Ironman Florida - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Panama City Beach, Florida
United States
Ironman North America
50F / 10C
Total Time = 15h 06m 43s
Overall Rank = 2043/2402
Age Group = F30-34
Age Group Rank = 65/83
Pre-race routine:

**WARNING** This report is long.

I worked most of the day furiously trying to wrap things up, and then took a direct flight from Baltimore to PCB. There were clearly several other Ironmen on the flight, and I chatted with a young guy from Colorado while we waited to board. After an uneventful flight, J picked me up at the airport in the pouring rain, after driving two days to take our bikes down, and we had a quick dinner at Pineapple Willy's and went to bed.

Following a yummy breakfast at Waffle House, which was directly in front of our condo, we went across the street to get some stuff at Walmart, and then decided to go over to check in. No problem, right? Uh no. The line was HUGE and it took forever. The volunteers were great, but the first table seemed to be a slow step, and it backed everything up. It was a little rainy that morning, so we didn't swim or bike as we had considered. We didn't do much else through the day, until the athlete dinner. We found a table of other BTers and joined them, which was nice since it was just the two of us. The food was average, but it was a fun little motivational thing, and it was free food. Can't complain about that. Mom and Dad got in later that night, and we helped them get their stuff in and went to bed.

I wanted to get an open water swim in prior to the race, so we headed out Friday morning. The waves and current were so big, and strong, I had trouble getting past the breakers. I was scared and frustrated. Finally I made it out base the crashing waves, and it was rough. After only 7 minutes, I stopped and floated while I dry-heaved; I've been known to get sea-sick on boats, but hadn't really considered swimming could do it. I was miserable and not hopeful about the race swim. I'd been so confident about my swim improvements, and it all came crashing down. I headed back to shore and waited for J to come back in. I'd lost him in the waves. After that we headed out for a short bike ride, only about 30 minutes. It went well, and Libby seemed to be on her best behavior, so that was good.

Back at the condo, we packed our gear bags, and had Mom and Dad walk over to transition with us so we could orient them a little bit on where they could best watch on race day. Bike racking and bag drop-off were both uneventful, but really exciting. We checked out the expo tent, and, against all normal pre-race superstitions, bought some IMFL gear. Now I had no choice but to finish!

The rest of the day was relaxing. I made spaghetti for dinner in the condo, and we went to bed around 9pm so we'd be well-rested for our early wake-up.

We got up and I ate a little cereal, but not as much as normal, because I was now afraid I was going to puke on the swim. It was dark, so I couldn't see the water from our condo, but it didn't sound loud, so there was hope for a calmer swim. At my Dad's suggestion, I took a Dramamine. I wasn't going to fall asleep during the swim, so I was willing to try anything to keep me from being so nauseous.

We gathered our swim stuff and morning bags, and headed for transition. I drank my Diet Mtn. Dew on the way, which was as tasty as normal, but froze my fingers. We got body marked by a very friendly volunteer (so nice, since it's hard to be cheery at 5am), put my bottles on the bike, and moved my nutrition from my bike bag to my bento box. J went to drop off our special needs bags, which apparently was farther away than I thought, and I waited. I met Laura (Daffodil) while I was waiting and just chatted a bit. Finally J reappeared (he'd also been sneaking notes into my transition bags), and we took care of some other business before heading inside to put our wetsuits on in the warmth of the building.
Event warmup:

Let's be clear, there isn't much you can do to "warm up" in 39 degree morning temps. Yes, 39 degrees. Brr.

Once the wetsuits were on, we headed out the back and frantically found the morning clothes bag drop-off. Freezing, we went to the start area, and just held onto each other while the pros went off. The water appeared much calmer than the day before, but I was still nervous, and excited, and cold. I was visibly shaking. Tears slipped down my cheeks as J held me and reassured me it was going to be a good day, and I will be an ironman before midnight. He is so awesome.

  • 1h 28m 35s
  • 4156 yards
  • 02m 08s / 100 yards

J and I seeded ourselves pretty much straight out from the buoy, near the back of the pack. When the cannon went off, we walked into the water behind the masses. We wanted to stay together as long as we could, and I lost him almost immediately. When everyone in front of me started to swim, I did too. Compared to the air, the water was pleasantly warm. It was crowded and there was some body bumping that I usually avoid, but I stayed calm and tried to develop a rhythm. Since this was my first mass start, it was pretty cool when you came up to sight and just saw thousands of other swimmers all around you. I didn't mean to be as close to the bouys as I was, and on the way out, I got caught in some people who got hung up on the tie-down ropes. No big deal though. It was a new experience for me, but I also learned that when you are ocean swimming, and there are waves, you have to sight at the TOP of the wave, or else you just see a wall of water and bodies, and no buoys.

The first turn buoy was NUTS! It was like a huge log-jam, with people all bobbing there, yelling, some nicely and some not, that we all just needed to keep moving and turn around the buoy. The top part of the rectangle was nice and took no time at all. We headed back towards shore, which looked really far away. I handled the left to right current well, but lots of people around me didn't, and it was annoying having them all cut me off diagonally. Although I had tinted goggles, it was bright, and at one point I asked the girl next to me, where the hell are the buoys? Oh, there they are, and on we went. I got an elbow to the head once, and the girl quickly apologized. Women can be so much nicer. (I heard some heated words from a couple of dudes). I had a pretty nice draft the whole first lap. When I saw other people standing up, I went to stand up too. I guess I was short of the sandbar, because I, in fact, could not touch. Whoops! Keep swimming! A couple more strokes and I was able to walk my way in. I checked my watch and saw 40:xx and was pleased.

I did not run on the beach, but got a cup of water, drank some and rinsed with some, and walked my way back into the water. The second loop was less eventful, and I had more space. I was actually enjoying the swim. Who'd have guessed? I feel like the waves got a little bigger on the second lap, and the current stronger, but all I could think about was that this was a piece of cake compared to how hard I had imagined it to be. It was light years more fun than 80+ continuous laps in the pool. In retrospect, I didn't have as much draft on the second lap, and I probably should have been a little more aggressive. All I knew at the time was that I was comfortable and that I had a long day ahead of me, so just take it easy.

Eventually, I exited the water, and had the lady next to me help me unzip me suit because I couldn't find the zipper pull. It was cold, and I kind of forgot to take my wetsuit half way off until I was almost to the strippers and was like "oh crap." There was an available pair at the end of the line, and they stripped past my hips, I sat down, and they yanked it off like pros. Thanks, strippers!! Despite the zombie look on my face, I was so happy to be out of the water. Off to transition.
What would you do differently?:

Now that I have more experience and WAAAY more confidence, I would try to swim a little more aggressively. I was really in it just to finish, and know I can swim faster than I did. J beat me by 8 minutes, after all, and I am the faster swimmer, dammit!!
Transition 1
  • 19m 41s

I'll admit having to walk the length of transition 3 times is time consuming, and I was walking, not running, but really?? There was a bit of a traffic jam through the showers, but then I helped find my bag, and headed for the change area. It was inside and warm. Nice!

It was crazy when I got there with no room to sit down, so I stopped and dropped my stuff right inside the entry way (sorry to anyone behind me). I started changing and when a chair freed up, I grabbed my stuff and moved down. I wore my bra and tri shorts for the swim, which I thought would save time, so that was good, but I took the time to re-lube under my shorts, and I managed to get sand in bad places (this is called foreshadowing). I had a small towel to dry off, and did my best, but I still really struggled getting on the arm warmers. The bike jersey was easy to get on. Then, at the bottom of my bag, I found a note from J. It was sweet and encouraging. I was then less mad at him for taking so long to drop off the special needs bags in the morning, realizing that he'd also stopped off to put notes in my transition bags.

This didn't take very long to type, so I am a little uncertain what took me so long in there!! I lost 120 places in T1. Ugh.

Finally I shoved my swim stuff in the bag and headed for the exit. They called out my number as I exited the building, and they had my bike waiting for me. I turned on the garmin, and hoped it would find the satellites before the exit. It did!

What would you do differently?:

Maybe roll the arm warmers? Perhaps a bigger/more absorbent towel? If I was healthy, I would have also run through transition, as opposed to strolling.
  • 7h 34m 15s
  • 112 miles
  • 14.79 mile/hr

I got my bike and got clipped in easily. I was hungry because I hadn't eaten much before the swim because I was worried about getting seasick. My plan was to drink every 10 minutes, close to a bottle an hour, and eat 3 chunks of payday bar every 1.5 hours. I decided to eat a bag of chomps to get my started. However, with my frozen fingers, I had trouble opening the package, and then realized they were all stuck/frozen together, and couldn't get them out of the bag. I was still moving, but barely coasting along, and eventually got them open and shoved into my mouth. They were a lot harder to chew at like 45 degrees than they tend to be at like 70+ degrees. I finally got them down and was able to actually start my ride. With this slow start, I averaged 14.19mph to the turn onto 79.

I turned onto 79 and immediately noticed the headwind. I knew wind would be a factor on the bike, and had decided not to fight it, but to just keep an even effort and the speed would come when it turned to a tailwind. I liked the bridge because I got to actually pass other people, and I grabbed a bottle at the first aid station to keep in reserve. KathyG passed me soon after, and she commented on my matching bike and jersey (the helmet, shoes, and gloves match too, if you're curious). I told her my motto: "if you can't be fast, be cute." I certainly wasn't fast, so that only leaves one option. After averaging 13.93mph for that segment, I turned onto 20E and it seemed to get easier. Yeah!

About that time I realized that I kind of needed to pee. I passed up the aid station at 20something miles, and was subsequently about to explode by the next merciful aid station around mile 35. Fortunately a porta-potty was open, so in I went. I knew I was going slow, so I deemed that the best 2 minutes ever spent. Now feeling much more comfortable, I continued on to the turn onto 77S, averaging 15.04mph for that segment.

After the turn onto 77S, the angels burst into song: finally a tailwind!! I was so happy to finally be moving faster. That short segment did not last long enough, but at least I was considering now that maybe God didn't hate me after all, since I averaged 18.83mph for that segment. I turned the corner headed up to the out and back, and the fun was over. I dropped back to an average of 14.39mph, and didn't think it could get much worse. Only then did I encounter the worst road in the entire state of Florida.

I turned onto the out and back stretch, which I knew contained the half-way point and special needs. The terrible, horrible road had major cracks every 5ft or so, so I was up out of aero ker-thumping along. I'd heard to hug the white line, but it didn't seem to help. Finally I got to the turn around. I slowed way down, if you can believe that was even possible considering how slow I was already moving, but still didn't manage to make the turn without going in the grass. Whoops! At least I was half way done! After more ker-thumping, I realized I needed to pee. AGAIN. Where did this 30 mile bladder come from? Really? I didn't need my special needs bag, but the porta-potty was open, so I used it. Again, I felt much better. Finally I reached the turn, averaging 13.38mph for the out and back. A new low!

The next short stretch was directly into the wind, but was a little sheltered by trees. It was kinda pretty. Really, I was just happy to be off the bumpy road. Still, I only averaged 13.91mph on this stretch, before turning onto 20W. As Jen so aptly put, this is where things really started to suck. There was a head/crosswind from the N-NW, and this stretch had a few rollers. It was long and lonely. Most of the 181 people who passed me in total had already done so. I could only see maybe 3-4 people in front of me. There were few cars and even fewer people. The super-hero aid station was fun and lifted my spirits some, but by even mile 70, I was ready to be off the bike. Ugh. For the first time all day, I began mentally calculating if I'd make the first bike cut-off. I decided I should have an hour to spare, but before the race, I never even dreamed it would come into play, so it was disappointing to think about. Finally I reached to turn back onto 79S, averaging 14.45mph for that stretch.

Then, a true tailwind again. I'm pretty much in the home stretch, and I'm moving fast. Awesome. I averaged 18.09mph to the little out and back and was a much happier person. I would make the cutoff, and I should be done in a little more than an hour. A light at the end of the tunnel! The out and back was uneventful, although I still had issues with the actual turn around. I'm just not coordinated enough to turn that sharply! I didn't quite know how far out and back it was, but thankfully it wasn't too far. After dropping to an average of 15.21mph, I was finally back onto 79S. The road was smooth, and the push home from the wind was greatly appreciated. I did stop to pee one last time around mile 100. After all, I did have 12 miles to go. I crested the bridge and had no doubt I would finish the rest of the bike strong. Even with the potty break, I averaged 17.12 for that segment.

Alas, the turn onto Front Beach Drive arrived. I was really that close. I couldn't wait for the run. Then, with about 2 miles to go, a minivan that had been traveling in the opposite direction decides to U-turn into my lane. I saw them turning, so I coasted to make sure they made it, but I was still in aero doing about 18mph. As I got closer, like really close, I realized he wasn't going to make the turn and just might hit me. I screamed "please don't hit me", and was able to come up enough to get to my right brake. His passenger side front tire went up on the curb and he was totally blocking my bike lane. Since it was at a corner, I was able to avoid him by going on the curb and hitting my brakes. I narrowly missed a light pole, and having almost come to a complete stop, but not being unclipped, somehow I managed not to crash. The minivan completed his turn like there hadn't just been a cyclist almost T-bone his passenger side door, and another cyclist who had seen the whole thing, cursed at him as he passed. There were a couple of spectators who just stared in surprise at the whole thing. I was physically fine, and I managed to get going, but during the whole event, my HR had jumped from 139 to 161. I was shaken, but told myself that I was so close, I needed to shake it off and keep going. The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful, and finally I saw the final turn at the Waffle House.

Shortly after, I heard my parents yelling for me, although I never saw them. I was happy that they were there, and hoped they weren't worried since I was about 20 minutes behind schedule. After averaging 17.09mph including the near-crash, the last 15 miles or so really helped make up some lost time. I got to the dismount line, and managed to remember to grab my Garmin, as a wonderful volunteer whisked Libby away to put her back in her spot.
What would you do differently?:

One would be to get a bladder transplant, or maybe just drink less. The nutrition plan had been developed in warmer weather, but I was afraid to adjust it mid-way. Two would be to do more outdoor training. Because of my back injury, I was limited to indoor rides most of my training, and while it made me mentally tough, I think more outdoor experience would have been good. I did what I could with the state I was in, and I guess I should be thankful I could race at all.
Transition 2
  • 11m 22s

Although I was only the 1956 fastest transition time, I gained 8 spots in T2!

The volunteers and I found my bag fairly quickly and I headed into the change area. A volunteer laid out the stuff from my bag on a chair next to me while I took off my helmet and shoes. It was pretty empty in there; perhaps a benefit of biking so slowly? :-) So, sorta funny story. The lady who laid out my stuff made a point of saying she'd put it all next to me, including a "note", which was really just a slip of paper with my name and number on it that I'd put in there in case the sticker came off. But wait. Where's the real note from J? I know there must be one. I looked in the bag and there was the postcard. Yeah! I was just confused how the little slip of paper made it out and the postcard was still in there. Oh well. I read the encouraging note twice and was excited to get out onto the run.

I changed my shirt easily, and decided not to change my shorts, even though I had a dry pair of tri shorts in the bag. I put on my shoes and race belt skirt (so cute!) and then changed my mind on the dry shorts. I decided to re-lube the "leg-cheek junction" while I was down there. Remember that sand? It's abrasive and had been there for over 7 hours. Yowzers! Enough of that. Not initiated by me mind you, this sparked a conversation with the lady next to me regarding if anyone would be down there to see my poor painful areas. Apparently she and her boyfriend were not there yet. Thanks for sharing. I have a husband, I'll let him assess the damage, but probably not tonight; we're going to be pretty tired.

I drank some of the forbidden transition water to take my super-prescription anti-inflammatory, grabbed my bag of swedish fish, shoved them in my mouth, threw away the package exiting the tent, and decided to make one last porta-potty stop. I'd rather have it in my T2 time than in my run time.
What would you do differently?:

Be more careful not to get sand in my shorts! Also, if I'm going to change them, I should decide BEFORE I put my shoes on.
  • 5h 32m 53s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 12m 43s  min/mile

Finally I made it to the run! From here, I knew I'd finish and be an Ironman. I may not be fast, but run experience, I have, and I had a plan. My back was a little sore at this point, but I knew the drugs would kick in soon. I. Can. Do. This.

The first mile of the run was my fastest at 11:31 pace, even though I was following my plan of run 3 min, walk 1 min. There were so many people cheering, and it was exciting! Within the first mile, my Garmin gave me a low battery warning. At this point, I thought I'd have to do most of the run without it, which stunk because I had the chime set to go off at the prescribed intervals. It keeps me on track. Oh well, you do what you have to do. Anyway, I passed the cheering masses, and the stripper girls...not he wetsuit type. It was great, and I was soaking it all in.

I was amused at mile 4-5 or so when a fat redneck who lived in the neighborhood yelled to no one in particular, "How many knee surgeries y'all have?" None, thankyouverymuch. After no response, he followed up with, "If exercise is supposed to be so good for you, why do all these people look like they're gonna die?" to his fat redneck neighbor across the street. Enjoy your heart attacks next year, dude. I'm sure you'll be comfortably on the couch when it happens.

After this, I began to wonder when I'd see J. It had to be before the turn around. I kept doing my thing, and took off the arm warmers. I was drinking the Perform crap at every aid station, just to keep calories and fluids coming in. Finally, on the stretch with all the posters, there was J! I was thrilled he was on the final leg of lap 2. I was so proud of him no matter what his time was, although he said he was crashing. Don't care! You're awesome to me. I got a kiss, which resulted in fun comments. One guy asked why he didn't get one, I told him that he didn't have husband status. Then he clarified he was asking J. Ha! Touche. Another lady joked that J had run right past her, and she didn't get a kiss. Sorry, I don't share well. :-) On I went, uplifted and happy.

I continued through the park, and the motivational zone where I saw my message from J. How fun! At mile 8 I decided I was cold again, and did my first extra-long walk break to put them back on. Then, back to the plan. I think it was this lap that a deer went crashing by the aid station from between some buildings at like mile 9 or 10. It was interesting to see. Finally the turn around. No turn to the finish for me!

My Dad was at the turn around and told me that J had finished and that he hit a wall, but made it. He had been really really cold, so Mom took him back to the condo while Dad waited to see me. I was so proud of J. Dad ran with me for a second, but it was on the part right there with the plywood planks, and although it was unlikely, I told Dad to stop since I could get a DQ for outside pacing. I didn't intend to be mean, and I don't think he took it wrong, but he meant well, and I felt bad.

I had gotten my headlamp out of the special needs bag, which was a good decision. It was dark out there. I stuck to my run/walk plan, and was proud of myself for doing so when so many other people were walking around me. I passed 198 people on the run, which felt good. I am a runner. I can finish strong. I tried to be encouraging to all the people I passed. I wasn't able to get anyone to join my run/walk program though. My second and last extended walk break was in mile 17 when I'd switched to chicken broth and it was really not. It was too hot to drink, but I wanted some, so I walked like 0.2 miles to let it cool before I tossed it.

I could hear the finish line from like 2 miles away and was energized. Both my runs and walks had slowed, but I knew I was almost there. Just before mile 25, I realized my walk break seemed a little long, and then found out my Garmin had finally given up, within 1.5 miles of the finish! That's ok, I new how many steps each interval should be. I had made a mental note that there was a Wendy's at the last turn, so when I saw that it couldn't be much further. I took a final walk break after the turn, knowing that once you get close to the finish chute, there was no walking. As I approached so many random strangers were yelling my name. I felt like a million dollars. Then one of the voices was familiar. It was J, and Mom and Dad! I gave my headlamp to J. I didn't want to look dorky in the finish photo. I couldn't stop smiling. I heard the announcer say first timer from Maryland (hey, that's me!), Ironman, Rebecca Nipper! I was in the bright lights, but I could see a dude in front of me, so I tried to slow down so he wouldn't obscure my photo, but he kept going slower! Finally, it was my turn to cross the finish line. Big smile, arms up, I was done!!

What would you do differently?:

Nothing, really. I stuck to my plan, and got it done.
Post race
Warm down:

A volunteer came over and held onto me, but I felt pretty good, he got my chip off, made sure I got my correct size shirt and a medal, and escorted me to the medal photo area. I thanked him and told him I was doing ok, and he left. I got my photo and then headed to the pre-arranged meeting point. I sat on the curb and saw this guy jogging over. There was bright backlight, so I thought it must be J. I got up, and opened my arms for a hug...but it wasn't J. I apologized and the guy said I could have one anyway. No, it's ok. But wait, it was the race director. Ok, I'll take a hug from the race director. :-) I thanked him for a good race and then sat back down.

Then J came jogging over, followed by my parents. I got hugs and kisses, and my Mom, being a mom, was worried I was cold and we went inside the host hotel to the cafeteria area. J went and got us pizza and I was hungry so I ate some. Mom and J had brought some warm clothes for me, and had already taken our bikes back to the condo. I put on some warmer clothes, and found the final note from J. I knew he was proud of me.

After sitting down, I was definitely starting to get a little stiff and feel the pain setting in. It was totally worth it.

We went back to the condo, showered, and went to bed. What an amazing day.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

The training limitations that I had due to a herniated disk in my back, and balancing trying to train, while trying not to injure myself more, was a challenge. I feel like I could have done better if I was healthy, but I am proud of what I was able to accomplish given my limitations.

Event comments:

When I was lying on the floor at work with back spasms on Dec. 28, waiting for an ambulance ride to the ER, less than 2 months after signing up for the race, I wasn't sure it would happen. However, J was right there, making me laugh, despite how much pain I was in, and he stuck with me in the ER, taking me to the bathroom when I couldn't walk alone, taking me to the orthopedic surgeon when my foot no longer worked, taking me to the anesthesiologist to get drugs injected into my spine, telling me to take it easy when I got over-zealous, and telling me to not be a sissy when I was ready to give up. We survived training, wedding planning, the actual wedding, a mini-honeymoon, buying a house, selling a house, and moving. I could not have done it without him. It also was so special to have my parents at the race. They thought we were more crazy than normal, but sure enough, they came. Maybe to see me once more before my impending death. No matter the reason, I appreciated their support.

This was a great experience, and I wouldn't rule out doing it again someday.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2009-11-10 12:00 AM
01:28:35 | 4156 yards | 02m 08s / 100yards
Age Group: 59/83
Overall: 1948/2402
Performance: Below average
Lap 1 = 41:43 Lap 2 = 46:52
Suit: Long Sleeve F2R
Course: 2 loop rectangular course, with an exit from the water between laps, cutting diagonal on the beach to re-enter the course
Start type: Wade Plus:
Water temp: 72F / 22C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Remainder: Below average
Breathing: Average Drafting:
Waves: Navigation: Good
Time: 19:41
Performance: Bad
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike: No
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed:
07:34:15 | 112 miles | 14.79 mile/hr
Age Group: 74/83
Overall: 2277/2402
Performance: Bad
BIKE SPLIT 1: 55mi - 55 mi. (3:46:15) at a pace of 14.59 mph BIKE SPLIT 2: 95mi - 40 mi. (2:45:20) at a pace of 14.52 mph avg HR = 138, max 161 at the mini-van incident Fastest miles = 39 and 89 @21 mph Stopped time = 6:43
Wind: Some
Course: It was a big out and back, with a lollipop. Mostly flat, some small rollers on 20.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 11:22
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
05:32:53 | 26.2 miles | 12m 43s  min/mile
Age Group: 56/83
Overall: 1677/2402
Performance: Good
RUN SPLIT 1: 6mi - 6 mi. (1:10:21) at a pace of 11:43/mile RUN SPLIT 2: 13.05mi - 7.05 mi. (1:32:24) at a pace of 13:06/mile RUN SPLIT 3: 19.05mi - 6 mi. (1:12:58) at a pace of 12:09/mile RUN SPLIT 4: 26.6mi - 7.15 mi. (1:37:10) at a pace of 13:35/mile avg HR = 141
Course: 2 loop out and back, mostly through neighborhood streets, with a loop through a start park at the turn-around
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 4