As many of you know, I spent the last few days in Panama City Beach with DC Tri Club friends(Tuan, Doug, Mark, Adriana, and Cat) racing Ironman Florida. I came to volunteer with the intention of getting in line to get a spot for next year's race. The event was unbelievable. The number of people racing, working, cheering was outstanding. The great attitudes and sportsmanship exhibited by the racers was commendable. It's been awesome and inspirational to say the least.
Watching the swim start was incredible and overwhelming. Almost 3,000 people jumping into the ocean at the same time was nuts. Friday the water was smooth as glass. The racers did not have that good fortune on race day. There were white caps and a pretty good chop. After swimming 2.4 miles, not an easy task even if in a pool, the racers had to hop on their bikes for 112 miles. Wow. The course is flat - but it's known for the headwind, so it's by no stretch easy... besides, a flat course means you're pedaling nonstop. I've been told the winds were pretty bad until about mile 80 and that the pavement wasn't particularly smooth.
After watching the swim I had some down time when I ate and walked around the expo... after a short nap I positioned myself to watch folks come out of transition and start the run. I'm happy to say I saw all of my friends finish the bike - even one I didn't know was riding (Doug missed the swim cutoff of 2 hours 20 minutes by maybe 2 minutes. It was heart breaking to watch... but a kind volunteer walked him to transition and convinced an official to let him ride - he didn't have a chip... he's so glad to have gotten the opportunity and the practice). I stayed in my spot until my last friend made it off the bike. She had 7 or 8 minutes to spare before the bike cutoff time (5:15pm). I was definitely nervous for her. But she was all smiles, elated to have made the cut off and gave me a huge hug before she went into the tent to change and thanked me for being there, waiting. I wouldn't have missed it for the world!
At that point I went to grab dinner with Doug. We had a few hours of downtime before the runners would be done with their marathons. I still have trouble fathoming running a full marathon after being on my feet for 8 or 9 hours already. Insane. Sadly we missed Mark and Adriana's big finish, but we got back in time to see Cat finish her first lap and Tuan finish... despite fracturing his clavicle in 3 places 7 weeks ago he not only finished the event, but he finished with the time I hope for next year in perfect health, about 13:15! Unbelievable. The last of my DC Tri friends in was Cat - who also had an awesome day. Every time I saw her she had a huge smile on her face. She is really what this is all about, taking it all in, happy to be participating, and doing a great job. Inspirational in and of herself. A powerhouse of a lady!
It's amazing how tired I was just standing and cheering (granted I was body marking athletes before the start). But I enjoyed it all so much and learned a lot about what this race is all about.
Despite the awe I feel for what I witnessed, I was so impressed... people of every shape, size, and age participated in and completed the race. With, I think, the appropriate level of excitement and respect, I am happy to report that I got up and got in line to race next year. I did what I set out to do... and hope to become and Ironman next year.
Please join me in congratulating Tuan, Mark, Doug, Cat, and Adriana... and all the athletes. It is simply amazing to line up at the start... AMAZING!
Great spectator report, Becky! You were a wonderful cheerleader! It was great having you out there.
I am very excited for you to become an Ironman yourself. You're going to be great.
I encourage other members to come out and volunteer - whether to sign up for the next year or just to be part of a great day. It is the best way to give back to the sport.
(My race report is up on my blog if anyone is interested: ironwomancat.blogspot.com)