A week in Florida for the Clermont and Sarasota Pan Am Cups

My ten day racing and training trip around Florida came to an end with an eleven hour trip home. I flew out to the Sunshine State two Thursdays prior with a group of USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruits to race the EDR sections of the Clermont and Sarasota Pan Am Cups on March 9th and 16th.  When booking this trip, I convinced myself I’d come home with a professional qualification, but instead I returned with some humbling and useful lessons.

Season opening races are always a little nerve racking. Sometimes blowing out the cobwebs is harder than expected and it is the moment of truth for the hours of winter training. As this week approached, I was feeling more and more race ready by the day. But, unfortunately for me I found myself stuck with a cold a few days before leaving for the trip. I did everything I could to manage the headaches, coughing and runny nose. All my efforts were not enough. And traveling across the country only made me feel worse. By the time we made it to Florida I was already physically beat.

Despite feeling crummy, I did preview the course the day before the race. I did everything I could manage to get my body and mind ready to race. But come race morning and the starting gun, it was clear I was not 100%. I raced as best I could and ended up 21st. Aside from being under weather I was happy to see progress in my cycling skills and over all comfort on the bike. And although it was an off day, I still performed better than my first draft legal sprint almost a year earlier.

After the event, the group commuted from Clermont to the AAA Tri Camp for three day and nights full of clinics and Florida backcountry running and riding. And to top it off we got our swim sessions in at the National Training Center. This camp is run by an Australian couple and is a hot spot for pro trathletes and the like coming through the state. It is a pretty casual set up. A large converted garage houses bunks, a kitchen, dinning area and a living area.  And there is an addition with a conference area and a mini gym with bike trainers. After a day or so of rest I finally started feeling like myself again.

Chris Baker, a bike specialist and Regional Athlete Development Coordinator for USAT and our new National Development Coach, Melissa Mantak led the week’s clinics and practices. I am happy to say that I learned more skills on the bike and on foot this week. Plus swimming at sea level was an awesome experience for this high altitude child. All of this makes me thing that perhaps I could winter in Florida for training at some point.

Once our time in the countryside outside Clermont was up, those of us racing in Sarasota pushed forward and drove to the Gulf coast. I couldn’t remember the last time I was so close to the water. I even got to swim in the ocean off the Siesta Key Beach before the racecourse opened. But once the venue did open and I had a chance to preview the swim / bike / run loops, I was excited for a fast race. The Friday prerace efforts felt solid and I was so happy to feel like my normal self after the previous weekend.

Our hotel was close enough to the course that the group of men racing the EDR sprint at 8:15 biked over to the venue race morning. After checking in I went through the familiar motions of transition set up and warming up. The gun went off and the men dove off the pontoon for the 750 meter swim. I sprinted and was holding a good position through the first sighting buoy, but then I starting slipping back through the pack and found myself stuck in 3rd gear for the rest of the swim. So again I found myself near the back for the bike portion. I helped form a decent third pack with another strong rider. Unfortunately though, I fell going around the last 180 degree turn before transition. I wasn’t going too quick, but I did fall hard enough to tear up my arm and hip plus derail my chain and bend my rear brake. After sorting out my bike, I got back on the saddle and time trialed back to the transition zone alone. I clocked the fastest T2 and got on with my run. At this point I knew my shot for earning an elite card was slim, but I had to try. I ended up running my way to 12th. I wasn’t the place I wanted, but I was proud I powered through the race. Hopefully my battle wounds with get me some street cred in the cycling world.

I went into this week so certain I’d come out with an elite card and I left this week reminded that some day are just aren’t meant to be and you have to work with what life deals out. I know the process to become a top elite triathlete is long, and a small speed bump like this shouldn’t be over thought. I am also reminded to be patient with my growth in this sport. As, always I am forever thankful for the support and encouragement. I was lucky enough to have some Florida family come and watch the Sarasota races. Here’s too looking forward to the next race, ITU San Diego.

Lessons Learned

-          Don’t underestimate the stress of travel, and avoid unnecessary time in transit.

-          When friends visit town and are sick, forego the hugs and keep your distance

-          Training as an elite athlete makes your immune system susceptible, so be aware

-          Always travel with some sort of immunity booster and meds to help offset a cold

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