Race Report: Gulf Coast Triathlon 70.3

Whether anyone actually reads these posts or not, I should apologize for my “blog neglect.”  No other excuse than there have been too many competing priorities over the past few months and chronicling my never-ending routine of “Swim-Work-Bike-Work-Sleep-Run-Eat- Repeat” seems just a little repetitive and boring.

So, to catch ya’ll up, I have been having lots of foot issues this year.  The long run has been very difficult due to some PF in my right foot and what feels like neuroma (only it’s not) in both feet.  I’ve been seeing a wonderful chiropractor for the past month or so and she has worked miracles.

IMAG0155Back on March 29, I ran the Tomoka Half Marathon up in Ormond Beach.  It was a lovely race and I ran really well for the first 9-ish miles, and then I ended up run-walk-hobbling the last 5K.  I was so hoping to run a sub-2 hour half, but it wasn’t in the cards.  I ran it in 2:07:40 and finished in tears.  I went to see Sam the next week.  We’ve been working through the issues with weekly adjustments, cold laser therapy, and custom orthodics for my running and cycling shoes.  The regimen seems to be working.  The past month has also seen me running on the elliptical moreso than on the road.

All of this was leading up to my first “A” race of the year – Gulf Coast Triathlon 70.3 on May 9th in Panama City Beach, Florida.  This race was exciting on a number of levels.

First, it was my first half-iron distance race – a 1.2 mile swim in the Gulf of Mexico, followed immediately by a 56 mile bike, and then a 13.1 mile run.  Accomplishing a goal like this would have seemed utterly impossible even 2 years ago.  Deb asked me over the weekend why I do these crazy things.  My answer:  “Because I can,” followed quickly by “Oh, and to prove to myself that all the people who told me I couldn’t _______ (insert any number of things) were dead wrong.”

Second, a bunch of my Swim-Bike-Mom Ambassador Teammates were also racing Gulf Coast – including, our big kahuna, Swim Bike Mom herself, Meredith Atwood!  I was so excited to finally meet these ladies (who I had come to adore so much in cyberspace) in real life!


IMAG0353   Allison

Teammates   Therese

Third, this was a meetup race for my Sister Trives – a group of us goofy tri-gals who hold each other accountable to our goals, day in and day out.  Megan, Carrie, and I were racing the half (the first for Carrie and me and Megan’s second); Courtney was racing the sprint, and Kim was our sherpa for the weekend.  The only one missing was Crystal and we certainly DID miss her.

IMAG0364   Trives

Deb and I arrived in Panama City Beach on Thursday, hit packet pickup (very nice race SWAG – cool t-shirt and a lunch cooler) and the expo (I bought some purple calf compression sleeves and a couple of shirts), and then just chilled for the rest of the day.  We went over to the beach and stood in the water – it was so beautiful and clear.  I texted with my teammates and we decided to meet on the beach the next morning for a practice swim.  Deb and I had a nice dinner by the water and called it a night early.


(left to right) Kim Oural, Therese Slecta, Meredith Atwood, Karen Vickers, Courtney Cappello, Megan White, me, Allison O’Connor, Lynn Kirkland

On Friday morning, my Trives were rolling in.  Megan, Courtney, and Kim arrived in time to catch the swim.  It was BEAUTIFUL!  The water was so clear and calm – PERFECT OWS conditions.  I had an epiphany this weekend.  It is not the OCEAN that freaks me out – it’s the inability to SEE what’s around me IN the ocean that sends me into hyperventilation mode.  I feel claustrophobic in the murky water.  But I was perfectly calm and really enjoyed our time in the water.  On the way back to shore, I looked down and swam right over a sand shark and didn’t even begin to flip my shit – I could SEE it, therefore, I was not afraid of it… Weird, but true.


Xterra Off-Road Pro, Craig Evans

Deb and I went back over to the expo and stopped at the FusionSportsUSA booth so Deb could buy a shirt she had her eye on from the day before.  The Fusion rep was at lunch and who was there to help us find what we needed?  Xterra Pro Triathlete, Craig Evans!  He was super nice and super helpful!  Craig placed 5th overall at GCT – his training day… LOL!  We hope he has an awesome race at the USAT Off-Road Triathlon National Championship race next weekend!

Image05082015153733This was my first race where I checked my bike in the day before the actual event and I was quite surprised by how unnerving it was.  I made sure to let some air out of my tires, racked my bike, and walked away.  Red looked so lonely there on the rack all by himself.

flat-angieDeb and I had a nice dinner at the resort.  My “last supper” was a potato-crusted salmon, veggies, french fries, and a Blue Moon (I should’ve taken a picture, but I inhaled it too quickly).  After dinner I packed my transition bag and started the mental prep for the next morning.  I also spent a few minutes with the girls.  Carrie and Megan had prepared goodie bags for each of us with all kinds of fun stuff – socks, snacks, goofy things – it was awesome and sweet!

I set my alarm for 3:15am and fell asleep before my head hit the pillow, I think.

The next morning, I woke up ready to go.  THIS was the day I had been preparing for for MONTHS!  All those hours of swimming, biking, and running, came down to the next 8 hours.  I felt pretty calm, which was a nice change – normally I am so  jacked up about the swim that it messes with my stomach.  I had my coffee and a snack, and headed over to meet Megan so we could get to transition when it opened.  I prepped my space, checked and rechecked, ran through each stage in my mind and set things up the best I knew how and looked at my watch… It was 5:10am… So, I grabbed my wetsuit, swimcap, goggles, transition bag and bike pump and walked back to our villa to get away from all the nervous energy in transition.

swimGCT-swimmapDeb and I made our way to the swim start area and met up with Meredith and the Swim Bike Family.  I was so glad that Megan and I were in the same swim wave.  We’ve been training together for months and it was great to be able to plunge into the water together.  After some tense moments with my Garmin, I was ready.  The first swim wave was off.  Then it was our turn.  Off we go!

I like to keep to the outside edge of the swim course – it minimizes the contact and I knew than 5 minutes after we took off, the men’s waves would be coming and many of those guys are fast, fast, FAST!  I really wasn’t interested in being swam over top of.  The first 1000 yards went by quick.  I looked over and there was Megan – YAY!  We turned the buoy and somehow I got off kilter and started swimming diagonally out into the Gulf – way off course.  A kind kayaker pointed me back in the right direction, and I got back on track.  Obviously siting in the open water is something I need to work on!  Some more meandering and I could see the bottom lightening up and suddenly I could touch the bottom.  I unzipped my wetsuit and pulled it down to my waist and out of the water I came.  I am not a strong swimmer, but I have come a very long way from the girl who could barely make it across our backyard pool.  Swim Time:  49:26

I took my time in transition.  I didn’t want to rush and forget something.  I got out of my wetsuit pretty quickly, but I had sand everywhere.  I squirted myself off as best I could with a water bottle, dried off my feet and put on my shoes and socks.  Helmet, sunglasses, race belt, hydration, nutrition, bike, go…  T1 Time:  5:20

GCT-BikeMapOverallThe bike course was great!   All those hours on the trainer had definitely paid off.  Even on my roadie I was passing very strong and felt good.  The course went along the gulf for about 6 miles then turned north on US 79.  It was warm, but the sky was a little hazy still, not the full sun that was promised for later in the day.  We followed Hwy 79 up to Pine Log Road and turned left and followed that road for about 4-1/2 miles.  That was probably the suckiest part of the course – it was bumpy and seemed to be uphill going both ways (well, hilly being a very RELATIVE term – I live at the beach and the only hills I have to ride are the bridges over the intracoastal waterway).

Another first for me was grabbing water on the bike from an aid station.  I had plenty of Performance left in my bottles, but I really just wanted some cold water, so I slowed down and one of the volunteers held the bottle out from the bottom and I grabbed it from the top.  Perfect-o!  Then I did something that I’ve never done in a race before, but it’s probably the best decision I made all day.  I rode to the end of the aid station and I pulled off the course and stopped.  I drank 3/4 of the bottle of water and poured the rest over my head.  I quickly ate a bar and drank a Slam.  All in all, it may have been a 2-3 minute stop, but it refreshed me so much!

As I head back down 79, I reminded myself to just soak in the moment… To be grateful for the day… To be present… And I was.  The rest of the bike was lovely.

I didn’t spend all of my pennies on the bike like I did at Battle of the Bridges, but I was very ready to be off my bike by the end.  Finally, I arrived at the dismount line.  I said something about selling my bike for $1.  Just a half mary to go.  Bike Time:  2:59:38

I’m not exactly sure what in the heck took me so long in T2.  I know I changed my socks and drank a bunch of fluids, and I may have eaten another bar… Honestly, I just don’t know… T2 Time:  5:58


The first steps of the run were just awful!  I had no idea HOW on earth I would manage to make it 13.1 miles.  I set off on my intervals – 2 minutes running, 30 seconds walking.  Both IT bands seized up at Mile 2.  I walked and rubbed and happily they loosened up.  It was about  11:00 by this time and it was sunny and HOT!  The course support was incredible though!  There were aid stations at most a mile apart (often only 1/2 mile) with water, ice, Gatorade, food, gels, and cold sponges… OH THE SPONGES!!!

I settled into a run 1 minute/walk 1 minute rhythm – it wasn’t fast, but it worked and I honestly felt I could have kept that up all day if I’d needed to.  I walked through every aid station and got water or gatorade, a cup of ice (which promptly went down my bra in the front or the back), and a sponge or 2, which I squeezed over my head.  By the turnaround, I was squishy-squoshy in my sneakers and I rattled when I ran from all the ice in my kit, but it felt GREAT!  I talked with the other runners that I was playing leap frog with – so many nice people.  Triathletes are just a really cool bunch of people!

At mile 12.5 I could hear the finish line, I could hear the announcer and the music.  There was a volunteer motioning me into the Edgewater parking lot, and then I saw Deb who ran with me around the last corners saying, “You DID it!  Just around that corner… Just a few more steps!”  I turned the corner and there was the finish line… I heard my name and the announcer said “Look at that smile!” as I crossed.  Someone “caught” me and asked if I needed medical.  I said I was okay.  Someone handed me my medal… someone else gave me food and beer tickets… Another lady handed me a cold bottle of water…  I was done!  I finished a half-iron distance triathlon!!!  Run Time:  2:35:46

Total Race Time:  6:36:05

My time goal for this race was 6-1/2 hours.  I missed that time by 6 minutes and 5 seconds (but, you know what, I’ll take that kind of failure any day of the week).  But, I had a more important goal – to finish the race with a smile and to want to race another 70.3. I accomplished those goals in spades!  I’m really looking forward to Beach 2 Battleship 70.3 in Wilmington, NC  in October!

OH!  But when we went back to our condo and I looked up the results, I found out that I actually placed 5th in my age group!!  Awards went 5 deep, so I actually got a plaque!  How cool is that?

Triathlon may be an individual sport, but there is no way I could have gotten to that finish line without the support of a small army!  Thanks so much to Deb and Josh for all your love and support during the process – for always picking up the slack when I had training to do and for keeping me positive when the dark thoughts started to creep in.  Thanks to my training buddy, Megan White, for pushing me harder than I would EVER have pushed myself alone!   You made all those 5am swims and runs bearable! And, although you may not be entirely satisfied with your outcome, I can’t help but be awed and inspired by the fact that you overcame a flat tire and a busted CO2 cartridge at mile 2 of the bike and came back to PR your race!  Just incredible!!!   Thanks to my coach, Pam Giese, for all your Yoda-like wisdom during the process – you are awesome!!  Thanks to my other 4 Sister Trives for their cyber-accountability – knowing that they would be checking in on my workouts each day was just what I needed!  And finally, thanks to my SBM Ambassador Teammates for their incredible examples of dedication and perseverance – I hope I did ya’ll proud!



Carrie made us this INCREDIBLE Sugar Skull 70.3 Nutella RiceKrispie Treat Brownie amazement to commemorate our race! So AWESOME!!!