Ironman Florida 2018 (Haines City, Florida)

Haines City, Florida
November 4, 2018

The month leading up to this race was crazy.  Hurricane Michael came through Panama City Beach Florida and created havoc.  The race was cancelled on November 3rd and moved to Haines City Florida on November 4th.  This caused a number of issues that were impactful to the race – technical swim, hilly bike, tough run course, a 10 degree temperature increase.  But, you take what you are given and everyone races the same course under the same conditions.

During Ironman Arizona 2017, my back failed me and I strained to finish the race from mile 20 – 26.2 on the run.   2018 was used to strength my posterior-chain and improve my run form.   To be blunt: This was what I said in the race report last year: “My run is my weakness. Kill the weakness.”

This involved, among other things, two 50ks, a 50 miler, and the stair mill.  Ultra running was in my plans – but, improving my run in 2018 was my goal.   There was no immediate goal of a second Ironman in 2019, but…  yes, peer-pressure of led to a 2019 sign-up.  Then there was a secondary of stronger and faster of 2019.

Race Conditions:  For the 10 days leading up to the race the forecast was 60 – 80 degree with 5 – 10 mph winds.   This changed on race day with a hot and humid 85 degree day with light wind – of course, very little wind on the run which increase the suffering.  The water was a great, 73 degrees and the air temperature started at 62 rose to 85 and settled into the high 70s after darkthe mid 50s once.  Brief light rain increased the afternoon humidity then a downpour after dark.

Goals:  1) Race to Plan. 2) 13 – 14 hour finish, 2) Complete the race. After the first ironman, I was hesitant to put any time goals, but I needed to comunicate plans to Coach. The goals were within personal well-conditioned training capacity.

Before the Race:  I traveled to Florida with the KMF team on Thursday for a Sunday race – perfect for veteran race group (4 of us plus Coach) to tour the vendors, preview the course and make our final preparation. Pre-course recon revealed a hilly bike course – opposed to prepared for flat course and a deviously deceptive hilly run course.  Change of race plans needed.   The night before the race I discussed my personal race plan for the next day with Coach and we revised it based on course preview.  Main change: Treat the run course different than planned.

Morning of the Race: We secured nearby parking two days before and arrived within a few minutes of transition opening. I had time to drop special needs bags, prep bikes, take care of morning needs before the swim.

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KMF Florida Race Team: Jeff Allen, Kris Keele, Coach Ben Drezek, Devin Logsdon, and Paul Bea


SWIM – 2.4 miles

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Swim and Ironman Venue

This was a strange M-Dot or Alligator head swim with a timing tunnel (overhead wire) in the middle.   This meant lots of sighting bouys and lot of turn on a very small lake for a two loop swim.  This was the best that could be made of the hurricane situation, but it was challenging and woe be the beginning on this churning swim.  This was an ironman PR swim for me, but much more.  I came out of the swim on the first lap feeling good and looking to the second.  I transitioned to my bike feeling the reward of long hour working on my swim technique.  Last year the swim cost me energy.  This year the swim set me up for the bike.

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Beach transition from lap 1 to 2 getting a SIS gel in the system.

IMAZ Swim Time: 01:21:13

IMFL Swim Time: 01:20:17 (personal record)


BIKE – 112 miles

I’m in the best bike shape possible. As much as I wanted to push the bike, I wrote the following in my race plan after seeing the course:  Mainly on my own on food and hydration with simple pickups of Endurance and water. I would like to have a good bike, but not a PR-type ride. I’ll take what it gives me and ride the course. I like where my bike fitness is at the moment, but want that fitness to get me to the run prepared for the IM run.

I ran the plan to the letter.  Nothing more to say. Perfection.  I felt great coming off the bike and into the run.

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IMAZ Bike Time: 06:00:06

IMFL Bike Time: 05:59:24 (personal record, harder bike course)


RUN – 26.2 miles

Oh, the run. A very, very, very, very different attitude that my first IronmanI was anticipating this 3 loop run course.

The run scared me during my first Ironman for good reason.  I was a poor runner with posterior chain flaws.  2018 saw a lot of improvement including a one minute drop in my long run pace – meaning perceived effort is the same at a quicker pace (about 8% faster for me).

I made a transition to ultra running in 2018 to challenge myself to improved my weakest area of triathlon.  The effort to meet my challenge head-on payed dividend on the day.  Adversity experienced at Rocky Raccoon 50m and Pike Peak Ultra 50k provided a solid foundation for this run course. To run ultras, you have to spend time running – it was needed to improve my weakness.

The run pre-race advice from Coach Ben Drezek (for me): a) treat this IM run course as a trail race, b) walking the hills, b) running flats and downs 3) If you’re going to have to walk it on the third lap, walk it on the first.

I walked out of transition and walked up the first hill. Did I want to run? YES!  I felt great coming off the bike!  I ran the first flat and ran the first down.  I then repeated this process for the next 26 miles.  This was a tough “technical” run course for an Ironman course, but my 2018 season and training set me up to have a great run.  My @baseperformance salts and rocket fuel kept me in the race – it was vital for the conditions.  Despite the heat, my splits were even the entire day despite the hot and humid conditions – walked all aid stations except for the final loop – and then skipped every other one since I was taking in little nutrition at that point (~7 miles left).

Starting the run!

Through the heat of the day! Selfie with Matt (Base Performance)

Oh, did I mention the rain.  It start as much needed light rain after dark and at mile 22 tried to drown my while running upright – some of the hardest rain I’ve ever been in.


The Ironman carpet leaves you breathless and you enjoy a spectacular finish. During my finish, the carpet was floating between the top and bottom of the water with the water covering your shoes.  Yes, it was a great way to finish a very tough race in style

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This is Mike Reilly, the “Voice of IRONMAN,” announcing my finish and his personal facebook live feed talking about the rain….yes, the water on and below the carpet was above my shoes (1:42)

IMAZ Run Time: 06:36:00

IMFL Run Time: 05:40:19 (personal record, harder run course)


IMAZ OVERALL TIME:14:16:05

IMFL OVERALL TIME: 13:27:47 (personal record, harder course)


OTHER NOTES

Mentally: I was prepared (mind and body) for this race. I’m in was in a good state of mind with a good last month of training.

Positive strives in swimming in the 6 weeks prior provided confidence starting the day.

No concerns for the bike. My bike conditioning was top-notch.

Like IMAZ, I was ready for the worst on the run. Even with my preparations I was concerned for a structural breakdown in my performance leading to a repeat of 2017. I knew that I had to take care of my posterior-chain throughout the day and triage it with my special needs bag if needed.

Done Right: It sound strange, but I was less willing to share my plans with Coach Ben before this race. I think I was simply unsure that I wanted to be accountable for a stated plan. I did share however so I’ll chalk this up to “done right.

Stay with my race plan.  I trusted the plan and knew that my coach agreed. If the plan failed we could agree on the reason for failure. In this case each point of the plan can through remarkably.

Improvement:  This is hard after this race.

1) I need to continue an aggressive improvement of the structural strength so that form stays together longer.
2) Continue to work on the parts of my endurance training that is not easy – running?
3) Created a long-term plan to integrate this lifestyle into my normal life – make running therapeutic to help other aspects

Differently: Don’t sweat the small things. Let the race come as it will and enjoy the experience of racing.

Lessons: I’m going to use last years lesson from Arizona as a start: “The mental is as much or more that the physical and they will bleed into each other.  More study needed.” This is probably more true now that it was then. Sometime you just don’t know what you don’t know.

Back to Training: For the next four months, I’m on racing vacation. This doesn’t mean stop. I’ve been pushing for the last two years. Mind and body need scheduled maintenance. RELAX and maintain fitness before preparing for my next race.

Next race:  Brazos Bend 100k. This will be my first race of the 2019 season that will not be just for fun. This will begin my preparation for the Brazos Bend 100 in December 2019.

Back to the grind.

Thanks Everyone!!!!

About Jeff Allen

"My mission is to balance the goals of my personal and professional life while continually gaining new knowledge. This effort to balance my goals should not dilute the quality of my goals, but should enhance the quality of life for my family, co-workers, friends, and students." Jeff and his wife, Denise, have two sons and live in Aubrey, Texas.
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