Great Clermont Triathlon - 2003 Race Report

The Great Clermont triathlon was the first of about twenty races I plan to participate in this season. As importance goes, it was pretty low on the chain and fell at the end of a ‘harder’ build period. My goal was to put out a good effort, race hard, enjoy the experience, and view the day as a warm-up for St Anthony’s later this month.

Around twenty men and seven women lined up in the elite field at 8:00am. I had done a longer warm up, consisting of 10min. running, 25min. riding, and 10min. swimming, prior to the start. I felt loose and comfortable but not spectacular. My plan was to find my zone, settle in, and race my own race.

There were a number of high caliber athletes in the field. A long distance pro from the Czech Republic; four members of the US Naval Academy triathlon team; a professional duathlete; several USAT All-Americans, and a number of new faces on the scene made the field one of the deepest this race has seen since…well, last year, when three members of the Welsh National Team, local stud Alec Rukosuev, and future pro Dan Domingo all showed up and kicked my *ss!

After a good luck kiss from/to my fiancée (Brianne Harrington, also lined up at the start) the bullhorn sounded, and we dove into the cool waters of Lake Minneola.

A few dolphin dives found a couple others and I spread out for the lead. As we neared the first set of buoys, one pair of feet began to pull away and followed a non-linear path. In other words, zig-zaggin’ all over the place. Since the quickest route between two points is a straight line, rather than attempt to stay on the feet of this fellow, I blazed my own trail around the course, feeling strong but not particularly fast. The end result saw me exit the water second in 18:20, 11 seconds down on the first place swimmer.

A relatively slow transition saw me fumble with both my wetsuit and bike shoes as I haven’t practiced in a while. Mounted the bike tied for 2nd and quickly rode away from the third swim finisher.

We hit the hills and I did what I could. A couple miles and Hospital Hill saw me gain time on the first place racer. When we hit old highway 50 I started to find my groove but was soon passed by #2, Marc Bonnet-Eymard, who was riding like a man possessed. I upped my effort in order to keep him in range, and we both passed the first place swimmer (Tim O’Donell from the Naval Academy team).

Bonnet-Eymard slowly put distance on me over the next few miles, and rather than try to keep pace with him and blow myself to pieces in an anaerobic fit, I was content to keep him in site on the horizon, and resumed riding a more comfortable pace. Grunted over the remainder of the course, suffering a bit on the final climbs and headwinds, and finished the bike leg in second with a 1:05.15 split, 2:30 down on the leader. Had another slow transition, then hit the running trail amidst a large crowd of screaming spectators.

Ah, 10K. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t! I had run 5k and 10k PRs a few weeks prior and my general plan for the summer is to take it to some folks with off-the-bike run speed. However, when you tired, you tired, and you can’t fake a brick-run!

I started and discovered I had no comfort zone. It all hurt. I loosened up a bit after a mile, increased my turnover and lengthened my stride, and had a decent second and third mile. Then the heat and general fatigue kicked in. I stayed focused, pushing it when I could, but the body and mind only go so far. At mile 4, the Czech pro (Tomas Petr) passed me with Tim O’Donnell breathing down his neck. I could only watch as they put space on me with every step.

“Oh, well, crap,” could sum up my thoughts at that point in time. ;-)

The fifth mile was my worst, with all the neighborhood rollers tucked into it. Oh, how that one hurt. Then I toughed out mile six and dropped my pace back down a bit. Crossed the finish line with a 39:59 10k, and fourth elite in 2:05.57. Finished the day fifth overall as an on-form 25-29 age grouper from Clermont, George Worrell, took second with a 2:03 and change. Bonnet-Eymard had a great race and won in 2:02.41.

All in all, I’m satisfied with the results for where I’m at in the season. I don’t like suffering on the run, but that’s the chance you take racing off of little rest (or pushing it too hard on the bike, for that matter). This week will be a recovery week, and I plan to be reasonably rested for the Escape from Ft Desoto triathlon in St Pete on Saturday. Last year some very fast ITU racers showed up at this race, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to “see if I got game” against some of the best in the world.

Looking forward to race number two. See you there!

Marty Gaal