Thursday, November 4, 2010

Miami Florida.... oh no!

When I got home from Austin I was greeted by an awesome surprise party from Sunny.  All my friends were there and I was completely surprised.  The party was set up as a roast and I have to admit it was pretty funny.  The mic was passed around and people told funny or silly stories about things I have done.  Ha Ha - well done everyone!

Today I "tried" to head out to Miami and like a good frequent flyer I arrived early to ensure a safe and timely arrival.  With no bike to check I just had my carry on bag and flew through security.  Right as I walked up to my gate the sign switched and showed a 3 hour delay.  Dang!  I knew I didn't have a 3 hour layover in Atlanta and quickly found a "help desk" phone and tried to see what I could get from Atlanta.  All flight to Miami were booked and there were no other options.  So I get to hang out in Atlanta for the night.  I did manage to secure a 8:30am flight to Miami.  My friend Alicia (who did Augusta 70.3 with me) just moved to Atlanta and has offered to let me crash there for the night.  Yes- I love nice people!

On the flight to Atlanta I watched some satellite TV, which is a very cool feature to make the time go by faster.  I chose the Discovery  channel which was showing a documentary on the Hudson River Plane Crash - what really happened.  Not the best idea for an in-flight viewing option, but I just couldn't turn it off.  Every time we land I rejoice that mini victory.

Alicia and her sons grabbed me from the airport.  Some food, a nice massage and bed. 

Friday October 29, 2010

I woke up today and could hardly move.  I have had some upper back tightness this week and I guess it moved down into my lower back.  It hurt really bad and make the flight from Atlanta to Miami very uncomfortable.

 As the day progressed my back got worse.  I showed up at Maria's house (a super nice family of a mutual friend who offered to let me stay at their house for the weekend - Thank you Thank you Dayton family and McGary family.)  Maria offered up some lotions and a pulse machine to help with my back as it was clear I was in pain.  It didn't feel any better and I didn't think I was going to be able to start the race.  But I still put my bike together and went to check in.  The expo was bigger than normal but I didn't see anything new.  I did stop by and try on a pair of Newton running shoes.  Does anyone have an opinion there??

WARNING:  the remainder of this post is mostly negative and filled with an abundance of whining and complaining. However accurate sensitive readers may want to stop here...... Being nice it is safe to say that the Miami 70.3 race falls outside my top 21 races of the 21 I've done so far....

After check in, still in pain I went to the swim start to check my bike in and get the lay of the land.  When I arrived to T1 there was mass confusion.  The race officials seemed to have miss-calculated the amount of bike racks needed for the amount of athletes that were coming.  Seems to me like some simple math 5th grade style would have been handy here.  It just so happened my number or spot were among the missing racks.  We were instructed to just lay our bikes against the exterior fencing of transition and that they have ordered additional racks that would be arriving later this evening and that we could search for our bikes on race morning.  Nice work guys!  I was worried about the execution of the rest of this race after the rack disorganization and the big sign that said "Swin In" ....... Seriously?

HA HA - this means trouble!

Tonight was the free dinner in downtown Miami for all registered athletes.  With the Miami Heat having their season opener ALL parking downtown was a $20 flat rate fee... So again I did the math and being on a budget it didn't make much sense to pay $20 bones for a free meal when I could go to a restaurant and get the same meal for $10.... Yes one could argue that the other $10 dollars would be worth the atmosphere and possible good times with athletes but let's keep in mind that I'm miserable with my back.  I found my way back to the expo and located the massage and taping center.  I needed something to change so I gave them a shot.  Scored a  pretty good guy and he worked on my back for about 20 minutes and applied some KT tape to the point of pain.  It loosened me up pretty good and I could feel more mobility.... Maybe I could start tomorrow....... I went back to the McGary's and got off my feet.  More lotions and a heating pad was all I wanted as I enjoyed the Miami heat take it to the Orlando Magic.

Home of the Miami Heat.  I didn't see Labron though....

Saturday October 30, 2010

I woke up with full intentions of being a spectator today and chalk this trip up as a complete waste of time.  To my surprise I woke up with zero back pain and feeling pretty good.  I couldn't figure out how this was possible as I literally couldn't do a quick walk without shooting pain just 8 hours earlier. 

WARNING:  this post gets really bad from this point forward.....

I arrived at the rave start with plenty of time to get ready for the race.  I located my bike and found that my front tire was now flat.... I quickly did a front tire change with my spare tube and as I was pumping it up the valve stem exploded.  So now I've used my spare tube and I'm still flat.  I needed to find 2 tubes ASAP.  One for my tire and one to go in my change kit.  The Specialized bike trailer was there and they hooked me up with the tubes I needed.  My Ellsworth was now loaded with air, extra tube, 2 CO2 cartridges, liquids and gels for the ride.  The water temperature was 80.6 so the announcement came over the loud speakers... No wetsuits.  No biggie here!

As I made my way to the water,  I always get my land markers picked out so that I can quickly find my bike for a speedy transition.  I've gotten turned around in transition before and it sucks.  On my way in I noticed that the "Swin In" sign was now covered with white boards- ha ha! 

The swim start was a little disorganized with no signage to indicate swim wave order.  At a good race they will have volunteers holding up big signs with the wave number and swim cap color on it.  I didn't have any issues but any first timer would have been royally confused.  It's these little things that were missed to ensure the newest athlete has a seamless experience at an Ironman event.  That's why we pay a premium amount to do these races, isn't it? 

Age 30-34 was in the gold caps today and of course we were the last of 15 age group waves.  We were herded down a dock where all the athletes were jumping into the water.  There was a guy at the end literally pushing us in, one right, one middle, one left.  I guess he assumed us athletes were not intelligent enough to not jump directly onto the athlete in front of us.  I happened to get pushed off to the left and luckily just missed a massive jagged rock just below the surface.  I was incredibly lucky and I cam only imagine a few athletes landed on that bad boy.  This swim was a clockwise direction swim with the bulk of the swim into a bit of a current. I knew it was going to be a long swim when they were announcing the pro times as they exited the water.  The pros were 4-5 minutes slower than normal.  I was right, I swam hard but finished with a swim time of 42 min.  The combination of no wetsuit, a long swim course and the current contributed to this time.  I found that it was very difficult to sight as there were only buoys at the turns and none along the straights.  Typically you will find buoys along the course to help people stay on track.  When they are so spread out it makes them very hard to see.  Another cut corner by the organizing crew in Miami.  I didn't use any of my body glide on my neck as I wasn't wearing a wetsuit.  Well here is a free tip for everyone; Your Tri top can still rub your neck raw in salty ocean swims (especially ones that take 42 min:)) ALWAYS apply some type of lube on your next regardless of attire... Just to be safe.

The bike course was through the streets of Miami.  The entire bike course was a series of turns trough downtown and residential Miami.  The course was lined with orange cones.  56 miles of cones- holly crap.  We had a lane for us bikers and a lane for cars.  Most major crossings had police who were trying to control the traffic.  The course was flat and fast and I had a lot of athletes in front of me to navigate through.  The Ellsworth bike just doesn't like to go slow or be held up.  Our one bike lane was extremely congested and many times cyclist were 3 riders wide making it impossible to pass - bad form triathletes!!  On a few occasions it was so bad that I went left of the cones into the clear lane to pass the groups of people.  This is also a no no and I could have gotten a penalty for this.  However I feel that this was an extremely poor, unsafe and unfair bike course for many athletes who started in the last few waves.  On one of my turns back to the right side of the cones a accidentally clipped a cone and almost took myself out of the race.  My chain fly off the crank arm and I was forced to pull off to the side and fix it.  Note to self - don't break the rules;)   I must have said 'On your left a million times'  I made it to the half way point of the ride in just over 1:10 minutes, 24 miles an hour with a chain malfunction and feeling good.  It was time to go for a bike PR.  I made the turn and bang - blew my back tire.  I did what I consider to be a speedy rear tire change and was back on the road in under 4 min.  This put a PR soundly out of reach so I just settle back into a comfortable pace and kept on with 'on your left'  about 20 minutes later a witnessed pure craziness on the bike course.  Several cyclist were almost hit as the police were struggling to hold the angry Miami drivers from crossing some of the intersections.  I witnessed several close call that were within inches of a collision.  Some drivers were yelling at us cyclist for being out there and racing.  This course was horrible and dangerous!  I had about 15 miles to go and on one of the many right hand turns I almost went down.  My front tire was going flat and as I rounded the corner the rubber almost peeled from my rim.  I managed to save the bike a straightened up as quickly as possible.  2nd flat on the course and 4th for the day.  Luckily I had packed 2 co2's on board which I normally do not do but sadly I was missing one key thing - A TUBE!  So I started walking with my bike yelling to the peletons going by asking if anyone had an extra tube.  Finally a nice 51 year old lady stopped and offered me her tube.  She explained that she wasn't trying to set any land speed records for the day and was happy to help.  I was extremely grateful and did another tire change.  I settled back into a groove and got into a rather good rhythm.  I started to get a little tired and sat up for a second to take a drink.  Upon sitting up 15 bikers peel off my wheel and wizzed by me.  I wonder if people just don't understand what 4 bike lengths really means... I wonder if when the officials explain 4 bike lengths if people hear 4 inches.  This bike course was also disappointing as there we no mile markers out there....another cut corner guys!  A bike time of 2:37 was respectable with 2 flats and a chain malfunction (my fault on this one).
Giving props to the camera man!

Miserable on the overpass section times 8!

Done and Done!
The day started to heat up as I began my run. This went from bad to worse as far as race organization and planning goes.  The very first water station was out of water.  There was one cup of Poweraid on the table so I snagged it.  I needed some liquid to put down my bag of  pills.  I knew the run course was going to be in trouble from that points as there were at least 1000 athletes behind me and they were already out of liquid.  This course featured several out and backs and a freeway overpass/bridge that made up a run loop which was run two times.  I found one mile marker sign laying on the side of the road at mile 5.... Where is the signage guys.  I felt very uncomfortable on this Freeway overpass.  We took 8 trips up and down this bad boy.  It was like doing hill repeats.  The bad part was that this was an ACTIVE freeway with cars and semi trucks driving 65 miles an hour.  All that was separation us and the cars were these small orange cones.  If one of these drivers drifted because of texting, drowsiness, health conditions, and just plain not paying attention they would have taken out hundreds of runners.  How did they even get a permit to do this?  Very unsafe and yet another reason to never do this race.  The aid stations continued to be out of water and no gels were provided.  During the later stages of my run they came up with bottles of water and cans of coke.  I cracked open a cool one and chugged it.  It seemed like everyone was suffering out there.  The volunteers were awesome and were doing everything they could.  Ice was also finally brought in and athletes were filling their shirts and shorts with ice to try to keep cool.  Another huge oversight was the fact that there were no porta potties on the run course except for the ones by transition.  I saw packs of people pulled off to the side of the race course doing the deed.  This works for guys but I felt horrible for all the woman athletes.... What are they suppose to do?  I finally finished and made my way through a maze of food vendors who were offering deep fried foods which were authentic to the area.  No thanks!  I grabbed some brown rice, black beans and some plantains.  I wanted out of there as fast as I could. 
Peace Miami - I'm outta here.

Once I was home I took a nice shower and was feeling fine considering all that happened out on the course.  About 45 min later I started to feel sick.... I proceeded to throw up the post race food and felt awful.  After a few hours of throwing up I felt much better and can only attribute this to some food poisoning from the post race food.

This race gets a big fat F- from me.  If you have the urge to do a foreign race travel no further than Miami Florida.  I would have had a slightly better day had I learned 2 simple Spanish phrases

1- On your left! And
2- Extra tube?

I can only imagine and have high hopes that Clearwater in 2 weeks would be a much better and smoother race.  I was shocked that Ironman would allow for such a poor race to be put on in their name.  I would be upset if this was my 'A' race for the year and I had prepared all year long to do it.  Sorry to any first time IM 70.3 athletes.  Most events are very well done, safe and exciting.  Get me home! 

UPDATE.... Ironman obviously knew there where some screw ups here and they came out with this statement.....

"WTC recognizes the many problems that athletes experienced in Ironman 70.3 Miami this past weekend. While this event is licensed to Miami-based Paramount Productions and not produced by WTC, we take your dissatisfaction seriously. In an effort to restore full confidence in the quality, safety and overall experience in this event, WTC is doing the following:
1.   Effective immediately, WTC is taking over the operational planning, management and execution of this event for 2011. The event will be incorporated into our operations system and produced at the high-quality level you expect from our other races.

2.   For all athletes who competed in the race on Saturday, WTC is offering a complimentary race entry into any of the 70.3 races in 2011 listed below, to include next year’s Ironman 70.3 Miami.  WTC will contact those competitors on December 1 with registration instructions."

Looks like I will be doing Boise for free next year - Thanks WTC!!

James Lawrence

An athlete with purpose.
Do you give a Dam?


  1. Man, that is a horrible mess to have to deal with. I am glad that WTC did the right thing.

  2. This was my first Half Ironman and first WTC event. This was my big race for the year. I trained basically all year for it. I did a few sprints and an olympic but this was my biggest race I have ever done. This was my first out of town race about 5 hours away. I started running into little problems as soon as I got to Miami and then the race went bad everywhere possible. I knew it was a first year event and expected a few problems. But I figured with WTC behind the promoter these would be minimal. I couldn't have been more wrong about that. If it wasn't for the free entry I wouldn't be doing anymore of their races and will probably never race in Miami again either. I was very happy to have finished my first half im and will train harder for the next one.

  3. James -- love reading your race reviews and was glad to hear your back eased-up for the race. Sorry but I did chuckle at the comedy of errors. Sounds like it was a rough day all-around. Good luck at Clearwater! --Paul

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