I enjoyed the race. That said, I wouldn't advise anyone to do it who wasn't staying at the WDW Fort Wilderness Campground. Staying on site made the day much much easier - while staying off-site probably made pre-race set-up and getting to the site on race day a colossal pain. Riding the bike to rack it, and walking to the start the next morning in 5 minutes from our campsite (instead of dealing with endless shuttle buses) was a great way to start the day.
Lessons learned: Yes, it's three different activities. Plus transitions. Hang in there and keep racing until you cross the finish line. Work on those bike cornering skills. Stay cool.
Swim 1500m/1640 yards: 44:01 (2:41/100 yards)
6/10 Athenas over 40
15/21 Women 50-54
I felt pretty calm before the start. Some of the women racked around me in transition were going absolutely insane over the tight conditions. I just set up my stuff quietly and got away from them as soon as I possibly could and found a quiet place to sit before the start - which isn't easy when they have crazy loud announcing going on all morning since well before dawn.
I was happy to be in the first wave and get going first thing. I wore a noseclip for the first time in a triathlon swim since there was some possibility of toxic amoebas in the 84-degree water. It was also my first non-wetsuit swim in a triathlon.
I started off in the back on the right and it was a big wave - men 50 and over and women 45 and over. There was a very shallow, casually slow wade-out and it took a long time to start swimming.
Then the nose clip (and perhaps also the very warm water) started making me feel short of breath. I left the nose clip on and kept swimming, but I slowed down a bit to get my breathing regulated.
When I tried to move up again I was still in a mass of swimmers. Lots and lots of them, the most crowded swim that I've been in yet. Lots and lots of breaststrokers, too, who take up lots of room in the water. I caught a hard kick to the chest from one Clydesdale. After that I was a bit more cautious about other swimmers and probably spent too much time trying to avoid them rather than just swim faster.
I found it difficult to sight most of the way, too. The horizon was just a featureless treeline, and the lake was still fairly dark. The only time we had a really good object to sight off of was when we crossed the end of the swim course and swam straight for the tall Contemporary Resort.
I stayed in my comfortable zone for most of the swim, treating it as a warmup. There was no wind, no waves, and no current. Perhaps I was a bit too casual and lackadaisical about the swim, because I finished over 7 minutes slower than I had swum the same distance at Annapolis (although in a wetsuit) just two weeks earlier.
I was slightly disappointed to see a 43-something on the clock when I came out of the water, but I shrugged it off, since I really was just there to have fun. Forget it and trot through the very long, convoluted transition and try not to lose too much time.
Here's an approximate map of the swim course - I wish my Garmin were waterproof so that I could wear it and see where we really went, and what parts of the course really slowed me down.
6/10 Athenas over 40
16/21 Women 50-54
Again, I was fairly casual about T2, though I trotted through the whole transition zone and didn't have to deal with wetsuit removal. I took time to turn on my Garmin, strap it on, put on a bike jersey and bike gloves, and set out. Then despite my fantastic rack position right at the bike exit I learned to my dismay we still had a super-long run before we got to the mounting zone.
By the way, the only officials that I saw during the race at any time were in the transition zone. If there were any out on the bike course or the run course, I sure didn't see them.
Bike 36 miles: 2:04:10
Garmin: 2:03:28 for 36.17 miles or 17.57 mph (PR pace for triathlons!)
Average heart rate 159 bpm
2/10 Athenas over 40
7/21 Women 50-54
Once I got on the bike I felt great! The first mile or two was a "no passing" zone. This didn't hinder every jerk who had an aero helmet from the 3 or 4 waves after me from heading out at top speed and zooming past anyone who might be a hair slower than them. There seemed to be no enforcement of the "no passing" zone other than the roadside signs. I took it fairly easy starting out and then picked up my pace once we were out on the open highway.
Most of the course was fairly flat roads with good pavement, but there were a few peculiarities.
Bike course elevation map from my Garmin (I have no idea why I lost all that elevation on the bike! I think the starting readings are a bit spurious).
At about 5 miles into the course we rode along the rightmost lane on a highway and then did a sharp reverse onto a ramp going the "wrong" way. Well, most people did. I managed to run my poor bike off the side of the road and into the sand and gravel and had to just ride it out until I could unclip and stop. Fortunately I was able to keep my balance and just pick up my bike and walk it over to the pavement and start again, but I felt more than a little foolish doing it. Then I recalled seeing Alberto Contador do a similar maneuver on his way to winning the 2007 Tour de France, and felt better.
I worked on keeping my heart rate steady in the 150-160 range and it ended up averaging 159, so I was putting forth a reasonably strong effort on the bike the whole way.
At one point a guy passing said to me "Fifty and over rocks!" which gave me a boost. I said, "That's right!"
Later about halfway in the course there was a sweeping left-hand downhill curve and I saw at least one speed demon had ridden it too fast and earned himself some painful road rash on his face and probably a trip in the ambulance.
For about ten miles of the ride I was leapfrogging with Mr. Macho Hair Shirt who had gold charms dangling from his neck and curly thick hair sprouting from his arms. Every time I passed him he would pick up his pace and pass me back, never saying a word, and then plant himself on the left side of the lane. At least twice cars that got stuck on the course amid the cyclists got blocked behind him, and then I got blocked behind the cars. He should have been awarded several blocking time penalties. I just used my annoyance to push faster and finally dropped him toward the end of the bike.
At the one water stop the volunteers handed out peculiar flip-top bottles of water that only held about 16 ounces and didn't fit in bottle cages. I filled my aerobottle with it and tossed it.
I worked on staying on top of my hydration (~70 ounces water), electrolytes, and energy (Clif Bloks) and did a pretty good job of it, I believe. I saw some people coming in to T2 carrying three full bottles of fluid on their bikes and knew they would regret it later.T2: 3:20
3/10 Athenas over 40
12/21 Women 50-54
I was fairly casual about T2 also, taking the time to reset my Garmin for running.
Garmin: 1:22:03 for 6.29 miles or 13:02 min/mile
Average heart rate 171 bpm
2/10 Athenas over 40
17/21 Women 50-54
It was starting to get pretty warm on the run - the day's high was 86*F and the average humidity was 87%. Plus the run was held along paths in a wooded area which effectively blocked any wind from reaching us, and about 3/4 of it was in full sun.
It was a two-loop course with four out-and-back legs, which I thought would be horrible, but actually once I began it I liked the format. I was able to watch all the other runners on the out-and-back legs and see that they were jogging and walking with their mouths hanging open and with deadpan expressions on their face just as I undoubtably was. Yes, there was an armadillo roadkill along the course, which amused me in a sick kind of way.
I ran until my heart rate stayed at 175-176, and then walked until it dropped to 165. Then ran again. This process eventually resulted in more walking than running, but it kept me moving. It ended up averaging 171, so I kept the effort reasonably high.
I was also able to watch for other Athena-types who might be in my group. I didn't see too many on the first lap, but saw more on the second lap. I couldn't really be sure which lap they were on, though, but I kept my eye on them and I knew I'd be annoyed if I allowed any of them to pass me.
It was hot. Most people were doing a lot of walking. I saw one 30-ish guy down on the pavement with his eyes closed, being tended by 3 or 4 medics. At the water stops I was a bit annoyed to see the volunteers weren't handing out ice, but rather kept it behind the tables in a baby pool (keeping their own drinks cold?). I went around behind the tables and filled up cups of ice and dumped them down my shirt. I also kept drinking as much as I could and taking my electrolytes and Clif Bloks, which helped a lot.
Part of the course ran out along a grassy path that had been mown, but only to about 8 inches. It was quite uncomfortable to try to run on with tired legs. Simple attention to detail can make all the difference to the participant. Also that water stop was positioned at the end of the out-and-back leg, whereas if it had been at the start or middle of the leg we would have had two opportunities for water. The water stop volunteers seemed a little overwhelmed and understaffed.
At last I survived the run course and was able to turn left towards the finishing chute instead of back out on course for another deadly lap!
I was delighted to see Linae and Shawn cheering us along again as I approached the finish line! I looked around for them as soon as I crossed the line and collected my medal. I quickly found them as the skies opened up in a cloudburst. We headed under shelter and heard a few thunderclaps - I heard that the race was stopped but there were still much later finishers, so maybe that was a false report.
We hung out and chatted and caught up on things at the awards ceremony, where I was surprised and delighted to get a 3rd place award! That was great!! I was thinking there probably were only 3 or 4 finishers in my division as usual, but then when I saw the results later I was delighted to see it was out of 10 women in my division! Wow! That amazed me!!
All in all, a very fun day with a very surprising finish.
3rd/10 Athenas over 40 (Hardware! Yeah!)
12th/21 Women 50-54 (A solid mid-pack finish for a nice change!)
Hmm, and 4th place was just 23 seconds behind me - good thing I stayed strong at the end! And 2nd place was only one minute ahead!! I can do better...!!!