Miami was certainly an interesting trip – so I’ll take it from the top. If you only care about the race skip down to the sub-heading “Rise and Grind – It’s race time!”
I had talked Tri Joe into doing this race. He couldn’t drive down with me as I didn’t have anyone to go to races with any more. Tri Joe couldn’t drive down with me, so he would have to catch a flight down and I would mule his Ventum and gear down with me. No problem, he just dropped it all off the day before I left. I went to move Tri Joe’s stuff before I went to bed and learned his wetsuit was still wet because he wore it that morning…you know just lying and dripping on my new wood floors, so I hung it overnight.
I got up at 3:00 a.m. the morning I was supposed to leave – I had actually been doing that all week long because the Daylight Savings time change was happening the morning of the race, so I wanted to prepare for it. I don’t give two shits if it’s an hour sooner or an hour later, just pick one and don’t change it twice a year. I moseyed into the bathroom and put my feet on the cold bathroom scale. I quit training for almost eight months the second the country shut down last March and started to work on finishing my book and getting my YouTube channel running. Well, I may have stopped training like an endurance athlete, but I didn’t stop eating like one. By the time I started training again I weighed 209 lbs., and I still weighed that much on New Year’s. So I drastically cut my calorie intake and added a lot more fruit eating for natural sugars. I knew that I would not fit into any of my triathlon kits being that fat. So when I weighed myself the morning I left I was down to 187, so dropping 22 lbs. in ten weeks was huge, and I could put my kits on without tearing or busting a zipper.
I started to pack up the Mazda at about 6:00 a.m. A Mazda3 may be considered a mid-size sedan, but between the two of us and our shit I couldn’t have fit much more in it. Tri Joe asked me to take his disc off the Ventum and throw my training wheel on it. I threw our bikes onto my Kuat hitch rack and went back inside to spend a few more minutes with my cats before leaving.
I left just before 8:00 a.m. As soon as I reached the front gate I put my windows down, sunroof back and stereo up…I love it, I never was able to do it much before when I’d go to races because I’d get complaints about “my hair is going to be a hot mess!” from my ex. I thought when I got on the freeway that I’d be stuck on the Downtown Connector for at least half an hour because it was rush hour on a work day…nope, I breeze through at 55 mph so it was fixin’ to be a faster trip! For those of you who don’t live in the South or know Southerners, “fixin’” means you’re about to do something. It’s weird, the first time I heard it 10 years ago I was like…”What are you trying to fix? Did you break something?”
It didn’t take long for the first thing to register on my weird-shit-o-meter to occur. I was going through Forsyth at about 70 mph when I rounded a corner. There in the middle of the road was a rolled up purple and gold area rug that went across the entire lane. I couldn’t check my rearview mirror because the bikes blocked it, so I had to trust my blind spot detector on my pop up display and swerve into the next lane.
I barely got through Macon before I needed to get gas. Triathlon bikes are very aerodynamic, especially my P5 and Tri Joe’s Ventum, however if you turn them sideways and put them on the back of a car they’re like a fucking parachute. My gas mileage went from about 36 mpg to 18 mpg. I sent someone a text that it dropped faster than my pants after eating Taco Bell. Every time I stopped to get gas and went to pee I’d have to run back to the car and get my mask…I’d just forget.
The drive through South Georgia was fairly tame, if it weren’t for a litany of billboards how else would I know there’s an entire thriving pecan industry? Yeah, 95% of the billboards fall into one of these six categories: pecans, fast food, gas, hotels, strip clubs/porn shops and religion (other southern states just swap fireworks stores for pecans). I literally saw one billboard that just said “JESUS”, it made me think “I wonder if anyone has found our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because of a billboard they saw on I-75?”
I had to stop for the third time for gas just south of I-10. It definitely was pretty sketchy, the glory hole in the men’s restroom sold me on it. Believe it or not Florida is the only place I’ve ever seen glory holes…and they were all three were in the vicinity of I-10. I grabbed a cotton candy flavored Bang energy drink and went to the register where a maskless pregnant woman was trying to buy a pack of Marlboro Lights while screaming at her two kids to put the taxidermied baby gator heads down. Welcome to North Florida.
When I went through that big ass swamp south of Gainesville I drove through a swarm of mosquitos that plastered their guts on my windshield. Why is that relevant? Well, as I was nearing Orlando I got stuck behind this 90s Dodge Ram that was hauling a bunch of junk in its bed. The crosswinds picked up the edge of an old newspaper and it started flying all over the freeway. I had the front page of the Orlando Sentinel sports section get stuck to the bug guts on my windshield, so I set the cruise and reached out my window to pull it off (I could have used my wipers but it would have smeared the guts.
I finally hit the toll roads of Central Florida. Half of it is toll-by-plate, the other is cash. First, I might get away with not getting charged for the toll-by-plate because I think both bike frames thoroughly blocked the FDOT camera views of my plate. Second, I was lucky I kept a little cash on me – I had $20 in the console and $20 in my phone case…seriously FDOT take credit cards. Also, get gas before you get on the toll road because you don’t know when you’re going to be able to get it, I almost ran out (Fun Fact, back home in Youngstown it’s illegal to run out of gas).
I had originally planned to get to the Fort Lauderdale International Airport at about the time Tri Joe landed, but getting gas as much as I did plus traffic in West Palm delayed me about an hour. From the airport we had about an hour’s drive to Homestead. So I hate to assume, but yeah I kinda figured the area would be full of rednecks at best and pretty sketchy at worst.
I had booked a room at the Super 8 because that’s the best I was able to do…it literally had the best reviews in town (which were 2.5 stars). I asked Tri Joe a while back if he was cool with a Super 8 to which he responded “Man, I was in the Army – I once slept in a port-a-potty.” The place didn’t have visible mold growth or cockroaches and had a pool that wasn’t green…that’s worth two stars. Oh, and the beds and pillows weren’t horrible either. The shower curtain did have blood stains on it though. Joe said we should stick a chair up to the door. I mean I’ve done worse. However they know it’s race weekend so they price gouge you – two nights for $160.
Tri Joe wanted to find a place to get groceries, and I figured Publix would be less sketchy than Walmart in this town. We passed a ton of pawn shops and check cashing places…so you’re seeing the symptoms of a sketchy area. Leon’s Starters and Alternators had all their windows and front doors barred. I could get that if it was catalytic converters because the cobalt in them makes them worth a lot to scrap…but starters and alternators?
Anyway, Tri Joe goes on a shopping spree in Publix. I asked him if he was going to eat all of that while we were here. He says, “Yeah man, gotta eat!” Okay, so I got myself enough food to cover myself. It wasn’t until the next day that I found out that food was just his snacking food because he’s like “Where we going for lunch?” Blew my mind how much this guy eats, I don’t know how he isn’t 250 lbs.
The next day may have had just as much action as race day. We started off with a two-mile warm up run at 8:00 a.m. We ran into a black woman walking towards us and she said, “If I could whistle then I would whistle!” Thanks sug! At 10:00 a.m. we started to get our bikes ready to take to the track. I took mine out first. Well, all the creatures in the Super 8 were stirring now. I was parked one spot over from the central smoking spot. There were like six people smoking cigarettes and two dudes splitting a blunt to wake and bake. As I load up the bike the one lady asks “How much is that bike cost? I’ve never seen one like that.” I thought “Shit, I need to figure out a way to downplay what our bikes are worth otherwise someone is going to rob us.” So I said, “Too much.” Well shit then Tri Joe walks out with his Ventum, which really looks weird to them. These dudes say “Can we get a picture with your bikes?” Tri Joe is like “Heck Yeah!” I’m glad we got out of there with the bikes when we did because more of those motel doors started to open.
I thought we’d be in and out of the track in no more than two hours. We’d get our packets, walk the expo, ride a little, check in our bikes and head back. I would have brought sunscreen had I known I’d bake in the South Florida sun for five hours. Packet pick-up wasn’t bad, they didn’t give you a backpack like IRONMAN and the t-shirt is cotton – I took like 10 Red Bulls for the ride home. There wasn’t much swag at the expo but the dude from OnYorLeft gave us Yon Bons and Pickle Potion #9. Things were going fine until Tri Joe’s ex-wife came into the picture. I’m not going to say what she did, if you want to know you can ask Tri Joe. He was pretty fucked up in the head for a while though, I tried to keep him moving so we’d get out of the sun but he’d just stand still and furiously email and text. I almost feel like she did what she did on purpose to shit on his weekend because she knew he’d be having a good time. I finally got him to look up long enough to say “Let’s go for a ride.” We ride outside the track, and Tri Joe does what he always does when he’s mad — he rides fast, and then he dropped me. I had no idea where he went and he wasn’t at the car…so I went inside with my bike assuming he went in there. Side note: this was the first time I had ridden outside since November. Half an hour later I hear from him that he’s at the car and his shifting his fucked up – he’s only got two gears. I have to go out there, and then we come back in so he can go to City Bikes to find out why his eTap ain’t working. After about an hour they get his shit working and we check in his bike. The nice thing was we could rack right next to each other and with four bikes per rack we had plenty of room.
By this point it’s almost 4:00 p.m. so we head back to the Sketchville Super 8. Tri Joe got dinner from the gas station around the corner and we started packing our bags for tomorrow. Tri Joe starts mixing his drinks. Honestly, it looked like he mixed Windex, Goo Gone and Lemon Pine Sol, but it’s really Gatorade powder, Pickle Potion #9 and some other shit I don’t remember. He says, “When you’re thirsty man, it doesn’t matter.” Speaking of household cleaners, Tri Joe uses jewelry cleaner on the inside of his goggles to prevent them from fogging…I’ll just stick with my mini hotel shampoos I toss at the race start.
He wanted to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. because of the time change – well, he didn’t want to sleep. First, the guy tosses and turns all night, I blame his ex-wife. He takes deep sighs when he flips and talks in his sleep…in the third person. I was ready to take my pillow and smother him. Then there was the kid dribbling the fucking basketball for half an hour at 11:00 p.m. There wasn’t even a basketball hoop or court nearby! Plus the noisy wall AC, which Tri Joe said it’s best to set it as low as possible before race day, which in this case was 60 degrees. I ended up getting about three hours sleep.
Rise and Grind – it’s race time!
Setting up transition race morning was nothing out of the ordinary, it wouldn’t be Miami if half the music playing wasn’t Pitbull, post-race too. Quick FYI, if you gotta take your morning shit – skip the lines, go to the bathrooms on the outside of the stands, there wasn’t a soul in there except me.
So let’s talk about the swim – Challenge had us separated into five minute increments to start. We weren’t really socially distanced, and in fact when it was the last few minutes before the race start we packed in like fucking sardines and ripped off our masks before the rolling start. They had fireworks with the national anthem though, kinda cool. I hate wetsuits, I find them suffocating and very uncomfortable (especially since I put on weight). I feel like my arms and shoulder movements get severely hampered…I hate how restricted it makes me feel, and in a wetsuit I ended up getting worn out and significantly slowed down. I probably shouldn’t even use one, if I do get a new one maybe I’d be better off just going sleeveless, which would suck if I’d want to do an XTRI. Anyway, by the second loop I was exhausted from the wetsuit (and because I had only been swimming eight times since New Year’s, and being completely off going back to September 2019). I was happy with 30:16 given the circumstances, but I didn’t actually know my swim time because I got kicked and it stopped my watch at 27 minutes. Oh yeah, the swim is a bonafide Chinese fire drill. The first loop is congested, but by the time you’re on the second loop you’re mowing down the slow people who started later than you.
I exited the swim and ran up the hill. The crowd size around the run from the water to transition was pretty big. There was a girl I exited with and I ran to T1 right behind. I saw a photographer following her and was like “Fuck yeah I’m gonna sneak my way into her photos and video since I don’t have anyone here to do race support for me.” Somehow I needed to go about finding the guy now, I messaged the girl on Instagram but she had no idea she was being photographed. I got to my bike and worked on getting out of my wetsuit when a wild Tri Joe appeared. He was out of transition before I was because I took the time to spray myself down with sunscreen again. I was out in 3:23.
You do a half loop around the track before exiting through a tunnel – it’s pretty neat. I kept thinking of Days of Thunder where Harry tells Cole “The pace car is getting ready to duck on off. If you go to the outside, you CAN hold it.” Seriously, the bank on a NASCAR track is 45 degrees, it’ll blow your mind being right next to it, and it almost was like a humbling experience for me. The first seven and last seven miles are in civilization, however the two loops of the out and back you do on Card Sound Road are completely desolate, not one building…I didn’t even see any gators hanging out. I’ve got a bone to pick with whatever jurisdiction that road falls under: Why the fuck do you have rumble strips on a street with nothing on it? Each side has two sets of four rumble strips, 16 total. The only reason I could come up with was maybe people use it as a drag strip, but I kind of dismissed that because there’s like five or six miles in between the sets and to drag race you only need a quarter mile. I was also disappointed to see no “Gator Xing” road signs. Those two loops were fast though. The first time through there was no wind and I averaged 22 mph (and there was a brief South Florida pop up shower). Then on the way out there was a headwind and I was like 19 mph, but I came back with a tailwind at 25 mph. Holy hell were the draft packs enormous, and when one draft pack would catch up to another you’d end up with a 70-90 person peloton. I was lucky to not be passed by the crazy draft pack. So back to the stick that leads back to the track, here is where I burned a match and passed about 20 people to finish the bike with a 2:38. There was a motorcyclist who had a media guy on the back who took pictures of me (probably because I didn’t spend time in a draft pack). I need to figure out who he is to get those pictures.
T2 was pretty normal, I figured based on where I saw Tri Joe on the bike course that he had about a 35-40 minute lead on me on the run course. I made sure to spray myself down with sunscreen again, but really I need to unzip at least partially and spray because I’d always get a “V” burn, so I stayed zipped for this race. I was out in 2:23.
Like I said, I only burned one match on the bike and I had at least one more left to use on the run. The course is extremely convoluted and that first loop you kinda have no idea where the fuck you are. All the looping and turning is disorienting. Unlike every other race I’ve done, Miami had a lot of booty shorts. Yeah, booty shorts are prevalent on the men too. It must be a Latin American triathlete thing. There were members of the BASE crew camped out right before the tunnel leading back into the track who were encouraging, even if they didn’t know who you were. Tri Joe finally caught me when I reached mile five, I told him I was going to end up running 11:00/miles because I had been walking a tenth of a mile for most miles. Even though I was walking for what was roughly two minutes, I was still running at like 9:00/mile…until mile 12 I was averaging 11:07/mile. I walked the last aid station at mile 12 and then from 12.05 to the finish I burned the last match and (had I not walked right at the beginning of the mile) it would have been sub-8:00/mile and my fastest mile of the race. I was able to get the average down to 10:57/mile. My overall run time was 2:20, which was slow but my overall time was 5:36 because I hammered down on the bike. All I gotta do is fix my run to get back to around 1:50 for the half marathon and I’m back to being close to my PR shape. I was actually really surprised to hear I went 5:36 because I thought the clock at the finisher line said 5:57, my eyes did process it accurately. Not going to lie to you here, the race had 20% participants of an IRONMAN 70.3, but the competition was stacked and that 5:36 got me 47th out of 60 in my age group, which is the bottom 25%.
Bill Kristy said there would be pros to put medals on us at the finish line, but there were none to be found…it was a really cool medal though! I walked my way through pit row to get out into the expo area. I hadn’t seen Tri Joe watching me on the course after he finished so I didn’t know where he was, so I went directly to transition to get my phone and texted him “Where are you at? Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Then a wild Tri Joe appeared again from the long building next to pit row Ventum in tow. I said “You know I brought along that ice cream you bought when we got here.” Joe said, “It’s still frozen?” I replied, “Yeah, it’s a good cooler, you would know, I took it from your house when we were moving you out in December and you said take whatever you want.” Six hours later Tri Joe got a spoon at a Wendy’s and ate his ice cream. He also got his Impossible Whopper the next stop. He ate and drank a lot on the trip, I know because I was the one who cleaned out the car in the afternoon when I got up.
Because of my TBI I have significant vision issues, especially driving at night. I brought down two rags and my streakless auto glass cleaner and cleaned my side windows and windshield inside and out so I could cut down on as much glare as possible. Tri Joe was asleep before we even reached I-10, because he was doing nonsensical rambling about haters again. I drilled a pothole I couldn’t see (my processing speed is very slow so I don’t see things until it’s too late, especially with no street lights) and Tri Joe springs to life “Hey man! Don’t kill us!” If I wanted to kill you I would have done it with the pillow the night before when you kept me up most of the night.
I have an H Wave, which is like a much better version of a TENS unit. It promotes healing and recovery by increasing blood flow. I think it was the 2009-10 season where Kobe dislocated his index finger on his shooting hand, but didn’t sit out any time. Well, he played every game because all day long he’d have the H Wave on to reduce the inflammation and pain (I lent it to my mom for the same reason when she had her carpal tunnel surgery last year and it worked beautifully). I wired up my hamstrings and quads for the first few hours and then calves for the remaining time. By the time we got back at 1:00 a.m. my legs felt good enough to do another 70.3 and the next day set the electrodes up on my back and shoulders to help recover from being down in the aero bars, and after an hour I felt like a million bucks. Plus you know getting shocked by electrodes the entire drive helped keep me awake.
When daylight came on Monday I noticed that pollen season in Atlanta had come early, fucking global warming, man. So much for washing off all the bug guts from Florida.