By Matt Mahoney
You learn a lot when you push yourself to the limits of your
abilities. The 1992 Great Floridian was my third Ironman distance
triathlon and Joan Joesting's fifth, but I find its effects on the
body are still unexpected.
You might expect the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2
mile run to leave your muscles sore for days afterwards. In fact
this doesn't happen. I could run with little soreness the next
day, certainly nothing like any of my past marathons.
That's not to say I had recovered. I've heard lots of stories
about how too much exercise suppresses the immune system; about
people getting sick while tapering for a big race or recovering
afterwards. I caught the flu on Thursday after the race, then Joan
caught it on Sunday.
An event that lasts from sunrise until after dark stresses the body
in ways I don't fully understand. Like last year, I took two
liters of glucose-saline solution intravenously at the finish.
Unlike last year when I didn't urinate for the last six hours, I
stopped every 90 minutes, so I didn't think I was dehydrated. But
my *** pressure, 90/50, told a different story.
It wasn't endurance or muscle fatigue that limited my race
performance -- it was my digestive system. My 16.5 MPH average
bike speed and 5:24 marathon was enough to advance me from 160'th
to 104'th place, so it's safe to say I wasn't the only one whose
stomach wouldn't take as much food and water as I would have liked.
My goal of one quart of water and 200 calories per hour had to be
reduced by half for the last eight hours. Joan vomited during and
after the run.
So if I haven't scared you yet, just what can you expect for your
$150-200 entry fee?
The second annual Great Floridian was held in Clermont, Florida on
Saturday, Oct. 24. There were 180 individual entries and five
relay teams, almost half from out of state. Race conditions were
nearly ideal: 65-75 degrees with a light cloud cover. Compare this
with last year when it was sunny and 10 degrees warmer, and there
were two thunderstorms during the bike segment.
The 2.4 mile swim was out to the middle of Lake Minneola and back.
The water was clear, calm, and 70 degrees, a bit cooler than last
year. Wetsuits were allowed regardless of temperature. The 200
yard wide beach gave plenty of room for a mass start. The only
trouble I had in the swim was that the sun was hidden by clouds and
I couldn't navigate well. I finished in 1:30, four minutes behind
last year but well within the 2:30 cutoff. Joan finished in 2:04.
The bike was mildly hilly for the first 40 miles, followed by steep
hills (up to 15% grade) for miles 40-60 and 90-112. I used a 42-28
low gear, and my speed ranged from 5 to 45 MPH. The bike course
was the same as the *** on Sugarloaf Mountain (which many
people walked up). There was a 10 MPH wind, similar to last year.
There were aid stations every 10 miles with water, 10K drink,
Powerbars, bananas, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I
carried 2 quarts of triple-strength Conquest (a glucose polymer),
and took water to dilute it. I rode hard and finished eight
minutes ahead of last year, but my stomach was starting to pay the
The run was three flat laps around the lake, using the Labor Day
12K course, with a extra mile of out and back hills added to each
loop. There was water, 10K, defizzed cola, ice, sponges, and food
(orange slices, bananas, or bagels) every mile. After dark,
blinking barricades were put in the streets, and we were given
Although I ran my last marathon (Grandfather's Mountain) in 3:32,
my plan nevertheless was to racewalk the first lap at a 12-13
minute/mile pace. Then I would run as much as I could while it was
cooler. I lapped Joan in the middle of my second lap and
racewalked with her for a mile. I walked most of the third lap,
having run out of carbohydrates and unable to drink more. My lap
splits were 1:50, 1:30, and 2:04, and I finished in 13:45, 18
minutes slower than last year. Joan finished in 16:44, just before
the 17 hour cutoff, but pretty much in line with her previous
finishes in Hawaii and New Zealand.
The award ceremony and chicken barbecue was the next day. There
were course records in every age group by 30 minutes to over an
hour, thanks mainly to the cooler weather. The winning times,
about 9:20 for the men and just under 11:00 for the women, were
also records. The fastest marathon, 3:25, was also a record. Joan
became the oldest woman finisher at 54 and won third Master's.
Last year I was 10'th in the 35-39 men, but all these fast times
didn't help me any, and this time I missed the 10 deep age group
awards by two hours.
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