Ironman Florida 2006 Race Report
2.4mile swim, 112mile bike, 26.2mile run
I’ll start this off by saying that although it was a great race, and I had a blast in Florida, it’s highly unlikely that I will ever do Ironman Florida again unless I find myself living in a much warmer climate year round. Training for this event was not only the longest season of my life, stretching from my first race in mid January, all the way to November, but the last few weeks of battling worse than ideal weather conditions and really early sunsets were not as much fun as I had hoped. All in all it was by far the best season I’ve ever had though and I’d like to thank all my training partners. You made all the long rides fly by (figuratively and literally) and I can honestly say I had a blast on every ride and every run.
First, Ironman Florida was a great race for me and it was great for it to all come together after my disappointing race at Ironman Canada last year.
My day started at about 3:30am with a coffee, a bagel, a banana and a hard-boiled egg. After a long season of experimenting I’ve found that this is in fact the true breakfast of champions. Feel free to try it for yourself. I got up nice and early so that I could get a good 3 hours of digesting time in and start hydrating early on. I also thought it would be cool to have one and a half hours to mull about the condo panicking and assuming I’m forgetting something.
We took off for the race start at about 5:15am to get our special needs bags dropped off, pump our tires and add warmer clothes to our transition bags. It was great waking up to a howling wind and feeling the bitter cold Florida temps in the high 30’s with wind chill. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous on race morning, and the cold wasn’t helping.
I got all my stuff packed into the appropriate bags, and was ready to throw on my wetsuit and head down to the beach to watch the Pro start. I decided to ruin a nice, brand new pair of New Balance running socks to try and keep my feet warm in the frigid sand.
I ditched my socks and did a quick warm up after the pros started. Watching the pro start definitely didn’t calm anyone’s nerves. We heard the canon go off and got to see them all take about 20 frantic strokes into the Gulf of Mexico before standing back up and jumping over the first 4 footer in a set of about 5 or 6 waves that’d make any surfers mouth water.
10 minutes later, it was our turn. I had a great spot right on the front and actually had a cleaner start than I get at most sprint races. I’d say I led the age group race for the first 25-30 seconds, but the guys leading the outside packs may have been ahead of me so I don’t want to make assumptions. Other than the fact that spotting was near impossible because of the rough chop, the first loop was pretty uneventful. I came out of the water running to make up a few spots on the beech and dove back in for my second loop.
The second time around was a lot tougher. The back stretch was hell and I felt like I was swimming backwards doing reverse freestyle or something (has anyone tried that? It’s friggin’ hard! Ask Todd and Blaire about it). With the tight last corner and being so difficult to spot, I ended up going WAY outside on the final turn and swam back to shore all alone about 50 yards outside of the buoy line. I was out of the water in 1:00:05 and 109th place which was a little disappointing but I was still happy with it in those rough conditions. 6 seconds faster would have looked better in the results though.
Transition 1 was extremely long, but I wanted to be warm out there. I put on a fresh pair of Tri shorts, bike shorts overtop, a tri-jersey, a bike jersey over top, and some arm warmers. I guess I was lucky because from what I’m hearing from the other guys, the change tent got a little tight a couple minutes later. I had some help from a volunteer to get my jersey rolled down. That’s tough when you’re soaked. I ran to my bike with one shoe undone, not sure how I forgot that. Seems important. Anyway I was able to easily locate my bike amongst the other 2200 bikes because Blaireski and her parents were both standing in the bushes just outside transition screaming at me and pointing at it so that was nice in a frantic, panicky kind of way. I was off and rolling in no time. (6:11)
On most of my rides it takes me a good 40-50km to really start feeling good on the bike. Riding into a rough and cold head wind, which I found out later hit a max of 21mph around 10am, I decided to take it pretty easy for the first hour or so. I remember the feeling I had at the start of the bike last year in BC and I felt much the same this year, AWESOME. It was so cool to get out there on the ride. Anyway, it was very apparent early on that all the talk pre race about the many draft packs that ride in pelotons at IMFL was right on the money. It really surprised me that people had no problem with just blatantly drafting. I think the 3 strikes rule is too lenient myself. It basically gives you two free passes at drafting. If you get caught twice, sure it will cost you eight minutes, but if you draft the whole race, how much time will that save you? Not only on the bike, but you’ll have much fresher legs for the run too! It kind of sucked to have to drop back 7m every time you were passed because the dude that passed usually slows down in front of you, but that’s the rules so I followed them. About 40km into the ride, Klopp had already closed the gap. I knew he was coming but I didn’t know he’d be there so early. I figured he must have had a great swim. I don’t think he noticed me because he just flew by. Either that or he didn’t feel like talking. Well that was too damn bad because I was finally warmed up and decided we may as well key off of one another for the next while. It was pretty cool riding with him because it started to feel more like a workout than a race, we just had to ride far apart from one another. We rode through a few draft packs, and we were caught by a few draft packs. It sucked because any individuals we would fly by would eventually catch us again when they hook up with a quicker moving draft pack. I flew through the special needs (which was WAY too early at just 50miles) and grabbed more salt tabs, a banana and a coke. This is where we first saw Blaire and her parents Richard and Pauline. This was a pretty cool stretch of road because we had just finished about a 90km stretch of headwind and we were now making a much deserved turn into a sweet tailwind on a smooth highway. Blaire and her parents kept driving ahead of us to scream and cheer and take some pictures. That lasted about 10km and provided us with an awesome boost of energy. We probably both held around 43km/h for that stretch. Klopp and I were able to stay “together” for about 100km when I realized that the stomachache I was experiencing was due to an extremely full bladder. So it was time to let him go. The last 40-50km of the course was so boring and lonely, I found myself breaking it down into shorter segments like, “now all I have to do is the Windsor Tri course.” And 10km later, “now all I have to do is the Leamington course.” I was very happy to get off my bike. My overall bike split was 5:17:37 and I got off the bike in 136th place.
T2 went a lot smoother than T1. I handed my bike to some dude who I thought was a volunteer and grabbed my bag before B-lining it to the tent. Another short segway…if I was living on the street, I would pretend to be a volunteer at an Ironman to score a sweet new bike. All I needed to do in T2 was pull off my armwarmers and top layer of clothing and lace up my shoes. I flew through T2 in 2:30.
While running out onto the course, I noticed Klopp had left just 10 seconds ahead of me so I ran up next to him to wish him luck for the marathon. I also realized that I’m an idiot for being so distracted in T2 with getting out quickly, that I didn’t stop at one of the 10,000 porta jons in there to pee one last time before the run. Luckily, just seconds after catching Klopper, there were 2 jons and I jumped in the first one. I peed for what seemed like 45 minutes, then when I opened the door to finally start my run, the door of the other one opened too and out stepped Klopper. I guess he had to wait 44 minutes for the girl in the one next to me to get out before he could use it, but that was cool because then we both started the run together again. I had decided to start my run closer to 7 minute miles so I wished him luck again and was on my way. I missed the first mile split, but I caught the second one and my watch showed 14:02. That seemed a little insane to me to run 2 seven minute miles with a pee break included, but I felt great so I kept up the effort. Running away from transition was great because that’s where most of our many supporters were. I felt so good, I totally forgot about the bike and swim I had just done and felt as though I was just starting a marathon on fresh legs. My third mile was about a 7:05 and I saw Richard shortly after that. I think he knew I was gunning for his PB time because he told me to slow down. I felt way to good to slow down, so while I appreciated his advice, I had my own plans. My sister and her boyfriend Rob were on the next corner and they were holding up a huge blank piece of white Bristol Board. That was nice of them (I later found out that it said Great Job Matt or something like that on it, but they didn’t have markers so they coloured it with a ball point pen). It was cool to see them early on in the run when I still felt like I was floating. My Uncle Dave was out another mile out from there at just over 4 miles so it was great to see him too. This is the best thing about the double loop, out and back course. You get to see everyone at least 4 times. The rest of the first loop was great. I just felt like I was cruising. When I went by Richard again, now at about 10 miles in, I told him I still felt great. He was nice enough to reply with, “The race doesn’t start until you turn around!!” I knew he was kidding though. He told me I looked good too. He was easy to spot in his Canada Top Hat.
I got to the turn around in 1:33, still holding my 7:00-7:10 pace and still feeling strong. I got to see my mom, my step-dad, and my Grandma right around the turn around and that was really exciting. I was making sure to keep a smile on my face to show them I wasn’t suffering yet. Right after the turn, I met Blaire and her mom. I let Blaire know that I had already gone through like 25 of my zone caps and I was definitely going to need the extra 9 that she was holding for me. She jumped on the course to run with me for a minute and ask how I was doing. I let her know I felt great, but I could tell my hamstrings weren’t too far from cramping. But I also made sure to tell her I couldn’t care less. I was so pumped to be feeling so good this far in to the race, that when they do cramp, I still know I had a great day.
I was able to hang on to my pace for another 6.5 miles when those cramps finally caught up to me. Just before the last turnaround in the park, my right Hammy seized up hard. I just stepped off the course and stretched it out. There was a guy running behind me that witnessed the cramp and ran up next to me. He said, “You’re on your second loop aren’t you?” I said, “Yes I am.” Then he said, “I hate to see a good man go down.” He offered me his bottle of Ibuprofen, which I accepted and popped 3. Nice guy! He may have saved my race. From there all the way to the finish, all I could think about was beating the sunset. My goal for the race was to finish without a glow stick and with the early sunset (about 5:00), I’d have to break 10 hours to do it, and the leg cramps weren’t going to make it easy. My next 4 or 5 miles were all between 8 and 9 minutes because of all the stopping to stretch out my cramps when they would seize. Another cool thing about the out and back was I got to cheer on the other 15 locals doing the race. I think I spotted pretty much all of them out there. Except Scott Moore, I didn’t see him. Luckily though, he saw me and ran across the street to shout, “You Suck!” So that was cool. I like Chesty. I only walked through 3 of the aid stations, 2 of which had chicken broth so I downed 2 cups at each of those to try and counter my cramps. I’m not sure if that worked, but my cramping stopped at 25 miles. For that last 1.2 miles, I felt like I was floating on air. It was an incredible feeling knowing that I was minutes away from finishing my second Ironman. The street was lined with people the entire last mile and I took the ramp up to the finish like it was nothing. My second half ended up being 1:45:43 for a marathon time of 3:19:26. I was really pumped with that split. My overall finish time was 9:45:49 and 75th place which was good enough for 6th in my age group. Pretty much exactly what my goal was. I was able to make up the lost time in the swim and T1 with a faster marathon than I thought.
I was welcomed within just a couple minutes by Blaire, her parents, my parents, my sister and her boyfriend, my Grandma and my Uncle Dave. It was awesome to have so many supporters there this year because without their support, there is no way I would have gotten to the finish line that day. Overall it was an awesome day and although I’m pretty sure I’ll reserve next year for racing some shorter races and working on my bike split, I can’t wait to race another Ironman. I was 2 spots away from Kona this year so I’ve got the itch to give it a go next time, probably in 2008.
I also want to say congratulations to all of the local finishers, especially the Iron Rookies. We actually had all 16 of our local entrants make it to the finish line to be among the 2108 finishers, 48% of which were first timers.
Here is a video of the race and the crazy week that followed (Keep in mind this was made in 2006, practically before the internet):