Rating Scale (based on the amount of beer needed after race)
- 4 Brewskis: So excruciatingly painful and lame you’ll need a full year of recovery just to forget this race
- 3 Brewskis: The best thing said and remembered about race is; I finished
- 2 Brewskis: Challenging race in a masochistic I’d could do it again sort-of-way given enough time and Ibuprofen.
- 1 Brewski: Good solid race that exceeds your expectations
- No Brewski: A must-do annual event for both friends and family
If you like the combination of extreme heat, humidity and Mickey Mouse, this race is for you! This is certainly one of the most family friendly races on the triathletes’ calendar. While you sweat and toil assembling your bike, the family can be out having lunch in Germany or France at Epcot or perhaps a more exotic African fare at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
While you sit in the blazing sun at the pre-race meeting the kids can be frolicking at the nearby beach. And while you race through the bike unfriendly streets of Disney’s back lot, the family can be sipping a cool lemonade or Ice Tea at Fort Wilderness. However all this family-fun does come with a price…a very hefty price.
I’m now a complete believer in the Disney business plan. They have perfected the art of maxing-out your credit cards with a smile and a song. (In my case it was the 2 hour Hoop-Dee-Doo Music Review which came to something a bit over $200 for my small family)
Indeed, the hardest part of this entire race is opening the credit card statement on your return home.
I asked the super buff guy at the pool where he got his rub on Ironman tattoo which was prominently blazing red in the mid day sun. He gave me a look of total disregard contempt and said in a heavy French accent, “This is not a child’s tattoo. She is real!”
I considered this for a while and decided that while I certainly use many fine products and services daily, but the thought of tattooing myself with a corporate logo of their manufacturer was a bit much. Can you image the conversation with your spouse. “Honey the dishwasher does such a great job that I just added a Whirlpool tattoo to my left shoulder.”
“That’s great dear, it just looks super above your Volvo and American Express Tattoo’s. I’m getting my Playtex tattoo done tomorrow.”
By now you may have guessed that many of the racers are the Ironman hardcore international types. Not to be out done, many of the local racers are also the hardcore Ironman types. I met another guy from Wisconsin who had a tattoo (real) of every IM race he had completed. For instance, the Wisconsin race featured a prominent smiling cow above the IM tattoo while the Florida full IM featured a happy leaping porpoise.
The swim is a lope-side triangle. Athletes start in about 20 waves. As usual, the Clydesdales and Athenas started in one of the very last waves. Note 1 to race organizers: we are getting a bit tired of always being last. Is there a secret race director manual that says that Clydesdales and Athenas must start last because they will drink all the beer? Do race organizers get a secret thrill in seeing us big boys struggle through the mid-day heat while all the pro’s and small girls have long ago finished the race?
Except for the rumors of triathlete eating alligators, the swim is very pleasant. The course is well marked. The water is warm, not wetsuits legal. There is only one big loop, which means you won’t get caught up in many elbow battles. Enjoy the clear water and keep an eye out for fish in the shallow parts.
Note 2 to Organizers: Black Astroturf like carpet is a really bad idea in Florida.
The transition is on a beach and the IM folks had kindly covered most of the beach in black carpet. It felt great to walk on and run on in morning while putting our stuff into transition. I loved the feeling of soft sand covered by soft carpet. The same cannot be said later in the day. A crash course in hot coal walking would certainly have been helpful during the first and second transition. We were all jumping around like kangaroos trying get out feet into the bike shoes.
The bike course winds its way through the back lots of Disney until you hit the mean streets of Orlando and the country roads further out. Friendly Disney security guards cheer you on as you fly through their property. It would have been more helpful if they actually stopped the traffic. At one point a bunch of us big guys were almost taken out by a sleepy-eyed Disney employee who mistook the racecourse for own personal highway. He came at us head on in an old Dodge. He didn’t seem to be bothered a bit by the bikes that were flying left and right to avoid a head on collision.
The other unpleasant surprise is how hilly the bike course gets in the middle. Who thinks of big hills when they think of Florida? No me until I had to get out of my seat as the road turned up and continued to climb for a half mile at a time.
It was then that I also noticed that it was getting a wee bit hot and muggy. I usually can’t tell when I’m sweating on the bike. Climbing the hills in the mid-day Florida heat, I was more like Sponge Bob than Simon Lessing, who won the race, and who I was sure was already done as I headed back to the transition area for a second round of coal walking.
The run was changed in 2005 to two loops in and out of the Fort Wilderness Disney property after many complaints about the old Golf Course segment. The good news is that the part of the run that meanders through the shady tree-lined Disney property is great. The bad news is that the part of the run that winds through the of the semi-trailer parking lot, the hot asphalt bus and RV choked main road entrance to Fort Wilderness and the dusty and rutted path that follows the dry cannel back to the property really sucks.
It especially sucks when it is well above 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity and not a cloud in the sky to provide any shade. It especially especially sucks when you hit the first aid station back on the property and some well meaning volunteer hands you a cup of coffee hot coke. Now that’s the type of sensory overload memory that will stick with you for a while.
NTKS (Need To Know Secrets)
- If you are really sick of the heat on the run, the siren call of the finish line may just be too strong to resist. It is only a matter of making a right instead of a left and you’ve just finished the run in record time by avoiding that “mandatory” second loop.
- Compared to the Chicago Triathlon the transition area is actually pretty small but just wait until you start out on the bike. Make sure you know how to run in your bike shoes. You’ll have to run through the transition make a right, run over a bridge, make a left, run down a path, make another turn and run down a road until you get to the point where you can actually get on the bike. Figure you might as well add a mile or two to the half marathon while pushing a bike.
- Beware of hot coke. It kinda tastes like defeat.
- Note 3 to organizers. The best part of the race is having your family at the finish. It is almost worth the heat, humidity and warm coke.