Wednesday, April 2, 2014

HITS Ocala Race Report - Tori Potts

In 2013, HITS Ocala was my first 70.3. I completed it 5 months after my first sprint triathlon in 6 hours and 46 minutes. There were some organizational issues that, along with a few of my own rookie mistakes left me wanting to do a different half next year. However, HITS always seems to host their half and full distances on Saturday, which works best for my family. Also, the Ocala location is just a few miles away from where I grew up and where a lot of my family still lives. It is a convenient and comparatively cheap race, if you sign up early. So I somewhat reluctantly signed up for the March 29th race.

In the pre-race meeting, it was evident that a lot of the problems from last year were being corrected. They had tons of amazing volunteers, many from the awesome local bike shop, Santos Trailhead. They dedicated one lane of the road into the park to make safer biking in and out. This safety concern also resulted in changing the run course to a 6.55 trail loop that you run twice, an understandable choice from a safety standpoint, but a frustrating one, since I was in no way prepared for a trail run. 

Race morning, I got all checked in and set up my transition area. A quick weather check told me that even though it was a pleasant morning, it was going to get very nasty later on, so I had all my gear bagged up. I suited up in my blueseventy Helix wetsuit and headed to the swim start.

Tori pondering what she's gotten herself into

Swim Split: 34:55, including wetsuit stripping and half the run to transition.

It was a mass start of 200+ athletes, and it was the most contact I’ve ever had in a swim, though it wasn’t anything painful, just lots of bumping. I was halfway through the swim before I found some room. I swam less than once a week this training cycle, and in light of that, I was pleased with my swim time.

T1: 3:05

I need to practice transitions. I always feel light-headed and nauseated after the swim and it is reflected in my transition times. I don’t wear my aero helmet except in races, and I often have a hard time getting it on. I also made a rookie mistake--my bike was in the hardest gear. These are all things for me to work on before my next race.

Bike Split: 3:11:51 for a 60 mile ride--this was confirmed by over 10 racers--18.8 mph 
average, which was my goal pace.

There was an amazing tailwind for the first half of the bike. I was playing leapfrog up and down the rolling hills with a couple of local racers I know, and I was feeling strong. However, the mental aspect of triathlon was a major player on this course. The course was 4 miles long, which I wasn’t expecting. I had changed the battery on my cycle computer the week before the race. When I turned around at the halfway point and my computer said it was mile 30, I began to think I had reset the computer wrong. My mind was racing--If I had input the wrong wheel size, then what speeds was I really holding? This concern came right as I turned into what was now a brutal headwind. As my speed was dropping dramatically due to the wind, I pushed too hard, setting me up for a not very pleasant run. All of the racers spread out in the last half, so what was once filled with familiar faces was now miles when you didn’t see a soul. This also coincided with the weather system rolling in, which was so bad tornadoes were touching down a few towns over. The rain started around mile 40, and I just became focused on getting back to transition safely.

this is how I envision the last miles of Tori's bike

T2: 2:10 -- including a quick pit stop

Run Split: 2:23:07

I started out with a solid run pace that I felt like I could hold for the whole 13.1 miles. However, due to the last minute course change, I had never been on the back half of the run course. It was very narrow at points and racers were coming from both directions. The sand was very soft in some areas, and with the rain coming harder by the minute it was getting treacherous. 

I held my pace until around mile 9--which is always the hardest mile for me. The thunderstorm was directly overhead at this point, lightning was flashing all around, thunder was crashing, and there was a wicked headwind. Several large sections of the trail were flooded to my lower calves. I started intervals that I tried to hold for the last few miles, as conditions allowed. 

Overall: 06:15:09

Overall thoughts---

I am glad I raced. I had considered deferring to next year at the beginning of March because I was undertrained, due to illness/injury. With the long bike course and spotty training, I had a decent result for my abilities. I knew going in, even with a 56 mi course, I was not going to PR. I pushed myself until it hurt, but not until I hurt myself, which is a good balance. I wanted to break 6 hours, and with the bike course adjustment, I would have been very close. 

I had an awesome support crew of 10 family members and friends at the race that made each transition and loop on the run course exciting with their hilarious signs and cheers. A huge thanks to all of them for an amazing weekend. Also, I loved my new Triple Threat Tri suit. I was comfortable the whole race.

I saw huge improvements to the race from 2013 to 2014. The staff is friendly, the aid stations were well stocked and staffed, and the course felt somewhat safer. However, the long bike and unexpected trail run were extra frustration on an already tough day. All things considered, I am signed up again for next year because of their awesome early bird prices and the encouraging improvements this year.

Tori & her husband John conquered tough conditions... nice work!!

In case you missed it, check out Tori's recent interview on the blog

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