The road conditions were pretty good (better than Santa Rosa, but not as good as Chatty) and the scenery was nice - a few lakes, a quarry, ferny swamplands with wax myrtles, orange groves and lemon groves, llamas, emus and a mile of spectators to start the second loop. I liked that the hills in and around Haines City gave me something to think about. Shifting gears, determining how to safely take turns at the bottom of a downhill and how to smoothly pass on an uphill engaged my brain.
Otherwise, I obsessed about the grains of sand that were left on my tri kit and the ONE grain of sand that was lodged in my watch band and ate a hole in my wrist. I sang the Florida Orange Blossom song and a few hymns based on the church signs I passed. [And if you’ve never heard Jen Young sing the Orange Blossom song, please check out THIS cheesy version. It is a close rendition.]
My favorite parts of the ride:
Seeing Maria’s dad all over the bike course. He used the pool skimmer as a giant sign. It was draped with a tee shirt with Maria’s head blown up and text that said: Go, Maria, Go! in Michigan colors
Seeing Maria within the first 15 miles. She passed me and we greeted each other with HI!WHATAREYOUDOING?RIDINGBIKES.ILIKEBIKES.WANNABEFRIENDS? Another woman near said: I like bikes, Yes! We met again later at an aid station where we both took a break.
The fan zone at the start of the second loop. Ace and the rest of the gang were cheering and screaming as I rode by to start the loop again. The energy was high and I was so thankful for our tribe of fans who were there for us all.
SIGNS. I know that sounds weird, but I liked looking at all the signs for the 55+ neighborhoods, the church marquees [Rejoice in the Lord. Always], Jenni St., Hartmann St., Miss Mary Anne (I sure do) Drive and the G-Spot biker bar (#4Gracing).
VOLUNTEERS The fact that Haines City pulled together for such an amazing race was a testament to the Ironman motto that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. All the aid stations were packed with people passing out food and water, cleaning up after all the athlete trash and directing tired bikers through feeding zones. There was a crazy out-and-back section near the quarry and on the first pass, one woman had made up a song and dance to help us slow down on the downhill, round a cone in the middle of the street and get back to speed on an uphill. At that nearby aid station I noticed a guy raking all the empty bottles and cups and singing a song on both time I passed through and I handed one of my red volunteer bracelets to him.
Tactically, I had a good ride. My nutrition was even better than it was in Chatty. I had only one gel all day. A root beer GU at mile 90. The rest of the day I drank NBS Pineapple Hydration, ate PEZ candy and glucose tabs, bananas and one NUUN tablet at mile 105. I felt great on the bike and felt great coming off the bike despite 85+ degree temps and high humidity.
I paced myself well. I knew right off that I wasn’t feeling it and worked with the wind to set myself up for a strong run. I started easier than I usually do on a training ride and built into power zone 2 and 3 in the second loop. I finished the bike in 6:39:ish.
Again, the volunteers were great. We even had bike catchers to grab our bikes as we dismounted. It was another half-mile run to the tennis courts, into the building, out of the building and onto the run course, but it was a half-mile lined with spectators, volunteers and tri club tents. The women in the changing room were miracles. One emptied my run gear bag and the other helped me undress. I warned them to ignore my nakedness and they laughed and said they’d seen it all already. I had one of the gals read a few lines from my bag as the second one sprayed me down with sunscreen. Done in less than 10 minutes. I bet Ace wishes I got ready that fast when we’re going out to dinner.
My goal was to finish the run faster than my IM Chattanooga run. I wanted to catch Maria and Jen. It didn’t happen. But, I had a great run. I had decided on the Sunday before that I was going to turn off my metronome and turn off my run/walk alerts. I had been doing 6-and-1s in training most of the season, but I decided my objective was going to be run as fast as you can, as often as you can for as long as you can. It was FREEING! I can’t wait to do it again. I didn’t have walker’s guilt and every time I did run, I think I ran for longer than six minutes.
Have you ever been to Disney and snaked through the lines at every ride? That is the feeling I got on this run. The first section was an out-and-back. We ran to a nearby high school and back to the transition area. I liked it because it was along the last mile of the bike and I got to see a bunch of riders come into Lake Eva. It also engaged my brain. There was a decent steep hill and a indescribable Disney-like maze that involved two inner lanes on the first pass, two outer lanes on the second pass, an aid station and two cul de sac out and backs. It was crazy, but I like it. I didn’t love that the sun was out and that the humidity threatened rain that didn’t materialize until later.