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Gulf Coast 70.3 Race Report: Not the Way I Wanted It To Go


My mind was racing as we packed the car and headed towards Panama City Beach for me to race Gulf Coast 70.3. The last time I had been to this race the swim had been canceled. The weather looked promising for a swim to happen this year. I was excited. Even though I wasn't as fast or as light as I had hoped, I felt trained and ready.

On Friday morning, I went to the expo, picked up a few things, and returned in the afternoon to check in my bike.

After checking in my bike, and memorizing which rack in transition my bike was on, I walked to the swim start. I smiled remembering 2017 when I had coached myself, had no clue what I was doing, and was concerned about the swim because I hadn't done enough of it.


I walked out to the beach to look at the swim course. This time I wasn't concerned. It was a long swim. I knew I would be fine. I went back to our Air B&B and rested the remainder of the evening for the next day. I was so excited. I was going to complete a full 70.3 not one where the swim was canceled.

I woke up early, walked to the start, and set up everything in transition I would need for the bike and run.


The Swim:

I lined up at the shoot, waited my turn and we were off! The waves were huge. I felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back. My mind started to panic thinking I wasn't going to make the cutoff. I took a deep breath and tried to calm my mind as I swam. "Let them decide that, not your thoughts." I reminded myself. After what seemed like an eternity I was at the buoy to make the turn. I decided to sneak a peak at my watch to see exactly how much trouble I was in. I swore it took me forty-five minutes to get out to the turn with the rough water. I was pleasantly surprised to see my watch read twenty-three minutes. I took a deep breath and reminded myself to "Just Keep Swimming". Yes, I heard Dory from Finding Nemo's voice in my head too. It was a quick swim across to the next buoy to turn back towards shore. Finally, a little speed as the waves started to push me towards shore. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. I was about 500 yards from shore. The waves seemed to get stronger and started pulling me out with them. I swam as hard as I could when the waves were coming in and tried to not lose too much ground when they were going out to sea. Finally, my hand felt sand, and I stood up to exit the swim. Fifty-eight minutes after I started. I breathed a sigh of relief as I made the cut-off. It was by far the hardest swim I had ever completed at open water swim practice or a race.


Bike:

After breathing a sigh of relief after the tough swim, I hopped on my bike, my favorite part of a triathlon. I pedaled hard after I mounted my bike. I made a turn and hit a huge headwind. I tried to keep my goal speed and pushed hard. Twenty miles of a headwind. Where oh where was the turnaround? Finally, I saw the turnaround.

"Oh my gosh!." I thought. "Finally, I will get a break from the wind."

I did for a bit but it was very short-lived. It was nowhere near a long enough break with a tailwind. My whole body was fatigued from a tough swim and a tough start to the first half of the bike. I arrived back on the road by the beach and began to not feel well. It took an effort to keep my bike straight. I felt nauseous. This was not good.

"Just a few more miles and you are off the bike." I told myself.

I felt incredibly sick. I just wanted to be in the A. C. I thought about handing my timing chip in transition, but I didn't want to just give up. I decided I would start the first lap of the run, focus on hydration and nutrition to see if I could bounce back. I racked my bike and headed towards the exit of transition. I tried to run over the pedestrian bridge and felt a wave of dizziness come over me. I grabbed the side of the pedestrian bridge to stabilize myself.

"Woah," I said out loud. I almost fell over. I walked until I reached an aid station. I took water, gel, and electrolytes. I walked for a few more minutes and started to run. I felt like I was going to collapse on the course every time I ran.

After completing the first lap, I knew my day was done. I didn't want to end up in an ambulance. My body was telling me to stop. I approached a race official and explained I needed to pull myself. I was asked if I needed any medical assistance and I said no. I was walked to another area to hand in my timing chip. Everyone was very encouraging and asked if I would come back and try again. I will, and one day this race will be my day.

After the race, I was positive. I told myself Ironman Florida was going to go much better and it will be even sweeter when I cross the finish line.


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