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Coca Cola Fort Lauderdale

Short does not mean Easy

Once again the Ft Lauderdale super-sprint has rolled around and kicked my butt. Like I told you, this race is hard. There's no room for error, second-guessing, or catching your breath. It's all out from the gun.

I wound up getting fourth. I'll take it. Here's how I see it: Last year I got fifth. So I moved up a spot in a tough race format. I also ran 23 seconds faster than I did last year. That's a big improvement in a short run.

I try to look on the bright side of things. Never mind that I got beat by seventeen-year old Manual Huerta for the first time! Or that series leader John Reback was running only a few steps ahead of me and stayed just out of reach. Or that Dave Picciano, once again, came from behind and ran through everyone for the win.

I won't worry about that stuff. Manny's a great runner and is sure to be one of the top juniors over the next couple of years. John is an excellent all-around triathlete and is showing everyone that he's not just Laura's big brother. Dave Picciano is Dave Picciano. What else would you expect from a guy who has run well under four minutes in the 1500?

The weekend was fun. Brianne and I drove down on Saturday in time to have a nice dinner with her father at the pizza shop around the corner from the hotel. Then we went for a short run to loosen up the legs, watched an hour or so of Wesley Snipes in The Art of War (to get psyched up for the competition, of course!), and then hit the hay.

Waking up was great. I love waking up at 5:30 AM. It makes me so happy. Yeah, right.

I was kind of groggy when I woke up so I jumped in the shower. Then I fell asleep in the shower. I don't recommend it. After that I got dressed and slugged down a cup of coffee. I'm not always the greatest morning person. I had just defended my master's project in technical writing on Friday, and the weeks of working on the project and preparing for the defense had worn me out a bit. That's real life, though. Sometimes, there's no escaping it.

There is a healthy way to forget about real life for a little while, though. It's called sports. In my case, it's called Triathlon. I get to the race site and for just a little while, I'm not a full-time working guy with a mortgage and student loans. I'm just a dude who wants to swim, bike, and run as fast as possible. I want to get to the finish line as fast as I can. If I get there first ? that's great. But that's not the end all for me. I go out there with the intention of doing the best I can with what I have. In that respect, no one ever beats me.

In that respect, the only person who can beat you is yourself.

The weather on race morning was perfect. It was a bit hot, but in case you haven't noticed, we live in Florida. It gets hot and humid here. I was happy that the wind wasn't blowing too strongly, as that always makes the bike more difficult. The water was also fairly calm with just a few breakers. For you newbies - yes, that was calm water. Wait until you see a real rough swim start. Those are real fun!

I put it down from the beginning and soon Andy Farrell and I were off the front. Andy is definitely a top-notch swimmer. He recently clocked a 2:02 in the 200-meter freestyle. That's fast, especially considering Andy's a US Masters swimmer. My best time is 2:01.78, and I did that when I was a sixteen-year old counselor at Pinecrest Swim Camp in Ft. Lauderdale. At the time, I lived, ate, and breathed swimming 24 hours a day.

Once on the bike I had a bit of trouble with my rear derailleur sticking and had to hop off and manually drop it. This was an echo of last year when my front derailleur fell off and I had to put that back on. Aargh, bikes. Can't race without 'em, can't run over 'em with your car.

The bike leg would see me fluctuate between riding in the lead to riding in third place. I finished just a couple seconds behind John and a couple in front of Manuel, who both rode very well. In such a short, flat bike portion there isn't much strategy involved. You go out and put the bike in the biggest gear you can turn over and hope you don't blow up (unless you want to ride like Lance Armstrong, in which case you put it into a gear you can crank at 90 RPM). I felt OK but not great. That's what happens when you spend a lot of your free time working. But I digress. You don't want to hear me complain, do you? ;-)

As we ran out of the transition I saw Dave coming in. Uh-oh. And Manuel took off like a shot. So I put John in my sites and did what I could to stay with him. He built up a few seconds on me but I made some of that back up on the last half of the run. Meanwhile, Manuel disappeared around the corners ahead of us. Then Dave ran by like we were all going backwards. No surprise there.

And then it was over. That's that. Forty minutes and change. Ouch.

As far as intense effort goes, I still chalk Ft. Lauderdale up there as one of the toughest, if not the toughest multi-sports race I've done. There's one other race - called the Cape May Beach Patrol (NJ) Superathlon - that is just as tough. That race consists of a 2.1 mile run, a 1.5 mile lifeboat row, a 200 yard beach run, and a 400 yard swim. But I don't think we'll be racing lifeboats anytime soon on the Coca Cola tour!

I hope everyone had a good time in Ft. Lauderdale and I'll see you in Siesta Key,

Marty Gaal