Monday, November 12, 2007

Ironman 70.3 World Championships

This weekend Janda and I traveled to Clearwater Beach, Florida for his last race of the season: 70.3 World Championships. As the defending 30-34 Age Group World Champion and after he season that he has had, there were a lot of expectations on Janda's shoulders and he came through beautifully. Not only did he repeat as 30-34 Age Group World Champion, he is now the overall Amateur World Champion! We figured that it would come down to him and a few other guys for the title, but you never know how the race is going to turn out until you cross that finish line.

We flew in early on Friday morning and after a false start to the east, we made it to Clearwater and Janda picked up his athlete packet. We then headed to our hotel, the Clearwater Beach Hilton, which was (no exaggeration) 200m from the transition area. When we checked in we found that not only was the hotel right next to transition, but we also had an awesome room. It was definitely one of the nicest hotels that we've stayed in.
Our hotel overlooking the transition

After a slight problem with a rear brake cable, Janda got all of his gear packed up and safely into transition. He finished his shake-out workouts and then we headed down to a local pizza place for dinner. Let's just say that it wasn't Gloucester pizza. After that we headed back to the room, relaxed and massaged until bed. I woke up a bunch of times due to the street noise, but thanks to a pair of hotel-provided earplugs, Janda slept the whole night through.

Clearwater Beach in the morning

At 4:55 I woke up with a nervous pit in my stomach. I swear that Janda's races make me more nervous than my own! 5 minutes later I woke him up and the day began. Janda got his bike stuff ready then we went to transition to double check his bike and gear. After that, because our hotel was so close, we headed back up to the room, checked the swim gear and then Janda suited up. We headed down to the start at about 6:45 so that Janda could warm-up and wait for his wave to go off at 7:45, 35 minutes after the pro men. After a warm-up swim, Janda headed into the corral to wait for his wave to begin. I watched the start and then headed across the beach to wait for him to come out of the water. 29 minutes later, Janda hit the beach with plenty of guys in front of him to catch.

Janda heading out on the bike

I watched him head out on the bike and as I was cheering him on I heard someone else yelling "Go Janda." Since he may be the only Janda in the world, I figured that it must be Liam, one of Janda's top young athletes and a fellow Gloucester native who has relocated to Texas. Sure enough, it was. So Liam and I grabbed a drink and headed out to the bridge to watch the bike and run. We had a while to wait for the pro men to start coming by, so we amused ourselves for about 45 minutes on the side of the road. Then the pro men started coming by; we could already tell that it was going to be quite a race. We watched them come by heading into transition and then running out over the bridge to Clearwater. A few pro women started to come by, so we knew that Janda would be in soon. As I'm leaning into the road looking for age group numbers on the back of cyclists legs, I feel a bike coming up on me. It was Janda and he was riding the curb so tight that I thought that he would take my head off. Liam and I were both unprepared and all that I managed to get a picture of was the pavement.

There were only a couple of 30-34 guys in front of Janda, and since the run is his best segment, I was confident that he'd overtake them soon. Liam and I crossed the median to watch the run more closely now and almost got knocked over by the wind and mirrors of the huge buses and trucks that were going by. You'd think that they would go slow because of the race, but apparently not. After Janda passed us, looking like a man with a mission, we headed up towards the 6 mile mark. As he came by the 6 mile mark, Janda had already taken the lead for his age group and we knew that he'd be fighting for the overall title. Janda headed toward the turn-around and Liam and I walked up to the 7 mile mark. Given his pace, we knew that he had a chance to set a PR and maybe break 3:56, so we shouted mad encouragement to him and then raced to the finish line to get a good spot.

On the run

We were also cheering on Liam's friend Kelly, who was in the women's 30-34 age group wave. She was on the cusp of a big breakthrough time too, so it was pretty exciting and nerve-wracking for us spectators. As we were watching those two running, we also got to see the top two men go by, neck and neck with a half-mile to go! What a race!

We got to the finish line, got a prime position and then the waiting began. After what seemed like hours, Janda finally came around the turn, sprinting for home. Official time : 3:58:01! We had to wait about an hour for the other age groups to finish to get his official place, but it was worth it. 1st amateur, 19th overall!

World Champion!

A few hours later, we all met up again at the banquet out on the beach at Sand Key Park. We certainly can't do that at home in New England in November! We hung out with Liam and Kelly as well as one of Janda's other up-and-comers Amanda Russell and her husband Matt. While I didn't love the food, the banquet was a lot of fun. We had some good company and Janda got to go up on stage again as World Champion! After the banquet ended, we all walked back down the beach to the hotel that Liam and Kelly were staying at and hung out as long as we could all stay awake: 10pm! Hey, it was a long day. Especially for Janda, Amanda and Kelly.

Amanda and Matt . ........................Kelly and Liam

Me and Janda

The whole day was great. Liam and I had a great time spectating, although I know that he would have rather been racing! We got to see all of the usual New England triathlon scene guys and girls and the weather ended up beautiful and warm.

Beautiful Clearwater Beach

For once, we didn't have to fly out ASAP, so we really got to relax on Sunday. We had breakfast at an awesome little diner, chilled on the beach and played mini-golf. Although Janda in the World Champion, I won at mini-golf at least! It was a close game, but I pulled it out in the end. We grabbed some dinner at the airport and then headed home. All in all, I'd say that it was one successful weekend.

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