If you follow any of the online triathlon forums such as Beginner Triathlete or Slowtwitch, you may have come across harsh criticisms of the Inaugural 70.3 race held in Miami this past weekend. While I am one who tries to remain positive, I definitely felt that this is one of the worst organized races I have ever done, from start to finish. Let’s talk about my own race itself first before all the other issues that were rampant in this inaugural event.
Before it even started…
It started off with a dislocated shoulder – they were throwing athletes from a dock that was 6-8 ft high into the water; as I went into the water, I started to scull/tread myself back to the surface, and then I felt another athlete jump right onto my neck and shoulder area. There was a crunching sensation and I immediately knew the shoulder had been dislodged from its joint. At that point, I was still submerged and needed to do SOMETHING (anything) to remedy the situation. My chiropractor, Scott Howitt of www.sportsperformancecentres.com, had taught me how to push the shoulder back into the joint, as he envisioned that a dislocated shoulder in a triathlon swim may happen at any point to anyone. I didn’t feel any pain immediately, so I decided to continue. I did give a big f**k-you look to the person who was throwing athletes into the water, but, I don’t think they realized what happened.
Anyway, as my shoulder was seemingly ready to go (slightly wonky), our wave went…
No, that’s not a typo. They actually spelled the word “Swim” as “Swin” in the “Swin Exit” sign. LOL.
Well, I actually had a “decent” swim time compared to the rest of the field, given the dislocated shoulder. Sure, I swam 48 minutes and change, which is nearly a full 12 minutes slower than my time at Peterborough in 2009, and almost 11 minutes slower than my time at Welland, but there was a significant current. There were also only 4 buoys on course to cover 4 turns (none of which were bright nor tall…), with no intermediate sighting buoys, which was ridiculous, given the current, chop, and the fact that each buoy was around 300-700m away. Nevertheless, I sighted using imagery in the background. Thankfully, given my new goggles, I was able to see the buoys and I was able to align the buoy with an object in the distance, so I never really swam off course. The rest of the field complained about having a really difficult time sighting, but if they had only known to sight using the objects in the distance… they wouldn’t have hated. Also, contrary to most people, I thought the swim course was either short or bang on in distance; the extremely slower times overall was mainly due to the current or poor sighting by the swimmers; even professional athletes (especially the males) said that they could hardly see sh*t, partially because the buoys were so far away but also because the race started before sunrise!
Before starting the bike, I quickly checked with someone who looked like a medical staff member to ensure that my shoulder was back into place. I was told that if it didn’t hurt, I could continue. The bike went well for the first 60km. However, my shoulder had got progressively sore and by about 40k, it was like a huge bruise was being pressed on in my arm. Sure, the aid stations ran out of supplies, but I did take extra bottles, so I didn’t have any issues. I had a goal intensity of 165 watts, and I managed to average around 150-155 watts and was still plenty fast (34 kph), so I figured that I was going to bike conservatively and just save it for the run. I passed the aid stations and didn’t pick anything up because they ran out of supplies, or, they were just plain lazy to hand me anything.
Anyway, then around 61 or 62 km… I started to feel the pavement becoming more shaky. I pulled over and confirmed that I had a flat tire on the back. No problem, I thought, I can change this in 7-8 minutes (after all, I had practiced many times). Except, by this time, I had lost a LOT of mobility in my left arm, and, because I was running full carbon clincher wheels, I didn’t have the luxury of using a tire lever. I managed to get the replacement tube into the wheel, but I couldn’t push the remaining part of the tire back onto the rim as my shoulder had lost its ability to rotate internally. I waited on the side of the road for nearly 40 mins until a good samaritan on a Vespa helped me. On my way I went.
I absolutely flew back into transition, averaging around 210 watts… probably a bad idea but I knew the PB was out of the question so I just wanted to finish this thing… I went around 3:33 for the bike, when I was on pace for a 2:40 (I biked 2:47 in Welland and 2:50 in Peterborough).
Okay, well, I got off the bike in T2 and headed to the porta-potty. Got rid of some pee, and then started the run. Uh-oh – every footstep felt like someone was stabbing me in the traps/deltoids/lats. Wow. I could not run because it REALLY hurt the shoulder. I averaged around 7:45 per mile in the first 2 miles, but once we hit the Macarthur bridge (for a total of 8 times), I could barely run up OR down the hill as the inclines seemed to make my shoulder hurt more. So I alternated running and walking. Eventually I finally made it to the finish line, in 2:11, about 30 mins slower than I would have liked.
I felt for all the competitors, because everyone suffered out there. There were serious issues with this race. The swim entry was a danger. The swim exit was just as bad. The stairs they had built for the swim exit did not actually come down into the water far enough, so you had to climb out yourself. After a long swim, most people didn’t have the energy to pull themselves out of the water like that. Have you ever done a 4-5k training swim in the pool and tried to pull yourself out? It’s like that feeling.
Other issues included: running out of supplies at the aid stations on both the bike and the run. “Sorry, we don’t have any water” doesn’t cut it when it’s 32 degrees and competitors are severely dehydrated. Not to mention the ridiculous 8x running up a 6% incline for roughly 1.2 km. I don’t even want talk about the drafting packs out there on the bike, with only 4 drafting marshals out on course (I was told this by race staff). Oh, don’t forget the narrow residential roads where we had only half the road to ride on.
Then there was mass confusion before the race too. Kit pickup was advertised to be open at 10 am, but they didn’t open till 10:45 am. I saw a doctor who was waiting in line, who clearly had to get back to work, and was frustrated beyond relief. And then there was the bike check-in fiasco. They didn’t have enough bike racks, and then they had put the bike stickers in the wrong place. So, I was told to put my bike against a fence and they would rack it within the next hour. I returned 5 hours later and found 4 other bikes on top of my bike at the fence.
This race wasn’t the best. I am however extremely proud that I finished. Probably the toughest thing that I ever did. I am proud because only 5 years ago, I could not swim more than 25m. Last weekend, I not only dislocated my shoulder, but I finished a non-wetsuit swim with a dislocated shoulder. As the good samaritan on the Vespa said – this is what Ironman is all about. Finish no matter what. Finish at all costs.
My record at 70.3 events hasn’t been great – DNF, DNS, 5:18, DNF, and now 6:41. However, it was important that I finished. I crossed the finish line and swore that I will finish every race that I enter, unless I am so injured that they need to take me off the course.
Thanks for reading,