Monday, November 9, 2015

Challenge Florida

There are few better places to be than sunny Florida in early November.  As the leaves started turning up in Virginia, I flew down to Venice Beach for my last race of the season, Challenge Florida.   To be honest, after two Ironman races in 6 weeks and the long crash-marred season winding down I was clinging to my last shred of motivation going into the weekend.  Luckily, I was able to enlist the help of my terrific support group to make the last race perhaps the best of the year.

I flew down a few days early to help Dave Gallagher with a bit of business consulting.  I spent the day in Tampa/Clearwater on a few business meetings while Dave took advantage of the time to get in touch with the beach culture.  We wrapped it up with an ocean swim that randomly included a close encounter with a group of dolphins... seriously!  It was just what I needed to get my mind right for the weekend's race. For those reading this in the need of executive business consulting, please contact me via email for my daily rates*. 
*Not responsible for results or outcomes associated with consulting... or legal ramifications of insanely misinformed advice.

Once we were through with the business portion of the trip, it was time to focus on racing well... Almost.  There was time for another day of enjoying the beautiful Florida weather with good friends.  We met up with the fresh-from-Kona legend Moose Herring and "Most Interesting Man in the World" candidate Jim Williamson along with a couple of Hammer Tri Club support staff.  The time leading into the race was a blur of laughter and conversation.  On Saturday, I attended the pro meeting, participated in the Q and A session, checked in and maintained a steady intake of First Endurance EFS Pro to prepare for the heat of race day.  I was ready mentally and physically to put in one last effort for the season.  The night before the race was a perfect example of the calm before the storm:

Race morning started with a quick warm up and double check of the equipment before heading to the beach start.  The field included a few seriously strong swimmers so I knew I would be able to tuck in and trust them to lead the way.  Between the nice draft and sighting work of the leaders, the salty water, and the incredible BlueSeventy PZ4TX I was able to come out of the ocean fresh and fast.  A small group of us had a gap on the field and as soon as we exited transition I knew my goal for the next two hours was to put the race away for good.  Knowing everyone would probably suffer from slow runs in the heat and knowing that my Dimond is the fastest bike on the planet, I decided to go for broke.

The first 40k went by in just over 55 minutes and I established about a 2 minute gap on the chasers.  I ramped up my effort and kept the EFS pro coming like clockwork to stay ahead of the oncoming heat.  The second 40k went by with a 54:30 split and I knew I was onto a pretty good day.  When I counted the gap it was over 5 minutes.  Unfortunately, I had gone through both of my nutrition bottles and missed the last water hand off because I came in too fast (I apologize to the volunteers as I knocked 4 different water bottles out of their hands!).  The last 6 miles of the ride really got hot and I was out of water but I put my head down and got to the second transition in just under 2:30 of total race time.  I was confident I'd done the job of winning the race on the bike, but the daunting job of a half marathon in scorching heat was not appealing.

HTC Support!
Luckily, we had some great cheer support on course and I took off 'running for diaper money' at just under 6 minute pace.  My goal was to get to the turn around of the two loop course and assess the gap.  I felt strong and did my best to catch up with a bit of hydration by the halfway point.  With 6 miles left to go I had over 8 minutes to work with so I went into damage control mode as the heat did its best to slow me to a walk.  I spent some quality time at each aid station and gave up my pre-race goal of running a PR 13.1 split.  There were periods when I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the next aid station despite doing my best to control my effort. The win was wrapped up if I could just keep one foot in front of the other.  It may seem dramatic but at the time I had to dig deep not to just crawl into the shade and lay down.  Fortunately I was able to hold myself together enough to come down the finishing shoot in one piece and appear somewhat in control.

I am ecstatic to come away with a win and some great momentum heading into the off season.  After I crossed the line I made my way directly to a waiting ice bath. It is hard to describe how incredibly good it felt to finally cool off!  The rest of the day was spent cheering on my fellow competitors and making the most of my time on the beach. The enjoyable travel home (via Disney, Uber, and Jet Blue!) capped off a perfect weekend.

Thank you to Dave, Moose, Jim, and everyone who made the weekend a memorable one.  It's always great to race with the Rev3/Challenge group and to win perhaps their last 1/2 distance pro race in the US.  Thank you to all of the sponsors who make my racing possible and to all of my friends from RVA and beyond who sent notes of congratulations. I am going to take a good bit of down time from training to refresh and recharge before starting my preparation for 2016.  After a long season, my only planned workouts are to keep up with an increasingly mobile 18 month old daughter and to win a few 'easy' trail runs.  Look for a wrap up of the season coming soon.

Thanks for reading.


  1. I am so danged proud of you, Eric.

  2. Congratulations! Excellent way to wrap up the season!