Friday, November 10, 2017

Ironman Florida 2017 - Race Report


Ironman Florida (IMFL) 2017 was my third attempt at this event. I finished both the 2011 (10:49:25) and 2013 (11:28:50) races and decided to hit it again after foregoing the 2016 Ironman Chattanooga full and half races last year. I registered for the IMFL race along with two of my friends, Brenda Herrington and Stephanie Critchfield. Both of which have multiple Ironman race finishes under their belts. The 2011 and 2013 IMFL races were also events done with friends, in fact Stephanie and I did that race together too. It's good to have friends to help push you through the days you don't want to train.

After registering I created a 20 week long training plan for myself. It called for 304 hours of workouts. I completed about 39 percent or 119 hours of my plan. My longest run leading up to the race was 13.5 miles. Most of my bike training was done on a trainer indoors in my Zwift pain cave. Of the 61 rides I completed during the 20 weeks leading up to Ironman Florida only 6 of them were outside on the road. All of my swim training, what little there was of it, was done in the open water in the lake in front of my house.

This is a chart of my planned training on top and my actual training below. The x in the chart is the weeks, 1 through 20. The y in the chart is the hours of workouts; red is for cycling, green is for running, blue is for swimming, and purple is the weekly total. Note the increasing hours of weekly workouts throughout the 20 weeks before a taper starting at week 18 in the planned workouts and the saw-toothed chart of my actual workouts.


Brenda reserved a three bedroom condo at the Gulf Crest Condominiums for us. It was the perfect location, only about 0.8 miles from the Boardwalk Beach Resort race venue and Ironman expo and, most importantly, where our friends and family could see us four times on Joan Avenue during the long run.

Susan and I packed the car with all my gear, and then some, for the trip to Florida. I didn't want to forget anything.


Clothes, tools, food, beer and wine. I think that's everything.


Gotta stay hydrated.


Brenda and her hubby Mark arrived in Panama City Beach, Florida on Tuesday. Susan and I, and Stephanie and Jason arrived on Wednesday.


Brenda, Stephanie, Mark, and I checked out the Normatec recovery boots at the expo.




We had to take some pictures in the giant beach chair.




The weather was perfect the whole time we were in Florida. We had beautiful sunrises and sunsets everyday.


Stephanie, Brenda, and I before we took a final practice swim on Friday before the race.


Jason helped Stephanie get her bike ready for the race. Jason replaced a bent tube stem the evening before the race and, wouldn't you know it, the other stem broke off while Stephanie was putting her bike on the rack. Oddly, our support team reported hearing several tires giving a last gasp of life before going flat and one BOOM as a tube blew. I'll bet someone changed a tire the night before the race. I've only made that mistake once a long time ago.


Our bikes all lined-up and ready for check-in and packet drop-off. Mark and Jason also brought their bikes.


There was a long line into the transition area on Friday.


The excitements grows as we waited to rack our bikes


Mark and his friend Willis sherpa-ed for us to the bike check-in.


It wasn't until the next morning that I learned that I wouldn't be able to leave my awesome new Lake Cycling tri-shoes clipped-in on my bike. That screwed up my plans for a swift T-1. Okay, we missed the mandatory athlete's briefing.


As racers entered the transition area each of the bikes was photographed.


My little Quintana Roo CD 0.1 swings like a pendulum sandwiched between two bikes. Without a water bottle on my tri-bars there's not enough weight on my front forks to push them to the ground. Nothing could be left with your bike. All the rider's gear had to go inside the bike gear bag.



Susan made her special shrimp pasta dish as a pre-race dinner for us.


Brenda made some lemon pepper chicken.


Stephanie made some Gnocchi.


Susan's world famous shrimp pasta dish with olives, fresh basil and fresh Roma tomatoes.


The weather forecast for Saturday called for a high temperature of 78 degrees. I'm not sure what the high temperature was but it felt hot.


We took a picture before we left the condo for the walk to body marking and bike setup where we checked tire pressure and put our filled water bottles on our bikes, etc.


Stephanie, Brenda, and I on the beach before the swim start. The swim start was different this year.  They didn't have the mass start as in 2011 and 2013, when I had previously raced. The 2017 swim start was "self-seeded". That means swimmers lined up before the start timing mat in 10 minute increments starting at a 59 minute 59 second swim segment finish time or faster. Brenda seeded herself with the 1 hour to 1:10 group. I seeded myself in the 1:10 to 1:20 group and Stephanie was in the group behind me.

The water temperature was perfect, cool enough to be wetsuit legal but not too cold. The surf was calm. There was what appeared to be some krill or jellyfish larvae in the water. I only saw one big jellyfish.


I found that the self-seeding start made the swim much more enjoyable than the mass starts I'd experienced. There was much less contact with other swimmers during the full swim. Before it wasn't until the final 0.5 mile back to the beach when swimmers had enough space to spread out. Brenda and Stephanie both said later that they had experienced some leg pulling. Brenda went so far as to say that it felt like someone was trying to put off her timing chip. That's dirty! It's a good this we all safety pinned or, in my case, electrical taped our chips on. I had one slight sideways leg push incident by someone but nothing else. The downside of self-seeding is that when you pass someone on the bike or run course you really have no idea if you're actually ahead of them or not. The start time between the first swimmers and the last hitting the water was something like 10 minutes.


My swim was just over 4,500 yards or about 2.55 miles. That's about a 1:55 pace for 100 yards if I had swam the standard distance of 2.4 miles or 4,224 yards. I swam the course but must have swung wide. I also swam outside the first yellow buoy while some swimmers cut the corner and swam directly for the red turn buoy, which was legal.

Susan caught a glimpse of Brenda, me and Stephanie exiting T-1.


I ran to the transition area bike exit in my socks with my shoes in hand. I heard later that there were several incidents when people were running in their cycling shoes and slipped. Jason said he saw only one other racer run with their shoes in their hand like I did. I doubt they were much faster because I was truckin' through T-1 in my soft yellow socks.

I decided to race with only two bottle cages and no bento box. I had a Gu energy gel flask. I forgot my salt tablets which was a bummer but I compensated by guzzling down as much Gatorade as I could from each water station. I never missed an attempted bottle pass.

I didn't wear my Garmin heart-rate monitor for the swim but put it on in T-1 for the bike and run. 


Stephanie exiting T-1.


Brenda was the first of our group on the run course.


There were several people taking pictures along the bike and run courses. I found the one below on Facebook posted to the Ironman Florida 2017 (now 2018) page. The image isn't that flattering. It shows the toll the heat was taking on the first lap of the run course. I put cups of ice under my cap, inside my jersey and in my shorts to stay cool on the first loop before the sun started to go down. It stung at first but worked like a charm to keep my body's core temperature down.

I opted to race in my new-ish New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v7 running shoes. They're a little heavier than my ancient New Balance 890v4 shoes but much more comfortable. I replaced the cloth laces with faster and easier to use elastic laces. To minimize the possibility of getting blisters I coated the inside of my socks with Body Glide. It worked like a champ, not a single blister. I also opted to wear a cap instead of a visor. The weather forecast was for full sun all day so I felt that a cap might protect the bald spot on the top of my head from getting sunburned. It did!

I have to give kudos to the sunscreen applying team. As I exited the changing area at T-2 before the run they were there waiting to apply ample amount of sunscreen. I found it funny that two young guys, each with a can of spray sunscreen, were methodically spraying my arms and shoulder when a third guy, a little older than the other two, asked me if I wanted more. I said yes and he squirted about a cup of sunscreen into his hands and rubbed his hands together, before applying the greater portion of the white lotion on my shoulders, arms, and neck. I'll bet that was pretty gross considering I'd already been sweating for over 7 hours at that point, and the road grim... Yuck! They were real troopers.   


This must have been me on my first run loop because it looks like I'm moving pretty fast. Of course, I was always running when I thought someone was looking. I can just barely see the Gu wrapper hanging out from my right pants leg. Littering on the course is a big No-No!


Stephanie was in deep thought on the first loop of the run. It was later said that she was not so happy on that first run loop. She was happier later though.


Even though I knew that I'd be finishing the run segment after sunset I elected to forgo any personal lighting. I brought a Petzl headlamp to the race, the same unit I used during a Ragnar trail run a few years ago.  With the clear skies, a full moon forecast for later in the night, and event organizer portable lighting placed strategically on the course, I knew I wouldn't need it so I left the light in my run gear bag at the start of the run.

Susan, Mark, Jason, and Willis kept track of us using the Ironman Tracker App. In addition to Brenda, Stephanie, and I, we had Stephanie's friend Paul, and my friend Cody from the 2017 Cheaha Ultra ride in May also there. I didn't know Cody was racing until afterwards. He had a great race though. He swam like a pro finishing the swim course in 1:00:37. So did Paul. Paul is a runner who has branched out into the swimming and biking realm. To qualify that he had recently run a 3:04 marathon. That's pretty darn fast.


We had some friends watching the race online. My friend Kimberly caught me at the finish line.


Our race results tell the tale.




My detailed results.


As I entered T-1 I messed up my Garmin watch. I'd setup multi-sport mode but hit the wrong button as I tried to get my wetsuit off. Instead of continuing without my Garmin I decided to punch through the buttons until I was relatively back on track with only a short delay. This almost caused me a DQ.  Because I was so distracted and tried to mount my bike before the mount line. A big No-No! Fortunately another racer and a volunteer stopped me before I clipped in.


During T-2 I stayed seated in the changing room until I had my Garmin watch setup and ready for the run. What a pain in the butt! I wasn't alone though, Brenda and Stephanie also had issues with multi-sport mode.


Brenda wrapped in a thermal blanket after finishing. Brenda kicked it on the swim and the bike. She felt that her run could have been better. Maybe her run could have been better but I'm sure she left it all on the course. Brenda's not one to hold back. Her support made me push harder. 


Stephanie looking a little smug after beating the heck out of me. She passed me on the run about 22 miles into the run. She told me we could finish together but I shunned her charity and continued my walk/run of shame to the finish line. In fact, Stephanie had a great race. Kudos to her.


Stephanie and Jason at the finish.


Stephanie and I enjoying a delicious beverage after the race.


I got a big hug from Susan after the race. She was happy it was over. I don't blame her. These races can be as stressful on family members as they are on the athletes.


I think Jason was glad Brenda finished before me. If I had beaten her then Jason said he would ride the slingshot. I wanted to see him ride the Vomatron.


Susan cooked us some french toast for us for our after-race breakfast. It was really good!


Susan and I brought some bread down to the beach to feed the seagulls. We put the bread in a pile on the sand far from anyone else on the beach.


There were skates swimming in the surf everyday during our stay.


After we returned home I inventoried my booty. At check-in I got my timing chip and swim cap along with a poster and backpack. I've already got the poster framed.



I got a finishers t-shirt, a finisher's cap, and a finisher's medal.





I save my bibs. This one's going in the bin with the others.


In summary, the 2017 Ironman Florida event was a good race. The weather was perfect. The volunteers were awesome. I didn't get a drafting penalty card - because I didn't draft. I can't say for myself, or my two race partners, that we were completely happy with our results but I know with 100 percent certainty that we gave it all we had. You can't ask for any more.

I'm disappointed that Ironman Florida has only 40 Kona slots while some smaller Ironman races have as many as 75 slots. That said, I know I had no chance of qualifying for Kona with the first two finishers in my age-group completing the race in under 10 hours. That's crazy fast!


I'm also disappointed that there were no professional triathletes in the race. That's unfortunate. I got a kick out of being on the course in 2011 and 2013 when pros were still running. They were on their second lap and I was on my first but that doesn't matter.  It's still cool to see them race and I'm sure the spectators enjoy seeing these fitness freaks race by making it all look so easy.

Most of all I want to thank my wife Susan for putting up with me all these months. The days of me waking up saying I gotta bike, I gotta Run, I gotta swim are over. Now we can focus on other things. I've got plenty of household chores that I've been putting off to keep me busy for a while.

The journey ends!

Thanks for reading.

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