The  point of this race was to prep for my half iron, but also treat it as a mini getaway vacation to spend time with Nick before Ironman Training picks up in full swing this year.  I really also wanted to set an olympic distance PR.  My pal, Samone did this race last year seeking a fast time and told me its a really flat speedy course.  I’d say this weekend was bittersweet.  The Orlando mini vacation was perfect, parts of the race were fun and I was able to get back into race mode and dust off the race cobwebs.  I felt good out there.  We drove 12 hours listening to “Hard Core History” podcasts, and music and talking, stopping along the way and having as much fun as a road trip to FL can allow… can anyone say “south of the border billboard watching excitement?!” haha.  The hours flew by and before we knew it, we were in FL, poolside doing my shake out swim.  This was the first race I got to try Osmo Nutrition, and it tastes even better hydrating poolside than it does in the wintery indoor rides.

Of course, my biggest concern on this race was that I was terrified of the alligators.  When I googled, “Moss Park” I found this terrible article online about a triathlete who was training in 2010 and was attacked by an 8 ft alligator at this very site.  I did not enjoy the prospect of swimming with these creatures and sent Samone a note asking What on earth she got me into?!  In order to calm my mind and feel prepared, I did all KINDS of research on them and came up with a “plan” to survive if attacked (jab them in the eyes and nose, try to stay in a pack of swimmers to avoid attack in the first place, stick to shallow water in the warm up etc).  I was horrified, of course when I saw this sign the day before the race upon checking out the park.  Funny, Nick captured my ACTUAL reaction to the sign, before I “posed” for the picture.  I kind of like this shot because it shows how yet again, I’m thinking, “WHAT have I gotten myself into NOW??”

RACE DAY:   This race was the most low key race I have ever done.  I realize that I am far too “type A” for this kind of environment and expect more than they could give- such as determining the winners and correct times of the athletes, having an organized wave start, enforcing rules of the sport etc.  I have been spoiled by the “local” scene in RVA where athletes have come to expect well run productions.  Even our most “laid back” series has a sense of commitment to excellence for athletes and a desire to get results correct.  Race directors cover the basics in the pre-race meetings and in all their info packets.  Those who attempt draft in packs on the bike face the marshals AND the self policing comments and dare I say… post race ridicule of athletes themselves.  People learn quickly in my city not to draft on the bike.  I am not sure athletes even knew the rules. Again, I’m too type A for this event, I will openly admit.  I am comparing this race to my benchmarks for local races and its not a fair comparison.

 I digress… I discovered upon this creepy sunrise warm up that the lake was black.  I’m not exaggerating.  I put my face in and found that the water was pitch black.  Normally, I love open water and I decided black water was OK since I wouldn’t see any shadows like in the ocean or brownish murky James River.  It was like swimming into a cloudy night sky.  Temps were perfect for wetsuits though.  We were told in advance to swim around a triangle with 2 loops for the olympic and that all olympic athletes would start in one wave, although in hindsight I do not believe these were the intended instructions.  Most of the female field started in the first wave.  I’m still not sure if that was supposed to happen or not.

We all had grey caps on to mark olympic triathlon.  There was no pre race “National Anthem” that I’m accustomed to at many races I’ve done…so it was quite abrupt when the announcer called out, “All olympic athletes starting in 60 seconds.”  A group of us women, were like, “We have to start with the men?!” But he repeated again, “All olympic athletes ready to go”.   The start came up fast and  immediately lost the feet of the men who went ahead.  At this point I was swimming alone, in the first wave and was thinking…”I am alligator bait!” but I quickly cleared those thoughts and focused on finishing my stroke, turning my hips “like shakira!!” and getting into z3/4 intensity.  Sighting to the buoys was fine, but on the 3rd buoy, I realized I had swam to it pre-maturely and missed a red triangle behind me. I asked a kayaker real quickly who confirmed I needed to go around it.  I back tracked & did extra and swam around the triangle, heading out for the second lap.  I imagine plenty likely missed it, and I can see how they would.   I swam mostly alone as I just could not catch the pack of swimmers I saw just ahead.  I’m certain the course was short because even with the backtracking I believe that I came out in a little over 20 minutes.  21:16, I believe was my time now that I’ve calculated the clock finish time, subtracting out my other splits, although I have no confidence in this guess. 
The triangle I had to backtrack to swim around
I came out of the water as the 3rd woman.  (Unaware there were woman who started in another, later wave) stripped out of my wetsuit (had issues getting it over the ‘mylaps” timing chip (whoops) and ran to T1.  I could not feel my feet getting on the bike as they froze up on the pavement along the 2:00+ run to T1.  I decided to just pedal harder and hope to warm up. 
The bike was FLAT and fast.  There were many, many turns though but I enjoyed that since I got to watch the gap closing between myself and the first woman and the gap lengthening between the girl behind me.  Dane at EF had worked with me all winter trying to get my bike set up perfectly for this season.  We fixed my brakes that rubbed on my zipps all last year, we upgraded my front end to a more comfortable set up etc and it was a dream to stay in aero the whole time.   I know its just a low key event, but it was really fun having others around to push me on the bike.  I set a power (and speed) PR on this course for the olympic distance with my HR remaining the same as prior olympics.  This indicates true improvement which makes me happy.   My power here was higher than my best sprint last year (RTC) at a much lower HR than that sprint.  All that hard work and the bike specific block Coach Harlow built in clearly worked.  I saw many tiny groups of draft packs along the course and was able to sail past them, very displeased by the cheating but trying to remind myself this is just a laid back small race where people likely do not even know the rules.  There were points during the race that no one was ahead of me, so I was slightly nervous I’d go off course but I stayed right on track and headed into T2 1:05 ish later.  

Rookie mistake… I ran right past my rack for T2 and had to back track a bit, losing time, but soon enough I was on to the run as the 2nd woman off the bike (in my wave).  A few miles in, I was passed on the run, but I was running under my goal pace and my HR monitor started acting up here, so I was running by perceived exertion and pace felt OK even at the faster than target pace.  The run was 2 laps on packed dirt and mostly all flat with no real hills to speak of and some shade.  Sadly, the run course was nowhere near 6.2 and I see it was in fact advertised online as being short so I feel I cannot count this as a PR for oly with such a short course.  
Just before the finish chute, this amazing woman came out from behind me and all of the sudden there were four of us heading to the chute.  She finished seconds ahead of me, but we passed and ran down the men.  

I waited for the results and the results were a disaster.  It seemed no one had the right age groups and many of our times were messed up.  It had me down as winning the 40-44 year olds, which breaks down my confidence in them. 
A long line formed by timing to report errors and I advised the guy at the table when my turn was up about the top 4 female times appearing “off” and about my age.   He wrote it down on the piece of paper but assured me that the times were not “off” and issues fixed.   I waiting around for awards, thinking they’d corrected age groups, but it was a disaster.  People were being called up and taking awards for categories that did not match the ages on their calves.  When they called me as the winner for 40-44, I went to the table to try to get a correction, so the appropriate person would win and contested the time and errors again, and was told that I would have won either age group.  It never crossed my mind to just go back to the hotel pool and ditch the nonsense awards ceremony.  I’m not sure why I felt “obligated” or compelled to stay here.  Darn idealistic personality!
Trying to convince them I am not 40 years old  
 Later, they posted these inaccurate results with the wrong ages online.  I (again, WHY do I waste my time on these things) cross checked the start lists on athlete path names with the finishing age groups and deducted that most of the ages were wrong, that I was 5th overall and that I won my “real” AG which was too tiny with such a messed up swim for all to mean anything anyway.   Maybe, just maybe their finish clock was “off” and if so,  that could also be the case.  I have a hard time believing that I swam the course as fast as results say, but I’m seeing a lot of unrealistic times, even in the men’s field so perhaps the course was just crazy, insane short.  I know I swam the whole thing.  The timing people at the race were pretty confident in the times.   I don’t know all the names or bib numbers of the other women in the top 5 although I think the one that crossed 2nd around 2:07 clock time was Kasey because I recall her friend calling to her on the course.   I didn’t stop my watch at the swim, which was under my wetsuit, so I really cannot say with confidence what my time was or if the first 4 were put i the right “order”.   Either the finish clock was off, or they lobbed time off “all” women’s swim times even though we all started in different waves.   I’ve since private FB messaged the organization with my thoughts on this race, the top women and age groups.  I have not received an explanation for how this is right and I can’t feel confident in it.  Its such a small low key race, that I think I need to “let it go” and move on, but it certainly has messed with my idealistic sense of triathlon justice and put a bit of a damper on an otherwise exciting race performance.  I know, I tend to take things pretty seriously.  I’ve learned I’m far too Type A for this kind of laid back environment The positive take away is that I had a great time with Nick, survived alligator infested lake, practiced racing, got in an opportunity to try new nutrtion/hydration strategies, and I hit great bike and run numbers (for me) this weekend.