Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Gulf Coast Triathlon - Race Report

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.

A free pancake breakfast was offered to the athletes and their families on Friday morning.

Chip, Richard and I decided to get through the race registration process before lunch on Friday.  While the girls wandered through the expo we got our race numbers, chips, shirts, and schwag.  The volunteers were plentiful, efficient, knowledgeable, helpful and stern, and not only during registration.  The organizers and volunteers had their plan, it seemed to work well for them and the racers, and they stuck to it.  They did an awesome job!  As we stood in line I had to get a picture of this guy's haircut. 

A Cool Haircut
Chip patiently waiting in line
Volunteers at registration
The Race Expo
Another view of the Race Expo with the GCT gear booth on the right
The transition area just after it opened
My bike was located on the left in the transition area beyond the Boardwalk sign near the run exit.

Chip and Ken after putting their bikes in the transition area
I was the first one to put my QR bike on the rack in my row
I think I had the best transition spot in the whole race.  My T2 time was 1:20.  I had the 42nd fastest T2 and would have been even faster if I had not dropped my bike at a full run 20 feet from the rack.  I replaced the lumpy laces on my New Balance 758 running shoes with elastic laces I had picked up on Friday at the expo to help my transition.

The pre-race pasta dinner
Athletes eating the pasta dinner before the pre-race briefing
We elected to forego the free (for the athletes) pasta dinner on Friday evening so we could take the girls out somewhere nice.  The pasta dinner was $15 for guests.  I broke a cardinal rule of endurance racing.  In lieu of pasta I had fish on Friday night.

Before bed Susan shaved her legs, just kidding.  I'm sure the hotel maintenance crew appreciated the fact that the hair wasn't washed down the drain.  I learned from the 2010 Augusta 70.3 that you can't shave a furry leg and wash the remnants away without seriously clogging the drain.

Someone who shall remain nameless preparing to shave their legs
Unfortunately, in addition to not eating correctly, I didn't sleep one second Friday night.  I was tired as hell by 4:30am when the transition area re-opened.

Race morning with the buoys in place and calm seas
Ken setting up his transition area
A wider view of the transition area
Another view of the transition area
Richard, Chip and I just before the swim waves started
Shortly after the image above was taken I was all zipped up in my wetsuit and ready to go.  Then I noticed something was scratching my lower back.  I unzipped my wetsuit and asked Susan to check it out.  She said "it's the drawstring for your shorts".  Yes, my tri-shorts were on backwards.  I was so tired and concerned about non-existent GI issues that I almost really screwed up.  Before the laughter started (well, not long after) and my swim wave start, I ran as fast as I could back to the room and corrected the problem asap.  That was almost a serious wardrobe malfunction on my part.  I think my nickname is now "Ass Backwards".  Thanks Jonna!

Me running back to the beach after correcting a slight wardrobe malfunction
Me exiting the swim
Melissa, Susan and Jonna as they wait for the men folk to come through the transition area
The bike course was great.  The only issues were related to the few miles where sand, traffic, some road hazards and crosswinds could be a problem.  Once the riders got onto Hwy 79 it was clear sailing. 

After averaging 20.6 mph on the bike leg I headed into the transition area for a quick T2.

Me finishing the bike leg
Richard finishing the bike leg
The half marathon course was flat and very well supported.  The volunteers were numerous and energetic.  They offered cold sponges, orange slices, pretzels, Gatorade, Coke, ice, ice water, GU, and plenty of encouragement.  I can't express in words how well they supported the runners and cyclists on the bike leg.

Me finishing the race
A quick trip to the medical tent for me
An ounce of prevention
Richard finishing the race
Chip finishing the race
The boys draped in cool wet towels
The boys having some pizza after the race

Special thanks to our adoring fans (spouses) for all the support during our training and for being there for the race.  We know you got sunburned and swollen feet standing for hours in the hot sun waiting for a brief glimpse of your personal hunk of man-flesh to arrive.

The girls happy that it's over
The post-race awards presentation sponsored by Dragon Sports offered free beer and dinner for the athletes.  A ticket for family members was only $20 each.

Spinnaker was the location of the awards presentation
Our results were as follows: Ken - 6:39:09, Chip - 6:01:01, Richard - 5:58:41, Neil - 5:25:04

Race technical shirt given to participants
Finisher's medal
A few lessons learned are, get some sleep before the race, eat pasta for dinner the evening before the race, put sunscreen on your head if you're going to wear a visor, and Nutri-grain bars are a crumbly mess and impossible to eat on the bike.

In summary, this is a great race that is very well supported.  Even the MC was very good.  The event is tailored to provide a good experience for the athletes and it does.  I'm really looking forward to Ironman Florida in November.

See more images from our trip on Picasa.