And now let's talk about Panama City. Matt and I went down to PCB to volunteer for IMFL 2011, sign up for IMFL 2012, to vacation, and to meet up with some fantastic blogger/twitter/triathlon friends. We accomplished all of these goals except for one which I regret to say was registering for IMFL 2012. Am I glad I went and volunteered, yes. Am I disappointed that we did not register, yes. Do I regret my decision, no, as of now (ask me again in Nov 2012 and I'll probably say yes). Here are the details:
- Volunteering was great. We had a 7 hour shift of "crowd control" on Thursday before the race. This involved telling people to have their ID's and USAT cards ready to go. The weather was nice, we got to talk to alot of cool people, and we ended up getting like a 2 hour break and a free t-shirt. I can't complain about that.
- The company was excellent. We met up with KC, Colleen, Kristen, and Mandy and had a blast with them. From pizza at the Mellow Mushroom, to Mandy's first trip to WalMart, to TWSS sign making, and of course marshmallow krispy treats what's there not to enjoy?
- Vacation was wonderful and relaxing. We took the pups on their first ever out-of-state vacation as they usually get stuck at home with Grandma and Grandpa. We hit up the dog park every day, went to the beach and chased some waves, went hiking in the Florida sun, and slept until we couldn't sleep any more. Matt and I also had our yearly vacation tennis tournament, which I was pleasantly surprised at my improvement since last year's tournament. However, Matt still won. Personally, I think he plays dirty, but I guess winning is winning.
- IMFL 2011 was quite a site to see! 2000+ athletes all swimming in the gulf at the same time is something that everyone must witness at least once in their life. Matt and I have never done a WTC 140.6 and I can say that the main difference between IMFL and the Rev3 CP was the number of participants and volunteers. WTC clearly had an order of magnitude more. The intensity and the general environment seemed to have a different feel as well. IMFL was definitely more intense with athletes who were clearly focused and there to attain a goal (Kona). There was a general sense of triathlon being more of a "show" than a "sport". Everyone there seemed to have the best gear and was branded from head to toe with their sponsors and M-Dot logos. I think I saw a handful of road bikes. The rest were tri bikes with the best aero accessories money could buy. It was definitely intimidating. I also got a general sense of "show me the money" from WTC. WTC races are definitely very well run and have amazing support and commitment to the brand, but there seemed to be very little to make it "about the athletes." To me they cared more about the money than the people. Additionally, I was a bit upset that Matt and I got stuck directing traffic all day instead of being able to enjoy the race with our friends (this may have made a huge difference in my overall opinion of the event). I'll let you read about this experience in Matt's blog as he captured the day very well. Did I mind volunteering an extra day, no. The athletes were very appreciative and expressed this as they ran by. Could we have left any time we wanted to, yes. But honestly I felt really bad just leaving as people were being typical impatient asshole drivers. I felt personally responsible for the safety of the athletes and I would have felt horrible had someone gotten hit. Maybe I worry too much about things. Was it irresponsible of WTC to leave this road/intersection open to traffic, yes. According to the cop that relieved me of my duties later in the night, this intersection has been a problem for the past three years for two reasons. One because of the amount of traffic, and two because there are no street lights at night...after 5:30 you could no longer see the runners. My only complaint is that WTC is clearly aware of the dangers and has done nothing to fix the issue. Additionally, every other volunteer and official we saw throughout the day that we asked to help us or find help for us refused to even relieve us for an hour or so. Even the WTC employees who were paid to be there!!! Really? To me that shows the true colors of the company. Did it leave me with bad feelings about the race itself, no. Is it the reason I didn't register, no. It just left me with a feeling of being under-impressed (if that's a word).
- And the bullet you have all been waiting for....why drive 16 hours to volunteer and NOT sign up for a race that sells out in 17 minutes??? This was a really hard decision for me (and Matt). There was alot of thought that went into it and alot of things that are going on in our lives right now that played a huge role. It came down to making a decision for the right reasons...and I think that this ended up being the best decision for us (like I said, ask me next November and I'm sure I'll be kicking myself, but right now it suits me). There were four major factors that went into this decision and in no particular order of importance they are:
- I applied to be a member of Team Rev3 and made the final cut down to the last 45 people. This I found out just before we left for Florida. If I make the team (fingers crossed) it will mean committing to at least three Rev3 events which will require time off of work to travel and money to travel. It also means the possibility of having to buy a new tri-bike which will also have to play into our tri-budget for the year. When it comes down to it, I wanted to make sure that if I made the team I would be able to live up to the commitments. I really like the morals and values of Revolution3 and I want to support them as much as one person is capable of.
- I received a work email while in Florida regarding issues with our contract and that we need to prepare for a shut down on Nov 30th. Thankfully this is being resolved, but next November is the official end to our contract with NASA. This I was aware of, but forgot to consider in my decision to do IMFL until I got that email. Next November will be extremely busy with contract closeout tasks and the possibility that I will need to find a new job. So traveling and racing at this time is probably not in my best interest. If anyone knows of a company hiring a research engineer specializing in advanced seals and lunar soils let me know ;)
- This race is very late in the season for us and we are usually burnt out come November. I know how I am and I get very excited about doing alot of races when the weather finally turns good. That coupled with the possibility of three-plus 70.3 distance races and other races that I have on my agenda leave a strong possibility that I will be burnt out come time for IMFL. It would really suck to have invested that much time and money into a race and not want to do it or to feel like I have to do it because I signed up for it and it cost so much money. I want it to be an enjoyable experience and get out of it all that it has to offer. If IMFL were the only race I was focused on doing this season then it would have been a different story, but there are alot of other races I have on my radar. I wish registration wasn't so far in advance and that it didn't sell out so quickly!
- And finally, I wasn't impressed with WTC or with the race location. That's not to say I wasn't not impressed and that I don't want to do a WTC 140.6 event in the future...I definitely want to have this experience at some point in my life. Certainly there is an experience with WTC that you just can't get anywhere else and certainly there is something about racing along the coastline and sandy white beaches that speaks for itself. I guess I just expected it to be so much more. The weather wasn't great. It was windy and cold for the race...I had on four layers as a spectator. I really can't imagine what it was like going from the swim to the bike....I think I would have been a Popsicle. This is not what I expected out of Florida and I know it could have been a fluke thing, but for $625 I'd rather race somewhere I don't have to guess on what the temps are going to be like...or somewhere I just expect it to be cold and windy.
And finally, I will say that volunteering is much harder and takes much more energy than racing! At the end of the day I was D-U-N done. So thank you to all those who give their time to volunteer at triathlons and road races! You are greatly appreciated!
And now for the rest of the trip in pictures. Enjoy and thanks for reading!
|Beautiful PCB Sunset!|
|Walking off the court in defeat.|
|Frankie and Sophie's first time at the beach!|
|IMFL transition bags.|
|Mandy and the Transformer at Mellow Mushroom!|
|A sea of athletes waiting for the sweet sound of the gun!|
|Matt's friend, Ian, who qualified for Kona! Congrats, Ian!|
|Napping after a hard day of playing ;)|
|Snorkeling on our last day!|