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Gulf Coast Triathlon 70.3 – Race Report 2015


Gulf Coast Triathlon

What:   Gulf Coast 70.3 Triathlon
(There is also a Sprint race)
Where:  Panama City Beach, Florida – Edgewater Beach Resort
When:  May 9, 2015 (Mother’s Day Weekend)
Distance:  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
Swim: Ocean, beach start
Bike: Flat, windy
Run:  Flat, hot


The Swim Bike Mom Race Report

2nd place Athena (16th AG)
Swim:  40:02  (1st place Athena / 7th place Age Group)
T1: 3:25   (1st Athena / 4th AG)
Bike: 2:52:52  (19.4 MPH) (1st Athena / 8th AG)
T2: 2:12  (1st Athena / 6th AG)
Run: 2:48:56 (12:54pace) (4th Athena / 22nd AG)
Overall:  6:31:24
(includes a 4:00 stupid penalty)


Travel and Fun

The Expert and the Swim Bike Kids (oh, yes …and myself) hit the road from Atlanta to Panama City Beach on Thursday around 10:00 AM.  After a mandatory Starbucks stop, we landed at the beach by 4:00.  A good (non-eventful) road trip.  I learned very quickly just how difficult it is to find healthy (fast) food on the road–especially when you trek through some smaller towns.  I packed some healthy snacks, but grilled chicken salads at fast-food joints are a joke.  The best I found, food-wise, was Wendy’s baked potato and chili.  [And even still I am sure that it’s trash. I didn’t want to look it up.]


The only goal I had going into this race was simple:  no pre-race sabotage.

I tend to sabotage myself race week with too much beer (it’s taper! wooo-hooo) or ice cream or lack of sleep or whatever. I got my act together for the last week, ate great, sleep hard and showed up ready for the task ahead:  finishing my fifth 70.3 distance race.  Five? Me?  How unlikely. Makes it even more special.

My prior 70.3 race report links are here:  Ironman 70.3 Miami (2011), Ironman 70.3 Augusta (2012), Ironman 70.3 Augusta (2013), Ironman 70.3 Florida (2014)

So anyway, I managed to eat well, bike check and everything as I was supposed to do before this race.


The Venue

The 33rd Gulf Coast Triathlon was held this year at Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City Beach.  Edgewater was where we held the inaugural Swim Bike Mom Traincation back in February, so it was great to know my way around the area pre-race.  The expo and registration were just across the highway at the Edgewater Convention Center, so super-easily accesible.  Bike check / transition was located in the Edgewater parking lot. Even better.


The Swim Bike Family stayed at the Majestic Beach Resort which was just a few blocks away–close enough to walk to Edgewater on race morning in the dark.


When we arrived at the beach condo, we spent a few minutes enjoying the amazing view. Then we headed out to the beach for the kiddos to play and for me to get in a quick swim in the old trusty wetsuit.


The beach-goers enjoyed watching the wetsuit spectacle.

I could almost hear their thoughts: Crazy ass woman in a wetsuit… what is she doing??


After a good night’s sleep, I woke up on Friday and met a group of gals (and a guy) at the beach for second swim.  Met some of our SBM Ambassador Team members for the first time, so that was awesome.  Also, saw some familiar faces and met some new ones as well.



I headed back to condo and took Lucy for a quick spin and then my legs for a quick run.

I then tried to stay off my feet for the rest of the day (ha… like that happens for a mom!).


It was miserably hot at 10:30 in the morning. I knew Race Day was gonna be a good one.

Pre-Race Fueling

I recently learned that Dunkin Donuts Blueberry Munckins are not good fuel.  I had no idea (ha!). So I went back to old faithful… the SBM Power Breakfast, with some lower sugar modifications and no nuts since I can’t have them with my diverticulitis. (No nuts in over 8 months?! What? That’s what she said!)


I was a little nervous about switching my fuel plan the week before the race. I would probably tell my athletes NOT to do this. The caveat is that I was eating like a billy goat–trash. I knew I had to eat better and healthier, and well… no time like the present. Plus, I am always up for a good experiment.  Most people say “nothing new on race day” – unless you’re Andy Potts, who says “always try something new on race day! How else do you know if it works!”  I followed Andy.

In case you want to know the recipes, here’s what I used before Ironman Coeur d’Alene (Version 1.0), and what I used this weekend (Version 2.0)

SBM Power Breakfast (Version 1.0)

2 cups (cooked) Quinoa or brown rice
1 mashed banana
1/4 cup of cream
Chopped Almonds
1 tbsp. honey
*Mix everything together and heat in the microwave

SBM Power Breakfast (Version 2.0)

2 cups (cooked) Quinoa or brown rice
1 mashed banana
1-2 tbsp. coconut oil or almond butter
Raisins (chocolate were by accident, but they were good!)
Dribble of honey
*Heat the quinoa or rice, then stir in the rest.

I tested this out for breakfast on Friday, and it seemed to sit well with me. That was a good sign, so I decided to roll with it for race day. No time like the present! (My motto for this race, I guess!)


Race Morning

Early morning wake-up at 4:10 AM (which honestly was pushing it a little bit, time-wise). I tip-toed around the condo.  The kiddos were asleep on the pull-out couch, the Expert in the bed.  I made coffee, my power breakfast, pulled my frozen bottles with Tailwind out of the freezer, and packed up the few things that I didn’t have packed the night before.


Sunscreened where I could reach, braided the hair, and slipped out of the room about 4:50 and walked the 15-20 minutes down to Edgewater transition.

I was bodymarked with my Lucky #7, and met up with some of my team gals, and did the transition area dance.  Where are my things, why am I sweating, is today really race day, where is my Aquaphor, ermahgawd, my helmet! my tires.   Once I was finished fretting, it was very close to “go” time.

One of my athletes, Karen, and friend Lynn, walked down to the swim start with me.  The Expert had managed to rouse the kiddos and have them spectacularly dressed for the occasion.


I had told him not to worry about coming down to the swim start–that it was their vacation and the kids had seen enough swim starts to probably last for a life time.

But I am so glad he didn’t listen to my nonsense. Was great to have that support–even after the dozens of races.


Stella gave me a “lucky shell” and I stuck it in my back tri pocket.

[The things you learn as a tri-ing mom to do (nevermind how it might have felt inside the wetsuit)… and it was lucky. My smart girl.]



Our wave was the first to take off, and it was early, around 6:20.  The early swim start was a little crazy–UNTIL I was running in the heat of the day. Then I understood. Wowzers.

(Ear plugs, dramamine, banana, bottle of water…check).


Hugged the family. TriSlide all over my neck and back (to avoid wetsuit burn).  A little zipping up into the wetsuit by the Expert and we headed to corral.  There was plenty of time to warm-up at this swim start in the water, but I dilly-dallied too long, and didn’t get a shot.  Didn’t really matter to me.

This was a beach start (we started in a corral on the sand).  At the sound of the GO, we were off.  High knees, high knees, high knees, high knees, high knees, high knees, dolphin dive, go. 


I love swim starts, each and every time. I don’t know why, but I am not usually nervous. Maybe because I am a confident swimmer (notice I didn’t say “good” – I said “confident”). I think I would be far more petrified if a triathlon started with a run.  That would put the fear of God in me.

I sighted and looked ahead of me, and there weren’t that many swimmers.  Am I lost? 


I hung tight to the buoys and kept on swimming.  I lost my swim cap. My bangs were flopping in my face, then I was out of the water.  [This apparently cost me four minutes… a penalty from USAT.  Equipment abandonment. Pffffffffffft.  Yeah, let me go right back and search the Gulf for my cap.]


I pulled my wetsuit off way too early and I stood up to walk way too soon, easily costing myself a full minute in this process. I rarely can get my equilibrium out of the water for about 30-40 seconds, so I don’t try to run to transition until I am sure I am upright.


The Expert reported me 11th out of the water with the mass start, and I ended up first out of the water Athena division (which is what I was racing, seventh out of the water had I been racing Age Group) with a time of 40:02.


(I always love swim exit pictures. The best. Ha!)

Ran through the fresh water shower, taking an extra few seconds to get off the salt water, and I was off to transition.


There were no wetsuit strippers at this race, and it wasn’t really a big deal.  I did fly into T1 and declare to the crowd standing along the fence, “Now ya’ll get to watch me strip!”  Everyone stared at me. No one even smiled.  Guess it wasn’t funny. Whomp whomp.

Water bottle to squirt off the sand, put on socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet and I was off… Out of transition in 3:25, and heading out on the bike.


Out on the super flat course, I really enjoyed being on the bike.  The first 20 miles I felt like I was flying and then I think the headwind appeared.  But I felt really great on the bike, conciously took in my calories and waved at people I recognized.


The best part of the bike?  The appearance of Swim Bike Klutz!  There was a tight little turnaround heading back into town, and I overshot it… my front wheel went into the dirt.  The dirt was DEEP and soft, and I knew I’d never get clipped out fast enough… thought Ruh roh… so I chose to lay myself down in the dirt (instead of being forced onto the pavement.).  I leaned over, went down in the dirt with a POOF of dirt, and hopped up, re-clipped and headed on my way.  I think the whole debacle only stole about 30 seconds from me.

But boy, was I dirty.  My whole right side was brown and dusty.


Oh boy. Head down. Bad cyclist.

At the next aid station, I grabbed a water bottle and while riding, I proceeded to hose myself off.  Someone (who shall remain nameless only because I am nice!), rode by me and screamed, “Hey Meredith, take this” and squirted a water bottle in my face.  Scared the crap out of me.  Three years ago, that would have probably scared me to the point of losing control of the bike.  Luckily, I was able to get in a squirt back at him in return, but… next time, all I am saying–dead meat.

I played leap frog with my SBM Ambassador Team member, Theresa, and another girl, but for the most part, I did a good job holding my prescribed wattage and finished up with my fastest 70.3 bike split, of 2:52:22, and 19.4 MPH.   Fueled with one bottle of three scoops of Tailwind (300 cals) an hour, and one Huma gel, and that was it. Pulled into transition 8th on the bike in age group and fastest in Athena.


Run and done! Shake and bake.

Racked the back and efficiently changed socks (I like to cycle in thin socks, and run in thicker socks), and still managed 6th speediest transition AG, and the fastest Athena.  Ran out of transition with my race belt and hooked it on and dug in for the run.


The run course was a flat, out and back–my favorite kind of course!  Very, very little shade on this course. Okay, so none at all, and it was a scorcher. Was thankful once again for my decision to wear the arm coolers.  As I headed out, the heat hit me like a ton of bricks.  I am such a sweaty person, so I knew I needed to pay attention to my hydration.


This face says it all, I guess.

My heartrate was very high for the first mile, but by Mile 2, I had settled in to my pace and was trucking along around 11:45 average pace with my proper heartrate.


Felt great, felt thankful, and was in control.  (Had to pee, but I decided I wouldn’t.)

I would slow through the aid stations, suck down a cup of water, take some sponges (put one in the visor and a few in the tri top, along with ice). I was hot, but I didn’t feel overheated.


BTW -the aid stations on this course were SPECTACULAR.  Lots of ice and water and smiles.  Kudos!

Around Mile 6, nearing the turn-around, I subconciously and apparently decided to ignore my fueling plan.  Stupid.

I felt so great, that I didn’t take in nearly what I needed.  So by the time Mile 10.5 hit, I had the dreaded bonk.  Cold sweat, dizzy, and a case of the walks.

But I had lots of encouragement from several friends–Colleen, Tom and Theresa–all walked with me for a spell to check on me. Super nice, and much appreciated–Colleen snagged me a Gatorade and talked me out of my Twilight Zone. I walked a speed walk/drag from Mile 11 to 12.  Managed to shuffle the last mile in a run/walk.  And ran the last 1/4 of the mile through the chute.


Yay! Another finish line. Wooowhoo!


I grasped my medal (which the Swim Bike Kid girl stole immediately), and went out in search of food.  I was so dizzy.  Went to medical, and cooled off a bit.  Had trouble standing, so I just found a place in the shade and sunk down.  The Expert had obtained a Sprite, and I chugged half of that.   Once that was in me, I felt fine.  Just had the classic blood sugar bonk.  And why? Because I deviated from my own plan.  I knew better… but it was ALL GOOD.


I came in a whopping 22nd in the run AG, 4th place run Athena.

(You can see where I am “losing” at this triathlon thing, yes?)

2nd place Athena overall.



Overall, I loved this race, and was thrilled with my results.

I ended up with a 6:27 finish, plus 4:00 penalty for the lost of the swim cap, took me to 6:31… which is still a five minute PR from my best 70.3 time, Ironman Augusta 2012, even with the penalty. I followed my race plan until near the end, and it worked.  I paced well, I fueled well.  I didn’t go too hard on the bike, still had plenty of legs for the run.. and had a fantastic 10.5 mile run.  My only glaring mistake is not popping a Huma Gel at Mile 5 and again around Mile 9. That probably cost me 11:00 overall.  But it’s just another lesson learned.

If triathlon is one thing, it’s a buffet of lessons!

In doing this one, my fifth 70.3, I have learned so much.  I have also learned a lot about sportmanship and internal dialogue over the past few years.


I think triathlon “character” is very much on how you handle yourself during the race (of course), but even more so post-race after you have the chance to dwell on the mistakes made on race day.

I could gripe and complain about not crushing my PR… and “donating” 11 minutes due to my bad fueling and another minute from my swim exit and then my low-speed tipover. I could make myself nuts over those 13 or so lost minutes, plus the penalty… “Hey look, there’s SEVENTEEN minutes in time, I just left out there on the course!  That would have been a 6:07 finish. Damn me!

But why do that?  What is the point?

We race the race that is given on race day under our conditions, and we should learn from it–but move on.  It’s wasted time to complain and moan–you can only learn and move forward.  The ability to not compare yourself to others (to a crazy degree), to check it off and say, “Next time will be different. I learned X, Y and Z.  I still did amazing. And now, I am enjoying my sweet finisher’s medal that is also a bottle opener” takes much strength and grace.  But it’s a good place to work torwards.

I loved this race. I think it goes down as my favorite half to date.  


I will definitely be back.

The course was awesome, the volunteers were great, and having it at a beach locale was really nice for the family to feel like they had a vacation–not just trekking around following mom doing her silly tri thing.


Swim Bike Mom Ambassador Team

The SBM Ambassador Team made an awesome showing on the race course, as well.


 Therese – wicked fast bike and overall 70.3 PR^


^Angie’s first 70.3 AND podium in her AG (her race report here)


^Allison – awesome sprint race!


^Karen – major bike PR and 2nd 70.3 finish!

Also, so proud of my athlete Kristy (and her hubs) who finished their first 70.3s this weekend as well!

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Many other SBMs and TriFecta members (Colleen, Carrie, Courtney, Lynn, Kimberly, Megan, Daisy, Jennifer… and I’m sure I’m missing someone…sorry!) were out kicking butt and/or providing awesome support on the course, too. Lots of awesome all around.Proud of all of my ladies and love them lots!



And a Happy Mother’s Day to all the Swim Bike Moms out there.


Race Results

Full female race results can be found here:
Full male race results can be found here: 

Press Release about GCT

In it’s 33 year history, the Gulf Coast Triathlon has become a part of the fabric of the Beach’s sports calendar…The swim portion…was canceled in 2014 due to rough conditions in the water, the first time ever in the event’s history. 2015’s race went off without any real issues; competitors mentioned some slightly choppy waves and increased heat as the temperature rose throughout the day, none of which truly hindered their performances. Athletes hit the white sand beaches bright and early at the Edgewater beach and Golf Resort, the new host of the event. The first wave dove into the Gulf at 6:15 AM for a 1.2 mile swim that lead to a 56 mile bike path up Route 79 through the rural parts of Bay County. Arriving back to Edgewater, racers pushed their bodies through a 13.1 half marathon on Front Beach Road and Thomas Drive.”   Source


  • Kris

    May 13, 2015 at 10:03 am

    We vacationed in PCB several years ago and our last day there, all these people were showing up with bikes. (the first day and a half was a Harley fest) Saw the signs for triathlon and thought oh, that’s cool. Was a bit in awe of it all. Now all these years later, I’m doing tris and would love to do this one or another in FL. Not sure how I feel about the ocean swim though!

    • Kris

      May 13, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Oh and the 4 minute penalty for losing your swim cap is funny. “Yeah, let me go right back and search the Gulf for my cap” Bwahahaha!

  • Olivia S

    May 13, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Congratulations on your PR and a great race overall. I finished my first sprint tri a couple of weekends ago, so I’m thinking that next year’s tri goals will be Olympic or 70.3 sized. I grew up in the PC area, so I’d love to come “home” to do a Tri. Thank you for the race report, I’m adding this race to my wish list.

    Do you put your compression sleeves on in T1 or do you swim with them?

  • Helga

    May 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Congratulations!!!!! I have a 70.3, my first, coming up in 3 weeks and I’m in a mental funk. Reading your race report is really helping me to “get it together”…. You are so fast on the bike. 19 plus mph…wowza.
    Thank you for sharing your report…super helpful as always.

    • Jennifer

      May 13, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      When does it open for registration? I have the website in my favorites so I can keep a watch.

      Are you going to have another Traincation next year?

  • Christina

    May 18, 2015 at 7:26 am

    >> “Now ya’ll get to watch me strip!” Everyone stared at me. No one even smiled. Guess it wasn’t funny. Whomp whomp.

    I definitely laughed when I read that. I probably would have said the same thing…

  • Eileen Peters

    November 20, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    What a great race report and fast time! Will you be there on May 13, 2017? I’ve just signed up for it and it will be my first half. I’m nervous but after reading your report I can picture it so much better! Thanks so much for writing this. I’m having trouble finding any course information on the website. Eileen Peters, Clearwater, FL


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