IRONMAN Florida 2017
Sitting on the plane coming back from New York (will make sense by the end) and thought I’d spend some time writing up my IRONMAN Florida 2017 experience. This was a late addition for me which meant the only places left were the IRONMAN Foundation places which meant I got bib number 84 and slightly better bike/bag placement and an expedited check-in line which as it turns out saved my butt 🙂
Because I booked this late I stayed at the host hotel, the Boardwalk Beach Resort. After booking I looked at the reviews which were pretty terrible so I looked forward to my arrival with a little bit of dread. I arrived Thursday (as there was an early flight from DFW (via Atlanta) to the Panama City local airport) and after a 30 minute taxi ride arrived. The IRONMAN village and check-in were actually in the Boardwalk Beach Resort car park so that was super convenient. I couldn’t check-in to my room yet as it was only 12:30 and I was told check-in for the hotel would be around 2:30 so I just took my suitcase with me to IRONMAN registration and the line was ridiculous. I’d never seen such a long line. Now this was the last day of registration but there must have been 100 people ahead of me. Fortunately that IMF entry gave you different check-in so I got to basically cut out the entire line, fill in the paperwork, get my stuff, timing chip then out through the store where I bought some shirts and pins. It was about 1:15 so I thought I’d try my luck checking in and they let me. They were friendly and helpful. Grabbed a quick bite of pizza (which took 30 minutes!) then off to the room.
Is the hotel stellar? No. But it was fine. I’m guessing its a spring break type hotel. There were two double beds in the room and bunk beds. There was a fridge (which had orange rust up the side of it) and a microwave. The ceiling was cracking over the window but the actual room was clean. Sheets clean. Towels and bathroom clean. Maybe I got lucky but it was totally fine. The bed was a bit hard but really wasn’t that big of a deal and you had lots of space. I did put a spare sheet over the bottom bunk bed before I put my stuff on it as there were some stains that I didn’t want to identify or risk touching 🙂 Now there are nicer hotels but this being the actual host location had some big advantages that I’ll get to and if I did Florida again I would stay here again even though I’m sure there are nicer places to stay.
I unpacked and laid all my gear out on the spare bed as always. I use the gear list in the athlete guide and as always picture myself from feet to head of the gear I’ll need to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. Once I was all laid out I put it in the bags (only to take out again and recheck about 5 times before final drop off).
There were no stores super close so I walked to the Walmart to buy water, Gatorade etc. It was only about 3/4 of a mile I think up the road but it was hot then I had to carry it all back which I think was a mistake with hindsight. I ordered pizza and pasta from Hungry Howie’s which was tasty. Went to bed early.
Next day got up, rechecked contents of gear bags, walked up to Waffle House to have egg whites and a waffle (about 1 mile round trip and was nice and cool). I walked down to the sand and it was quite the view (this was basically right outside my room as well) and this is where the swim would take place the next day (Saturday). The waves seemed intimidating however there were some people out swimming and what I noticed was by the time you got to waist level walking out (which was quite a way) the waves stopped and from that point it was fairly calm so you didn’t actually swim in the wave crashing part.
I had a quick work call then off to gear drop off which was literally outside my door. Walked up to TriBike Transport (which was as close to bike drop-off as humanly possible, right next to it), they put on my pedals, quick ride around to ensure was OK, put on my bike stickers then dropped off my bike. I had a day to kill and this happened to be the day Thor Ragnarok came out. I had researched before hand and there was an IMAX in town so I’d already bought a DBOX 3D seat (the DBOX seat actually moves during the film). I ubered to town, had lunch at Olive Garden (pasta with marinara sauce and chicken breast along with some breadsticks and 5 cheese marinara dip) then walked to the movie where I snacked on some Buncha Crunch while enjoying an awesome movie. Then uber back to hotel where I had Hungry Howie pizza and went to bed.
I slept OK but work up around 2:30 am and this is where the Boardwalk really started to shine. Transition opened at 4:30. This was outside my room. I went out, got my numbers marked on me, put my drinks on my bike, pumped up tires to 100, checked my gear bags were still there and normally now I would spend 2.5 hours waiting sitting on the floor, queuing for the restroom (which I’ll pee 3 times normally as my body panics). Well, I just went back to my room. I stayed there for 1.5 hours, watched a bit of a movie on my iPad, used my bathroom, drank some Gatorade etc. It was awesome. I could even still hear the announcements! THIS is why I would stay here again. At 6 am I decided to wander out already in my wetsuit with a layer of sunscreen spray applied. Dropped of a morning clothes bag which literally just had a room key wrapped in a towel in it (I had also put a room key in my running belt the day before) then out to the beach where I had to walk on the sand (I HATE sand. HATE the feeling. don’t know why, I just do) and was chatting to people. I’m always amazed at how friendly everyone is. It’s awesome and while it was great being in the room obviously I missed out on some additional time talking to people.
It was a self seed swim start. Volunteers where holding up signs for expected swim time so I put myself in the 1:30 slot. At 6:30 the pros went off and 6:40 the age groups started to go in. I think I hit the water about 7:00 and they had a timing mat as you went over so your time started as you went in the water (this is normal to me but some people said this had not always been the case). It was a two-loop swim and you got out after the first loop to run back round to the loop start. My wetsuit is armless but it was fine. I think the water was about 71 degrees. You waded in quite a way until you started swimming and the waves were gone at that point. There was a little chop but nothing really bad. I had a hard time seeing the buoys and found myself off course a few times but nothing too bad. I prefer to stay on the outside as I’ll sacrifice a few minutes to not get kicked in the face. The water was really clear and you could see the sand at the bottom. Was nice. The salt water was not. I’d never swam in the ocean before and the salt water sucked. I didn’t really feel it added buoyancy beyond the wet suit but who knows. My tongue was tingling and obviously just got worse as you continued swimming. As I finished loop 1 I was at 40 minutes which was great for me. Thankfully they had cups of water as you ran round to loop 2 so that helped. Loop 2 was more of the same (except the sun now blinded you after the first turn as you were swimming straight at it (however this is a short leg as you quickly turn again to head back to the beach)). I finished in 1:25 which I was pleased with and got help pulling off the wetsuit, stood under some hoses setup to help get sand and salt off then off to grab T1 bag and into a big conference room to get changed.
Then out to the bike. Its one big loop and its pretty flat. There are a few rollers in the middle but really nothing to bad. I never had to change my front gear. As always terrific support on the course about every 10 miles. I have my own nutrition (Gu every hour, then half waffle 20 minutes and 40 minutes) but use their Gatorade and occasionally swig of water. It was uneventful which is great! I set a PR on the bike of 5:52:37 so was super happy with that. I had a new bike computer, the Garmin Edge 520 which performed great. Was a nice big screen and showed everything I needed. As always my butt and neck were hurting but that’s just the norm now.
At transition they take your bike, helped grab my T2 bag and off I went to change. I was feeling pretty good. This feeling would not last. This was a two-loop run course.
Now my old PR was 12:54 ish. So far with the good swim and bike and my transitions I could do a 5 hour marathon and still come in at 12:40!!! This would be awesome. It was a completely flat marathon course and I’d done a 5 hour marathon in IRONMAN Texas which was similar flat course and temperature so my hopes were high. However as soon as I started running it felt tough. I’m not sure why. My legs had been aching a little on the previous day. I think maybe training during the week (Wednesday I did a sub 2 hour half marathon on the treadmill, Thursday elliptical before flight for an hour) then the walking Thursday in the heat had maybe taken it out of me a little but I was struggling. I managed to run for the first 8 miles but then had to start walking for a bit then running for the next 8 miles but at 16 miles my running was getting slower than my walking 🙂 My mouth was tingling and I just felt dead to the world. I was trying to eat a Gu every 30 minutes but as the run goes on that gets harder to do so I think I was not getting enough sugar. Also the Gatorade gets harder to drink and you just want water. At 16 miles I just had to walk. I grabbed a cookie and nibbled on that as I walked and drank water. I chatted with some fellow walkers for the next 4 miles. After an hour I felt better. Tingling had gone, felt like I had some gas in the tank. I looked at my watch. If I could maintain just over 5 miles an hour I could beat my old PR so off I went running again. It was run walk but managed to maintain for the next 3 miles until I just crashed again and this time pretty much for good. I felt like crap and really struggled to keep moving. As I got to the end I ran the last part and finished the marathon in 5:25:23. Ugh. Luckily because of the bike and swim my total time was 13:05:49 which I’m actually fine with but obviously disappointed as with this flat course I really should have been able to beat my Chattanooga time which was super hilly (BUT it had the super easy swim). Below are some pictures and I may stop buying them as I realize I look exactly the same in all the races 🙂 Same pained expressions, same happiness when its over 🙂
And the final split times.
After it was all done a quick pickup of the gear bags (Tribike had already took my bike which caused me confusion at first as I didn’t think I booked the valet service!) then the morning clothes bag had to be picked up from a different location (where you dropped it off). Went back to my room, had a protein drink and some pizza, showered then utterly failed to fall asleep like every other IRONMAN lately. I can only assume its because all day I’m eating nothing but sugar and caffeine then at the end of the day the brain says “nope, not turning off, you can just lay here all night”.
I got up the next morning not too sore (but it got worse as the day went on). At 5:30 walked past the store and there were already people waiting!! I went to Waffle House for egg whites and a waffle again then took place in the line at about 6 am. I was probably about 40 people back and I was the last person they let in in the first batch when it opened at 7am :-). I bought my finisher t-shirt, polo and jacket (I love the jackets this year).
Went back to the room and decided to just head to the airport since there was no Internet at the hotel (the entire time no Internet, that sucked!!!!!) and at least I would have Internet at the airport. I had to speak at a conference in New York on Monday so I took a flight to NYC (via Atlanta) where on the Monday I was speaking on the 10th floor of 7 World Trade Center (it was a Hybrid Identity Protection conference) and was actually hosted by the company that owns and is building the new World Trade Center and at lunch we had a talk by the CEO and owner, Larry Silverstein about the experiences which was amazing. The view was great and I also went and saw the Memorial Waterfall close up.
Now I’m on the flight home. That’s the end of 2017 IRONMAN for me. I’ve done Texas, Santa Rosa, Chattanooga and Florida this year. Next year I have 5 booked which will get me to 12 and I can apply for the Kona lottery! Overall a good year and I’m excited for 2018.
- Texas – 4/28 (done before 3 times)
- Boulder = 6/10 (I’m nervous about this one as everyone says the altitude is a killer)
- Lake Placid – 7/22 (hilly I hear)
- Wisconsin – 9/9 (apparently you should “love hills”, I don’t)
- Chattanooga 9/30 (done before twice and this is where I PR’d)
Up next is the Dopey in Disney World January 2018 🙂 but I can take a little break from training.