I first heard about this race in the USAT magazine back in September of 2012 and knew it was a race I wanted to do. The race starts and finishes at Space View Park in Titusville, right across the lagoon from Kennedy Space Center, with the bike route going onto KSC grounds and around two launch pads, where the general public is not allowed. As a child of the great space race, this was a must do: combine triathlon with space history and my nerdy space heart goes all aflutter.
We took the auto train down from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL so I didn't have to deal with disassembling the bike, etc. This turned out to be a good option, although I found it VERY hard to sleep on the train. However, we scheduled it so that we arrived in Florida on Friday, meaning I'd be able to get at least 1 good night's sleep before the race.
Saturday was for packet pickup, practice swim, and ride the start of the bike route, and then check in the bike. Water temp was 74 and it was a bit windy and choppy; I was a little unsteady when I got out of the water. Hoped for better conditions on Sunday.
Transition hours on Sunday were 5-6:15 with the 1st wave (HIM) heading off at 6:45, so we were up at 3:15, arrived at 4:45 so that Michele could do some volunteering before the race start. Air temp about 64, water temp about 76; wore my sleeveless wetsuit.
Body marking was on Saturday, but all chip pickup was on Sunday; like many others I needed my markings touched up. Once we were all out of transition, it was time to queue up for chips; the line was LONG and the blacktop was the most painful I've ever tried to walk on barefoot.
Once that was done, the swim start was the most organized I've ever experienced. There was a person with a placard for each wave getting everyone lined up and moving along. Terrific.
After 5 waves of HIM racers it was time for the International+ racers to get wet. My wave was wave 2, my favorite wave. Once we were down the dock and into the water we had a few minutes to get warmed up and jockey for position. The water was shallow enough there to stand while waiting. Once the horn sounded it quickly became apparent that the white turn buoys that were quite visible from the dock were nearly impossible to see at water level and I never saw an intermediate buoy, either. Between the trouble sighting, some chop, and wind I never really settled in and felt comfortable. Just follow the heads and just keep swimming. Made it around the triangular route with little contact, but poor navigation. Although not one of my better swims I still out within a minute of target.
Transitions are usually one of my strong points, but although I came out of the water feeling steady on my feet I was still not feeling too peppy. Rather than running it hard I took it a bit easier. Once at my bike I decided to forgo the the sunscreen as it was very cloudy. I was out of TA pretty quickly, across the mat and mount line, and onto the bike without any hitches.
Once onto the bike the real fun started. First, I had a terrible time getting into my shoes: the fastening strap unthreaded itself from the other side (on each shoe) and I had to get them rethreaded one handed while riding before I could fasten things down and concentrate on biking. Within a mile it's up and over the causeway bridge (the only elevation change on the whole route) and into the wildlife refuge. At this point the riding was good, with a strong tail wind, but the roadway was quite bumpy. Cool KSC sites all along the way. The bumpy roads continued the entire route, but after 17 miles of tailwinds we turned around and proceeded back into a STRONG headwind. Suddenly, instead of cruising easily at 21mph I was struggling to hit 15mph. Between the 19 miles of headwind and the bumpy roads the bike ride was punishing. Ran out of drink in bottle 2 with 7 miles to go. Back over the bridge, into the wind, and then finally done on the bike (36 miles total, the reason for the "+" designation). I had hoped to finish around 19mph/1:52, but the wind had other ideas. This is the only triathlon I've done where I was overjoyed to be off the bike and onto the run.
B: 2:09:29 10/22
Went to do my shoeless, moving dismount and caught my heel on the behind-the-seat bottle; although I did not go down, people started telling me that I had lost a shoe. As I tried to back up for that I dropped my bike (on my right instep) and lost my other shoe. I kinda lost all my transition mojo at this point and walk the rest of the way to my rack. Bike racked, shoes on, skipped the sunscreen again. Time to run.
This was an out and back, same road as the 5k and HM. Discovered that my Garmin was giving me pace and time data, but no distance or average pace. OK, so I'll take gel at 20 and 40 minutes rather than 2 and 4 miles and rely on course markers for progress. (cool, I can do math while exhausted!) Unfortunately, the mile markers on course were rather poor. At least I had the 5k and 10k turn around points as solid markers. Tried to keep the pace below 9:45 on the way out and then start picking it up on the way back. Gotta finish under 1 hour! Feel several blisters forming. Just keep running, just keep running! Sun had come out halfway through the bike ride, so getting pretty hot. Tried ice down my sports bra for the first time; didn't expect to be hearing/feeling it clinking together for the next 2 miles! But it did feel good ;) Finally hit the 5k turn-around on the way back: 1.5 miles to go...pick it up! Feet hurting! Keep it together! Just keep running! Go under 59 minutes? I think so! But no, crossed the line at 59:17. Under an hour, and a 40 second PR for a triathlon 10k, so not too bad!
After collecting my finisher's medal and a bottle of water I pulled off my shows to see what was going on: 1 blister on each pinkie toe, blister on left foot outside and right foot inside, and blister and timing chip chafing on left heel; cut and bruise on right instep where I dropped the bike on it. Went to stand in the ice and water in the water bottle pool and got scolded. Slunk off to find the food and some shade.
Definitely not my best race, but definitely a race of a lifetime. So glad we were able to make this happen, but not so sure I would do it again. The venue and KSC access were outstanding, but the bike route was so punishing. Toughest tri I've done. Definitely a love/hate thing.