HITS Triathlon Series Naples

Guest blogger Mark Amato gives us a first hand perspective at what it is like to participate in the Naples HITS Half Triathlon competition. A half triathlon consists of a 1.2 mile open water swim, 56 miles of cycling and 13.1 miles of running. Enjoy the “Chaos” as he recounts the day.

Hits Triathlon Series-RACE REPORT, Naples, FL
by Mark Amato

And so the 2013 Triathlon season begins!!!!

We started the day bright and early after we picked up our bib and timing chip the day before. Hits used (Tri-Tats) so it is very easy to apply the numbers and paraphernalia that is needed to your body, bike, helmet etc….. It is always easy and clean and there is never a jam up with body marking lines the morning of the event!

I always like to get to an event early, calm the nerves, inflate the tires, set up transition and give a once over everything and make sure all is well. Then use the bathroom and we are ready to go!

Now this is my race report and you know, always crazy things happen. So sit back and enjoy!

The morning started when we arrived at 4:55am to get prime spot in the parking deck so it would make is easy to go back and forth if needed. Only challenge was the deck was supposed to be open at 5am and the “Park Ranger” was LATE….REALLY!!!! So the ranger is pissed off that he is up that early and takes his sweet time to open the door, then open the register etc….All while the race directer (Mark) is ready to go ape S*** as the line of cars begins to form. The race director confronts the ranger and asked him to speed it up ….Since you know (We have a race!!!) Best part is after the argument and the confrontation of the ranger telling the director to basically F-OFF and that it will be open when he wants it open. I do have to say it was quite entertaining at 5am in the morning! (Ranger’s response……”It is only a race” ….Our response ….Are you serious!!!! My internal response …..Put the doughnut down and start exercising (You give all cops bad names) !!!!!

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Now I do have to tell you and I will be honest…I was not prepared for this race in anyway! Normally my training is so dialed in perfectly and I am always prepared for an event! This time after the Philadelphia Marathon and after the holidays and not having and off season, I wanted to take it easy and relax to clear my head and get back into the right frame of mind for the 2013 season. It unfortunately, happens that this race is in January and lack of preparation did not help. Plus I was fighting a stress fracture that I got after Philly (Which Healed) then tweaked my knee bad ….(Long story with my dog) and then I aggravated my back and could not get loose and felt tight for the past couple of weeks…..So all in all I was doing GREAT!!! -LOL

This is me, so you know I am not backing down in anyway!!!! Let’s race…..All that will happen is I will hurt more after the event -lol! (Let’s do this!!!!)

So after the debacle with parking, No worries, we park and set up and we are good to go! First part of the race is the Swim 1.2 miles in the (about 71 degrees water) in the Gulf of Mexico! Weather temps where going to get up to 83 degrees for the day. The water was absolutely beautiful! Not a wave in sight and totally pristine!!!! I looked over the course in the morning and at this point…… I was scared S*******. Just because I have not worked on my swim, but after the Escape from Miami (Olympic Distance) I knew I could swim the distance, I was just like ……PREPARE A****** NEXT TIME!!!! No time to worry now, suck it up and just do it! (Trust me, as this journey moves to my IRONMAN, I will be completely dialed in and my swim will be perfected). In my little preparation I was able to get great input from my coach Karen Tamson and a great friend Jill Castle Moreland on a workout swim before hand. I did not act like I knew what I was talking about, ego checked at the door and (I know already, Swimming…is my weakest discipline) of the event….So just listen and pay attention and take lot’s of pointers …etc! Which I did-lol!

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The best part at 7am in Naples is the tide is out and so it is low tide and the gigantic sand bar appears in the ocean! So WE ENTER THE WATER…..A mass start, All of the Half and Full competitors at once hit the water! We have to run in the water for a little ways because of the sand bar and then BAMMM we are swimming! The swim is 1.2 Miles in the open ocean! I felt great, I still was scared, but nothing I could do! I knew I was not going to break any records, so I let the crowd converge on the ocean and picked my line to get in the grove! I was able to get in a nice grove that I could draft off other swimmers and when I was passing one and then another and then another, I was like……I CAN DO THIS…..I WANT THE FULL DISTANCE NOW !!!! I was being smart and playing it safe! I told Karen and Jill that i was going to do it in 40 minutes and I did. (Totally happy with that, since the lack of training). I came out of the water, nose plug, goggles, ear plugs and cap all come off. All placed inside the cap and then rip off the flap on the wetsuit and pull on the cord and by the time I left the water my wetsuit was at my waste……Other people where fumbling for the cord while trying to run. This allowed me time to run to T1 and changed quickly!

I run to T1 …..(Transition time was 3 minutes and 11 seconds….Happy with it since i got my wetsuit off and socks on and this time I went with a cycling jersey (for the extra pocket in the rear for the bottle exchange) over my tri singlet. I moved fast and laying all my items that I needed out on my transition mat, always helps out!!!! All quick and easy and now onto the bike!

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The bike course is 56 miles…28 out and 28 back! Now my back was tight and this limited me getting and staying in the aero position. Normally I always feel good in the aero position, but I was able to get in and then out and then needed to stand up. Plus the head wind going out was not helping the issue! The bike course was not closed completely off to traffic, so it was a challenge and scary at the same time. I like to be able to put my head down and ride, but not every course is completely closed off to traffic. Some are open and some are closed and some have cones to cording off the course etc…This one was open and then at the intersections was blocked off with the police….Challenge with this is ……YOU CAN NOT TRUST THE CARS …..It did get scary a couple times where a couple of cars tried to dart out and one intersection it was a traffic and congestion nightmare and the police created a lane zig zagging between the cars (The cops where awesome btw….race could not go on with out them) we where running out of road and if they did not create the zig zag, we where going to get hit (Unfortunately a rider was hit on Sunday during the other distances -Open, Sprint, Olympic, Unsure of the details, just heard that he was hit…very sad, but I think the rider will recover).

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Normally I fly on the bike and because of the lack of training, I was able to fly in segments and then had to pull back. I felt ok, but was having challenges. The road course was not the best, glass, branches littered the road (but overall it was good) the challenging part was it seemed every mile on the bike, another rider was going down with a flat tire…This is the crazy part to cycling. This is what you can not control! Thankfully I did not scum to this and I was ok! I powered trough the first 28 and then the back stretch and into T2. I completed the 56 miles in 2:38:25 seconds (Approx)

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Once I got into T2….Quickly changed and BAMMM out in the run course…T2 time was 2 minutes and 11 seconds

Get out on the run course which is 13.1 miles and see a great friend and training partner of mine Maura Granger and we were able to start the run and then assess what injuries we where having and if either of us needed any gels, etc….. Now my knee is shot and my back was SOOOO FLARED up that as I was running it was a challenge to say the least. I had to run and walk, run and then walk…Tried to stretch and then continue again with the whole process! Maura would see me and always offer encouragement …..She knew I was struggling and I was not running that way I normally do! So I battled the entire course and refueled at the checkpoints and picked up my pace more and more! I hit the turn around and just started running, as much as I could and for as long as I could before I had to slow down to stretch! Now a benefit of racing local is when you get to race with your coach and to see Karen Tamson coming on the way back and we were able to give each other motivation was a great thing and very fun!

Now the best part of this run was when another teammate of mine Wisnick Beauplan comes running up next to me (Looking fantastic and in perfect stride) I tried to keep up with him, but he is a great runner and we run against each other all the time and on this day, my tank was empty!!!! I wished him the best and told him to go forward and crush this race! As I hit the last rest stop I was able to see Ada Bromley and Steve Bromley with there kids manning the rest stop (Which I saw them on the way out as well. This was a great surprise and very fun). Both saw me and wish me the best and doused me with water and anything that I needed and wanted. The CHAOS was unleashed….Which having friends and family at this race was AWESOME!!!! These are all the people that we train with in the heat and we always have a great time doing it! So I battled trough the run course and come to the last 1.5 miles and the down stretch on Ocean Drive. I fight trough the pain and as I get closer to the finish line (Yep….of course a CAR tried to clip me ….. FLY HOME SNOWBIRD !!!!!) Then another genius on his bike, NON RACE RELATED …..Out for a stroll on the race course …..REALLY!!!! As the race volunteer is telling him to stop because I am behind him, he pays not attention until the Italian guy get’s next to him and drops a politely pleasantry to the gentleman and advises him to”WAKE UP” …..I SWEAR THE SNOWBIRDS !!!!!

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So the chute is filled with lot’s of people and I pick up the pace and finish strong and get the best surprise in the world which is seeing Anna Maria Lazzizzera waiting for me at a perfect spot and I am able to blow her a kiss and “High Five her” (This is our thing that we have always started from the first day that we starting running together). In any race we run, we would see each other on a course and then “High Five” each other and give each other motivation when we would run by each other! She is amazing and the complete balance in my life and I love her more than anything!!!!

My half marathon time was (02:07:25..approx)

I crossed the finish line and savored the accomplishment with a total time of 05:32:32.

The entire experience was incredible and I would not change a thing (Except of course being better dialed in with training -lol) I felt great after, I was tired, but I felt so good that I could have completed my long run on Sunday with my marathon training plan. I completed this race on talent alone and can’t wait for the next one and now feel even better for the full Ironman coming up in November of this year!!!!

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The race itself was great, the director to the volunteers to the fans and police…… etc ….All where great. It is fantastic to race with all the people that we train with and it was a really great experience! I would change the course and isolate it more with cones etc….Just to make it more protective and controlled for everyone! Overall it was a good event!

Yes….we did and always will continue to UNLEASH THE CHAOS !!!! NEXT UP WITH SPEEDSTER NATION….Is the invasion of MIA and the Miami ING Marathon. I Can’t wait for the event and for the series of triathlons that I have planned leading all the way to the journey to EARN MY STATUS AS AN “IRONMAN” IN NOVEMBER, 2013 …At Ironman Florida!!!!

Till the next race ……………

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