My Dad and I flew into Panama City Wednesday evening, arriving at the hotel late we went right to bed. Thursday and Friday I was working remotely so I parked myself at breakfast for a few hours each morning and then my hotel room desk. It was a nice distraction from the race ahead and kept me off my feet and my mind occupied.
Thursday I was trying to figure out where to swim because the roof top ‘pool’ was more like a large hot tub and you can’t swim in the ocean in Panama City. Biking was also going to be a challenge since my hotel wasn’t near the coast and it’s definitely not safe to ride the city streets with the cars in Panama City. At this point my best option was going to be taking a cab with my bike to ride along the coastal walking trail. Luckily when I went to scope out the treadmills in the exercise room low and behold there was another triathlete setting up his bike on a trainer. I immediately offered him money to borrow his trainer and asked him where he was planning to swim. He had no objections to me using his trainer (free of charge) and my dad and I were able to tag along with him and his dad to the nearest pool. Huge thanks to fellow pro Jeff Symonds (2015 Ironman Melbourne Champion) and his dad Brian for helping us out! I was at least able to loan Jeff my disc adapter to pump up his rear tire in return for their help, but I probably still owe them!
Saturday we took a cab to the race site to drop off my bike and took the shuttle back to the host hotel for the pro meeting. There were a few changes to the course. The first being that you did not have to follow the buoys on the swim, the race officials decided they would just be used for sighting. The second being a huge change to the bike course, last minute they were no longer able to use any of the roads outside the city. They changed the two loop bike course to three loops with two out and backs, making for a very compact course.
After the meeting I did all the final touches to my gear and was in bed by 7 for a 3:30 wake-up. In the morning I immediately took a salt tab and started drinking water, it was going to be a hot day. We jumped in a cab with Jeff and his dad around 4:30 for a 20 minute ride to the race site. The transition was a long stretch along the canal so the pros had bike racks on the far end near the swim exit for T1 and racks on the other end for T2. I checked my bike over and setup all my gear and nutrition. Then I headed down to the second rack to setup my run gear. I made the mile-long trek down to the swim start and headed out onto the pier. The start was delayed by about 50 minutes but we were finally ready to take off around 7:20.
- It was a non-wetsuit swim so I was in my Blueseventy PZ4TX swim skin which felt great in the 75 degree water.
- We lined up for the start and with no warning they fired the gun. I quickly started my watch and took off sprinting.
- I wanted to swim with the front group; I could see Lauren Brandon and Sarah Haskins had taken off hard on the far left while I was on the far right with Lauren Goss on my feet. I kept a strong pace and slowly merged in behind Sarah.
- We swam along the right side of the buoys but it was a tough call to make. If you swam directly to the stairs for the exit it was definitely a shorter distance, but there was more current further out.
- The current ended up not being as significant as we thought so it may have benefited us more to swim the shortest path like most other athletes did, it’s hard to know for sure.
- I always feel bad tapping the feet in front of me for an entire 1.2 miles but I think it’s just part of the race (sorry Sarah!). I barely noticed Lauren tapping my feet every few strokes so I think after a while you forget about it.
- We all exited within seconds of each other for a solid swim. I was happy to exit with Lauren B., by far the fastest swimmer in our sport.
- After the exit Lauren G. immediately ran past me and caught Sarah but we all transitioned in about the same time.
- After getting into my shoes I had to put in a fairly hard effort to catch back up to the girls in front of me. I stayed a conservative distance behind as we started our first loop.
- Our pace during the first loop was comfortable enough but I didn’t want to push the pace early and I did not want to pass Sarah, one of the best bikers in our sport, so early on. I made sure to take in some calories and hydrate.
- Being multiple loops and out and back, it almost felt like an ITU race with 11 180 degree turns on the course. I usually lost a bit of time coming out of the 180’s and had to push the pace to catch back up.
- As we came around for our second loop things got a bit crazy. The amateur racers were now sprinkled throughout the course and it was getting crowded. I made sure to keep the lead girls in my sights but was also careful of my surroundings. People were passing on both sides and cutting in front of you. There was quite a bit of braking this lap to avoid issues.
- The officials were trying to make sure people kept moving to the right so we could be passing and I saw them give out quite a few penalties.
- Before finishing the lap I decided it was time to pick up the pace a bit so I passed Lauren B. and Sarah to take the lead.
- I had completely run out of water so I pulled over to grab a bottle only to have someone stop on their bike right in front of me. I had to quickly pull left to get around the athlete (not a fellow pro). Luckily I was able to still grab water further down and I avoided a crash. I filled my bottles and started to hammer for the last lap.
- The last lap ended up being fairly clear so I didn’t have to avoid too many athletes on course. Unfortunately my power meter was having issues, it was reading a lot of zeros and numbers under 150, so I had to race off feel the rest of the way.
- At the far turn around Lauren B. and Sarah were only 10-20 seconds back but Lauren G. had fallen off the pace a bit more. I was surprised I had made separation because I thought they were right behind me still.
- I pushed the pace to T2 feeling strong. At the end of the day I had the fastest bike split by 1:12.
- I expected Sarah and Lauren B. to be right behind me in T2 but I got my socks and shoes on and they still weren’t there. I stuffed my nutrition and inhaler into my tri suit and took off running.
- I got my race belt on and adjusted my visor, which had come undone. I’ve never raced in a visor but knowing it was going to be so hot I thought it was worth a shot to prevent my face from burning
- Most of the run I was just thinking about getting to the next water stop. The water stops were all about a mile apart but more than half the run was in direct sunlight.
- At the first turn around I could see Sarah was about a minute behind and Lauren B. not much further back. Lauren G. was a few minutes back at this point.
- Every water stop I took every cup of ice I could hold and dumped it into my tri suit. I’d try and get at least a cup of water in my mouth and everything else I’d pour on myself. The half mile or so after each water stop I always felt great- that feeling would slowly deteriorate until the next water stop.
- Sarah passed me around 6k or so to take the lead.
- On the first out and back of the second loop I could see the strong runners were beginning to gain on me. I knew I had to finish with a strong 5k to hold on.
- At the last out and back I could see Lisa Roberts and Kirsty Jahn 30-60 seconds back from me. I thought I had just a mile to go or so and tried to hang on.
- Lisa passed me with what I thought was less than a mile to go. At this point all I could think was I can’t lose my podium spot in the last couple miles AGAIN (Austin).
- I could see Lisa had put a solid 100 yards on me but I tried to push the pace. I kept looking back to see where Kirsty was, I knew she was right there but my eyes were not processing.
- I thought the finish line was around the corner but it was actually, another right, another right, a left and a few blocks down to the finish chute.
- I kept pushing hard for what ended up being that last mile, I gained a lot of time back on Lisa and held Kirsty off to finish 3rd. I was only 6 seconds off of second and fourth was just 8 seconds behind that!
I was thrilled with this result, a podium at a championship event! Going into the race my goal was top 5. While this race was hot, I absolutely loved it. I had a ton of fun racing with Sarah, Lauren B and Lauren G. Oftentimes I swim and bike solo and it doesn’t really feel like you’re in a race. Racing with these girls with similar skills made it actually feel like I was out there racing people. I never once questioned if I was off course and going the right way because there were always people around racing and cheering. Such a fun day, I can’t wait for what’s next!
Huge thanks to my sponsors Gear West Bike and Triathlon, Blueseventy and Lazer who really make this all possible for me. Thanks to my Dad for sherpa duties, although he needs to learn how to use his stop watch and a camera at the same time ;-). Thanks to Patrick for helping me make the best plan for getting into shape for this race and thanks to my mom for caring for my pups. I couldn’t do it without you all!