What a year I’ve had! What a half-decade I’ve had! Don’t worry though; I’m not going to harp today on the last five years – that’s for future post. It’s just that this was my last triathlon in the 35-39 age group, making the race a little bittersweet. Coming off of Ironman Los Cabos I ramped up a little too fast, too hard, too soon. I was welcomed back into training with shin splints that would eventually dissipate but not long enough before my right ankle would cause pain for a few weeks over the middle of the summer. And just when that pain was resolved, my Achilles would become the source of my frustrations beginning in early August and lasting through the Escape to Miami triathlon 8 weeks later. That’s all not to suggest I didn’t have a great 2014 summer and early fall. I really did. I still made age group podium every race I took on this year both before and after IMLC (with exception of course of IMLC itself).
Coming out of a dismal Escape to Miami performance I had 6 weeks to figure things out and for all intents and purposes, get my shit together and regroup. With some planning and consultation (from Coach Joey Perez), I gave two weeks of extremely light running to allow for my Achilles to properly heal (not heel) and we planned out a “traincation” week where I would ramp up my swim, bike and running capacity, power, and speed. The traincation was a huge turning point for me as every single training event was successful in some capacity. It was a huge motivation and confidence booster as I prepared for my 2nd half-iron distance event this year.
I started the morning with an almond butter & Nutella sandwich, downed by a Water Java with Emergen-C. During transition set-up I took in a sleeve of Gatorade Endurance chews and some EF drink as I headed towards the swim start to stretch and get some pre-race laps in.
The SWIM was a two-loop course and I was one of the first three or four out to the first buoy where we dog-legged left. The water was calm and refreshing (as Goldilocks would say, “just right”). I felt consistent throughout the first loop and was able to take on a fair pace that would keep me in the front of the pack. I heard a few friends screaming my name as I came out of the water before the 2nd loop but I had no idea since I was too focused on circling that post and getting back in the water. The first 100 yards felt tough, slow, as though I was slogging through. I just kept going though, and I would soon get my speed back up. The 2nd loop became a little more challenging because I’d start to catch up to the folks making their first loop just after me. Such is life, and I was able to finish the swim without any incidents other than a few more water hazards to swim around.
I made it through about 6 miles on the BIKE as I felt what seemed like a few sprinkles. I didn’t even get another mile before the rain would begin. And it wouldn’t clear up the rest of the day. By the time I made it to the international distance turn-around (Mile 11) the streets started showing partial flooding. And then my power meter reading shut down. Really!?!? As I made a right turn to begin lap 1 of 2, the volunteers were already there, all of them yelling, some of them friends which I’m fortunate to understand how great it is not only to have volunteers but friends who are volunteering and cheering you on in the middle of the course. I didn’t need anything just yet and I ventured through the crowd and made a left heading west when about another mile or so later two bikes approached. They quickly took to the front of me and seemed to slow down just enough that would allow me to keep a similar pace to them without getting dropped. This was the first opportunity I think I ever had to ride (legally) with a group at a comfortable pace during a race. I was able to keep up with the two riders for that first loop but as we went through the volunteer section going into lap 2, I was quickly dropped. I grabbed a fresh Gatorade Endurance and a Vanilla Clif gel from the volunteers and was ready to tackle the 2nd half of the bike portion. With the exception of four people, I didn’t get passed on the bike. I’d go on to take the 4th fastest bike split in the age group. This was quite a personal accomplishment since my goal was a sub 2:30 split and I had to bike through constant flooding for 50+ miles without a proper power reading.
As you can see, I was somehow prepared for a wet bike ride.
My original strategy for the RUN was to take it 5-5-3, running 7:15’s for the first five miles, then 7:00’s then all out the last 3.1. I went a 7:00 first mile then toned it down a little and ran 7:15’s for the next several miles. I was slightly nervous that I hadn’t run more than 10 miles but once in the past six months. The 6.6.5 mile loop was full of puddles, mud, trail and rocks. And rain. I spent the first loop trying to avoid the puddles only to forget that strategy since my feet were already soaked to the bone. As I started lap 2, someone caught up to me. He was running strong and would do so for the entire loop. I kept up with him for a good 3-3.5 miles before I couldn’t take that hard a pace any longer. My body wasn’t happy. My stomach started cramping just a little (not too bad though) and my breathing was a little heavy. I felt a moment of dizziness (again…that’s another story) and I had to walk a moment. I had to walk two more times as I finished out the last 2.5 miles. My run felt like crap, at least the last 3-4 miles. I wasn’t proud of my race – at that moment – simply because of those last few miles. I finished the race strong though, running the last ½ mile with solid pace and accepting the cheers and celebration of those who knew me.
And in 4:39:30 I would complete the Miami Man Half-iron Triathlon, the wettest triathlon in Miami Man history and dubbed (by yours truly) the inaugural Xterra Edition Triathlon!
I didn’t do a lot of things today. I didn’t run a sub 1:30 like I wanted to, like I trained to run. I didn’t bike at 200 watts like I intended. I didn’t race a sub 4:30 like I strategized to race. But I did a lot of things as well. And they far out-weighed anything I didn’t do. I swam a sub 30:00 swim. I biked a sub 2:30 bike split. I ran the fastest split in my age group. I WON my age group. And I DID take TOP TEN OVERALL.
|2014 Mack Cycle Miami Man 1/2 Iron Triathlon (1.2s-56b-13.1r)
Race Results for Rob Declercq
Male 35-39 on 11/09/2014
|Click here for Full Results|
Notes on above statistics:
1. Sex Place includes relays (as a separate sex).
2. Overall Place was adjusted to NOT include relays as a direct competitor.
Honored isn’t close to describing how I feel with 2014 calendar year coming to a close and with it, my time in the 35-39 age group category. I’m honored to have the family, friends, and support that’s offered to me. I’m honored to have the opportunity to enjoy the sport like I do.
THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU!!!