A year ago I punched the air with delight having managed to register on-line for this race, which sells out in under 60 seconds. A flat fast PB course in the lovely location of Panama City Beach on the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
Heat-acclimatization training was done in Mid Sussex (with lots of warm layers on) plus IM Barcelona, Disney World Orlando and Apalachicola (Florida) Marathon. It was roasting hot for 2 weeks in Florida prior to the race and sea temperature was 78 Fahrenheit (above 76 is too hot for wet-suit racing). On race day we had an angry sea with rip-tides, 40mph winds and air temperature 10 degrees Celsius.
We all froze on the beach before dawn, especially those who got wet doing a swim warm-up. At dawn the decision was made to cancel the swim. Even we poor swimmers were a bit disappointed, because we wanted to do a proper triathlon. The sea had been too nasty even for the safety kayaks to be deployed.
Spent a couple of hours trying to keep warm until it was my time to start cycling. There were nearly 3,000 of us setting off one every couple of seconds. I had a cycling jacket and a couple of space-blankets but some people had just a tri-suit.
The gusty wind played havoc with the deep wheel rims and I had to resist the impulse to stop for a bike check. It was like riding with loose skewers or headset, quite apart from getting buffeted sideways and having to react to avoid collisions. Fortunately, the course is separated from traffic and American roads are very wide.
Nice single loop course, mostly on flat good surface roads. A few undulating bits and one section on cracked tarmac that was rather bumpy.
Cycled well for 4 hours, managing to avoid drafting penalties and keep a decent pace. You have to surge past packs of riders and raise the heart rate temporarily, even though that's bad for burning energy reserves. If you stay with the pack you may get a penalty and faster riders will keep overtaking and force you further back. After that, I eased off a little (maybe lost form from a fortnight's lack of cycling or maybe just hurting too much from relentlessly battling the wind and keeping the aero-position for so long). Completed cycle in 5:22, though it was unclear if that was good or bad given the conditions and the rolling start.
Excellent enthusiastic support on a good flat 2-lap course with varied views and lots of shade. No need for the ice that was provided as it remained chilly throughout, despite the sunshine. A real boost having Helen and our two sons on the course to cheer me on. So grateful. Worth around 10 minutes off the finish time I reckon.
1:42 for 13 miles then completed strongly for total run time of 3:26.
Felt great finishing with a sprint. Kissed Helen and got medal. Given a results card stating I was 3rd in age-group. A few minutes later, my position was down-graded to 5th due to the rolling start and a couple of finishers coming in having started after me. Not bad considering 241 in 50-54 age-group.
Attended Hawaii World Championship Kona Slot Allocation Ceremony, but there were only 3 slots for 50-54 and the top 3 all decided to take those places. I missed out by 7 minutes 43 seconds.
My AWA (all world athlete) ranking improved from 10th to 5th on the basis of this Florida result. Shame they don't presently use the AWA rankings to determine who gets Kona slots. AWA ranking is calculated from points scored in the 3 best performances for each athlete each year.