Escape To Miami Triathlon turned out to be my first race I’m not sure how to feel about. I mean the event was well run, organized, a great race and was in Miami. It was my personal experience and performance that I’d have to say was a whirlwind literally and figuratively.

Throughout the weekend, the winds in Miami had been increasingly high from the Atlantic Ocean’s tropical storms that though they were hundreds of miles away still impacted the area. The day before the race participants are required to rack their bike and just riding 3 blocks from the bike shop to packet pick up, a gust of wind nearly threw me off my bike. From this alone I started to feel a little disheartened about the race.

If you have followed my triathlon journey for the last few years, you will know that the swim portion still creates levels of anxiety for me. So, to know that the winds would not only impact swim conditions, but to see how it could potentially also create havoc on the bike, things began to look real grim. Seeing the choppiness of the water on Saturday with wind gusts from 25-40 miles per hour, I knew going into it, I would have to focus to get in the zone.

Rising at 5am the morning of the race, I went through my typical prep and headed to Margaret State Park to set up in transition. We could see that the waves were still rough. I knew then I had made the right decision to do the Sprint distance instead of Olympic.

With Olympic distance waves starting at 7am and Sprint distance waves starting at 8am, I had a bit of time to observe with me having a 8:30am wave start. During that time I ran into Max Fennell, the first Black professional triathlete, who I’ve had the chance to talk with at this year and last year’s Chicago Triathlon. Max had just tested out the Sprint distance swim and told me it was “quite choppy”. Needless to say, it was what I figured, however, I had to get my head in the game because unlike Chicago Triathlon where the conditions called for a cancellation of the swim, the swim for Escape to Miami was a go.

By the time, I was lined up in my wave and a couple of waves in, I set my game plan to remain calm and swim boat/canoe to to boat/canoe (as Coach Mo) would say. Unlike previous triathlons where I had a running beach start or treading start, this was a jump off the pier and go (3 at a time every 5-8 seconds). Holding onto my goggles as a jumped in and went under, I concentrated on getting to surface and into a smooth rhythm. Having done South Beach Triathlon the year before, I was quickly reminded how buoyant the ocean water was. Oh, and did I mention that the water was 79 degrees, so though I’ve never worn a wetsuit, no one else was wearing one either as it was not legal at this temperature.

Though choppy, I was steadfast with my bilateral breathing, just turning a little more on my right side. Eeeing the waves were coming from that direction pushing us into the shoreline. At times I could feel my heart race a little, but that self talk back to calmness was easy knowing that this was a shorter swim.

It seemed as though I was swimming better than usual as I was passing people, but that was just what it seemed like as later comments from other participants indicated many people had a longer than expected swim. For the Olympic distance participants, the NE wave were pushing them in, whereas for us Sprint distance participants, we were swimming against the waves, until we turned the last buoy.

Once out of the water, it was dash into transition, which took longer than I’d like as I really need to work on my transitions. I didn’t know what to expect on the bike with the winds, though they eased from the day before to 15-25mph. Things felt pretty good at the start of the bike, however, once I approached the first bridge, the head wind and the long upward hill slowed me down to 8mph. The plan of attack was whenever the wind was not gusting, I had to make up ground. By the time I hit that same hill on the way back, my legs were pretty warmed up so it didn’t seem as taxing. So much so that at point, I surprisingly got up to 31mph with the wind.

The second transition to the run went smoother as usual, however, my plan of attack for the run was soon foiled. Though I got into a relatively nice pace to start around our first turn not only did we hit a bridge with a seemingly even longer uphill slope, but the head wind added to the challenge. By the time I was midway up, while many individuals were walking, instead of pushing it, I focused on relaxing so I didn’t exhaust myself or overheat.

After hitting the turnaround, it was key to gear up for saving something for returning to the the alternate side of the same bridge. I tackled the hill by using other runners as goals to surpass so that by the time I reached the downhill, it was smooth sailing back toward the finish. As usual, I saved enough for a kick to the end.

After reviewing my results, I saw the choppiness of the water made for an inefficient swim. My typical open water pace of around 3 minute/100 meters was a 4 minute pace. And I thought I had a pretty good pace relative to the conditions. My bike pace, as well as my run pace were also disappointingly slower, though compared to the field, it was competitive enough for a 6th place AG and 36th overall female.

So, interestingly enough I really don’t know how to take this race. I missed all of my marks for what I would have liked to do, but it was definitely a learning experience. And after that swim, simply completing it, I feel like I can almost swim in anything Lake Michigan could throw at me…ALMOST!

Overall, Escape to Miami was a great experience and I’m sure I’m looking forward to racing and more in Miami soon. Until then, it’s on to the next race!

Photos in gallery by Year 60 Photography and FinisherPix

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