An Ironman Florida 2011 Spectathlete Report
Many months ago, I had casually mentioned to Dee Dee that I would like to go down to Panama City Beach to watch the Ironman this year. Unfortunately for us, it would take a bit of doing. I would have to get off work. Somebody would need to watch Matthew and get him to and from his soccer match.
As late as Thursday, we weren’t sure if we would be able to go. The weekend plans were completed, but Matthew had yet to find a ride home from school on Friday. I’m fairly easy going. I would have cancelled the entire trip in order to pick my son up from school. He texted me Thursday evening that he had found not one ride, but one and a back up. Everything came together just fine.
Friday morning, we dropped Matthew off at school and drove down to Panama City Beach. I looked for the signs and course markings along Highway 231, but I didn’t see any. I wondered if they had a different routine this year (I later found out the bike course had changed). We checked into my Dad’s place at Venture Out before heading to Walmart to pick up a few necessities. Then, it was off to the Expo to meet up with CJ and Murtha.
We had a great time meeting up with old friends for the first time, and I got to meet John’s lovely wife, Kelley. Dee Dee and I did browse the expo for a bit. Being and Ironman finisher, it was totally legit for me to buy sumfin. Unfortunately, the only thing I liked they didn’t have in my size. Dee Dee, however, managed to snag a pink and white running technical shirt. I don’t under stand how these things happen.
After the blogger meet up, I felt the rumbling in my stomach. Dee Dee and I decided to beat the crowds and get an early dinner. This is where being on Eastern time has its advantages. We went to Pinapple Willies, located just down the boardwalk from the race site. We got there plenty early and sat down right away. I was really wanting to eat on “the cheap” this trip, but I gave in and ordered on seafood meal for myself. The waiter asked me if I was really hungry (I think he believed I was racing). I laughed and said, “No, and please leave off the potatoes”.
Good thing too… That was one huge plate of food. I ate almost all of the seafood and left some of the vegetables and the bread on my plate. I was stuffed! After dinner, we returned to Venture Out for the night. I got caught up Kitchen Nightmares and didn’t get out for my run until 8 PM central time. My legs were still feeling pretty sore from my race the previous Saturday. I opted to take it easy and cut the run to four miles from five.
Saturday morning came, and we got up early. Again, being on Eastern time is a small advantage. We took off for the Walmart and found a spot to park in the crowded lot. We opted not to take the bus and walked the short distance to the race site. It was just beginning to get light when we arrived on the beach.
The swim start was bustling with activity. Athletes in wet suits were every where. Spectators and family were mixed in as well. I looked around for my peeps, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find them. We went down to the left of the race start and found a place to stand. While we were waiting, Murtha found us.
We chatted with him for a few minutes before he had to take off and get into the swim corral. At 6:50 AM, the cannon sounded for the pros. Shortly after that, the cannon went off for the age groupers, and Ironman Florida 2011 got under way.
Dee Dee and I tried to keep an eye out for CJ and Murtha as they came through for their first loop, but we just weren’t sure we saw them. We finally gave up and thought it best that we go find a good spot at the swim finish. As more and more people finished the swim, Dee Dee and I moved up to the front.
This is not necessarily a great pic, but when the finish chute was empty, you could see the swimmers in the background stacked up like huge birds. It.were.awesome. CJ was the first one to come in under the arches.
and about three minutes later, Murtha came tearing through:
I was thinking, GOOD! I could get around to the bike exit and see them both take off. We hustled around to the other side of transition and starting walking back to the car, keeping an eye out for our friends. We saw Murtha come through. Unfortunately, we never did get to see CJ. I think he was taking his time in transition, which is always a good thing for your first Ironman!
Dee Dee and I decided to head out on the bike course and cheer on our friends, but first, WAFFLE HOUSE! There’s one a bit further down the beach towards St. Andrew’s State Park, and we were lucky enough to score a table with no waiting. After breakfast, we took off for the bike course.
Your’s truly didn’t look at the new bike route properly. I thought the race course crossed over 231. Unfortunately, it was crossing over County Highway 2031. We headed up Highway 77 past Lynn Haven, only to arrive at the bike route in a huge back up. This was not where we wanted to be, so I jumped the median and headed back south. We headed east to 231 before turning north. After what seemed like a really long time, I saw another highway I had noticed on the map, Highway 388 and turned down that road. There was a flashing sign up warning motorists about the race. Quite by accident, we came up on the bike turn around. This was not where I wanted to be, but it would have to do.
We didn’t have to wait too long before Murtha came through, and we had company cheering on the athletes.
Andy’s got that smug smile. I’m GETTIN'ER DONE!! LOL!! We waited about another 15-20 minutes for CJ to come through. I said something stupid like “pick it up”, and I could tell that CJ was not happy. He was not a happy camper on the bike this day!
We hung around for another 15 to 20 minutes after that ringing cowbell and cheering on the athletes before we headed back to Venture Out. I fired up the computer to keep tabs on my peeps. I knew it was windy, but I was starting to get concerned when their 95 mile cut off failed to appear. We finally got tired of waiting. I figured it was some kind of technical glitch. We headed down to the front of Venture Out and set up our lawn chairs on the run route.
I have no idea how long we spent there. We must have rang the cowbells for something like two ours. I noticed a friend of mine there cheering on more of his friends, and I got to catch up with him on how things were going. Andy was the first one to come through on the run.
He wasn’t feeling very well, and it showed, despite the outward appearances. I walked with him for a bit, and while I could tell he appreciated it, he was totally focused on getting the job done. Shortly after that, and a lot sooner than I anticipated, CJ came tearing through.
I don’t know if you are familiar with CJ, but he has lost a ton of weight and turned into quite the runner. He looked strong and refreshed, which was a relief to me after waiting for him to get off the bike. Once our friends passed through, we hung out for a bit more before the cold wind urged us back inside. We ordered a pizza, and while we waited for it to be delivered, we caught a nap. The pizza arrived late, and somewhat cold. The driver had been delayed by the Ironman. Still, it was good enough to us, and Dee Dee and I had a few slices while we watched the start of the Alabama-LSU game.
At this point, Dee Dee asked if I wanted to go the finish line to wait for CJ and Murtha, and I opted not to go. I wanted to go to the finish line around 10 PM and hang out till midnight. Hanging out for four hours was not appealing to me. I wasn’t worried about Murtha and CJ. They finished the race in fine style. Dee Dee and I both watched them cross the finish line on the laptop.
At 10 PM, Dee Dee and I drove to the Alvin’s Island near the race finish and parked. We walked to the finish line and found an empty spot in the bleachers. As midnight approached, the crowd got bigger and the electricity began to build. With one hour left, they cranked up the dance music and the crowd got jiggy with it. Each runner that came through the chute was greeted with vigorous enthusiasm. Some of it was down right deafening. The last runner came through the chute with a couple of minutes left, and that ended Ironman Florida 2011. No last minute dashes for the finish line.
My pillow never felt so good! I had a blast. I’ve never been able to back to an Ironman finish line after my races. I’ve just been exhausted. This was a special treat for me, and I can’t thank Dee Dee and my friends who raced too much for putting on such a fine show.
I slept relatively well Saturday night. I woke up around 9 AM eastern time, but with being on Central Time and daylight savings time kicking in, it was more like 7 AM. I needed to run 12 miles, but there was no way I was going to give that a go without eating breakfast. I woke Dee Dee up and we went back to the Waffle House. After eating, I ran around the lagoon then back down the board walk where all the crazies were standing in line to sign up for IM Florida 2012. After taking a shower and cleaning up, it was time to head home. With children still in the house, Dee Dee and I have “sponsibilities”.
and that my friends, wraps up an entirely different aspect of this thing called: triathlon.