys went running. I went running to the gear racks myself because I have no patience for this -- I'm not mad, but I like to keep moving. As far as I'm concerned GET THOSE KIDS OUT OF TRANSITION and let us athletes get the gear bags. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

My nutrition was good! No GI issues, I had talked and planned things out with my coach and lo and behold it worked! :)

The run was the usual Ironman fare -- wavering between fuzzing out and giddy endorphin rushes where I make best friends with everyone on course. Hahaha! I think it was somewhere on lap two where I started making personalized comments to the other athletes. Man, I talked to some afterward, and they were like, "yeah, you said such and such at the turn around!" I was thinking to myself, "Dude, you have no idea how many people I said stuff too!! Hahahahahaha!! I didn't even recognize some of the people!"

This one man was running with his bike jersey pulled up over his nipples, and when I saw him, I said, "I wish i could run like that." LMAO. he just gave me this really weird look. Personally, I think I was hilarious!! :D :D

There were 3 other women ahead of me: Fast Girl, Friendly Girl, Bikini Girl, and then me. Bikini girl passed me at the end of the bike ride, but started to really fade on the last lap of the run. I ended up 7 minutes behind her.

When the sun set, it was DARK. I felt like Darryl and his night-running antics. A guy handed me a glow stick and I clicked it around my neck. It was sort of hard to see though - there were parts of the trail that were totally dark and the green glow in my peripheral vision as it bounced underneath my chin was weird -- add that to general iron-distance fuzziness, and you can imagine how disorienting it was.

Some of the more prepared athletes had head lamps on. Mind you, I finished relatively soon after the sun had set, but it is a good idea nonetheless!

When I'd approach a police car parked at an intersection, their ole lights would be blazing and it just about blinded me! There was an aid station that had this really bright frigging construction light or something and you couldn't see except by tilting your head down . I was happy I still had my hat to help shade the light. LOL.

The last mile was awesome as I knew I was going to be done!! Hahahahahaha!! I could hear music and they had these 4 strobe lights whirling around pointed up in the sky -- YAHOO! Plus, I was 99.9% sure I was 4th woman overall, so that had me pumped too!

Food at the finish:
More kids volunteering -- they were great, but again, this one girl was standing behind the food tables and stuffing herself with the athlete food. Sigh. I went to get a piece of watermelon and no kidding, it looked like someone had gnawed them to the whitish part and put them back on the tray. I'll let you think about that for awhile. LOL.

The verdict:
TWO THUMBS WAY UP! This course will test you -- there are no cheering crowds (not to the extent at IM events) and you are on your own with the other athletes. There is a special bond between all competitors -- because of the difficulty and the solo nature of the event. This bond grows and solidifies with each lap of the run course. :) Awesome, awesome event -- I like that the distance is called "Ultra" - it has the feel of an ultra race -- low key, very personal journey. The volunteers (and yes I mean those crazy-ass kids as well) are AMAZING. They are great -- on my last lap of the run, I was thanking all of them too..when I wasn't going through one of my negative, fuzzing out phases.

This was my first non-m-dot race and it will not be my last! Despite my whining, I actually enjoy the low-key nature of things and going with the flow.


The residual effects:
When I left T2, I realized I had tied my shoes WAY TOO TIGHT. Oh brother. I thought to myself, "Well, you're in them for 26.2 miles so get over it." LOL! When I took them off at then end of the race, I discovered I had a new toe between my middle toe and "ring" toe. And it was blood red. This blister was the biggest one I've ever had and it was awesome. LOL! It actually was between my toes and went around to the pad of my ring toe. When I popped it with safety pin this morning, it SQUIRTED like an oil well in Texas. LMAO!!

My lower back muscles are crazy sore -- they were soooo sore during the bike too. Talked to a fellow racer today and he said it was because I was pushing the hills. Ahhh! So it was! I've had discomfort before when I am in aero and push hills, but as everyone knows, things hurt A LOT more in an iron-distance race.

The Pee Bag has been laundered as I type this -- sweet action!

Now...onto next year's races.....Muahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

BIG thank you to my Bunler and my parents who support me in every way imaginable. To my amazing coach, Sara Gross who is shaping me into a triathlete. And to my bike Guru, Gord, who takes care of of my bike and taught me how to disassemble and then reassemble my bike. :) (And change flat tires.)


Susi said...

so proud of you my gorgeous rock star!! i am doing a little snoopy happy dance for you and will give you great big hug when i see you in a couple of weeks!! love you! mwah!

Julie said...

Thanks so much Susi! You are the best -- I get warm fuzzies thinking of you at IMC...especially when I sang you my "Lips of a Nutcho" song at the Greek restaurant and you laughed so hard you started crying. Hee-hee!!! :D

Big Daddy Diesel said...

I am soooo happy for you, congrats on taking 4th OA!!! and 1st in your AG!!! Freaking AWESOME

Theia said...


Awesome job! Those solitary races are way harder mentally. No distractions? No one to talk to? Gaaa!

Lisa Graham said...

Well Julie, all I can say is: you FREAKING GO GIRL! So happy that everything worked out so well and that you had such a fabulous day out there! And 4th female overall to boot - you are a frickin rockstar! You should be very proud of yourself, and not to mention that stellar swim! Wow! Glad to hear all that swim work is paying dividends.

Now it's time for a nice break - make sure to rest and celebrate your successes!

Jenna said...

Julie..... Awesome. So glad your persistance paid off. Nice work pulling it all together on race day! and the swim, "thatta girl" that is an accomplishment all of its own. Jenna

runningman said...

Way to go Julie! Awesome race! Glad to see your nutrition issues from IMC were resolved. 4th woman! You ARE a rock star!! Keep it up!

Julie said...

BDD -- Thanks buddy! :)

Theia -- Yeah -- LOL, I made up for the "no talking" part on the run, believe me. Hahahaha!

Lisa -- Thanks, girl! :) Smart of you to point out the rest and recovery bit too. I am doing nothing for the next couple of weeks! :)

Jenna! Long time no hear babe! Thanks you so much -- I was a blubbering mess at the end when I learned my swim time. Hee-hee!

Darryl -- I'm a night runner now too!! LMAO!! :) :)

KK said...

Congratulations, Julie! I've heard wondrful things about this race/course; I am so glad you had a good experience there (minus the abesent-minded volunteers!), especially with nutrition and finishing 4th female overall! Holycrap you kick some major booty! Cheers to you my friend!

Gottrilife said...

Julie very happy for your achievement, especially your swim. Being a swimmer I often find it diificult to relate to those that aren't naturally blessed to love the open water. This was my wife and mine first 140.6. This was our 25th anniversary present to us (nuts). I think you may have sold the bike course short. It was mountains for me being from south Florida, I'm glad I did a training ride there or it would have beat me mentally. Congrats again on your finish.