Ironman race number 7 is complete and I have all kinds of feelings about it.
You don’t get the race result you wish for you get the race result you train for.
This is the first Ironman course that I have done twice. I’ve done 7 full Ironman races but 2 of those are now Ironman Florida in Panama City Beach, Florida. I had always thought I wouldn’t want to repeat an Ironman course but truly being familiar with the course was actually very nice.
This is also the only time I’ve ever really and truly gone into an Ironman with no time expectations. I’m not sandbagging this. It is just honest truth. You do know what sandbagging is, right? Sandbagging is when you say oh I’m only trained for xx while you really know you can do much better. Like the guy who when you ask him about his marathon goals says,”oh I just want to have fun and then runs a 3:30.” That could be sandbagging. Or maybe there is somebody out there who runs a 3:30 marathon and smiles the whole way but I don’t know that person. lol.
I’m never quite sure what will happen on Ironman day but I’ve done enough to know the difference between maybe ready and probably not so ready. I had been swimming 6-7000 yards a week which is not enough for me for a strong Ironman swim. I had done about 1/3 of the run training that I would do for an Ironman including zero speed work and no continuous long run over 12 miles. I did one 18 mile run but I split it into 2 parts during the day. I was confident that I was undertrained.
In fact, about 6 weeks before the race I texted my training pal Nicole and said .. I think I’m dropping out. I don’t think I’m ready. She said, don’t worry you’re fine. So then I went to my husband and said, I think I’m dropping out – I’m not ready. He started to say, whatever … that’s crazy but then he read the panic in my face and said. Just give it a few more weeks and see how you feel. Of course, in those weeks I figured out I could probably muddle through.
I did think some about goals the week leading up to the race but I just didn’t even have enough information to set any goals. That made me sad but not nervous. I was fairly sure I’d make it through the course if the weather was okay. There was probably a part of me that was dreaming that my years of endurance training would kick in for a miracle finish – but they didn’t. I got the result I trained for – and I had to work for it.
I finished in 13:36 about a minute difference from when I raced this same course in 2015. That’s kind of crazy.
Pre-Race illness / stress
So the week before the race my husband got really sick. Bronchitis fluish stuff. So I spent each day chugging water, washing my hands, drinking veggie juice and just basically praying I didn’t catch it. Turns out I haven’t so far caught it but every sniffle I was sure was the start of something awful.
Ironman Florida – Know if you go
Panama City Beach is a super easy place to find lodging. We rented a 3 bedroom condo at Lakeview Warf. It was a quarter mile walk to the race start and even after the race that was very doable. 2 years ago I stayed at Panama Shores – Lakeview is newer and nicer.
My big travel tip is that if you are driving – shop at home and just bring what you want. That way you can avoid restaurants and maybe even shopping at the Walmart.
You can fly to Panama City Beach but I drove. On the way up we split it into 2 days and on the way back we did the drive in one day. I made this a very short trip but I kind of wish I had stayed one more day in PCB. I arrived Thursday and left Sunday. Super quick trip. If you are a first-timer give yourself another day on the beginning and maybe the end. It works if you know your way around Ironman Village and aren’t stressed about what needs to be done. Otherwise it could be stressful.
You must check in by Thursday for the race. That’s pretty much all I did on Thursday – arrive, check in, pick up a water bottle and go to dinner.
The day before race day. – Friday is the day you check your transition bags and bike for the race.
I did a nice swim on Friday. I like to swim at the approximate time of the race so I can see the light and feel the temperature. The water was cool and clearly wetsuit legal but not freezing. Coming from Miami it was good to feel what cooler water felt like on my face before race day. I swam a whopping 500 yards but that was enough.
Then I did a shake out bike ride literally to the village and back. Maybe a half mile. The days before the race for me are for resting not working out. Also I don’t have a lot of equipment on the bike at the moment so there isn’t much to check. Shift, shift, shift and done.
Around 1:30 I dropped my bike and transition bags and sat through an athlete briefing and called it a day. Went back to the condo, made some pasta and went to bed to pretend to sleep.
Ironman Florida 2017 – Race Day
We had two friends staying with us who came up to volunteer. I heard their alarm go off at 3:30 and I was mostly up from that point. Then I got up and ate my oatmeal. What’s crazy is that I was able to eat the whole thing. That’s never happened. I honestly wasn’t super nervous – which was a strange feeling.. So apparently after 6 Ironman races, when you have no goals and you are familiar with the course already you can be calm on race day. Go figure.
This is the first time I have repeated an Ironman Course. I thought I wouldn’t like it but there is something great about being familiar with a course. I wasn’t worried about how far away things were and when people gave me directions I had some idea of what they were talking about.
We walked to Alvin’s Island and dropped our bags. Went to transition and filled our bottles and tires. Here’s one very cool thing that we did at this race. I was racked with my tri club. If you are part of an Ironman tri club and your club accumulates enough points you might have a club rack at the race. Team Hammerheads had this at Ironman Florida and it was really fun. My training friends and roommates were all together on race day. Made a new friend on our rack who had a super cool custom paint job on his bike. He was racing for USMES and I asked him if he knew the one other person in the whole world that I know on that team and yes he did know her. Small world. We put on our wetsuits and stood in the porta potty line and then we went to the race start. At this point I lost everyone in the crowd. Oopsie.
Swim 2.4 Miles 1:24:06
I found 2 different friends when I went to splash in the water. The water was very shallow for a very long time. But plenty warm. We stood in the water together for the National Anthem and then we got in line at the 1:10 – 1:20 spot. About halfway through. Walking through the arch I saw my friend Gabe and got a high five. Then I saw my friend Mike along the side and got a hug. Then I went in and swam.
Ironman Florida is a 2-loop swim. I started off at warm up pace on purpose. Then I worked on picking up the pace but I felt very slow. I swam the whole way. Loop one was uneventful. I had minimal contact with folks. No sighting issues. I was a little seasick from the waves coming back to shore and I spent some time wondering what that was all about. Right about that time somebody started tapping on my feet. Tap. Tap. Tap. It doesn’t bother me if you tap on my feet. I’m a slower swimmer in my masters group so if people want to pass me they tap on my feet … once and at the wall I let them pass. This person was just playing footsie with me and I wasn’t enjoying that so after about 10 taps when they didn’t pass me I gave a few quick kicks 1-2-3 to shake them off. And when I did that I realized that I wasn’t engaging my core and my body position was off. Perhaps why I felt so slow.
Loop two I felt better and had found my rhythm for swimming but I did still feel like I was going pretty slowly. It’s hard for me to stay focused on my pace during this long swim and I think I tend to drift into slow and steady pace. When I approached the turn buoy I intentionally pick up the pace and I had this realization of oh … hmmm this feels better. I think I was seriously lollygagging but didn’t realize it. I focused on engaging my core and probably picked up some speed. I saw a very pretty jellyfish and I skillfully avoided that one. I was feeling very proud of that maneuver and then about 2 minutes later I got zapped on my face from an invisible jellyfish. Sigh. Ouch! I also then noticed that the water was full of something … I guessed it was sea lice but who knows. So, that was about it. The last leg felt very long. I sight of the building on shore and it’s so big that you can’t really tell how far you are so it feels long. Who knows. I ran out of the water and felt pretty great. I saw my friend Gabe doing wet suit stripping and I did that even though I had said I wouldn’t but I knew I was changing my bottoms so I figured go for it. Then I dodged the freshwater shower because I was afraid of sea lice in the water. They can make you itchy but if you get fresh water on them you get one fierce reaction and I didn’t want that.
There are rumors that the swim course was long – newsflash – the swim is always long and there is always current. Lol. It’s like the old timer stories of I walked to school uphill both ways. Just plan for the swim to be long.
I would love to swim a 1:15. But that goal is still out there. Sigh. This wasn’t my best swim but I did get it done.
Transition 1 — 9:24
You run up the beach and along side the Boardwalk hotel and then into the parking lot and then all the way across to the changing area. Ironman transitions are huge. This race puts the changing area inside in a conference room. So you grab your bag and run inside.
I tried to jog through transition but my tender feetsies wouldn’t have it. So it was more of a walk.
Got my spot in transition and changed my clothes which means putting on my awesome Coeur Sports outfit. I wore the team aero top and the 8 inch tri shorts which are my absolute favorite shorts for long rides. And off I went. After 2.4 in salt water boy does mouthwash feel good. Really good. I had the volunteers spray my legs with sunscreen and as I scooted off one said how about your neck and I thought to myself …. hmmm I’m probably going to regret not having sunscreen on my neck. Oops.
A volunteer brought me my bike. First time ever in a race. Very cool. It didn’t happen for everyone so don’t count on it happening for you but it was fun. I felt very pro. 🙂 Thank you volunteer. Then I was clackity clack off to the mount line.
Ironman Florida 2017 The bike leg – 112 miles of joy, and wind, and sun, and more wind. — 6:27:51
I have literally forgotten to start my watch on every bike ride in the last few months. This was no exception. I should have started it in the change room. I definitely thought about it there. But I didn’t do it and then there I was pedaling along on a fairly crowded course and my watch was not on. Oh well.
I hopped on my bike and started pedaling. Realized about the watch and sort of thought … hmm bummer. And just headed out. You head out down a closed road past the condos where you make a left turn and there the road is open to traffic and there are people pulling in and out and around you. It’s a little crazy actually. I focused on paying attention and I also noticed that it felt pretty windy. But wind is normal on this course and especially near to the beach. At this point we were right next to the beach.
Mile 10 and Mile 100 are my favorite part of this course. The one hill – it’s a bridge. Riding this course a second time has convinced me of something I already knew I prefer some hills on the bike. This course is very flat. It’s about 1000 feet total over 112 miles. That’s one actual hill and then several areas of very gradual incline and false flats.
I stopped at the second water stop to pee and turn on my watch. I also went to the porta potty. I actually stopped 4 full times to go to the bathroom it was super annoying because I had to wait for a porta potty each time but I really had to go. I was totally unable to pee on the bike. Which is fine. Peeing on the bike is a little gross. But truthfully had I been able to do that I would have to save time. The stops did allow me to assess what was going on during the bike ride which was heat and relentless head wind. Not super strong but enough to slow me down. Every time I looked at my watch the speed was less than I would have hoped. Seriously every time I looked it said 16 and I was like hmmm… is this thing broken? Lol.
I actually checked that my brakes weren’t rubbing or my tire low when I stopped. No such luck. And here’s when I did something that I’m proud of. I ride without a power meter and I thought to myself … hmmm I actually wish I had a power meter. But then I thought … okay Amy you know how to figure this out. So for about 45 minutes I carefully assessed my effort and I realized that I was working pretty hard. My nose was still dripping which can mean that I’m working hard. It can also mean that the seawater is leaking out of my nose so it’s not a perfect system. I payed attention to my cadence and heart rate and figured out that the effort was pretty close to right for 112 miles. So then I let the speed concern go. I just pedaled and focused on paying attention to what was going on and getting my calories in on schedule. I have a timer that alerts me every 7 minutes and I drink 4-5 sips of Infinit. Every hour I should go through about 18-20 ounces.
I can actually power through the wind but it takes a lot of effort and I would pay for that on the run. So I just stuck to my steady pace put my head down and kept going. About halfway I also started putting water on my body because it was warm. Not quite as hot as Miami but very warm. Warm and windy makes a long day on the bike.
I knew about 15-20 people racing on this day.
I finally caught my friend Carolyn at around mile 40.
I caught my friend Benji much later … maybe mile 70?
I found my teammate Donovan closer to mile 90ish. Catching him gave him a big boost as he picked up the pace and I didn’t see him again till the run.
The wind never gave up. I promise that it felt like a headwind the whole way. Super frustrating but that’s just how it goes.
The mile markers are every 10 miles. Around mile 70 I wasn’t really paying attention and I forgot if I’d seen the mile 70 marker. I then started to think hmmm how far do I still have to go? I was approaching a sign and I thought to myself please let this say 80 please, please, please. And it did. So that was good.
We went back over the bridge and the last 12 miles just take forever. I passed a girl who kept asking volunteers, “where is the turn?” none of them seemed to know but she was still ahead of me because I didn’t really remember that there was a turn. Ha! So we turned onto the beach road and played frogger with the automotive traffic which isn’t a whole lot of fun but I was prepared. There were a few accidents on this course apparently but I didn’t see any. I hope all the people are alright. I do wish they would do more to clear this section of the road but it is what it is. Then I saw a Waffle House and I thought I was finished but it was a Waffle House fake out. Ack a totally different Waffle House. sigh. Okay another mile or so and there was the correct Waffle House, right turn and into transition.
I finished the bike and offered to give my bike away to whomever might want it as I entered transition. Seriously … bike for sale… lol. I walked on stiff legs into transition and switched to run mode. The air conditioning felt wonderful.
Transition 2 – 6:09
I had a helpful volunteer but I don’t do a whole lot in t2. Change shoes, put on visor collect my gu’s and out the door. I did have somebody put on more sunscreen as I walked out.
Ironman Florida 2017 the run. 26.2 miles of fun times — 5:29:06
I felt okay starting the run. Not great. Tired but okay. I messed around with my watch and then finally got it going and started jogging. I was going into this very undertrained. I’m totally not exagerating. In a normal marathon training cycle I will run about 1000-1200 miles. This was my second Ironman of the year and I’m still not to 1000 miles for the year of running. I mean this is undertrained. So I didn’t know what would happen. About 2 weeks before the race I had set my watch up for intervals 3 minutes run/jog and 30 seconds of walking. So that’s what I did. And it was fine.
Loop 1 was uneventful. I saw many of my friends ahead of me heading back and said hi and encouraged them. I ate my tums and ran/walked. I saw my friend Doug and I told him I was coming for him. 🙂
Loop 2 started with me picking up my headlamp. At this point I really wanted to give my visor away but there was nobody to give it to. Sigh. So I was carrying the visor and resisting the urge to throw it away. It was driving me nuts. I ate some pepto and kept on going. About half way through loop 2 I thought my legs were giving out. It was a super weird experience and then I realized … oh my gawd these are leg cramps. Lol. I hardly ever cramp so this was new to me. I walked a little bit more – took some gratuitous salt and kept on going.
For the first time ever I hit the wall at around mile 18. With all the endurance stuff I’ve done I have never actually hit a wall. I’ve heard about the wall but I’ve never hit one. I’ve been tired and frustrated and sore and hungry but I’ve never really hit a wall. But this time I did. My mind was just finished. This is in St. Andrews park. It’s dark and lonely and I seriously considered just laying down and giving up. So I walked and focused on getting some calories in my body. I tried red bull and then rejected that as a terrible idea and instead had 2 full glasses of pepsi on ice. Then I was able to shuffle again. At this point so many people are walking that it is crazy. Shortly after the turn around I saw my friend Carolyn coming up behind me and she looked great. I knew she would catch me but I figured I’d jog until she did. So on we went. With just 6.2 miles to go it really is easy to say to myself the faster I go the faster I’ll get finished. So I tried to jog as much as I could and walk quickly during the walk breaks. With one mile to go Carolyn caught me and then we caught our friend Doug with about .7. So we ran to the finish chute together which was awesome.
The finish chute is long long long for Florida. But it was like a party of my friends at the end. My two good friends from Team Hammerheads Mike and Gabe were there to catch me which was special. It was great.
We hung out a bit. Took some photos. Wandered around looking for food. I threw up in the parking lot. Then we found the food which was fairly lame pizza and rice. We sat and tried to eat. I put my feet in the cold pool which was quite nice.
Then we got our bikes and bags and headed back to the room. I showered and headed back down to volunteer at the finish line. I went in and asked for a shirt to volunteer and the coordinator was very confused. I had on my medal and my red IMLP finisher shirt. The med tent shirts were red. So she asked are you coming from the med tent. Um … no … do I look that bad? But we got it figured out and for the next hour or so I caught finishers and my biggest challenge was remembering not to drink their waters. I was thirsty, okay. Lol.
Finally around 11:30 beer in hand we headed back to the condo. Walking back they announced an 80 year old finisher. That was super cool. 80 and finishing an Ironman. If that doesn’t make you feel like you can do anything I don’t know what will.
So that’s the play-by-play. I’m proud that I made it through the race. I didn’t know what to expect and I’m happy with what happened. I am very ready for some down time. Which is why I’m running 20 miles this weekend in Ragnar. WHAT? Yes, that is a terrible idea but it is what’s happening.
I didn’t love going into this race undertrained. I love the challenge of Ironman but I love it most when I have some kind of target that I’m shooting for. For France that was finish. For all the others I’ve had hopeful goal times that I worked for. For this one I didn’t have that and it was fine but not awesome. However, I have to regroup and figure out how I can train for a better finish.
Get ready because here come the excuses. lol.
First of all there was Irma. I really did lose 2 solid weeks of training to this stupid storm. But my training wasn’t perfect before that.
My fabulous masters program has cut down the hours available to swim. They now only have Tuesday and Thursday morning sessions and that simply isn’t enough for me. A weird thing happened which is that I was actually doing these whole workouts about 3800-4000 yards each time of strokes. Normally even right before Ironman I have trouble getting through a whole 4000 yard masters set. Tuesday is IM day and Thursday is prime stroke. So that’s unusual. I was actually in very good swim shape. But I simply wasn’t getting enough yards every week. If they offered Monday Wednesday Friday I’d be set. But they don’t. As much as I loved this program I’m going to need to find a new place to swim. When they dropped the third weekday that meant dropping the aerobic freestyle day and that was the most important workout of my swim week. Finding a good reliable swim location is a big challenge for Ironman training. I’ve been lucky but now I am back searching.
My biking was okay. I skipped a mid-week workout here and there but I did plenty of riding. While this time was slower than 2 years ago that was okay because I intentionally reserved some effort for the run on purpose.
My running was not okay. My running is so far from okay it’s disturbing me. I need to run more and I need to get myself into a position where I’m running with faster people. Left to myself I just plod along. Sigh. So, like I said at the start you get the result you train for.
For the first time since about January 2013 I am not registered for a full or half Ironman. My intention is to race Florida 70.3, Either Atlantic City or Raleigh and then Louisville and then cheer for my friends at Florida 2018. But nothing is set in stone.
Congratulations to all who raced and volunteered.
Thanks for stopping by and reading.