2nd – Ironman Florida
The days leading into Ironman Florida were a true roller coaster, one day I felt great the next I felt exhausted either physically or mentally. Thank goodness on race day I felt great. The goals for the day were simple #1) WIN, which is implied whenever a Starykowicz does anything, #2) Sub-8 hour Ironman which no American has ever done…nothing like setting the bar low!
When the cannon fired at 6:50am I had one thing in mind, decimating this 50+ professional field. As we got through the breakers I misjudged a wave and lost about 5 meters to two guys converging. I swam hard and held the gap steady all the way to the first bouy (.5 miles) At the bouy I noticed that I was pulling a long line of pros and making no headway on the pair so I eased up a bit and let somebody else do the work on the way back in. We ran up the beach to complete the first of two laps and I steered the Orca Alpha 1.5 straight back into the water while the rest of the pack ran up the beach. I had scouted the water in the morning and I thought the riptide was not that bad once we got to swimming depth. My gamble worked and I got a small gap on the pack. That lasted nearly until the far buoy when I felt somebody hitting my feet again. I kept swimming strong really focusing on using my arms and resting my legs. The final half mile of the swim at Ironman Florida is always epic, because you have to work your way through thousands of age groupers. This year there appeared to be a lot less fighting among the age group field but a lot more breaststroker’s. I got blasted in the face twice as I did the bob’n’weave.
Finally the beach and Pedro Gomes dashed by me as he cut through the age groupers like a Ferrari. I quickly realized that the pack had really strung out and with a good transition I would be out of sight. So I executed the fastest transition in the race and set sail to find the leaders.
I quickly charged through the Metron gears finding myself clicking off the first ten miles in under 22 minutes, 4:06 pace which was my goal for the day. Shortly after mile 10 I cruised past Ospaly and Zeebrook executing a well orchestrated team time trial. The rumble of the Mavic Comete was constant as miles and minutes flew by and I continued to pound down my Gu Roctane. I did not feel as good as I did in the early miles of Kona but the splits every 10 miles told me I was flying. As I rolled through the special needs section everybody was yelling “7” and I started yelling “1,” I cannot thank the girl enough at the pro bags who was quick enough to change bags last second and get me the right bag. She saved me a lot of anguish! On the out and back I learned that the strung out pack had been swallowed by the other packs and a tight knit line of nearly 30 riders had formed.
The second half of the bike was breezier and I fought a cross headwind for 30 miles across the top of the course. I thought to myself, push hard now because you’ll have a cross tail wind the final 25 miles. My body revved up and I started to believe that this Orbea Ordu could break my own record of 4:04. Just past mile 90 there is a 7 mile out and back and I was able to get onto and off of it before anybody was insight. I got onto the beach side road for the final 8 miles and was very happy to have a tail wind this year unlike the head wind in 2012. When I rolled into T2 a new world record was in place…but this was not a goal for the day but a nice perk.
T2 is always a scary time, it is the first time you get to really see how much damage was done to the legs on the bike. I dismounted and T2 went smooth as I had a great volunteer in the tent. He asked me if there was anything else I needed as I got up to start the marathon, a cold beer was my response.
I quickly found a groove that was 5 seconds/mile faster than I wanted to be running but it felt right so I stuck with it. On the way back from the first turnaround I saw a lot of people running really fast at me, the lead was large but they looked like they were running faster than I have seen anybody run at an Ironman before…not just 1 or 2 of them…all of them. I ran the first 1/2 marathon in just over 1:26, which was a little over a minute faster than I should be.
I didn’t flinch, it was hammer down time, 7:50 was in the cross hairs. Just past mile 15 I ran over a speed hump and I got the first signs of the pace for the day, a terminal feeling cramp. I eased up for a mile and then settled into 6:50 pace (3:00 marathon pace). I hit the final turnaround and learned that #20 was coming and coming fast and I was already scraping the bottom of the tank. The final 10k I started to get really bad leg cramps and was doing to hold form. Just past mile 24 heartbreak set in as #20, who was no taller than my shoulder, rolled by me and took the lead and quickly ran away. I just wanted to sit down and cry, but I kept pushing hard all the way through the finish. I crossed the finish line faster than anybody had in history of Ironman North America prior to this date and I got second.
If you would’ve told me that I would pull the pack most of the swim, break my own world record on the bike, run a 2:58 marathon, and lose…I would have smiled and laughed making a comment like that, would be my luck. I guess it is.
sub-8 Ironman, check that goal off the list…which goal do I go after next?