Rev3 Florida: A Race Day Experience by Joe Umphenour

Joe Umphenour at Rev3 Florida

Joe Umphenour at Rev3 Florida

This past weekend, Rev3 Florida was meant to be two things: a tune-up for Ironman Arizona in three weeks and a gauge to see how my strained calf had healed. The calf had cropped up five days after the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas and had forced me to skip the Branson 70.3. I had to take about three weeks off from running until Dr. Mathews and his ART skills at Mathews Chiropractic could work on it to the point that it was ready to be run on again. Austin 70.3 was the original targeted race and Florida had actually been my second choice, but I decided to do the Rev3 race instead because we were concerned that Austin’s hilly, off-road run would needlessly aggravate the calf and thought the warmer temps would be better for it. Plus, being in Florida, I thought I might have the chance to go to Epcot at Disney World for the Food and Wine Festival.

As I boarded the plane, like most people I was keeping an eye on the hurricane’s path as it steered towards Florida. Though it looked like it would stay on the east coast, the winds were still whistling strongly on the Gulf-side of Florida. When we showed up for the pro meeting the day before, we listened to them talk about possibly canceling the swim and making it a duathlon. While I hoped to swim in the race, I glanced at the supports of the tent that we were under straining against the wind and realized that chances were slim of getting wet the next morning. With so many good runners and cyclists in attendance, my hopes for an advantage out of the water got blown away by someone I’d never met named Sandy.

Race morning dawned just as blustery as the day before. No swim, as predicted, but it was replaced with a 1.5 mile run that gave the fleet-footed another leg up. Usually it wouldn’t bother me to add more running, but being cautious with the calf was going to slow me down at the start anyway. Reckless speed during the latter stages of a healing calf isn’t the best route to take. So my race strategy changed from one that encouraged attacking to one that emphasized building into it, as I would in an Ironman. With tough wind on the bike, it was a good way to be patient and race at my own pace versus one that was reactionary to others. So when the race started, I let the front runners surge away and eased into the 1.5 mile run, knowing whatever pace I went would be faster than what I had trained at but not enough to redline. Though I came in 20 seconds after the front guys, I was barely feeling the first run when I jumped on the bike and set off strong but controlled onto the 56-mile bike course. The front guys were redlining it and the pack got away, but I started picking off those that had dropped off the high pace. Most of them couldn’t recover, while I was comfortably building up and being patient, as if I was riding 112-miles. There were some tough gusts that tried to turn me into a human kite, but I stayed steady throughout the ride, feeling pretty good as I neared the end.

Once on the second run, the heat that had been camouflaged by the nice cooling breeze came with a vengeance, especially when I was running with the wind. Again, I repressed my old ITU-breed habit of going out hard and fast, and instead patiently held back again, slowly building up my pace as I progressed through the two-lap run. Before the start, I had put on my Zensah compression calf sleeves to be sure I had a little extra support for my healed calf. They did a great job; I didn’t even think about my calf the whole race. Runners started coming back to me and I felt stronger and stronger as the miles increased. I was so aware of the moment that I even spied a manatee lazily frolicking in the canal next to us. By the end, I floored it so that I could pass three guys in the last 1 ½ miles to finish in 10th overall and in the money. It was much better than I expected based on my experiences at New Orleans 70.3, which had also become a duathlon and where I had finished 16th. I really hadn’t been counting spots so to have finished 10th was pretty satisfying, especially since I felt like I could run another 13 miles. A successful tune-up for Ironman Arizona on November 18th was complete and now I am ready to redeem myself after last year’s 16th placing in Tempe.