With this race being on a Saturday, and with impending CDR for our little rocket, this was going to be a quick trip down to Panama City Beach for the 32nd annual Gulf Coast Triathlon. Although the trip would be short, I was really looking forward to finally getting to race the legendary Gulf Coast Triathlon, but admittedly I was a little worried as I knew I hadn’t been really “training”, but more just kind of “exercising”. Or, for the cyclists, living the full Fred lifestyle.
The day prior to the race was filled with its usual anxiety, but by the time the alarm went off on Saturday morning, I was ready to go. There was some concern about the weather, but as the sun began to rise while we went through the pre-race motions, it appeared any impending doom would remain at bay. Before I knew it, transition was closing, and we were all headed to the beach for an on-time start. This held right up until… the start time.
The first wave was supposed to enter the water at 6:20, while I was slotted to start with the other 30-34 y/o males at 6:45. However, 6:20 came and went with folks still standing on the beach. Then all of the sudden kayaks started heading back to shore – not what you want to see if you’re hoping to swim. A few minutes later people started herding together and we were told that for the first time in the 32(!) year history of the event, there would be no swimming. Needless to say, this was a major letdown, and I was about ready to just skip the race and play in the waves.
In place of the swim there was a TT start into a short beach run. I made the mistake of taking off my wetsuit too early and stood wet and shivering. Not ideal. Finally though I was off and up the beach, into transition, and out on my bike.
Heading out with the tailwind was great, but I was having a hard time dialing in my effort level after standing around on the beach for so long. I was hoping to get splits every 5mi with the goal of staying under 13min per. This would put me on pace for a 2:20 which, given my recent (lack of) training, I would’ve been pretty happy with. Unfortunately there were only markers every 10mi, but when the first one came just under 23min into the ride, I was feeling pretty good. Although I was happy to have put time in the bank, I knew the first 5mi included a pretty healthy tailwind which would be no fun on the return trip.
Shortly after a BRO rode up on me, and I decided it was time to start racing. If I was going to be doing this, I might as well get it over with as quickly as possible. A couple of others joined us, and we slowly made our way through the field. (I am happy to report we saw multiple officials along the way, and multiple penalties were dispensed.)
Once we made the turn back south our split from mile 30 to 40 slowed, but was still under 25min, so I was pleased. However, I was also starting to get some major tightness in my gluts and hamstrings, likely due to the combination of lack of training and recent switch to longer cranks.
The last five miles were straight into a headwind and no fun at all, but I managed to hold it together for a solid 2h17 ride. Needless to say, the new Trek SpeedConcept is pretty awesome.
I didn’t feel great starting the run, but I’ve also certainly felt worse. My first thought was that I sure was glad I only had to do it once! (IMFL is the same course twice.) I quickly left the BROs I had been riding with and set out to catch others up the road, specifically ladies and M25-29. First mile was 5:47, and as long I was running under 6min pace, I was happy. I cruised along feeling decent and trying to enjoy the day. I also knew it was all (figuratively) all downhill once I left the park. At the turn, I only saw three guys (all 25-29) ahead of me, but had no idea whether I was virtually in the lead or not. Once I left the park I was keeping the pace in the 6:0xish range and feeling pretty good (considering), but ready to be done. 10-11 was pretty rough, but by the time I reached mile 12 it was all good, as I was pretty confident I’d get under 1h20, my rough goal for this race.
While I was certainly bummed about the canceled swim, I was really pleased with the end result. I had been wanting to race here since 2003ish but due to scheduling conflicts had never been able to make it. So, it was really nice to be able to enjoy the day and pull out the ‘W’. And, there was free beer immediately after the race AND at the post race party that evening. What more could you want?