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Ironman Florida - Triathlon
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Panama City Beach, Florida
World Triathlon Corporation
80sF / 0C
= 12h 24m 5s
Age Group Rank
Misti and I left for Panama City Beach on Tuesday evening to get a few hours of driving done and break up the long drive by stopping somewhere for the night. We ended up stopping about an hour North of Nashville. Wednesday morning we hit the road early and arrived in PCB at around 2 pm. We arrived earlier than planned, and before the hotel check in time, so we decided to head to the expo and try to get checked in. We drove past the expo, down what would be the finish line on South Thomas Drive and learned that there was nowhere to park. We ended up parking at the Wal-Mart, which was the race day recommendation from Ironman, and walked to the expo. The check in line was short. I’m not sure how long it took, but probably less than 30 minutes. I went over and checked in at the Children’s Tumor Foundation booth, purchased Misti’s ticket for the athlete dinner Thursday night, and picked up a couple or things from the Ironman store. By then it was past the hotel check in time, so we headed to the hotel.
We stayed at a Days Inn about ½ mile from the expo. It wasn’t 5-star, but had sufficient accommodations, including a kitchenette and full size refrigerator. We had an excellent view of the ocean from our room.
The biggest surprise on Wednesday was the heat and humidity. It was much warmer than I expected.
Thursday morning we drove down to the host hotel for my first ocean swim. Ironman had some buoys set up to create a 0.35 mile loop. I wore my full sleeve wetsuit, even though the water was a bit warm. I later learned that the water temp that morning was 76.3 F. The waves were very small but I didn’t really settle in to a comfortable stroke until the second loop around. I couldn’t really find the rhythm of the swells past the break. It was similar to swimming in a choppy lake. After the swim we went back to the hotel and I got my bike ready for a short ride. After replacing my power meter battery I noticed a rear tire rub. To make a long story short, I took my bike to the Velo repair booth at the expo and they adjusted my drop outs for me to eliminate the rub. After the bike ride, we drove the bike course to Misti could be familiar with the roads and I could see the terrain.
Friday morning we drove down for another practice swim. The waves were bigger, which made the swim out past the break smoother. Even though getting through the break was a tad more difficult, it felt more like swimming in a calm lake out past the break, not choppy like Thursday morning. We checked in the bike and bags around 10:30 and attended the 11 am athlete meeting. They said the water temp was 77.0 F, so I knew there wasn’t much chance of a wetsuit legal race. I made the decision then that I would wear my sleeveless suit, even if it wasn’t a wetsuit legal race. For those that don’t know – this means that I had to start after all of the non-wetsuit athletes and I wasn’t eligible for age group awards. We saw Carey Weaver at the meeting and talked to him for a few minutes. It was nice to see someone we knew. After that I retired to the hotel to put my feet up and hydrate. James had messaged me throughout the day as they were driving down. He came by the room around 7 pm and we chatted for a few minutes. His pre-race pep talks have a way of making me feel ready and calming my nerves. I was glad that he stopped by.
I was up before my 3:30 am alarm, but I slept pretty well. I went to the hotel lobby and got coffee, ate a banana and drank my Ensure. I was showered, dressed and ready to leave with my special needs bags around 4:15 am. We could hear the waves crashing on the beach from the hotel room – they sounded much more intimidating than the previous 2 days. Misti dropped me off near the expo and went back to the hotel for a bit. I aired up the bike tires, added bottles to my bike and T1 & T2 bags, dropped off my special needs bags, and headed to the beach. [The bottle in T1 was a decision I made after arriving in PCB and realizing how hot it was – and was going to be on race day.] The special needs drop off was ~ 300 yards away from the finish – right at the run turn around. This prep went faster than I thought and I was down by the beach by 5:20 am. They announced the water temp – 77.5 F. Wow, that’s warm. I found a spot to sit down near the beach and spent a few minutes to mentally relax and prepare while I waited on Misti. When she got there she took my morning stuffs, I put on my wetsuit and headed for the start chute.
By race time I had downed 20 oz of Gatorade Endurance
(and Base Salt
) and a gel. That should get me through the swim.
1h 17m 14s
01m 50s / 100 yards
6:05 am – PC athletes start. I got in the ocean to get a feel for the water. The larger waves had created a large drop off near the water – that confirmed that they were larger than I had seen in the practice swims.
6:15 am – Non-wetsuit athletes start. Around 1600 swam without wetsuits. They were through the start gate quickly. I entered the start corral with other wetsuit wearers and seeded myself around 1:10-1:15 swimmers. They created a 10 min gap from to the non-wetsuit racers.
6:30 am – Wetsuit start. Around 800 swam with wetsuits. I don’t remember much about running down the beach and into the ocean. I was focused on finding some space among to navigate the break. Once beyond the break I settled into a comfortable stroke and assessed the surroundings. Because of the staggered start it didn’t seem like there was a lot of traffic. I bumped / was bumped a few times, but no big deal. About ½ way to the first turn buoy traffic was a bit thicker – I don’t know if people self-seeded at a faster pace than they swam or if I was swimming a little faster than my pace, but I was catching and passing people. At one point someone’s foot caught me in the right goggle, but not hard. It was a reminder to protect myself in traffic. I don’t understand why people stop at the turn buoys, but they do. Every turn, someone stopped. I swam in close to the turns, so there was more traffic, some bumping / rubbing, but nothing hard – everyone was nice. After the second turn on the first loop I took a foot to the goggles again. This time it knocked them loose and I had to stop to get them back on. Ok – second reminder – I needed to protect myself. The swim into the beach was uneventful after that. I got submerged by some waves as I approached the beach, which was a surprise because that didn’t happen on the practice swims. The current was moving me from right to left, so I came in a little bit left of the exit. Onto the beach, across the timing mat, and right back into the ocean. First loop – 36:51
I noticed right away that the waves were even bigger than the first loop. Many people were just standing in waist deep water looking at the waves. I took a few seconds to sight the first buoy
(you have to swim to it at an angle, not perpendicular to the shore
) and headed into the waves. The second loop was tougher than the first. The waves were bigger, the traffic was heavier, and the current was stronger. I successfully protected myself from contact on the second loop and exited the water feeling pretty good. I saw James on the beach just after having my wetsuit stripped. He offered encouragement as I jogged off to the freshwater shower and on to T1. Second loop – 40:23 Total swim = 1:17:14
My gear bag was in the first row right after entering transition. I pointed the bag out to a volunteer who quickly passed it over to me. I jogged over to the change room carrying the bag and wetsuit. I saw Carey as soon as I entered the change room. He offered to help, grabbed my gear bag and led me to an available changing area. I had a bottle of Gatorade Endurance in my T1 bag in hopes of staying hydrated in the heat. I was able to drink about ¾ of it while in transition. Carey was extremely helpful in getting my cycling gear ready as I changed. I was glad to have his help because I knew I couldn’t get the jersey on myself when I was wet. He made sure I had all of my gear, confirmed what swim gear was mine and I was off. He bagged the swim gear for me. It was his help that enabled a good transition time. I had a long run to my bike so I carried my shoes. I stated my number as I approached my rack and a volunteer had my bike ready when I got there. I was very near the bike exit, so I put on my shoes while she held my bike. I jogged to the mount line and took off. T1 time – 8:56
5h 46m 19s
As I spun down S. Thomas Drive I settled into my aero bars very quickly. I began sipping on the Gatorade Endurance and found my comfortable cadence. My watch was set to show 4 items – cadence, heart rate, 3s power, and duration. It was also set to 5 mile splits. This was all I needed to have a successful ride. I had to focus on getting my HR down in the first 5 miles. My effort felt pretty low, my power reflected it, and my HR settled in. I was shocked when the first 5 mile split flashed a duration of 14:56. Woah – 20 MPH? Holy crap! I double checked my HR, Power, and Cadence – paged down on my watch to show my IF. It was 0.68 – my target was 0.65-0.70, so it was right where I wanted to be, the speed was just much faster than I expected. Around mile 10 I started to get stomach cramps. Every time I took a bite of a power bar, my stomach would knot up. I figured I must have ingested more salt water than I thought. I knew not eating was not an option, so I just dealt with the cramps. Just after the 20 mile marker I stopped at the aid station porta-johns. When I stood up the cramps subsided and I ended up just peeing and adding Base to the Gatorade that I had grabbed at the aid station. I was back on my bike quickly and headed down the road. Right turn onto Hwy 20, heading east. There was a small group of spectators cheering at the turn. Along Hwy 20 I just focused on smooth pedal strokes, eating and drinking to plan – and honestly focused on picking my way through traffic without illegally drafting. Hwy 20 is a two lane highway and it was open to traffic. At one point on this stretch the official came through and issued penalties to a large pack of cyclists that were ahead of me. The pack broke up and they all stretched out, making for a lot of traffic for a few miles. At mile 34 I made the right turn onto Hwy 77, heading south. Hwy 77 is a 4 lane, so there was plenty of room to ride, pass, or be passed. Again, there was a small group of spectators at the turn. The 6-7 miles to the 388 turn went quickly. I continued to focus on smooth pedal strokes, hitting my nutrition, and managing my effort
(HR & power
). The 9 miles on 388 were more engaging because there were a few curves in the road and some small elevation changes. By this point the race had really settled down. There wasn’t a lot of passing and I rode near the same athletes for quite a while.
As I approached the left turn onto Blue Springs Road I had the first anxiety about the length of the race. ‘Can I really hold on to this power / effort / speed / HR for 6 hours? Will I be able to run after the bike? I’m not even ½ way through this ride! My stomach is definitely NOT RIGHT!’ Then the voice of reason; ‘You’ve got this! Trust your training! Work your plan! Stop thinking negative thoughts! You’ve got gas-x and tums in special needs, quite worrying!’ It’s probably strange that I had a complete conversation with myself!
Anyway – left on Blue Springs Road – There were plenty of volunteers here, and more spectators than I’d seen since leaving the beach. The spectators provided a little boost, and I knew that the only decent / climb
(about 50’ – ha!
) on the course was on this road, so I was mentally engaged again. Approaching Hwy 20 again, I was prepared for the short, but steep hill down to the 90 degree left hand turn. I knew this was one of the riskier areas on the course for a crash and I was hoping that the other athletes knew it was coming too. Thankfully there were several volunteers positioned before the hill warning athletes to slow down and prepare for the turn. It was completely uneventful and I didn’t have anything to worry about. I took the left turn onto hwy 20 for the LONG 20 mile stretch back to Hwy 79. I stopped at special needs where there was an awesome volunteer who had my bag ready to go. I took the Snickers, Powerbars, Red Bull, and a small baggie that contained various pills and I was off. I was digging through the baggie for the gas-x when I noticed the official ride up next to me on a motorcycle. When I looked up I noticed that I had rolled up into the draft zone of the cyclist in front of me. I quickly positioned myself to pass him and the official moved on. I suspect that he noticed that I was intently focused on my task and was not intentionally drafting. I’m not sure I was in the zone for more than 20 seconds anyway – but I thought for sure he was going to card me! Same focus for the next 18 miles. Smooth pedal strokes, managing effort, keeping up with nutrition. The stomach issues persisted and I just tried to ignore it and not think about it. Crossing Hwy 79 there was a group of spectators still. That broke up the long stretch back to Hwy 77. I stopped just briefly after the mile 72 aid station to add Base salt to the Gatorades that I grabbed at the last 2 aid stations. I wasn’t stopped for a minute. As I approached highway 79 I saw Misti for the first time. She was off of the road, behind the camera getting pictures. I blew her a kiss, thought about what a long day this was for her too, and took the right turn on to 79 for the out-and-back. This stretch, mile 74 to 82 was the darkest part of the ride for me. The wind was light, but it was a headwind and the elevation presented a seemingly never ending false flat. I struggled to maintain focus on my cadence, effort, and nutrition. I wanted to just increase my effort to get this stretch over with, but I didn’t. Not even when a pack of drafters overtook me. Grrr. Finally, the turnaround at mile 82 – time to head back to the beach! With a little tail wind! I stopped at mile 84 to pee and then settled in to finish the ride. Mile 88 brought light rain, mile 90 I saw Misti again. It was such a lift to my spirits to see her out there. I wondered if she had gotten soaked in the rain. The road was much wetter here and I knew it must have rained harder than what I got. It seemed like it took forever to get back to the West Bay Creek Bridge. I continued to focus on my plan, although it became very difficult to eat. I struggled to get down the last powerbar – in tiny bites. Left turn onto Front Beach Drive for the final stretch. I saw James and Shannon around mile 109 – they were cheering their asses off! I was munching down the last of my Oreos and preparing to run. I saw Misti standing in the median on S. Thomas Drive a few hundred yards from bike in – I yelled for her but she didn’t see me. I was glad to have the bike ride behind me. As I unclipped and dismounted my legs felt wobbly, but not sore or crampy, so for the first time all day I believed that I might be able to run. I handed my bike to a volunteer and headed for T2. Bike Split = 5:46:19
I jogged straight to my gear bag. I stated my number as I approached and a volunteer was waiting to hand it to me. I jogged into the change room and grabbed a seat. Helmet off, shoes off, visor on; bike shorts off, tri shorts on; cycling socks off, Vaseline on toes, running socks and shoes on; number belt on, sunglasses change, shot bloks and Base Salts into Jersey. Everything back into the bag – a quick coating of spray on sunscreen, handed off the bag to a volunteer, and I was out of there. It seemed like a really long run from the change room to the run out! T2 time – 8:16
5h 03m 20s
11m 35s min/mile
I felt great starting the run. My legs felt strong. The first ½ mile was a blur. The spectator support throughout the run was great, but near the start/finish there were tons of people cheering. My plan entering the race was to run/walk the marathon at a 4 min / 1 min ratio. This helped me to break down the distance, manage my effort, and be comfortable running. James jogged and walked with me for bit about ½ mile in. He said my bike looked solid with even splits. I was super excited at the bike split and that I still felt I had a chance at a 5 hour marathon. He asked how I felt. I’m pretty sure I told him I ‘killed the bike’, I felt pretty strong, and that I was just going to work my run plan.
The run out to St. Andrew’s State Park was uneventful. My stomach cramps subsided. I ran 10-11 min miles depending on whether or not my 1 min walk aligned with aid stations or not. I ate 2 Shot Bloks every 15 minutes and used a ‘dose’ of Base salts. I walked the aid stations to get Gatorade and Ice which I used to fill the water bottle that I carried. I think it was around mile 8 to 9 that I saw James and Shannon twice. They had used a spot on the run course that doubles back to be in multiple places. They really lifted my spirits when I saw them. They were cheering, giving high fives, and ringing cowbells!
Miles 8 – 12 my pace slowed to about 10:50. My quads were starting to ache and I was managing my effort in an attempt to prevent getting calf cramps. I was still executing the 4 min / 1 min run/walk and following my nutrition – I was just a little slower.
I saw James again at mile 12.75. He jogged with me for a bit – I was starting to hurt pretty good by this point. He asked about my nutrition, bike and run, and reminded me to keep eating. I saw Misti at the turnaround at the end of the first loop. I stopped long enough to tell her that I was starting to hurt and not to expect a 2:20 second loop! Ha! But I reassured her that I was ok and would get to the finish line. It was good to see her, but she didn’t seem too excited to see me punish my body for another few hours. The only thing I took at special needs was a red bull. I drank ½ but it didn’t taste good, so I threw it away.
From the turnaround back out to St. Andrew’s, miles 13 – 18, was a blur. My legs hurt. I averaged 12 min miles for this stretch. I only carried enough shot bloks for 13.1 because they’re hard to chew and stomach after that. My plan was to live off the aid stations. Around mile 14 I took a Gu Gel. Around mile 15 I put a Gu Chomp in my mouth, but I had to spit it out – I couldn’t chew it up and swallow it. From then on cola, chicken broth, and Gatorade were my only nutrition. The cola seemed to give me a burst of energy and the chicken broth was the first thing I’d had all day that actually tasted good. At mile 18 heading into St. Andrew’s I started doing math… If I could manage 13 min miles I could still have a 5 hour marathon – or at least that’s how the math worked at the time! I made the decision to switch from a 4/1 to a 3/2 run/walk. From mile 19 – 24 I used this plan and my pace slowed a bit more. Little did I know that James had noticed. He ran out to mile 24 to meet me and push me to the finish. Seeing him there, sweating his ass off to support and push me had an emotional and physical impact on me. I told him I had started a 3/2 and he matched me step for step. We chatted about being able to finish sub 12:30. He told me he could tell I needed some support based on my splits. He listened as we ran and I passed along stories from my day. This took my mind off of my quad pain. In the final couple of miles he pushed me to the fastest splits I’d had since the early miles of the marathon. Further proof that the body is capable of so much more than the mind will allow. He distracted my mind and my body stopped slacking! He passed along some finish chute reminders and then peeled off before the final turn at Alvin’s Island. The finish chute was amazing. Running through the shadowy tunnel lined with cheering spectators toward that finisher’s light; what a feeling. The spectators welcomed me in with open arms, high fives, and cheers. I crossed the line and heard “You are an Ironman” as a volunteer led me through the finishers gauntlet. I was much more aware of my surroundings than I expected, and my legs supported me well as I walked through to the exit. I met James there and shortly after I met Misti. James told me my final time – 12:24:05! Holy cow! What an amazing day!
Misti and I walked over to get my bike and bags. I went to the finishers food area and grabbed another bottle of water and a couple of slices of pizza. I ate the pizza and Misti pushed my bike back to the car which was parked at the Walmart. I got back to the hotel, showered and put my feet up.
It's an IRONMAN! Of course it was awesome!
Last updated: 2015-11-14 12:00 AM
01:17:14 | 4224 yards | 01m 50s / 100yards
Two loops, timing mat on beach in between loops.
78F / 25C
Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
05:46:19 | 112 miles | 19.40 mile/hr
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Shoe and helmet removal
05:03:20 | 26.2 miles | 11m 35s min/mile
Two out and backs
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]
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