Monday, May 15, 2017

70.3 TRI turned to 69.1 DUO - Gulf Coast Half Ironman Panama City, Fl 5-13-17

Long post…… But I don’t want to forget a single detail… besides this is my diary….. I’m certainly not a blogger to tell you how to cook, sew, run, etc.  I like to write down my adventures so I can look back at them later on in life… it helps with the memory. :>)

I’ve said it many times over the years that every single race is different.  There are always different challenges whether it be the weather, personal health, race issues or a number of other things.  For me, this race had a couple of different challenges.  First, my body has been giving me fits lately.  Lots of issues with what I hope to just be sciatic or arthritis, but will find out after my MRI this week if it’s something more serious.  Second, my mom typically travels with me to the “bigger” races and due to my dad’s recent health, she was unable to leave him.  My daughter was hosting a baby shower for a best friend, so she couldn’t go with me either.  So I hoped the hubs would go even though he hates the race scene.  However, he couldn’t get off work which left me going alone.  I typically don’t mind being alone.  I have often traveled alone to many things over the years.  However, it is nice to have some support on the “bigger” races.  A half ironman is not a small task.  I knew it was going to be difficult and even more difficult not having a support person.  I debated on just not going.  I even debated on asking a couple of friends, but with it being Mother’s day weekend I didn’t want to disturb their family plans.  The race was in Panama City, Florida and meant two nights in a hotel. 

After debating for days I was reminded of something someone told me once…… If you are having a hard time making a decision on something, try to fast forward in your brain and think about which one you would regret more.  I knew after all my training that I would regret not going.  I had put in hours of training over the last 12 weeks.  Plus I was looking forward to an ocean swim.  I had done a practice swim one time before in the ocean and it was wonderful.  The water was so clear.  I was hoping for the same situation for the race.  And I knew there would be a couple of people at the race from other towns that I know from the races I might run into.  Thankful for the group that trained in Wiggins that I’ve gotten to know.

I got an early start on Friday heading to Panama City.  I wanted to get to the hotel, get unloaded, make it to expo fairly early, and get my bike checked in by the required time that afternoon.  The weather had begun to change.  All week at the beach the water was so pretty and calm.  Friday that all changed drastically.  A rain storm blew in and the waves begin to rise.  Pictures of the clouds on Friday.

When I went to check in my bike at transition, I went to go check out the swim area.  Several racers were standing in the sand looking out and discussing how bad the water looked.  Here’s a picture…

 You can't even see the buoys that are already out in the water.

Notice the people standing looking out..this is where we would come in from the swim and run up the beach about 1/2 mile to bike transition on race day.

You could barely see the buoys they had put out due to the waves.  A couple of people had on their wet suits and were attempting to practice swim.  They were all coming back in saying how bad the waves were beating them up and it was going to be a really bad swim if something didn’t change overnight.  Now I began to get NERVOUS!  I tried to tell my brain to not think about it.  Just leave it to God.  Tomorrow will be a new day.  I decided to not practice swim and went back to my hotel.  I unloaded all my loot that I had got at the expo.  Here’s a few pictures..

 Our shirts

Swim cap

All my loot... love the beach towel!

 another it

 A small cross body backpack.. love it!

 The strap .. :>)

 My bib

The good old timing chip to be worn the left ankle.

 And then I knelt beside the bed and prayed.  I prayed for strength, courage, and for either gills or skills because I knew that swim was going to be tough.  One friend had told me to have peppermint candies in transition for after the swim because she had gotten so sick at the full ironman ocean swim, so I made sure I had them in my bag. 
I rechecked all my gear and called it an early night.  I tossed and turned awhile before finally falling asleep.  I could hear the waves crashing out my room.  The wind and rain was pretty bad outside.  I just kept praying … calm waters at 6am.  That’s when the swim was supposed to start on race morning.

Saturday morning the alarm went off at 3:45am and I could still hear the waves and wind.  It was not your normal beach sound.  It was much stronger.  I told my mind not to worry…..God is in control! Have faith…. Just get dressed and get to transition to set up.  I left the room by 4am heading down to transition.  Upon arriving at the transition gate where you get marked with your race number and age, a man started announcing that the swim had been canceled due to water conditions.  He said it just wasn’t safe for us to swim.  People around me began chattering like crazy.  Some were so happy it was canceled and others were fighting mad.  The ones that were mad were saying it should have been left up to each racer to decide if they wanted to conquer the water or not and not the race director.  I stood in line and listened as each person had their own view of the decision.  I wondered if my close friends were there with me what we would be saying about the situation.  I hated it for the first timers.  I can’t imagine how I would have felt if the swim had been canceled at Augusta after 9 months of training and 30 stitches in my calf.  I would have been devastated.  Once inside the transition area I put my bag down by the bike and decided to go look at the water.  Mind you it’s 4:30am and you really can’t see very well, but I wanted to look.  Plus he announced that he would give directions on how we would start the bikes shortly so there was no need to rush to get ready. 

I was shocked that even the jet skis that were trying to bring in the buoys were flipping over in the waves.  It looked like a washing machine agitating.  At that point, I was thrilled the swim was canceled.  As I was standing there a lady starting talking to me.  She was from Pensacola and said she had done the race there many times.  She loved ocean swims.  She then told me that she’s a good swimmer, normally swim the distance in under 30 minutes and had swam on Friday to see how the water was once you got in and she too was concerned about making the swim cut off time, which is 1 hour 10 minutes the water was so bad.  She said she told her husband if they didn’t cancel the swim someone would probably drown on race morning.   Again I thanked God for them cancelling the swim.  I heard several say that the local weather channel said it wasn’t just the waves, it was the under tow that was bad out in the water.  There were red flags up all weekend saying the beach was closed.  However, you still saw a few people going out knee deep trying to play in the water. Ha

The buoys they were removing from the water.

Finally daylight and bikers are ready...

They finally started announcing how we would start on the bikes.  One at a time! It was going to take a long time to get all of us out on the course.  I was glad I was number 533 and not 1533.  The bikes started out going directly over a crosswalk that went across from the beach to the other side of the street.  The cross walk was not very wide.  I assume this was one reason they started us one at a time.   I also noticed that from number 1 – 600 or so was all women! The men had higher race numbers.  I’m not sure how they numbered us, but the more I looked around all the women on the row where my bike was at were all in the age group 50-54.  When I went to the porta pottie which was where the guys were at they were all fussing about how long they would be there before they got to go out on their bikes.  Which turned out to be cool for me because all the fast guys literally passed me coming in on the bike.  They were amazing to watch and I bet they flew by me going 40 mph!  I had heard the bike route was totally flat.  That was not true. LOL  This was the first year that ironman took over the race.  It used to be the same distance of 70.3 miles, but was not owned by ironman.  Well, ironman had changed the bike route due to a new bridge being open.  So we had a couple of climbs to make during the 56 mile bike ride.  The wind was so very strong! There were times I thought the wind was going to pick up my bike and threw me down on the ground.  I was shocked that when I reached the turnaround at mile 28 that I had maintained around a 19mph pace.  I ended up with a really good bike time.  A new PR for me on 56 miles.  Yeah me… however, when I unclipped to get off the bike, my whole right leg caught leg cramps and I could barely walk!  My leg was like one big stiff log!! I just stood there a couple of minutes before I was able to go across the bike timing mat.  It was awful!  Here’s my bike stats.

 Stats by 5 mile increments... oh and I forgot to start my watch until I was out of the crosswalk.. ha

Overall bike stats... first time I average 17.8 for a race.. whoop whoop

Once I hung my bike back on the route, I debated on even trying the run (half marathon distance).  My right thigh and calf was like in convulsions.  My muscles were as hard as a rock.  I told myself to just walk the first mile and maybe it would loosen up.  So I headed on out on the run course.  The run course was 3 loops around the town.  Thank goodness there were lots of people along the course to cheer you because I wanted to quit.  I would jog a tad and the cramps would come back so I’d walk.  I finally made it one loop and honestly I was thinking there was no way I could do 8 more miles.  I have never wanted to quit something before like I did at that moment.  I kept telling myself mind over matter, but it wasn’t working.  I moved over to the side of the street and started stretching.  I don’t know if my spine issues were causing all the cramping, the steroid shot I had the week before, the heat or what, but I was about to give up! That’s when my little angel appeared!  Her name was Ashley! She was a 28 year old from Ohio that was just starting her first run loop.  She stopped and asked me if I was ok and then told me to just walk and she would walk with me.  I begged her to go on and run.  She just laughed and said she wasn’t feeling it in the heat.  She had also recently done a full ironman and said her body still wasn’t recovered from it so she was happy to find someone to walk with.  I kept telling her to go on and she said she would wait and run her last loop since I’d be in at the finish at that point since I was 1 lap ahead of her.  We had a great conversation.  I’m not normally a chatting person.  That’s my friend Serina.  She never meets a stranger.  I’m different.  I tend to remain quiet and reserved.  Ashley was so easy to talk to.  We talked all about her races, her husband, her job, her dogs, her family, etc.  Time went by pretty fast and I was so very glad!  I hugged her when I turned in towards the finish line and told her I’d see her when she came in.  She really was the sweetest thing! And I got to see her after she crossed the finish line.  We both congratulated each other on a hard task.  Many people were having cramps.  It was like an epidemic.  I saw ripped guys bent over stretching due to cramps.  Maybe it was mostly the heat.  Who knows.. but I was glad I had finished.  Here’s a couple shots at the finish line:

It's a great feeling once you reach that red carpet... you know you are entering the FINISH LINE!

Typically I don’t hang around too long after the bigger races because I’m ready for a shower and NEED one.  You don’t want to smell me after 4-7 hours of racing. Hee Hee However, the Edgewater Resort had a huge pool which was right beside the bike transition area and also where they were going to do awards at 4pm so many, many athletes were sitting in the pool or on the side of the pool with their feet in the cold water.  I decided to join them.  It felt AWESOME!! I needed that cold water on my muscles.  I started sitting on the side and eventually went all the way in up to my neck.  Oh the water felt great. 

I got to listen to so many conversations about the race while in the pool.  One guy that had done Kona (you qualify for that you are FAST) three times even said the right decision was made on the swim and he even said the bike course was tough.  Made me feel good about my times on the bike.  :>) 

So we didn’t get to swim the 1.2 miles…… but as one person said… heck we still had to do 69.1 miles and that is no small feat.  He went on to say that the swim was the easiest to him (I’m not sure I agree with him), that most people can backstroke 1.2 miles, it’s the 56 on a bike and the running 13.1 that is the hard part. LOL  For once I do agree that it was definitely the hard part for me at this race.   I limped to get my bike out of transition after sitting around the pool for around an hour and loaded it up. 

As I sat in my hotel room which had a window that I could see out while sitting on the bed, I reflected over the race.  Check out my view…

this is from Sunday when the water seemed much calmer.  If the race had been one day later, I believe we could have swam that 1.2 miles!

 Beautiful sunset Saturday night to remind me once again... God is GOOD

Therefore, again I say.. EVERY race is different.  You never know what challenges you might face.   I hope when you are faced with them you will either have that will power to push through or you’ll have an angel save you.  I was blessed to have Ashley appear during the run segment of the race.  God certainly knows what we need when we need it.  Often during the half marathon I was hearing the song in my head by Lauren Daigle, “Trust in you”.  

 I wanted God to remove that mountain of cramps, but instead he was saying just trust me… you’ll finish.  I praised him for that finish when I was done! 

I kind of wish I hadn’t waited too late to register for the half in Chattanooga so I would maybe have 2 official “70.3 distances”, but happy having one 70.3 and one 69.1 under my belt.  I didn’t want all that training I put in for Augusta (my first) to go to waste and get two while I had a good base.  Training for a half ironman takes a lot of time.  You must spend most every weekend doing a long run and a long bike.  Not to mention the countless hours during the week swimming, running, & biking. 

Now I plan to take off a couple of weeks and also see what this MRI shows.  I’m trusting GOD to let me accept whatever knowledge we learn from the results.  I hope I can continue to run, but I know there is many more important things in life.   I think my body needs a break anyway.  I’m not signed up for any big races until November and it’s just a half marathon so maybe by then I’ll be as good as new.  OR .. know I know I can walk a half... as long as there is no time limit.. :>)  You know me... I'll be doing something...some where... it's not my norm sit still long. :>)

Probably one of the coolest medals I have.  Guess I can tape over the 1.2 swim part. :<>)

Oh Lord you've been good to me! I thank you every day for allowing me to do the things I've done.  Amen

I leave you with one more awesome song... BTW I LOVE KLOVE radio! 

Even If... Mercy Me.. click link.

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