Florida Ironman, traditionally held the first weekend of November in Panama City Beach, Florida, is one of the first races for triatheletes to qualify for the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island of Hawaii. If an athelete qualifies, then they have all the way until the next October to train for the World Championships. Some 2,600 competitors participated in Florida Ironman 2014 and 2015 is already sold out.
We had arrived in Panama City Beach the day before and enjoyed some beachtime and a golden sunset. The day of the race we woke while it was still dark and made our way down the road to the beach where the swim was to occur. At 45 degrees, it was a brisk day for Florida in November. Lots and lots of people speaking so many different languages, we were all piling on to the beach when it was announced that the swim would be cancelled due to high winds and riptides. So the bike start would be done in waves. We parked ourselves along the bike course and waited for our triathalete that we had come to cheer on - we'll call him Steve - to start the bike portion of the race.
After a little waiting, we saw him ride by and tried to give him some encouragement at the start of his race.
|And he's off!|
I left it up to Mr. UR, who competes in sprint triathalons, to figure out where and when we would be seeing Steve along the route. After a little waiting, we headed to our car to see him once again along the bike route.
|Steve raced for the NF Children's Tumor Foundation|
Our next spot to see Steve would be in front of Pier Park and there just happened to be a Margaritaville right there on the route. So a little afternoon snack and some bike watching was in order.
Now it was time to transition to the run. I'm told that the run course is nice and flat. And we tracked Steve throughtout the night on his run.
It became too dark for pictures but Steve did indeed finish the race. He is now a two-time Ironman and is registered to race again next year.
This was the first time I had ever watched an Ironman Triathalon. There were small racers, large racers, old (including an 84 year old racer who qualified for Kona) racers and young racers. All shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. And all were incredibly inspiring. As the night wore on and got colder, some were walking and some were bent over in pain. Amazingly, they all kept going. Almost all would say Thanks for the encouragement or at least nod, if they could, when we cheered them on. Makes me almost want to compete in a race. Almost. But let's not get too carried away!
If you are interested in watching an Ironman or even competing in one, the official website is www.ironman.com. Try to go see one. It's truly a lesson in the human spirit.
I'm linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner. Please visit them for some travel inspiration!