The clock passed midnight as I came to the
realization that I was still over 2 hours away
from my destination, Mexico Beach, Florida. I
would be getting little sleep before my 5AM
wakeup call for the Beach Blast Olympic distance
triathlon. As I drove down the lonely, dark
Florida highway somewhere between the interstate
and Panama City I noticed that the only light
over the dark, flat terrain was coming from my
headlights. The stars were out in full force and
I had to contain my excitement as I watched at
least 3 shooting stars burn across the sky
because everyone, other than me, was sound
asleep. So you get a wish when you see a
shooting star right? Well what did I wish for?
It has something to do with an island state of
the United States that's somewhere in the South
arrived at the hotel around 1:45AM. At the
suggestion of a good friend of mine, Llew
Hughes, I booked a room at the El Governor
hotel. El Governor is a neat little joint with
rooms that back up right to the beach. We had an
amazing view of the GUlf right off our balcony.
As I type this report, I'm sitting on that
balcony on Sunday morning, drinking a cup of
coffee, listening to the waves crash against the
beach. After unpacking, I laid down but I would
get no sleep. A combination of the pre-race
excitement and the caffine from the coffee on
the ride up kept me tossing and turning. This
would be my 17th triathlon of the year but it
would be my first in the Gulf of Mexico unless
you consider Lonestar in the GUlf which I do
not. Lonestar was in a bay and the waves were
minimal. This would be full on waves. They
wouldn't be BIG waves but they would be waves
5AM slowly arrived and even though I got the
alert from my watch I was already wide awake. I
did a last minute check of my bike and my gear,
slipped on my swim gear and my bike shorts and
then watched Beth try to rouse the cranky kids.
While I know they enjoy the trips we've been
taking I can guarantee that they HATE the early
wake up calls.
arrived at the race site just after transition
opened. My first question to the race volunteer
received an answer that I Wasn't wanting to
hear. The water temperature was 81 degrees so
wetsuits would not be allowed. After getting
body marked and picking up my race packet I
wheeled my bike into transition. This race was
open transition so I picked a spot as close to
the bike exit as I could. After a quick warm-up
run the race director announced that it was time
to head to the beach to start the swim.
I was excited that I would get to do a running
start from the beach to the water. Every other
open water start was deep water which you were
already in the drink when the horn sounded. I
was in the first wave at 7AM. The race director
went over final instructions then blew the horn.
I sprinted the 20 yards to the water and high
stepped my way to a depth where I could dive in.
That ended up being my first of many mistakes of
the day. As my goggles hit the water I broke the
seal and ended up with a face and eyes full of
saltwater. I was never able to fully seal the
mask for the entire swim. It seemed like each
time I tried to seal it I would only end up
making it worse. We had to do two laps of the
750m course so I figured that when I started my
second lap I would clear the mask in the chest
deep water. Having saltwater in my eyes made
navigating difficult but that was nothing
compared to the new element of swimming the
waves. In all my races and training I'm used to
swimming on the X plane. Throwing a little Y
plane into that equation made things all the
more difficult. Swimming the waves wasn't
harder, just a little more disorienting and it
definitely made it harder to see the buoys. I
was able to clear my goggles when I started the
second lap but it really didn't matter because
the damage was done. My eyes were
salt-waterlogged and would remain so for the
next day. I exited the water after 30 minutes
and ran up the beach towards T1 on the other
side of the highway.
was smooth. I didn't lollygag and since I wore
my bike shorts to swim I had 1 less item to put
on. On with the glasses, on with the helmet, on
with my shoes and I was off. I had plenty of
time to make up for my poor swim.
Once again, as in many of my other races this
year, I wasn't passed even once. I passed a good
30 people on the course which was for the most
part flat with the exception of a huge bridge
that crossed one of the intracoastal waterways.
I wouldn't find out until after the race that I
learned that I was penalized for "positioning".
I find that somewhat hard to believe since I
never was passesd nor did anyone even attempt to
pass me. I saw the USAT official riding on the
back of a Harley give me the evil eye and write
in her little book at one point on the couse and
for the life of me I don't understand what I was
doign wrong. At the point when she passed me
there wasn't a bike 200m in front or behind me.
I guess she considered me blocking her
motorcycle from passing or something. Who
knows!? My penalty didn't make even a tiny bit
of difference on the overall outcome of the race
but it sure made me feel all "gangstah" and
"thug life" for breakin' the rule. I maintained
a 23 mph average according to my bike computer
but the official results, with the penalty, will
surely knock that down a bit. I guess I was
around a mile from T2 when I stood up on the
pedals to increase my speed and yelped out in
pain as my right calf locked up and started to
spasm. I've never had any problems with muscle
cramps during training or in races but today
would be that exception. I executed a flying
dismount into T2 and jogged my bike to my area.
I quickly transitioned to my running gear and
limped out of T2. Thankfully the pain was short
lived because it quickly subsided within the
first mile of running.
run course ran down Highway 98 and through a
couple of subdivisions. There were no hills to
speak of and the weather at this point of the
day was just downright pleasant with a slight
breeze and the temperature hovering just over 80
degrees. There were plenty of turns onto various
streets that made up the 6.2 mile course. Having
my wonderful luck I ended up turning down a
wrong street and in the blink of an eye I ended
up running an extra 1.5 miles. MY run course was
just under 8 miles instead of the 10K I was
supposed to be running.
I wish the extra mileage would have been the
end of my difficulty for the day but
unfortunately it wasn't. At around mile 2 I had
my wonderful gastric explosion emergencies. I
chuckled to myself as I darted off into the
woods... or rather I darted off into the sparse
weeds. I didn't have to sacrifice my socks
because I no longer wear socks when I run. They
slow me down in transition so I ditched them.
Wet wipes and MRE napkins packed away in my race
bag had to suffice. T3 took 15, aggravating
I stumbled out of the bushes, got back on
course and continued on my way to the finish.
Shortly after I reached the turn around point
and started to feel a sharp pain in my side. The
sharp pain ended up being a big sticker bush
limb that I picked up in T3 that somehow wedged
itself in my compression shorts. That must have
been a sight to the runners behind me as I was
digging in my shorts pulling out sticks.
I finished my run with no more incidents and
crossed the finish line in just over 3:02. Add
my 2 minute penalty and my total time was around
3:05. It was by far not my best effort by any
means but it was racing so that's better than
Next up is the Walk from Obesity 5K on
October 5th, the Crab Trap Triathlon in Destin
on October 11th and then the USAT National
Championship series Pumpkinman in Vegas on the
18th. I hope you enjoyed reading my account of
the 2008 Beach Blast Triathlon as much as I
enjoyed writing (and living) it.
Best of luck on YOUR life journey!!!!
May you reach all your goals and achieve all your dreams!