Mike, Bass, Jeff, Adrian, Andrew and Richard M
November 6 2004 saw the RW Tri forum thread and Serpentine Tri represented in style at Ironman Florida. Here's the report...
Everybody was worried before the race. Universally we'd been secretly banking on a fast course and good times, but when we arrived the conditions were awful. Very hot, very humid, such that I couldn't see properly for sweat pouring down my glasses when I went for a short test ride - and worst of all, very windy.
The wind made the sea scary, and the red flags were out all week. One poor guy passed away on the Tuesday when he swam out in it alone.
We went out in spite of the danger, just six of us, because we'd experienced nothing like it and we didn't want to be 'virgins' to it on race day. It was actually quite good fun getting through the white stuff, and Mike decided that we'd go out another 150 strokes, so as a group we went out 400 metres or so. Coming back in, being the weakest swimmer by far, I got separated from them and caught in a riptide.
I was swimming hard and making no discernible progress for five or 10 minutes that seemed like an hour. I thought it a real possibility that I might have got myself into serious trouble. But then the surface sweep took me out of it, and I made it home. I was later told that all you need to do in a riptide is to swim parallel to the shore, so you find your way out of it. Riptides are apparently very narrow channels of current flowing out to sea.
C'mon Ironman, take your best shot
On your marks
On race day, the gods blessed us. Little wind, no humidity, flat sea, hot but not scorching.
I’d let my tyres down the day before because I didn't want them blowing in the heat while the bike was racked. So body marking and getting my tires pumped was a bit hectic. Also I wanted a warm-up swim, and to get a feel for any sweep tides. Mellsy was struggling with his tyres; I saw him pushing his girl's bike from one pump volunteer dude to the next...
The PA system gave all age groupers a warning that they had to clear the water in two minutes for the pro start, which was a bit annoying as I was still arsing about on the beach getting my wetsuit on. I managed to get about 15 metres of swimming in, but I discerned that the water was lovely.
I found a few of the less fishlike Serpies on the beach and we agreed that we'd hang back together and avoid the fisticuffs of the main mass start. The gun went off, and that's what we did, strolled down to the water with huge grins on our faces. The day could, at this point, have been a lot worse.
The swim was amazingly polite: no punching or kicking. When we bunched around the turnaround buoys, the Americans formed an orderly queue and were nice to each other. Not as in European races where we all try to smash each other’s faces in.
There were lots of very weak swimmers, even worse than me. I was drafting past person after person, as evidently we'd hung back a bit too far on the beach and I was with the really slow chaps.
I kept finding myself with bunches of women (yellow swim caps, as opposed to the gents' much more masculine purple ones), so the mild jostling wasn't a problem as I had a lot more inertia than the girls.
My swim split was 1:23, which is fantastic for me as I can’t swim. It was the best pace in any open-water triathlon I've ever done. Yahoo.
Transition 1 was extended, and partly but not wholly assisted by volunteers. We ran up a ramp off the beach, and two women made me lay on my back and yanked my wettie off.
Then we got up, ran through a shower contraption (a bit like those sprays at the London Marathon) and into T1 proper.
T1 was weird. All the T1 bags were laid out in rows, and you had to find your bag and then go to the segregated changing room, in which it was bedlam. I was of course wearing my clothes under my wetsuit, so it was just a matter of donning socks, shoes, helmet, gloves and Oakley’s.
After a while I realised I'd got bag 651 instead of 851, so I had to run back the other way.
Then blow me, the 600 row had been removed. I was running to and fro like an idiot, until a volunteer took 651's bag off me and put mine in my hand.
I'd inexplicably not put the eight gels I was going to use on the bike in there, so I had to make do without.
I used a Camelbak. After I accidentally threw my Proplus tablets away at the Vitruvian when I was reaching in my back pocket for a gel, I had the brainwave of dissolving loads in water in a Camelbak and taking caffeinated electrolyte.
Of course I hadn't practised this before race day, and it all went horribly wrong. It tasted like sh!te for one thing and I kept thinking that I must have left some sterilising solution in the tube of the Camelbak. Also I couldn’t see how much I was - or in fact wasn't- drinking, and I finished the bike with about 1.75 litres still left. So it was a crap idea all round.