Gulf Coast Triathlon - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Panama City Beach, Florida
United States
73F / 23C
Total Time = 6h 11m 58s
Overall Rank = 720/1312
Age Group = 40 - 50 Clyes
Age Group Rank = 13/42
Pre-race routine:

Drove down to Panama City Beach stressed out because I might not make it there before close of registration due to work, but thankfully I arrived with a little time to spare (“Harold” my Chauffeur, a/k/a Anica did most of the driving) and RT met me at registration.
After making it all “official”, I scoped out a few items in the Expo then dropped off Nikki at transition. I then went back to hotel room to lay out my gear and sent Anica on a late night Pre-race dinner – it was now PM. She cleverly came back with grilled chicken fettuccine Alfredo.

Up and awake at AM and managed the 3 “S”s with ease – first “S”s accomplished before leaving the hotel twice. Short drive to transition and “Harold” dropped me off very close. Body marking was easy – loved the step stool, set up my transition within 30 minutes. Found several familiar faces such as RT, Amy, Debra Priest, and Gerry from Sports Factory.
Side note: Gerry is a coach at The Sports Factory who, during a Tri clinic emphasized something that became very important for my whole race day, he said “Manage Your Race”. I will return to this point later in the report.

After transition setup I went back to RT’s room, but left shortly thereafter to get some air on the beach -- only to see the unsettling conditions of the ocean – not good!. Feeling quite nervous by this point, I saw Gerry again who put things in some perspective by saying, “Man, you face danger every day, this isn’t anything!” This was good for me to hear at that moment. With that, I returned to RT’s room to “suit up” (put on wet suit) and RT and I helped Amy put on her “x-small, too small wet suit”. Once my suit was on, I drank my Boost, grabbed my cap and goggles and headed for the beach race start with Team Cool minus one.

Once arriving at the race start, I saw several fellow triathletes and exchanged a few encouraging words – TRUTH was we were all nervous to different degrees, but nervous nonetheless! All the talk was about the ocean which was decidedly in “washing machine” mode by now. Watching every wave take off was like putting cloths in your washing machine while its already in the first cycle!!

One of the best things that happened on the beach was running into Sister Madonna Bruder! Anica took a picture of her and I which was very cool !! It is so amazing to see how happy and warm hearted she was while so many of us were trying to maintain our sanity!
Event warmup:

After that, RT and I went into the ocean for a “splash test” and HOLY COW I really did just step into Mother Nature’s Giant Washing Machine! While taking this short swim w/ RT, I realized that I was being overwhelmed by the waves – every time I tried to breathe, I was pushed underwater, despite my perfectly functioning wet suit – thank you very much!

Upon my return to shore, I felt white with fear, my heart rate was pretty high, and all I could think of was “what the *(&% have I gotten myself into ??!!” Soon after that, a fellow triathlete, Joe, came over to me (probably seeing the terror in my face) and said, “Rivi, you’ve swam thousands of meters already, YOU ARE ready for this man!” With that, I watched RT and the rest of the guys take off with their waves, only to soon realize that my times was growing all too near and I desperately needed to calm down!

There was a moment on the beach, looking out into the ocean that I contemplated going home, but quickly realized that wasn’t an option (The Marine). While Anica prayed and reminded me of what I knew to be Truth –“I Could and Would Do This!”

With this, I went from being the “on deck” wave, to being in the Washing Machine within minutes!

  • 56m 9s
  • 2414 meters
  • 02m 19s / 100 meters

I stopped about half-way to the 1st buoy (about 100 meters) to orient myself and saw that all the swimmers were all over the place on both sides of the buoys, so I just decided to swim as close to the buoys as possible. This worked for the first 950 yards out, but navigation was HORRIBLE due to the constant waves!! I noticed another fellow wave swimmer struggling a bit next to me, I asked if he was OK, he replied yes and then I swam forward – don’t know what the heck I could of done for him but it sounded good – right?!?

Along the way, I had many moments where I battled the mental demons but I repeated to myself two things “Rivi, swim to the bike, Jesus is with me, swim to the bike, and Jesus is with me…”

Got to the 3rd buoy, looked again to navigate for the orange turn buoy, but again navigation in the washing machine was CRAZY!! Sucking in lots of Gulf water, feeling completely overwhelmed by the waves, feeling disoriented at times, etc. (are you picturing this??)

I finally made it to and around the first orange turn buoy, and realized after a bit that I was off course too far, managed to swim back left and got swam over by another swimmer – who then yelled out some explicative --in frustration I suppose but – Oh Well!

About midway to the 2nd turn buoy, I couldn't’t see the orange turn buoy, asked one of the lifeguards who directed my sight but it wasn’t until I was pushed up to the top of a few waves that I could finally see it in the distance, so I swam forward.

Again, repeating “Rivi, swim to the bike, Jesus is with me, swim to the bike, Jesus is with me…”

After making it around the last turn buoy to swim the last 950 yards back to the beach was very difficult because apparently some of the last few buoys, particularly the last orange buoy on the line, had dislodged from their position and had drifted way off course and I was definitely no where near them like I was on the first 950 yards out.

I then used some logic and visuals and decided to focus and swim towards the large hotel building on shore. Thanks RT for that little tip of information. Soon after that I could see the blue netting of the exit corral each time I was pushed to the top of the waves (and the buoys were STILL WAY off to the left of that, mind you). The only encouraging and calming thought was that the hotel building got progressively larger and larger in my line of sight as I continued to swim so I slowly became more calm and managed to get my heart rate down just a little bit. As I neared the end, a couple of times I could feel sand in my fingers so I would try to stand up but – “OH NO, no flooring, keep swimming further Rivi!” After a few times of this I just decided not to attempt standing until I could scoop sand with both my hands on a full stroke, finally I was able to stand!

The next thing I heard was my biggest cheerleader yelling “There’s my Ironman!!, You Go Papi!!, You made it Baby !!, YOU DID IT !! (I found out later why she was extra happy and extra loud when I came out of the water, so I’ll explain later in the report)

Coming out of the water I was unbalanced and disoriented but VERY glad to be on stable ground – so much so, that I took a moment to bend down a few feet into the entrance of the corral shoot to touch the sand in gratitude to the “big guy in the sky” for getting me through it!
What would you do differently?:

Overall, this was a tough swim for everyone. I need more open water swim but when it's all said and done. I can swim with a wet suit and I know I can swim without one also. That's the next step of my journey.
Transition 1
  • 04m 17s

Coming up through the shoot I saw some wonderful showers overhead – took a moment to rinse off, rinse out my mouth, regain my equilibrium, and remembered my wet suit so I decided to take it off right there under the showers, and to my surprise it came off like butter !! very cool !!

Proceeded through the building tunnel straight into transition, found “Nikki” (my bike) no problem. Rinsed one foot, dried it, put on sock, then shoe, same for the other foot but forgot to dry it so started my bike ride with one foot dry, and one foot wet. Put on my shades, then helmet, then out of transition.

I was amazed and surprised that I had no problem with balance like I did at St. Anthony’s race but probably due to the longer path to transition and the cool off shower stop was an excellent perk!
What would you do differently?:

I'm happy with T2, I need to practice this portion more often. Fast is smooth, smooth is fast.
  • 2h 47m 14s
  • 56 miles
  • 20.09 mile/hr

Within first few minutes I saw Aldrin crashed on the side of the road, I was going to stop but saw that he was surrounded by medical personnel so I moved forward and checked on him later.

My nutrition plan was 3 shot bloks, 1/2 power bar, 3 shot bloks, and one GU in that order, repeated for the next 2 hours. Also going to sip on my aerobottle every time I looked at the straw along the way – goal was to refill it at every water stop on the course.

By Mile 5, stomach was not feeling good, shot bloks and fluid tasted salty – very necessary but reminded me of all the Gulf water I had already drank on the swim.

By 10 Mile mark, 1st water station appeared and the bottle exchange was soooo smooth that I felt like a Pro !! I never stopped and the volunteer ran alongside me. We were so in sync it was flawless! Then my own skills changed that experience when I tried to squirt some of the Gatorade into my mouth, while traveling about 18+ mph of course, so the Gatorade sprayed all in my eyes causing a regrettable burning in my eyes for quite some time !! I then poured the rest into my aerobottle and made a mental note to self on that one!!

At about 30 minutes into it, my stomach still not doing too well so I decided to skip the scheduled Power bar and just continued on with Gatorade.

At about 17 Mile mark I was approaching the hill of a bridge and my chain falls off !! “Note to self”, never drop from a high gear to a low gear with such a big gap on the dérailleur! (not that I didn’t know this already, mind you!) Had to get off, put chain back on and head up the hill.

[Side note: never take your bike in for tune-up and/or parts replacements three days before the race and not go for a practice ride to make sure all is well ! My bike started making “phantom gear changes throughout the bike ride and so it took me extra mental and physical energy to figure out what gears Nikki would stay still in and what I could work with without her messing’ around on me, not to mention the worry of having the chain break, untimely gear changes, etc. had to talk myself out of the worry factor.

(Remember: “Manage Your Race”)

At 20 Mile mark, I was about 4 minutes ahead of schedule, and yet another smooth bottle exchange. One water bottle over my head, one Gatorade bottle refill in my aerobottle. At this point, the heat is starting to make an appearance, despite the overcast sky.

Not too long after this water exchange, I reach the 1 hour mark and make another “Note to Self”. Make sure to carry a bottle of water on the bike or take the GU just before the water exchange stop! I ended up taking a GU with no water, followed by salty fluid, then resorted to Gatorade – Gee, and my stomach was just starting to feel better?!

At about 28 Mile mark, looking for the turn around point, that didn’t happen until about mile 31-32 marked by sudden headwinds acting like stop signs so my cool 24-25 mph pace came down dramatically to about 16 mph. The "big guy in the sky" decided to slow us all down a little bit.

At 1:15 min and 1:30 min, I took 2 shot bloks and GU each time (by this time my stomach was feeling better but I eliminated the Power bars from the plan to keep my stomach from having to work at digesting too much, so substituted with shot bloks instead.

[Remember: “Manage Your Race”]

My next bottle exchange about 30 Mile mark went smooth yet again, feeling like a Pro again. During the course of the ride, I saw several crashes along the way so I made sure I alerted someone when I was passing. Oh did I mentioned I was passing lots of riders. During the bike course, I was only passed by 3 riders

At 40 Mile mark I remembered to plan and took my GU just before the bottle exchange, and that went smooth again with water to drink, water to pour on my head, and Gatorade refill to the aerobottle.

Back up that previous bridge with hill and planned well remembering the previous chain-drop experience.

Same routine for 5th water stop: GU just before, then water over head, drink, top off Gatorade in aerobottle, smooth like a Pro. Final 6 miles to home base, only 15 minutes to go, picked up the pace for the homestretch! Heard Anica cheering to bring me in, the dismount went smooth.

Note: As I approached the last mile I dropped into a lighter gear (higher cadence) to get the legs ready for run.
What would you do differently?:

I could've gone faster on the bike but I was respecting the distance and the unknown. Remember: "Manage the Race"

Bike tune-up 3 days before race - No Go
Transition 2
  • 02m

Reached Nikki, took off helmet and sunglasses all in one fell swoop (mistake), exchanged footwear, grabbed race belt and Garmin and took off for T2 exit.

DAMM IT! I left my sunglasses back at transition, decided not to go back.
What would you do differently?:

Take sunglasses and learn to run with a hat.
  • 2h 22m 20s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 10m 52s  min/mile

By this time, the sun had permanently positioned itself securely in the sky above us with the sole purpose of beating us down !!!

Along the course, the volunteers supported us at the highest level possible !! There was an abundance of water, Gatorade, soaked sponges, fruits, and even coke on the way back (Amy Shay you would’ve loved this !!)

The first familiar face I saw on the run somewhere past mile 5 was Rebecca (previous GFA swim coach), then RT. During the first few miles of the run I need to find a Porta John. My wishes came true around mile 3. I stopped at “Porta-SAUNA” a/k/a Porta-john to pee – when I finally got out of there I felt like I stepped into the A/C because it was sooooo incredibly hot in there, but that A/C feeling wore off in about 30 seconds as the sun regained its hold and continued the beat-down with 88+ heat and humidity!

Then about mile 5.5 I heard Debra Priest yell for me, then saw Aimster; then thought to myself “hey, I can catch them!” – NOT !!! I mistakenly thought that the turn-around point must have been just ahead, but by the 6th mile mark, I realized there was no turnaround between Debra, Amy and myself so catching them was not an option. The turnaround was non existent and prefaced by a loop around a park that was nothing but swampland, sand, and just PLAIN HOT!!

Soon thereafter ran into another water stop and a photo guy. I then heard a fellow runner let out an explicative (something along the lines of F$&%, because he was just caught on film walking. He started running a bit with me as we passed the camera, then he quickly fell back to walking. DID I TELL YOU IT WAS HOT ???!!!

Note to Self: In this kind of heat, don’t throw away ice water after drinking it, keep the cup and run with it so you can sip cold water periodically.

Just before leaving the park, I noticed a volunteer slathering on sunscreen lotion on runners who wanted it. I positioned myself to be next in line up ahead but another runner slid right into my path so I just kept going – figured I was already burnt, what the heck ?!

About Mile 9 I saw Barbara Sarver; we exchanged some words of encouragement. Also, drank coke for the first time on a run – hey why not, Chad’s done it. It was not to far after mile 9 that I realized I wouldn't’t make my sub 6 hour goal thanks to the heat, but decided to finish strong regardless, so I stayed steady, drank every time available, took sponges, Gatorade, and water over my head at every opportunity.

[Remember: “Manage Your Race”]

Just after Mile 12, I was passed by two Relay chicks - made me mad !! Why? Until this point I had only been passed by 5 runners on the run, they changed this to 7 runners.

Next mental markers were going to be passing the All3Sports tent, then listening for the North Atlanta Multisport cow bells – then I would only be 1/10th of a mile to the Finish Line !!

Not soon enough, I could finally see the first mental marker, then I could hear the cow bells and the cheering, then I could see RT and Amy near the tent w/ beer in hand and all smiles. I was oh so close! In the final 1/10th, I heard Shelly cheer me on and reminding me to kick in gear with high knees, then finally I could hear and see Anica jumping and yelling to bring me home!!

It was then that I realized how close I was to that Finish Line and that the big guy running next to me was too close to me and was going to mess up my finishing picture! so I decided to quickly PASS HIS A--!! Had to secure my photo op at Finish!!

Crossed the Finish Line with nothing left in my tank, got my medal, was escorted to the chip return, grabbed an ice cold water bottle, and went over to Anica who handed me my NEW 70.3 Hat !!

We had agreed I would not wear it until after I crossed and OH, how sweet it was.

What would you do differently?:

Take sunglasses and hat on course. Overall I had a good run, I managed the race and respected the distance.
Post race
Warm down:

Went to NAMC tent to pickup a cold refreshment from some fellow triathletes, compared stories, cheered on Sister Madonna to the Finish Line. I then went back to the race venue, ate some pizza, got a free massage, purchased some very cool Gulf Coast Half Ironman gear. I then picked up Nikki and headed back to the hotel.

After a brief nap followed by a awesome shower. I got dressed, went to the after party. This is were I drank lots of beer, watched the awards, race slide show and video, then finished out the day with a pit stop at McDonald's for a Big Mac, Caramel Sundae, and a Grape Soda.

Took it all back to the hotel, ate, celebrated with Anica and slept like a BABY, don't forget HALF IRONMAN.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

The heat was tough on everyone on this date but I "manage my race". I passed many runners and never walked through-out the entire run.

Event comments:

Final Thoughts:

This was no small endeavor for anyone out there on this day, with these conditions, regardless of your training or determination. The challenges of this day made me strong and the angels God sent me along the way helped me persevere and live to Tri another day.

My prayers and thoughts are with the family of the fallen triathlete. Rest in Peace - HALF IRONMAN

I'll re-visit this race every year, for the money you pay you get every pennies worth.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2008-03-16 12:00 AM
00:56:09 | 2414 meters | 02m 19s / 100meters
Age Group: 40/42
Overall: 0/1312
Performance: Good
No HR data
Suit: Xterra Wet suit
Course: It's a 1.2 mile swim (2112 yard) open water swim in the Gulf Coast of Mexico. We start and finish at the Boardwalk Beach Resort. We swim straight out from shore 950 yards, turn right for 200 yards, and then swim back towards shore to the Boardwalk Beach Resort. I called this the washing machine swim.
Start type: Run Plus: Shot
Water temp: 73F / 23C Current: High
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Below average
Waves: Average Navigation: Below average
Rounding: Average
Time: 04:17
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Good
02:47:14 | 56 miles | 20.09 mile/hr
Age Group: 15/42
Overall: 0/1312
Performance: Good
No HR data
Wind: Headwind with gusts
Course: The 56-Mile Dragon Sports Bike Course: The bike portion is an out-and-back course traveling through residential, commercial, and rural areas of Bay County and Panama City Beach. the course is flat, fast with head winds averaging 15 mph. At times we were sharing the road with automobiles.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Average Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 02:00
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike Good
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
02:22:20 | 13.1 miles | 10m 52s  min/mile
Age Group: 8/42
Overall: 0/1312
Performance: Average
No HR data that is good because I forgot to start the Garmin at the start of the run.
Course: It's a flat out-and-back course traveling through some of the most beautiful beach front areas that distinguishes Panama City beach, as having the World's Most Beautiful Beaches.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4