Monday, November 8, 2010

Florida Ironman 11/6/10

Saw some of these folks on Saturday... wow - what an amazing accomplishment!!!

Ironman Florida is no vacation
Cold, wind combine for a brutal 1-2 punch at IMF

Jason Shackelford completes Ironman Florida
Posted: 10:31 PM
Last Updated: 11/7/10

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. - The occupation of an ironman is always a difficult job that requires a certain amount of grit. That same toughness spills over to the Ironman Triathlon, a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike followed by a 26.2 mile run.

The Ironman fraternity can only be pledged my pushing your body across the finish line after 140.6 miles. Some athletes set out to meet a time goal, others are simply trying to meet the 17 hour cut-off. Athletes come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, but the one factor that every racer must have is determination. Even the best athletes will endure challenges along the way.

Over 2,700 athletes line up along the beach almost all wearing wetsuits, the water temperature is a chilly 73 degrees, the outside temperature is 38 degrees and feels like ice when your standing barefoot on the sand. The cold temps are very unusual for this venue. Stomachs are tangled in knots, nerves grow stronger with every wave that rolls in. Anticpiation, fear and sometimes even tears are on the faces of the racers. Weeks and months of training and diet are about to be put to the ultimate test and almost everyone wonders if they have done enough to get them through the Ironman.

The gun goes off at 7:00 AM on Panama City Beach and the waves crashing in are soon met with swimmers diving in setting off for the 2.4 mile swim. The water is churning like that of a washing machine. Arms and legs are stroking and kicking trying to edge closer to the swim exit. The scene outside of the water is frightening, in the water it's even worse. Getting kicked and punched and pushed under the water seems to happen over and over for the first 1500 yards. Swimmers are stacked 100 yards wide and 1000 yards deep all swimming to the same spot. Its nothing short of hand to hand combat, a matter of survivial. Jet skis and kayaks provide some emergency assistance but it's little comfort when you feel like you have to keep stroking just to stay alive.

After 1.2 miles the swimmers exit the water, cross a timing mat and go right back into the Gulf of Mexico for another round. After the first lap I felt good just to be back on two feet, I checked my GPS watch to see 35 minutes. I felt solid having survived the most difficult swim of my life. Simply being alive at this point breathed new life into my race and I was encouraged to start my next 1.2 mile swim.

This loop the athletes are more spread out and swimmers can find clean water but you still encounter the occasional swimmer drifting off course or being pulled by the current. Turning at the buoys is still difficult but much easier than the first leg. I was about 100 yards to the shore when I got drilled by another swimmer, at this point I was stunned already thinking about my exit out of the water. The blow seemed to come from nowhere. Whoever hit me from the side pulled my GPS watch off my wrist snapping the band. My heart rate monitor, my watch and my split times where now at the bottom of the Gulf. But there was literally no time to sulk, my day was just getting started.

I came out of the water in 1 hour and 14 minutes, not great but again just being alive was all I needed. After coming out of the water volunteers peeled off our wetsuits and got us on our way to the swim-to-bike transition.

Volunteers passed off our individual personal bags that contained what we deemed necessary to complete the 112 mile bike ride. The bags typically contain cycling shoes, a helmet, sunglasses, and a few items of nutrition, but the cold temps had riders packing for something more similar to the Ididerod.

Once we had our bags, we dashed into the changing area inside a hotel ballroom. This was total chaos, it was wall to wall men all trying to dry off and get dressed for the bike ride. The scene reminded me of what its like when fans storm the field at a college football game. A transition that would typically take 5 minutes took 12. The good mood of making it out of the swim was totally lost on a transition area that was overflowing with athletes. The simply process was putting on a pair of socks was as difficult as threading a needle, hopping on one foot falling into the guy next to you who is trying to but on cycling shorts while still wet. Looking back on it the scene is almost comical had it not been so frustrating.

Then we were off to bike 112 miles, a simple ride in the park? No, my stomach felt as though I had just downed a plate of biscuits and gravy, but it was all the saltwater I took in while during the swim. My pace had to be adjusted because of the knots in my stomach that seemed to be getting worse. Knowing that I still had 11 hours of racing ahead of me I still forced myself to eat granola bars and energy gels. The temperature warmed up to 50 degrees but on a bike with thin clothing on it felt like the 30's. The wind was also a factor it seemed to always be slapping us in the face. With every turn I thought the I would have a tail wind pushing me, instead it seemed to only blow harder in my face. After 6 hours and 6 minutes and 112 miles I was thrilled to get off my bike; even though I hate running, I was glad to call myself a runner.

I clipped though the first few miles at what seemed like a snails pace, but after about 5 miles my legs seemed to loosen up and I found my stride. My goal was to get though the first 13 miles and then go to a run/walk, but after 13 I still felt good and pushed on to 15. Even at mile 15 my legs felt ok, not great, but ok. I forced myself to walk for a half mile. I could tell the cramps where looming. The short walked worked and after a bit I was back to my trot. I made it to mile 20 when the cramps clammed down on my legs like a giant Florida gator. At that point I was forced to do what I call the Shack Shuffel. I managed to scratch off the rest of the run at half the speed of smell but the important thing was to keep moving. And that I did.

Finally, mile 25 came up and I got a little more energy. Cramps don't go away, but I found a way to hide them for the run down the finisher shoot. Fans were lined up cheering us on, people we didn't know but people that recognized an accomplishment, people that recognized pain, people that knew their clapping was the only thing holding up our aching bodies.

When you cross the finish line at an Ironman, the PA announcer declares, "Jason Shackelford, you are an Ironman." Iit was not my first 140.6 mile race but those words have never been sweeter. The only thing better was the hug waiting on the other side of that finish line from my best friend. 13 hours 24 minutes and my race was finally over.

Every Green Country athlete that started Ironman Florida finished. Regardless of where among the 2700 contenders you finish, it's a major victory just to hear "You are an Ironman."


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SA Ironman wins in Florida
2010-11-07 18:56

James Cunnama

Florida - While the Springboks were on their way to victory against Ireland, South African tri-athlete James Cunnama was racing his way to victory in the Ford Florida Ironman at Panama City Beach. This was his third win in three US triathlons this season.

The 27-year-old Cunnama was first to the tape with a time of 8 hrs, 15 mins and 29 secs. The full Ironman course includes a 3.8 km swim, 160 km cycle and 42 km run.

Completing the open water swim in 14th place, Cunnama rode with the leading pack in the cycle leg until a puncture almost put paid to his race. However he was able to make a quick repair and was still able to finish the cycle leg in 12th place.

Cunnama is known for the strength of his running, so was always favoured to catch the leaders. But the run was never going to be easy with 12 pro men within 250 metres of each other as they set off for the marathon-distance run.

Cunnama ran a blistering 1hrs 18mins for the first half of the marathon which gave him the lead. His pace slowed in the second half but he never looked like giving up his lead.

The South African crossed the line 3 and a half minutes ahead of Portugal’s Pedro Gomez, with a time of 2hrs 43mins for the marathon leg.

"It has been a year of ups and downs, but my first Ironman title has certainly made up for it all!” said Cunnama. “I am ecstatic! Obviously also being unbeaten in the continental-US is an awesome title - the competition here is some of the best in the world, so results like this are huge! I look forward to my next visit to the USA."

Cunnama hails from Port Elizabeth but spends much of the year at international training camps with his team, teamTBB, under the guidance of Brett Sutton. This is only his second year as a full-time professional triathlete.

Cunnama’s success came at the end of a difficult year for the athlete. After a second place in the Spec-Savers Ironman 70.3 South Africa in East London, Cunnama was forced to withdraw from the full Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa event in April with a stomach bug. His training in Austria was also disrupted by a cycling accident which left him slightly injured and his bike a right-off.

However things finally started to go right for Cunnama when he won France’s Alpe D’Huez Triathlon in July. The decision to head to the US to close out his season turned out to be the correct one when he won the Ironman 70.3 Austin in Texas (The 70.3 event includes the three Ironman triathlon events at half the distance.) and the Rev3 Cedar Point Triathlon in Ohio in September.


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Cunnama and Jacobs Claim Titles at Ford Ironman Florida
Posted: 11:48 PM Nov 6, 2010
Reporter: Ford Ironman Florida

Ironman 6 PM

Panama City Beach, Fla – South African James Cunnama and American Jessica Jacobs celebrated their first Ironman victories at today’s 12th annual Ford Ironman Florida. Cunnama, who recently won at Ironman 70.3 Austin, crossed the finish line with a four-minute lead over second-place finisher, Pedro Gomes (PRT). His winning time was 8:15:59. Jacobs, who’s been on the podium here and at Ford Ironman Wisconsin, crossed the finish line nearly seven minutes ahead of second-place finisher, Erika Csomor (HUN). Jacobs’ official time was 9:07:49.

Dirk Bockel (LUX) was first out of the water ahead of Bryan Rhodes (NZL), Romain Guillaume (FRA) and Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA). Guillaume led for most of the bike although there was a solid chase pack that consisted of Bockel, Gomes, Chris McDonald (AUS), Markus Fachbach (DEU) and Cunnama. The run started with Fachbach and Gomes in the front, but Cunnama surged at the halfway point and never looked back. His 2:43:09 marathon was among the fastest in Ford Ironman Florida history.

Top five professional men’s results are below:
1. James Cunnama, ZAF, 8:15:59

2. Pedro Gomes, PRT, 8:19:26

3. Dirk Bockel, LUX, 8:21:23

4. Markus Fachbach, DEU, 8:25:25

5. Jeremy Jurkiewicz, FRA, 8:26:49

Jeanne Collonge (FRA) exited the water first, followed by Meike Krebs (DEU), Kim Loeffler (USA) and Karina Ottosen (DNK). Jacobs, who was ninth out of the water, moved into second by mile 50 of the bike, and at mile 75, she took the lead. As she continued on to ultimately claim the title, she set the fastest bike (4:52:36) and run (3:04:52) splits of the day.

Top five professional women’s results are below:
1. Jessica Jacobs, USA, 9:07:49

2. Erika Csomor, HUN, 9:14:40

3. Kim Loeffler, USA, 9:21:26

4. Karina Ottosen, DNK, 9:24:34

5. Tamara Kozulina, UKR, 9:28:43

Today’s event saw more than 2,400 starters ranging in age from 18 to 81 years old, including 400-plus Florida residents. The race offered a total professional prize purse of $50,000 and 65 coveted slots to the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship, taking place on Oct. 8 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

One of more than 25 events in the Ironman global series, Ford Ironman Florida leads athletes along a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run on a course that utilizes a variety of Panama City Beach’s scenic areas. The two-loop swim takes place in the Gulf of Mexico, and the bike and run course are flat and fast. The official cut-off is midnight.

The top local finisher on the men's side was Kent Nonaka. On the women's side it was Cari Trappe who was the first panama city native to cross the line.


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November 10, 2010 UPDATE
Found this cool ironman vid...


  1. I live just off Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach, Florida and get the first hand, unobstructed views of the Ironman event. I can tell you for sure that this is a hardcore event with most participants training many of years just to complete the event.
    My 2 thumbs ‘way up’ to the men and women who challenge themselves in the mental and physical toil, while I sit and watch!

  2. YES! Kudos to ALL who make this event possible!!!