Following closely on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, Florida was destined to be an epic event. From the travel challenges that the athletes faced . to the intimidating surf pounding the beach all week, the stage was set early for a big day.
By the time the finish line closed at midnight, a large percentage of the 3000 starters had reached their Ironman® finish line successfully, including more than 35 members of Endurance Nation. This is how the day played out.
Without a doubt, the biggest fear that most athletes faced all week was the intimidating surf. There were more than a few abortive practice workouts. The yellow warning flags dominated the skyline all week, causing many of the first-timers to wonder what they have gotten themselves into.
Race day did not disappoint, bringing with it several early sets of swells. However, the talk of the day was more about the current than the chop. Moving from right to left, the current forced many summers well inside the buoy line, making for an extended swim. This was compounded by the large field of starters, as well as the chop. Put it all together and you have a pretty challenging swim.
Usually the 2nd lap at Florida is slower because of the quick run up on to the beach and increased waves. This year those waves really stayed the same all day, leading to many consistent swims. The usual stories of crowding and physical abuse abounded, as you’ll see in this video below, but overall times were very consistent with typical Florida performances.
While the Florida bike course is known for being flat, nobody really talks about the consistent winds that build all day. Early on there was almost no wind. Standing at the bike and mountline, we watched hundreds if not thousands of athletes make their way out onto the course.
Without the typical headwind heading out onto the course, it was clear at the outset that it was going to be a fast day. The splits we were getting back on the computer only served to confirm this. And text updates from our friends on the course suggested that the lack of wind had created optimal conditions for fast riding and group drafting. Based on all accounts, almost every penalty tent was full and had run out of stopwatches to time the offenders.
With such a fast start I had fully expected to see a slowdown over the final 20 to 25 miles due to wind. That never happened, however, as evidenced by the first-place male finisher putting up a world record bike split of 4 hours and 4 min. – that’s an average of 27.5 miles an hour!!! As amazing as that time was, it was echoed in many other pro-men, pro-women, and top age group bike splits.
Standing outside the entrance to the state park at 2 PM, I could feel the full heat of the sun bearing down on me. While the temperature was in the low 80s, it certainly felt like anywhere between 86 and 89 degrees. Even though the humidity wasn’t significant, that kind of heat is enough to affect almost anyone.
Most of the athletes fell into two categories: the Smart and the Strong. The “strong” athletes powered their way to PR bike splits and set themselves up to have a great day…on paper. The “smart” athletes chose to ride within themselves, setting themselves up to run personal bests. Listening to the reports of almost every Endurance Nation athlete, it was clear that many chose to ride at or under their target effort level, given the returns they were seeing in terms of sheer miles per hour on the bike course. It’s not surprising that many of them had personal bests — over an hour or more — earned mostly on the run.
Contrast this with the many reports from other athletes who rode well outside their abilities, destroying their chances for a good run. It’s no surprise then that Endurance Nation’s Four Keys of Race Executionwas first conceived and created at Ironman® Florida, as the temptation to ride the bike in Florida at a super human effort level is incredibly strong.
Don’t take my word for it, take a look at the stats here in the Endurance Nation athlete tracker. Feel free to watch some of the videos below and hear how the race played out in their own words. Did you race Ironman® Florida? If so, please tell us how went in the comments below. Congrats to all the finishers!!!