Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Gulf Coast Triathlon Venue Review

I will separate my race report for the 2011 Gulf Coast Triathlon into three parts.  The first part will be a review of the restaurants where we ate during our four days in Panama City Beach.  The second part will review the venue, The Boardwalk Beach Resort hotel.  The last part will review the triathlon, including pre and post-race festivities.

Susan and I arrived at the host hotel, The Boardwalk Beach Resort on Wednesday.

The Boardwalk Beach Resort in Panama City Beach, Florida with the adjacent condos in the background
We arrived at the hotel in Panama City Beach at 2pm local time.  PCB time is 1 hour earlier than Atlanta time.  The first thing we noticed was the construction on the street in front of the hotel, lots of sand and concrete culverts on the roadside.  I hoped the sand wouldn't be an issue on race day.

Road construction in front of the hotel
We checked-in and loaded our mass of equipment and clothes into the room using a cart with a flat.

The luggage cart
We found that our small room with a view of the pool had a great view of the parking lot, but the pool, not so much.  You could tell from the parking lot that few athletes had arrived on Wednesday.

Our room
It was windy on Wednesday and the pool was in need of some cleaning.  The pool water was still too cold to swim in without a wetsuit.  It was cleaned up when most of the athletes arrived on Friday. 
The pool on Wednesday
The pool on Friday
The front desk had advised us that the parking lot would be closed on Thursday morning and all guests would have to move their vehicles to a lot about a block down the street.  Note to self, never stay at the host hotel when the transition area is located in the parking lot.  We checked out the "overflow" parking and found that it was a sand lot.  The second overflow parking lot was just east of the sand lot.  The third overflow parking was at the Spinnaker Bar parking lot just east of that and the fourth and final lot was at a Wal-mart located who knows where.

Susan at the overflow parking lot.
We put our car back in the hotel parking lot and vowed that they'd have to move it if they wanted it gone.  Needless to say we did not get a complimentary newspaper.  The hotel Starbucks must have been an illusion created by the media department because my $3.48 large self-serve coffee was less than notable and was probably dollar store brand.  There was no Starbucks to be seen.  As for Internet service, you’ll pay $10 a day.

With our stuff loaded into our room we took the opportunity to review our surroundings.  Here are our findings.  The Boardwalk Beach Resort hotel is less than stellar!  Almost everything is in varied states of dis-repair.  It's dirty and the rooms are very small. The Boardwalk is a spring break hotel.  When Susan worked at this very hotel when she was a teenager it was called The Sands and was the nicest place to stay on the beach.  She grew up in Panama City.  We’ll find an alternate location to stay for Ironman Florida in November.  Enough about the hotel itself!

The beach in front of the hotel is very nice with lots of white sand and crystal blue water, as expected.  There was a light wind from the south on Wednesday afternoon.  The temperature had only gotten up to 78 degrees for the day so it wasn't as warm as we had expected.  There was some small black chunky stuff in the sand that but it may not have been oil.  The chunks were accompanied by the occasional cigarette butt and bottle top but considering the volume of people that use the beach it was very clean.

The view of the beach from the hotel looking east
The view of the beach from the hotel balcony looking south
The view of the beach from the hotel balcony looking west
The Boardwalk Beach Resort from the beach
In summary, the hotel offers some conveniences to race goers and some inconveniences as well.  It's not the nicest place to stay but I'm sure it isn't the most expensive either.  I will say that had we not been staying there I might have missed by swim wave start due to a slight wardrobe malfunction that I will elaborate on in my race report.

See more images from our trip on Picasa.