When coach says she wants a race review, you give her a race review. But what happens when the memory of the event that is most present is not so much the race it self, but the people you raced with and how cool they were? Well, you talk about both.
Let’s start with the factual data of the event. Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast was May 13th in Panama City, Florida. This was my first 70.3 and Ironman branded race, so take that for what its worth with this review. Check in was smooth and easy. Volunteers were super friendly and helpful. One note to be made here is that transition bags were not supplied by Ironman, as a newbie I wouldn’t have noticed, but this was noted to me by the old-timers that guided me. Be prepared for sales folk to assault you as soon as check in is over. I was warned, but still fell into a trap or two.
The swim was to be a right-hand-turning loop in the Gulf of Mexico. Man, that would have been nice. Instead the swim was cancelled the morning of the race due to “dangerous ocean conditions.” Something to the effect that they couldn’t get their safety crew in place with the waves and current. That aside, it takes place on a public beach, which means the days leading into the event it is very easy to get out and get some practice on the course. My teammate Corey learned that it helps to have goggles in general, and I learned that I needed to tighten mine quite a bit to combat the punishing waves. Water temps would have been wet-suit legal had the swim gone off, but only barely.
From the swim, it’s a quarter mile jog through condo hallways into transition for the bike. As previously mentioned this did not happen, and instead we started the bike single file, four seconds apart, in numerical order. This made warm-up and staying loose slightly difficult. Plenty of porta-potties were located within the transition area for pre-race, uh, jitters…? Bike course was a simple out and back on very nicely paved roads. Mostly flat with only a few small hills and a decent sized “Florida mountain” aka a bridge overpass. I found myself putting out a little too much effort in the first 10 miles to combat the traffic that was a result of the time trial start. Aid stations were plentiful and well managed with food, water, and Gatorade.
Aside from a slight hill at the beginning and the end of the run, it was pancake flat. Three loops through the industrial portion of Panama City. The front stretch provides gulf views and gulf breezes. The back stretch is void of scenery and wind. It was hot. I’m talking melt your face off, dumping buckets of ice on your giblets hot. Stay hydrated. Viewing for spectators was easy, and the get to see you multiple times. Shout out to the Taco Bell that let my 8 months pregnant wife pee in their bathroom 5 times.
Now for the subjective portion of the review. Alternate titles for this review could have been “Ironman Panama Shitty”, “Three Bros one Cancelled Swim”, “I’ve Dumped So Much Ice Down There I Can’t Feel My Boys Anymore”, or “Is That Sweat or Tears?” The truth is that I didn’t have the race I wanted. I have worked my ass off for months to race a 70.3, instead I raced a 69.1. I don’t care how you cut it, it's disappointing and it sucked. I didn’t have the run I am capable of, or wanted on that day either. The heat got to me. Also disappointing, and also sucked. But you know what? A few days later, I really don’t care. I can’t control race conditions, and I still managed to finish. But most importantly I discovered a new reason for loving this sport. The people you meet.
My teammates Corey and Randall are the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, the shit. As I mentioned before, this was my first 70.3. That comes with a pretty big learning curve and these guys were there for me every step of the way. Each had to run his own race come Saturday, but in the days leading into it, and even the minutes before, I would have sworn both were more concerned about me having the best experience I could. Not only was Randall locked in, and on his was to a Chattanooga qualifying spot and 4th in the AG, but was asking me how I felt, if I needed anything, and making sure I was at ease up until the gun went off.
Corey was like having my mom there with me the whole time. And I like my mom, so that’s a compliment. Any question I had about what to do and where to go, Corey was there with an answer. Need a flask for some powergel? Corey went ahead and brought some for Randall and I both. Didn’t bring Gatorade and have Coach Sam reprimanding you for it? Corey gotchu. Didn’t bring sunscreen to Florida because your brain doesn’t work? Oh well Corey’s got you too.
Even after the race was over, while I was busy hallucinating from dehydration and heat stroke, the first faces I see to cheer me on and take my side with waters and walks to keep my whole body from cramping were Corey, and Randall (and my wife, she’s cool too).
So what can we say about Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast? The swim being cancelled was a bummer. The course otherwise was awesome. But the people I got to experience it all with were awesome-er.
p.s. I’m still in Florida and the water has been glass flat every morning since the race, so mother nature can eat it for Saturday’s weather.