Leslie’s Gulf Coast 70.3 Report

[This is a guest post from friend and fellow teammate Leslie Beahm. We did the same race and thought it would be interesting to get two different views of it. She’s a great writer – Enjoy!]

It was nice to return to Panama City Beach. It had been 16 years since I lived in neighboring Panama City and I was looking forward to racing in an area that was a homecoming. Chris and Amy let me stay in their condo which was at the race venue so I didn’t have to hike a mile race morning. After some nice conversation and planning with Chris for when to get to transition in the morning, we decided to get up a 3:45am and I’d set a back up alarm for 4:00am for our 6am race start. So at 9pm Advil PM was taken, ear plugs and eye shades employed, alarm set for 4:00am on my watch for audio and pulsing alert, we were ready to go.

12:00 am. Oops. Set my alarm for midnight.

12:01 am. Watch sends me an irregular heart rate alarm.

Indeterminate time: try to go back to sleep.

4:00 am. Watch goes off at intended time.

We ate our breakfasts and decaf coffees, got our race electrolytes mixed, and put on our wetsuits in the room for the walk to transition.

I felt really rushed here as they started calling people to line up for their swim waves well before transition was set to close. Apparently, in my rushing I didn’t put sunscreen on thoroughly on the left of my neck, which I will tell you now without foreshadowing has a terrible result.

The race was wetsuit legal at a declared temperature of 72F, so I did elect to wear my sleeveless wetsuit instead of lava pants or a swim skin. I lined up for a 36-minute swim and was in the water by ~6:10. The water was definitely choppier than it had been on my practice swim the day before and I tried to keep calm. Stroke, stroke, stroke, sight. Stroke, stroke, stroke, sight. The water was definitely pulling me west. I was staying with the swimmers so I thought I was well placed. But once I got the turn buoy and tried to get to the second turn buoy to head back into shore, I couldn’t get there. I was getting closer to Cuba by the second! Higher cadence! More pull! More kick! The other red turn buoy remained elusively far. Finally, I called a kayak over for me to reset, get my breath back and try again. After about a two minute conversation and doing some fine motor test things to let the kayak person know I wasn’t having neuro issues, I headed off. Fortunately, I was able to pull away from the tractor beam pulling me toward Cuba and make it to the turn buoy and head back into shore. With the glare and the tint on my goggles, I couldn’t really make out the orange buoys, but fortunately I had planned to sight on the buildings and they got me home. When I finally stood on the sand my watch said 45 minutes. Slowest 70.3 swim ever and I wasn’t even yet out of the water ! Nonetheless, I trundled up the beach, through the showers and into transition with more than a few gulps of Gulf water puddled in my belly. I made an error in the morning by putting my wetsuit up in the room and not first applying Zelios sunscreen, so I took the time here to apply it to my legs (and based on the state of my neck, I’m glad I did). After that, I headed out on the bike. For the first couple miles, I stayed under my watt goal, getting myself situated on the bike, keeping my heart rate lower. I had pure water in my Torpedo hydration system and Tailwind electrolyte drink in the two bottles I was carrying. I worked on the plain water to cancel out all the sea water I drank. I felt pretty barfy. I also ate sports beans and I will say they were a great way to parcel out nutrition over the hour. I just held the bag in my hand and was able to get 1-2 out every 5 or 10 minutes. The bike is pretty flat, but didn’t seem quite as flat as advertised. (I rode the Maryland IM course last summer and that is FLAAAAT). After the plain water was drunk, I dumped a bottle of 200-calorie Tailwind into the Torpedo and started working on that. Pine trees for miles! Roads were a tad bumpy in areas (but fairly well marked with high-viz paint) and a couple of cars did not give us space. All in all, pretty non descriptive out-and-back ride. At the third aide station, I took on new water since I’d made it through my three bottles in the previous three hour I stopped at a portalet here, too. Oops. Dropped my Sports Beans in the portalet. Fortunately, I had extra nutrition on board for that last half hour. While stopped, I also applied Betwixt to my armpits that were getting pretty well cut from the seams in my tri kit. Last four miles was headwind and my speed took a hit for it. Finally, transition.

I felt this went pretty well—put on socks, shoes, grabbed my hat, belt, and nutrition and got out of there. Not my fastest, not my slowest. Did dynamic stretching as I crossed the uphill pedestrian bridge the took us away from transition and onto the course which was a three loop run. During the first loop and a half of the run my mantra was, “You’re fine. Your heart rate is fine. You feel fine. Your foot hurts a little but it’s FINE. You can run. You have oxygen! It’s not humid! You’re FINE”. But then at mile six, I did pause to adjust a sock that was bothering my right foot. Turns out, I’d have been better off letting that sock rub my foot raw.

As I stood there like a flamingo adjusting my sock I lost my balance and had to put my foot down, but it went down on the grass on the road’s edge. Immediately, my foot was swarmed by fire ants that angrily bit down on the sole of my foot, ankles, and hand. Screaming, I batted them off and continued to find them in my shoe, my sock, up my leg, on my hand for the next half mile. I will tell you that the wind left my sails at that point. I was suddenly decidedly NOT FINE. I tried to jog a bit, but it was super painful. I think my new limpy gait led me to get a blister on my left foot—the first time I’ve blistered while running EVER! So I stopped at the next aide station to visit a portalet and dropped my run nutrition into that portalet. “GOSHDARNIT!”* I exclaimed.

*I did not say “goshdarnit”

The next six miles was a mixture of half-hearted jogging and fast walking. With walking the heel strike felt better than the running mid-foot strike with the ant bites. At mile seven there was a great convergence of my family (there to cheer me on) and Chris Kasten running by on his mile 11. Chris and I ran together for about half a mile before I fell back to my speed walking. When I passed the pedestrian bridge to start the third lap, I looked longingly at the finish and thought, “ A DNF wouldn’t be so bad”, but I trundled on. At times, I’d pass a walker and say, “run with me” and we’d run together a bit until s/he or I petered out to a walk. At times, other people did the same to me for me. I tried to play Rock Paper Scissors with with passengers of cars driving slowly along the main beach road with their windows down. Finally made it back to the passenger bridge to run up and then down and through the chute.

Lessons relearned:

-Put Zealios on methodically before putting on wetsuit.

-Try all three sports in a kit before deciding to wear it for a 70.3 race. The cutting into my armpits started during the swim. Add salt water to the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster.

-I knew wearing a one-piece kit would make pit stops awkward and difficult. It’s a risk I took for vanity’s sake so that my fluffy middle wouldn’t pop out between a two-piece kit and I wouldn’t have to keep pulling the top down. But man, it really was a trial. Also, the shallow pockets mean it’s easier to lose stuff to the portalets.

-I had a backup kit with me on the trip. Next time I’m bringing it to transition so I have the option of changing into it.

-Loosen the shoe laces for race day.

-Put body glide between toes just in case.

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