Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Race Recap: Beach Blast Triathlon & Duathlon II

You know how old people always have the cliche story to share with their privileged grand-kids of how they had to walk 5 miles to school, uphill both ways, in 2 feet of snow, with no shoes? Well, I'm going to tell my grand-kids the story of how I did my first duathlon in the pouring rain, with strep throat and scarlet fever, and still placed first in my age-group.

Waiting for the start of the sprint duathlon of the Beach Blast, freezing from the rain

Apparently I had strep throat for longer than I thought, cause when I went back to my doctor today about the rash I developed over the weekend, she told me it was scarlatina, the rash that can develop from untreated strep. She said she knew I was tough, but she didn't realize how tough. I was just glad it wasn't an allergic reaction to the antibiotics I'm on for strep, or the shingles, which is what my aunt and grandma thought it might be. Hopefully, these antibiotics will clear it up quickly.

Doesn't that make me pretty hardcore though? I mean, I knew I had a sore throat and body aches for over a week when I went to the doctor Friday. I found out I had strep and decided to still do the duathlon the next day. Then when I woke up race morning to a rash on my hips and pouring rain, there was still no turning back. So I stood there on the beach, getting soaked and freezing, and started my first duathlon.

Now, about the race. The Beach Blast Triathlon and Duathlon is in held Port St. Joe, Florida, close to Mexico Beach. For those not from the area, those are two small towns in the Florida panhandle, along the gulf coast. Beautiful, white, sandy beaches, except when it's pouring rain, then it's just a mess in your running shoes. They hold the race twice a year, once in April and once in September.

Of all the comments and reviews I had read about the race, several mentioned how well organized it was and what great support they had. I have to disagree there. While I've never done a tri or du before, I've done many running races in the last 3 years and the Beach Blast is in my top 2 for most disorganized start. After that everything was pretty organized and smooth for a smallish race.

Since I was at the doctor Friday afternoon, we (my family) got a later start heading to the pre-race meeting than anticipated. We would have made it on time if we had better directions. They don't give an address for the race start/finish/transition area. I knew it was at Beacon Hill Park, but maps didn't believe that existed and it was on a road that was not on the map at all. It's really on Hwy 98 too though, so I think they should be able to provide an address that is easy to find, even if it's the address of a neighboring business or something. Anyway, I was glad we went to the meeting so we knew where to go the next morning. I also picked up my packet, which had some decent samples (razors, hair spray, sunscreen) and coupons for local restaurants. The tech shirt that's included with registration is pretty nice, with a red, white, and blue "freedom" theme, since it was the day after Patriots Day. The fit and cut are perfect for me, meaning it runs a little small compared to most race shirts.
Beach Blast Triathlon and Duathlon Transition

The transition area is on a baseball field, which I'm sure is normally nice, but since it had rained most of the night and was still pouring, it was squishy and muddy. I wish I had been smart like my friend, Lisa, and brought a trash bag to keep my stuff from getting so wet in transition. At least I brought a towel to put under my stuff. We were able to set are stuff up next to each other since transition is first come, first serve. When we headed down to the beach for the start, I was surprised to see that the first and second waves (those doing the olympic distance) were already in the water. At this point I'm trying to figure out where I need to be for the sprint duathlon start and none of the other entrants seem to know. The only person who seemed to know what was going on was the woman blowing the horn for the starts, and her attention was all on the swimmers. When she blew the horn for the men's sprint distance, the male runners took off too, and at least two women started with them. There was no starting line and no timing mats on the beach. The rest of the women started on the next blow, and that's when I started.

Beach Blast Run 1, on Mexico Beach
I'd ran on the beach a little before and knew to try and stay near the water where the hard-packed sand is but I also didn't want to get my shoes any more wet than they already were from the rain, so there was a bit of weaving to avoid the water. Though I started at the back of the pack, I quickly moved ahead and was the first of the women (who actually started with the women) to finish the run. There was also no one making sure everyone finished the run where they were supposed to and some took a short cut at the end. I'm a stickler for the rules, so you know what I did.

The first run for the sprint duathlon is 1.2 miles along the beach. This was the longest 1.2 miles I've ever ran, everyone was out of the water by the time I finished and like I said, I finished first in my wave. The trek to the transition area is a little long, you have to come up off the beach, cross the street (police stopped traffic), cross the park, and enter the baseball field. They had kiddie pools set up along the way for the swimmers to rinse their feet, runners too I guess, since some ran barefoot. All of my stuff was pretty wet but getting in and out of transition was simple and I was ready to be on the bike.

The bike route is a 15 mile out and back, and after two early right turns, it's all down a two-lane highway. The course is mostly flat, though it does feature a bridge right before the turn-around, so there's two good climbs (one each way). The bike is my strong area right now, but the rain made it more difficult of course. I was only passed by riders who had to be doing the Olympic distance (including one barefoot man in a blue speedo that said "yikes" on the back, who called out "don't get much better than this!" as he passed, haha) and I passed several people. The road is not closed for the bike, so you must watch for traffic when passing and be prepared for the water spray from vehicles. The turn around was difficult for me since the road has no shoulder, it was wet, and I had to merge with Olympic distance riders coming from farther up the road. I need to get more comfortable with tight turns.

The bike was pretty enjoyable, even with the rain and wet conditions. I was able to take in some fluids and a gel. Near the end of the bike course, when we turned back onto 98, it was unclear which side of the road we should be on. While the rules state that you are to always be on the right-hand side, there were only cones on the left and most riders were on the left, so I just followed the guy in front of me.

While on the bike, I had been debating whether or not to keep my socks on when I changed back into my running shoes. They were still a bit sandy from the beach run and now soaking wet after the bike ride. I decided to take the socks off, hoping to avoid some blisters. I never run without socks, so this was a tough choice.
Ready for the run, no socks

The 5k run is almost an out-and-back, but not quite. It's pretty flat and mostly through a residential area. The rain had let up by the time I started running but thankfully it wasn't too hot. I was pretty pleased with my run, considering I had already ran and biked. I've found that my running pace off the bike tends to be a bit faster than my usual pace; I think it has to do with the higher cadence I keep on the bike. My Garmin finally started working about a 1/4 mile into the run, so I used it to monitor my pace a bit. I was afraid of going out too fast and having to walk the rest. I did take two short walk breaks after the halfway point and had a slower pace after that but I still had enough in the tank for a little kick at the end.

Support along the run course was great, with plenty of people cheering the runners along, some with homemade signs. Other runners also encouraged each other with a "good job" as they passed in the opposite direction. Maybe if it hadn't been raining, there would have been more spectators for the swim and bike as well.

Husband was waiting for me at the finish, where there was plenty of drinks and food for everyone to recover with. The first thing I did was take off my shoes, to assess the damage done by shedding my socks. Definitely not wearing these shoes without socks again. Then I had a Gatorade, Doritos, cookies, and pasta salad. I let husband have my hot dog. Neither of us drink alcohol, but many people enjoyed a beer or 4.

We checked the times posted and I saw I was first in my age group and Lisa had won her division as well. Both of her friends she introduced me to won their division as well! I really enjoyed the fact that the overall sprint triathlon winner was a woman and that second place was her husband!

Beach Blast awards
Beach Blast medal is wood and bike chain, so awesome!
There were two women in the duathlon that finished before me, the two that started with the men. I asked the nice lady from the timing company about this and she said they would have to let the timing company know they started with them men for them to adjust it. After looking over the times, I'm sure the first woman still would have been first, but I would have been within seconds of the second woman. So I say I was second woman. It doesn't really matter, since the award is the same, and isn't this medal awesome? The awards didn't start until after the last runner crossed the finish line, so it was a bit of a wait with everyone crowding under the small shelter to get out of the rain. They did raffle off some prizes during this time and it was some pretty good stuff too, like water bottles and helmets. I heard a bike was given away at a previous year's race.

Beach Blast, me and my medal
The Beach Blast Triathlon and Duathlon made a great first duathlon for me. While the start was confusing and disorganized, the rest of the race was pretty well put together. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that the start would have been handled better had it not been for the poor weather. The course was enjoyable, even in the rain, and everyone was super friendly. The "after-party" was well planned with plenty of food with meat, fruit, pasta, chips, sweets, and all kinds of drinks. I think the best part is the medal though, isn't that the coolest medal you've seen?

Will I be back next year? Possibly, though I'd like to do the tri instead of the duathlon.

That's it then! I wanted to go back to my parents house and sleep but I couldn't fall asleep for the longest time, maybe I was on some duathlon high or something.

Anything else you'd like to know about Beach Blast?

Did you race this weekend? Tell me about it.

Have you done a tri or duathlon?


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