Gulf Coast 2007 - Race Report

Bring on the Pretzels!

It was a great day for racing and we were out in full force!

(Photos, courtesy of Michelle's husband Eddie, available here. We also have photos from Alex available here).

After long months of training I arrived at Gulf Coast ready for a race. This was the first race I have ever been to where I felt prepared. I felt that I couldn't have done more to train for the race... except of course that I had never had a successful nutrition test. I've been trying to find the right combination of fluid replacement drink, gels, solid food, salts, water, etc. to ensure that I arrive off the bike onto the run, ready to race. All of my "test runs" in training resulted in a bloated "slushy" tummy on the run. However, aside from that I had more miles in me than ever before, in all 3 sports. On top of that I knew they were quality miles. By that I mean that on low zone days I stayed in zone 1/2, on the kicker days I really pushed myself. There is something to be said for arriving at a race already proud of yourself for the effort you put into training... however, in some ways I felt more pressure to perform. I felt like I owed it to my family to put it all out there on race day and bring home a good result. I felt, and it seems silly as I write this, that if I finished with a certain time that it would somehow make up for the hours I had spent away from my son and the "just us" time that I had given up with my husband so that I could train for this race. So I put this pressure on myself, the pressure of the perfect race... but let me back up here...

The "stars began to align" about two months out from Gulf Coast. I was lucky enough to find to training partners, Michelle and Kate. These ladies were training for the big race, Ironman, (IM FL and IM CdA respectively) and using Gulf Coast Half to prep for their races. I, on the other hand, have only 1/2 IM aspirations, but it's nice riding and hanging out with the big dogs :-) Kate, Michelle and I complimented each other really well, where one of us was lacking experience that other had advice. In addition, we were all about the same training speed (which is a miracle, I have to say). To top it all off, we all got along so well that most of the time we had to remind ourselves that we were supposed to be training. We all met for and raced together at our first race of the season, a sprint distance race intended to be a "tune-up" and a chance for us to practice our wetsuit removal skills. (That is another, as yet unwritten race report, but for links to photos of the day click here) It was so great to have an "ally" out there on the race course.

If that isn't enough, I'm then lucky enough to find someone willing to lend me their race wheels for the race. This is a huge deal because at 5'2", I ride a small bike, so small that it necessitates 650c wheels... a pair of 650 race wheels available to be borrowed are very hard to find.

the next star to align... well it sounds strange but quiting my job came at a very fortuitous time. (the decision to quit is a story for another time...) I was able to actually focus on my training and complete about 80% of my scheduled workouts. This is unheard of for me.

Race Weekend: Wednesday night, my husband Alex, the ultimate tri-sherpa has the car packed up with everything we need, plus all the race wheels, etc. that we are bringing down for other folks and we head for FL on Thursday morning. We arrive at the race site on Thursday evening (race is on Saturday). Jason (2 1/2) was an angel for the 7 hour ride from Atlanta to Panama City Beach, FL. Aside from incessantly asking to go over more train tracks, he never complained! Whew! We get to our condo for the weekend, and surprise! it is actually nicer than expected. Always a plus! Lauren and Rudy are sharing the condo with us, they show up later that evening. Lauren is racing, Rudy is her ultimate tri-sherpa. this is the first that I have met Lauren, but triathlon is great bonding material and in no time at all it feels like we are old friends.

Friday morning Lauren and I meet up Michelle and Kate for a morning swim in the ocean (first ocean swim for me!), followed by a warm up bike and short run. While I am doing this, Alex is holding down the fort (i.e. taking care of Jason, picking my parents up at the airport and grocery shopping). Upon returning for our run Lauren and I decide to head to race packet pickup (race number 247... I have a great feeling about this number) and expo... doing a little shopping I end up with a new pair of race flats. Evening is spent getting bikes tuned and dropping them off in transition... ahh, the final star falls into alignment... I have the best possible bike rack in transition. I am not kidding, this is the ultimate spot, right across the aisle from the Pros, we are steps from bike out and steps from bike in... of course, now I start to think, this is all going too well... pressure's on.

I go to sleep that night going through my nutrition plan in my head.

Alarm is set for 4:30... the Jason alarm goes off at 3:00 am... oh well, I wasn't sleeping that well anyway and now I get some extra time with the little man. Nothing eases nerves better than a toddler.

Choke down my usual PB and J on toast with a ton of water because for some reason the nervous energy makes my mouth dry. (i.e. difficult to eat pb and J on toast).

Head to the race site with Alex, Jason, Lauren and Rudy.

Have lost all ability to think straight. While racking my bike I go over things a million times, but it isn't until I have my wetsuit on with transition closing that I realize "hey, I forgot my heart rate monitor", "oh, and its in my bag in transition!" In the middle of all of this, Jason gets really excited about all the people and he wants to run around to everyone to say hello. Big thanks to Alex, Rudy and Lauren for helping to keep tabs on the little tornado. Finally get my act together enough to head down to the beach. Realize upon arrival at the beach that I am still wearing my wedding rings, rings that fall off when I swim. Somehow find Michelle in the melee and ask her to take my rings and give them to Alex. God, I'm a mess!

Eddie captured this very telling photo of me talking to Kate about the fact that I still have on my wedding rings! Ack!!!

Have to take this moment to shout out to my coach Carole Sharpless, triathlete extraordinaire! She's such an awesome person, she took the time to say hello and chat minutes before she needed to head to the beach for her wave.

Okay, they call my wave and I get ready for the big swim. Today I face this water knowing that I can complete the miles, only wondering how many obstacles I will overcome to get to that finish line. Canon goes BOOM!

Swim is great, I have the most polite swim wave! Everyone is fairly cordial in the water, perhaps we are all too busy avoiding jelly fish to pummel each other. This has to be the smoothest ocean swim in Gulf Coast history. It doesn't get rocky until we get out to the far buoy, but by the you are almost halfway so you're feeling pretty good. I have a tough time determining how I am doing with regards to other folks in my swim wave. I just try to hang with folks as I find them. Then I see the shore and I remember to just keep swimming till I start hitting sand with my hands (thanks for the tip Dr. Pam!). Okay, I'm hitting sand, stand up, goggles and cap off, start running! As I run by the cheering masses I hear "there's your mommy" and I know that MY mommy has made it to see my race! I didn't hear Jason but by all accounts he had a great time cheering for everyone.

Make it to transition, and about half the bikes are off the rack... this is normal for me, so I'm okay with it. Helmet, glasses, shoes, bike, let's go! They weren't kidding when they said this course was pancake flat. I feel like I flying and I look down at my watch to check my HR. I am ecstatic to see that I am in zone and decide I must have a tailwind, so I better make the most of it! The miles are ticking off and I am feeling great. I am pushing it, but HR is looking good. My alarm goes off to eat something, I've been drinking from my aerobottle religiously. Honestly, I've never felt this confident in a race.

So, of course, you know it has to come tumbling down... with about 9 miles left to go something starts to feel off... maybe it's a headwind I say to myself... Then my stomach doesn't feel good... let's eat something... here's a fig newton... okay just puked up said fig newton... don't feel much better. According to Alex (tri-master, aka tri-sherpa) what I had here was a lack of salt and my body stopped digesting what I was putting in... now I believe this simply from the standpoint that what I wanted more than anything at this moment was a bag of pretzels. FL was out of pretzels that day... I limp the last 9 miles into transition.

Dismount bike. Run to bike rack. Shoes off, running shoes on, helmet off, hat and race number on... hang on a need a second... try to puke again but nothing comes of it. Telling myself that I have dealt with slushy stomach on many a training day and remembering that it usually goes away within two miles, I head out on the run.

I trained for this run... I wanted to own this run... well, this run is now my incentive to get back out there and try again. Around mile 6 my stomach started to feel better, but by then I was sort of bonking. I stopped at every aid station to put ice in my hat and top, trying to keep my temp down so that I wouldn't sweat away the last of the water/salt in my body. No one had pretzels!!! Ugh!!!!!

If there is one thing I want to take away from this run it is that I bloody well finished and no one can take that away from me. It sucked, and I stopped to attempt to puke several times along the way, but for the most part I ran. I ran because I knew I could, because while it may seem silly to some, this is what I have to offer my family... gut it out, it's worth it. Find yourself a goal and really fight to achieve your goals.

So there we go... second half IM finished 5:36:40.

Congratulations to Michelle, Kate and Lauren on spectacular races!

I sulked around for about two weeks thinking of what could have been. Finally I realized what I gained from training for and completing this race...
- I finally felt that I dedicated myself to the goal, I put in the training hours and that is an accomplishment for me
- I found some folks that while being really great training partners, they are, more importantly, great new friends
- I have a son who likes to ride his tricycle outside, saying that he's "doing the ironman"
- I developed a new appreciation for how lucky I am to have a husband that no only supports me in triathlon, but supports me unconditionally.
- and I have new appreciation for SALT :-)

If anyone read this entire thing... thanks for caring! Train safely everyone!


  1. great race report, jill! i was (and am) so impressed with your tough run...not to mention your blazing bike. looking forward to riding the comet this weekend with the poon clan!

  2. Jill - awesome race report! You should be so proud of yourself for an awesome 2007 season thus far. You are a force to be reckoned with on the bike!


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"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"
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"Shut Up Legs"
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- Jill Poon (inspired by Jason Overbaugh)