The Right Mental Attitude: 2015 Florida Double Anvil Race Report

Two people posing with their bikes in front of a tent.


We arrived in Tampa, Florida for the USA Ultra Triathlon Florida Double Anvil on Wednesday, March 4th. My parents were already checked in to the hotel and in our room they had left a card, which read:

“May the sun bring you new energy by day, 

May the moon softly restore you by night, 

May the rain wash away your worries, 

May the breeze blow new strength into your being. 

May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.” 

~Apache Blessing

As Maria and I prepared to embark on a 281.2 mile adventure, this blessing set the tone and provided words of wisdom we would heed through the long hours to come. 

Locked and loaded the day before the race.

“Nothing on Earth can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on Earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Adapting your body and mind to a double iron distance triathlon is a unique experience. Sometimes all seems calm, just moving along quietly only hearing your breath, foot steps or spinning pedals.

But, inside your head, there is a battle going down–not some little after school wimpy fight. A full on war of the mind and body is going down. Who wins this war is your choice. Your perspective will determine the victor.


At times you feel extreme pleasure, while at other times you question your sanity and existence. Sometimes you throw a tantrum, while other times, you laugh your ass off. Side note: Laughter is the magic pill. Maintaining a positive perspective seems to matter the most in my experience.

I’m hardly an expert in the Ultra Triathlon scene. The 2015 Florida Double Anvil was only my second attempt at the distance. Yet, finishing three 100 mile ultra-marathons has helped me progress with the double distance, without a doubt. I find having various experiences are invaluable in your ultra distance-racing arsenal. I will continue to seek new experiences because I consider myself a student of the sport. Yet, learning hurts when racing over long distances. This I have discovered. The process allows for constant adaptation to changes and feelings in our minds and bodies. Accepting the pain as temporary is a skill that we learn with each new experience – whether training or racing.

“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

So if you find yourself here reading this race report, you must already be a motivated person–or maybe just a family member (Hi, Mom!). Either way if you are dreaming of doing something–whether big or small–that dream is the first step of a plan.

My build into training for the 2015 Florida Double Anvil has been years of progression. I like to look at training in big blocks. Each training segment or block of training is another in the foundation. The more blocks you have, the sturdier you will be in getting to the peak of the building.

After Kona 2014, I took a solid 5 weeks off of training. In December, Maria and I started our build for Florida. One thing I like most about training for a double iron distance triathlon is there are no cookie cutter plans. I have found that ultra distance training is more about personal awareness and adapting your training according to your body’s response and experience level. Of course, you need to hit critical volume for the long rides, runs and swims. But, hitting the necessary critical volume and maintaining consistency varies from individual to individual. All of the training decisions can be determined by history of the athlete, including past injuries and goals.

When in doubt of what to do? Ride your bike.

“Endurance is patience concentrated” –Thomas Carlyle

Pre-race group photo.

The race was a long day. Now, after decompressing and thinking about race day, I know it was a glorious day.

My race started as all races with Maria and I giving each other a fist bump and a kiss. Boom and a kiss–the swim starts. Not much to say about this section. Swim ended for me 4.8 miles in the Olympic size pool with six other racers in each lane. After 1 hour, 59 minutes, I exited the water. Inside my water clogged head I thought to myself: a sub-2 hour double swim. Nice! Secretly, that was my goal. I was second out of the water into T-1.

Onto the longest section of the race: the Velo. Most of the bike race I pushed to just under Ironman watts. This effort is not going as per race plan, I thought. My heart rate was way too high for the first hour until finally settling into my target HR zone. Stay in aero, drink, eat, push, sustainable groove, I thought to myself.

Somewhere around 165 miles I did an assessment: How do my legs feel? Surprisingly I was not feeling too bad. Quads are achy but that’s normal. So I continued at my prescribed rate of perceived excursion and grinded away the next 50-60 miles to the bike finish. I was in T2 with 10:53 bike, and second place overall.

At the finish line, 21 hours and 8 minutes from the start of this journey. I share a post-race hug with my parents, Jeanne and John. Photo credit: Dan Elliott, used here with permission,

“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use”—Charles Schulz

Let me start by blaming Maria for planting the seeds of triathlon and ultras in my mind. See, Maria signed up for the Atlantic City Marathon back in 2008. I could not sit back and watch her run a marathon. No way! So I signed up and joined in for the fun. Since that finish line, I’ve been an endurance junky. Through the years, a few setbacks shut down my run now and again. Each time, I realized what a gift it is to be able to run.

At the start of the double marathon, I found myself in a good position, with about one complete lap up on third place. I thought: just maintain this and you will have second place locked up. This strategy was much easier said than done.

I was being chased down like prey by multiple-time winner David Jepson, and needed to stay on my toes. David and I fought back and forth for most of the race. Finally, I don’t know at what point or why, but I felt like I was running in my sweet spot. I reached the finish line with an 8:11 double marathon, which was good enough for second place overall. This race was my best day yet in my racing life.

“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” Gordon B. Hinckley

Towards the end of long races when things are getting very challenging, the athletes often start to talk to each other, to show each other support. We find ourselves talking about problems we are having at the moment. Maybe we want to adjust our race goals or express running difficulties we are experiencing.

David Jepson and I at the awards ceremony the day after the race.

Unlike most team sports, such as football, baseball, hockey, or soccer when we actively root against the other side, the endurance community actively supports and encourages fellow competitors.

I try to give some positive energy to help my fellow competitors across the line or maybe to just take another step. A few words of encouragement along with a little bit of positivity is contagious and spread around the race and into all aspects of our lives. Personally I would rather help someone across the line then win the race. Helping that one person will spread and build like a snowball rolling down a mountain.

There is so much positivity at the Florida Double Anvil. I want everyone to have their best day–and I believe they want me to have my best day as well. This kinship amongst the athletes out on the course lasts through the day and night (and day). The pain and discomfort must bring us closer.

No matter your distance, remember this simple credo when things get difficult: Help your fellow competitors. Be positive. Be a caring and gracious person. After all, it’s good Karma and you may need them to help you one day.

I have a massive amount of gratitude to race alongside all of the double athletes, and I look forward to next year.

A big thank you to our awesome crew: Bill + MaryJane Fitzpatrick, Mom + Dad, Patti + Danny Wright and Tim Byrne. Thanks as well to Steve Kirby, race director, and the group of volunteers.

Without all of you, the race would not be possible.

Our crew. Bottom row (left to right): Jeanne and John Jenkins; Back row (left to right) Bill & MaryJane Fitzpatrick, Patti Wright, Me, Maria, Tim Byrne.
The Right Mental Attitude: 2015 Florida Double Anvil Race Report
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