Race Report: Alpha Win Ocala 70.3

My 2023 race season has begun! It’s been a good minute since I’ve written a race report for y’all because…well I haven’t raced since May 2022 and I only did one race the entire year last season, so I’m hoping I still write these things half decent at least, but I’m rusty so don’t quit on me after the first couple paragraphs–I’ll give you a BIlly Mays 30-day money back guarantee here that it’ll get better as it goes though! 

I signed up for Alpha Win 70.3 as my tune up for Challenge Roth because it was 12 weeks out from race weekend. I could have done Texas or Oceanside but it was cheaper and easier to just race Ocala 70.3 instead because it’s only a six-ish hour drive plus I thought it’d be a good idea to take the Miata—fun in the sun, ya know? So I threw the bike onto the back of a matchbox car of a roadster and headed south on I-75 to the Sunshine State with the top down and the stereo up—just me and the lines on the highway.

The race isn’t exactly in Ocala, the site was a good 45 minutes from the Homewood Suites I stayed at (that IS IN downtown Ocala). I got there at 6 pm after doing pre-race packet pick up and shake-outs. That was the first Hilton hotel I’d never go back to. The sheets weren’t comfortable, they were as rough as 1000-grit sandpaper, and someone kept trying to swipe their card in my door off and on for a good hour but whatever. By 8 pm I was all ready and good to go for the morning so I threw on the TV and found Uncle Buck on so I kicked back and relaxed till I crashed at 9. I at least got 7 solid hours asleep even if it wasn’t the most comfortable. Yeah this is a tiny race, so I didn’t have to get to the race till 6:30 for a 7:30 start, unlike having to get up at like 3-4 am for an IM branded race. Oh yeah, can’t forget that I ran into the desk in the suite and had a big fat new bruise on my thigh for race morning too!

I get there and I can park wherever the hell I want in the lot because it’s nowhere near full, and naturally you park a car that’s as cherry as this 96 Miata with just 22k miles way out in the corner of the lot, far far from everybody else. There were actually three RV/Campers in the lot people stayed overnight in.

It was still dark at that time so the spotlights over transition were on and holy shit were there was a dense swarming cloud of bugs everywhere because of it. Alpha Win doesn’t use traditional bike racks but they have these boxes that you place your front wheel in to hold the bike up. I guess they wanted us to place our bike and run gear in the box too but no one did that. It only took me like 10 minutes to set up. I didn’t even bother pumping my tires, well no, I just forgot, but I know they were only at 80 psi because that’s what they typically are if I go a week without filling them up.

I sprayed on my sunscreen and some Tri Slide on my legs and wiggled into my new BlueSeventy wetsuit…I forgot to spray the back of my neck though and would pay for that during the swim. This wetsuit zips the opposite way, top down, not bottom up like my old XTERRA wetsuit so I needed another guy’s help there.

The swim is a diamond shaped two-loop course with an in-water start and no Australian exit. It wasn’t an actual gun start, Tommy, the race director, just shouted into the mic “GO!” At 7:30. I decided to do what I usually did and tucked in behind someone’s feet in the group for a free ride and draft. Why drive when you can be driven, right?

That lasted till the second buoy, that group had fallen off the pace I wanted to hold so I broke away. Like I said earlier this isn’t an Australian exit to go onto the second loop like I had at last year’s White Lake Half. When I made the turn for the second loop I immediately got blinded by the rising sun, it was now high enough in the sky to where it made it impossible to have a line of sight on the next buoy with my goggles on so I stopped and gave em a quick flip up to locate it and kept going, luckily after the next turn buoy the sun was out of my sight. I felt smooth and had a good pace for where my swim fitness was and came out of the water in 6th with a 37:57.

As I ran through the snake like cone setup up to T1 I stopped at the wetsuit strippers to get it ripped off me. Man, that BlueSeventy wetsuit was the best upgrade I made since I bought my wheel set. It felt so comfortable—if only I remembered the Body Glide so my neck wouldn’t have chafed so bad. Anyway, I ran into T1 and was out in 1:35. I had an issue coming out of T1 though—Wahoo’s Touchless Transitions did not work properly. I had the Elemnt Bolt set up in multisport mode so it should have switched from watch to bike GPS the second I started pedaling but it didn’t. It fucked up my watch so I had to stop the activity and do the bike individually.

The bike was a mixed bag for me. This is a bad course for someone who lives with PTSD because Florida Men are a bunch of dicks. I got buzzed by at least 20 pickups and another dozen decided to lay on the horn as they passed me. I had two duallies with Cummins turbo diesels pass too—they first scared the shit out of me by flooring it as it buzzed me and then rolled coal too. There was one truck with a trailer that decided to pass me and immediately hook a right into a driveway right in front of me to force me into oncoming traffic, and that wouldn’t be the only time I had to cross the centerline—at the major intersections traffic backed up and I had to there too. There were no FDOT signs out saying “expect delays on 4/1 because of race”, maybe they thought Florida Man would have thought it was an April Fools joke? The whole experience caused me to hold those aero bars with a death grip for 3 hours and it’d affect me later on.

That’s the ugly, the bad was the roads. Yeah about ½ of the course is decently or freshly paved, but the other half…not so much. Now look if you’re in a car you’d probably think they were just fine, there weren’t many major holes that they needed a steel plate tossed over, it was all small gaps from cracks in the road from treadwear where cyclists ride that can cause a pinch flat, which is no bueno. I just tried to stay left of that treadwear groove as I rode but that just pissed off Florida Man even more because he couldn’t see what I was seeing on the road, then again Florida Man isn’t known for empathy.

As for the good? Well per the usual I had a bunch of people pass me but that only lasted for the first 15 miles. I knew on a course that was flat/rollers I’d probably only need to push like 125 watts for the whole thing and I’d be at like 18 mph. At mile 15 I was at 125 watts and decided to push a little harder and started reeling in people who passed me one by one. I ended up pushing 149 watts for the bike and finished with a 3:02 which was pretty good, but the PTSD issues left me with pain in my shoulders and back for the run coming up. I was in 9th.

T2 was slow and the sole reason it took me 3:44 was that I couldn’t find my spray on sunscreen. I left it right on top of my run gear pile and it was MIA, someone must have jacked it. I was gonna get fried on the run but there was nothing I could do about that now.

I did not know till I got down there the day before the run would be on a sandy trail. That’s why I didn’t wear my carbon shoes on race day and went with the beat up Pearl Izumi’s.

Anyway, I felt good coming out of transition and my first mile was a 10:15. Each of the next five miles got progressively slower but I ran all of them. The long hill on the sand at the end of the first loop shot my heart rate through the roof so I started walking a little after each aid station. People I caught on the bike began passing me slowly. I tripped over a root and went down into a tuck and roll at mile 8 rather than fall flat on my face or break my wrists, but that made it hard to use Base Salts because I was covered in sand. I wanted to finish strong so my last mile ended up being my fastest mile. 

The new friend Kiel made that morning (the guy in the pic) and his wife were waiting at the finish line and took a couple pics for me even though he finished 2+ hours ahead of me. I crossed at 6:39, and I was cool with that. I realize these days I’m about as washed as Matt Ryan and I’m content with racing for a new pin for my race map and a finisher medal.

There was a lot to learn before Roth and get to that in a second but there’s a more important lesson I learned — don’t take the Miata to non-local races. I never race without a fresh fade and thanks to that I got sunburned in my hair. Next, the Miata sits so low to the ground that my balls basically drag on the ground. I literally had to roll out when I stopped to get gas, not to mention because I gotta feed it premium I spent $190 on fuel. Ordinarily the car will get about 30 mpg but with a Tri bike parachute on the back of it I was only getting 16 mpg. Its seat doesn’t go any further back and there’s no tilt on the steering wheel…I’m a pretty tight fit in there. It’s also a 5-shooter, and driving stick through three construction zones sucked, you try not to ride your clutch but going five miles without getting out of first or second gear sucks. But the silver lining here is that it doesn’t even crack the top 100 list of my lifetime poor decisions even though I inflicted extra unnecessary pain on myself—charge it to the game.

So from now on I’ll be taking my comfy, roomy, automatic navigation equipped Mazda SUV to my races. I won’t have to worry about my transportation at Roth though because Race Quest is taking care of all of it.

Okay so what did I learn about Roth? 1. I need a better run still  2. I know how to ride comfortably without putting out too much power and cooking my legs 3. I can take on Solar Hill 4. My race goals need to be readjusted to be more realistic 4. I still may finish before dark, after all it is one of the longest days of the year, four days after the summer solstice. 6. I’ve got the nutrition plan dialed in.


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