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Race Result

Racer: Aaron Schwartzbard
Race: Great Floridian Iron-Distance
Date: Saturday, October 25, 2003
Location: Clermont, FL
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 12:40:34
Overall Place: 112 / 584
Age Group Place: 8 / 34
Comment: 1:08:43 / 4:18 / 7:30:37 / 4:51 / 3:52:06 - Saddle came loose on the bike

Race Report:

| Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2003
| From: David
| To: Aaron
| Subject: GFT next Saturday?
| ---------------------------
| Are you up for it? I'm doing it!
| David

I'm a sucker. People know I'm a sucker. People expect me to continue being a sucker. So when someone has a bad idea, he'll say, "Maybe I should see if aaron wants to come along... He's a sucker."

The Great Floridian Ironman-Distance Triathlon (GFT) was 10 days away. The previous weekend, dave, mike and I had all raced long. Sometime in the couple days after their races, dave and mike decided to head down to Florida the following week to do GFT, and they wanted to know if I'd like to come along. I checked the calendar, and I had nothing else going on that weekend. I sent an e-mail to jim to ask if he had a bike case I could borrow. He did. I mentioned the potential plans to a coworker, who, in turn, let it slip to my boss. When I arrived at work the next morning, the first thing I heard was that I could take the time off to travel to the race. Whoop, there it is. I'm in.

Fast forward a week to the following Friday. Dave and I are sitting in the back of the plane, watching the last people board, and joking about mike trying to get through security, yelling at a guard who is half his size, "But don't you know who I am?!?!?" We could almost see him running down the tarmac, chasing the plane, calling "WAIT FOR ME!" Fortunately, the big man made his grand entrance moments before the flight attendants closed the door.

A thousand miles of distance and fifty degrees of temperature later, we were in Florida. We had shipped our bikes to the hotel, so none of us had to deal with lugging unwieldy bike cases through the airport. The rest of the day involved handling all the normal race-week logistics --- checking in for the race, assembling bikes, packing transition bags, and on and on.

I can't say that any of us jumped out of bed race morning. Well, I suppose I COULD say it, but I'd be lying. No, we all just sort of stayed where we were, mumbling incomprehensible curses into our pillows. At that moment, we three were of one mind: this was a really bad idea. But like lycra-clad soldiers marching to the battle field, we moved forward to meet our destinies.

My plan was to move moderately through the swim and the first hour or so of the bike, then to reevaluate how I felt. If I felt good, I'd start to push. If I felt lousy, it'd just be a long training day. The swim was fine. I seemed to have a bit of trouble remember where I was on the course, so I occasionally became disoriented, and found myself taking the LONG route around some of the turn-buoys. In the end, I finished the swim right in the middle of my four minute swim window (every IM swim I've done has been between 1:06 and 1:10).

I could have pushed T1 more than I did, but my goal wasn't to set a PR. My goal was to have a solid day. I took my time wiping off my feet before heading out. Running out of the transition area, I got stuck behind some slower runners. Whenever there's running involved --- even if it's just through T1 --- I try to use it to my advantage. I wanted to squeeze past them, but I decided that as soon as we got on our bikes, they'd just move right by me. Everyone moves right by me on the bike. The bike is something I just tolerate because that's what gets me to the run. So I didn't pass by my transition mates. Sure enough, as soon as we started to ride, it didn't take long before they were out of sight.

Now, I should say a word about my bike setup here. I was riding my road bike with clip-on aerobars. I'm not a huge fan of this setup, but with the bikes I had at my disposal, it was the right setup for the course. I don't normally have aerobars on my road bike, but when I put them on, I jam my seat far forward, and point it down slightly. Well, it seems that my saddle isn't much of a fan of this setup either. Nope, not at all. And just to prove it, it decided to change the position.

Traveling along a particularly bumpy section of road, I started to feel my seat slip --- not the seat post, but the seat itself. By half a mile later, I was rocking back and forth in the saddle. I had to balance myself on the seat over the center of the seat post to prevent it from pointing straight up or down. Unfortunately, if I tried to do anything but the softest of pedaling, I would shift my position in the saddle, and risk getting thrown off. I could coast down hills, I could pedal out of the saddle up the hills (making sure to grab the seat with my hand to position it before sitting back down), and I could soft-pedal on the flats. Further, I worried about losing the bolt and clamp that prevented the saddle from falling off completely. Every other mile, I had to stop by the side of the road to finger-tighten the seat bolt.

For 30 miles, I watched my average speed drop precipitously, and since I had to spend so much time on the side of the road, I watched the difference between my ride time and the race time grow. At every aid station, I asked if anyone had a six millimeter allen wrench. Mostly, I received blank stares. Occasionally, someone asked, "Well, don't you carry your own tools?" I did, but my allen wrenches only went up to five millimeters. Finally, while starting the second of two loops, I found an aid station that had some tools. We tightened my seat, and I was able to ride again. By that point, according to my bike computer, I had lost 25 minutes of time while being at a dead stop. I'm not sure how much more time I lost over the 30 miles due to being unable to put any significant power to the pedals, but I'm sure it was significant.

I suppose that I could have pushed harder on the second loop to try to make up for lost time, but I was out of race-mode. I had come to this race with the intention of improvising my strategy. If I felt like I could race, I'd race. If it didn't seem to be in the cards, I'd just enjoy the day. Having lost so much time already, having no significant goals and nothing to prove on this day, realizing that a really hard effort would win me only five minutes --- or maybe ten, at best --- minutes over the second loop, I was happy to have all pressure removed.

The second half of the bike ride was not nearly so eventful as the first. Not only was I a bit behind the thickest part of the crowds, but I was behind all of the half ironman racers who were sharing the course for one loop.

The last few miles of the bike course are along the same roads as the first few mile of the run course. The 45 MPH downhill (and this, from someone who isn't a particularly fast descender) was lined with the blurry faces of fellow athletes making their way up the hill, and wondering, no doubt, if there was any other way to get to the third mile marker.

My T2 was leisurely. I sat down to clean my feet of the dirt that had been on my toes since T1. I put my bike gear in my transition bag, and tied the top in a knot, as had been recommended by the volunteers in the changing tent. Finally, it was time to run.

I seem to be able to get comfortable while running in a way that most other people cannot. It seems that some people dread getting off the bike to start the marathon; I look forward to it. It's not just because running is my relative strength, it's because I just find it... Well... Comfortable. And today, with no pressure, I could just stay in my comfort zone through the rest of the day.

I "power hiked" up the big hill --- the same hill that I had descended at 45 MPH a short while earlier. A couple miles later, I stopped to say hello to someone whom I recognized from another race. My intention was just to have a brief, cordial handshake, then be on my way. However, he started to talk at me, and it took a quarter mile of walking with him before I found a gap in the conversation sufficient for politely taking my leave. After six miles, I reached the lake. Three loops around the lake, and I'd be done.

I got my groove on, just chugging along. I'd drink bit of Gatorade and a bit of water at each aid station, and I'd dump some water on my head to keep me cool. I saw woody out on the course. He had done most of the half ironman earlier in the day as a tune-up for Ironman Florida two weeks later. We chatted for a while, which made the day a bit more enjoyable. At the end of the first lap around the lake, I saw mike, towering in the distance. I caught up to him, and as I approached, I sang out, "The HIIIILLLLLLLS are alive, with the SOUND of GUUUUUU-ZEK!" He was finishing his second loop of the lake. I was finishing my first loop. He told me that dave was just ahead, finishing his third loop, and heading for a top-10 finish (sixth overall).

I walked and ran with mike for a minute or two before continuing on ahead. I walked through a couple aid station to make sure I was drinking enough, and before long, lap number two was done. Lap number three was similarly steady. The only difference was that during the third lap, the sun set, and the glow sticks arrived. As I finished the third lap, I saw steve on the side of the course. He cheered and offered his hand for a high-five as I passed. I moved to the side of the course, and totally missed his hand. I suppose it was a wise decision for me not to get involved in a sport that required skilled, lateral motion.

My finish time was pretty well in line with what I had been calculating since fixing my bike seat earlier in the day. It's always somewhat frustrating to be limited because of mechanical difficulties. But I suppose that if it had to happen, I'm glad that it happened in a race that wasn't a top priority race for me. Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder to me in the future to be absolutely certain that my gear is in top shape on race day.

After the race, we didn't stick around terribly long. I had to get a little bit of food to eat, and I got a massage. But mike and dave had been waiting at the finish line for a while. We grabbed our gear, and went back to the hotel. I had a flight the next morning, so while dave and mike went to bed, I had to disassemble my bike, and pack my bags. After everything was all set for the next day, it was time for a trip to Waffle House. Imagine my joy when we arrived at our hotel to find that we were only a few buildings away from a Waffle House! What is better than the late-night, half-awake journey to Waffle House? By the time I had showered and got to bed, I realized that the last finishers would just be finishing their race. So I send out all the good vibes I could muster.

Early the next morning, dave woke up, ready for a trip to Waffle House. I, of course, was game. Mike, though at first declining due to feeling like he was "going to boot," decided to join us. We agreed that it had been a successful adventure. But alas, it had come to an end for me, as I had to catch a taxi to the airport.

So long Florida, I hardly even knew ya'.