Ironman 101: Panama City Beach Race Day

We’ve moved from Cincinnati, and visited Pittsburgh, New York City, upstate New York, Washington, DC, and Florida. Now we’re getting settled in Texas and it’s time to catch up.
First, the Ironman race recap:

Ironman swim start

Waiting at the start. About 3,000 people crossed this line in just over 15 minutes. When Spencer first considered doing a triathlon of this distance, most of the people that we talked to recommended doing a brand name Ironman because the race support staff/volunteers are so prepared and efficient. This was so true. Throughout the day, the race was incredibly organized. It was easier to send Spencer off know that there were plenty of aid stations/boats/medical personnel if needed.

Ironman Florida swim start

And they’re off! The waves were a little more choppy than expected. A few people struggled to make it over the surf. One lady in particular tried to start swimming several times, only to be thrown back on shore by the surf. Also, about two hours before the start time, it was announced that the water was too warm for wet suits. Besides helping to retain warmth, a wet suit is slightly buoyant – helping you to maintain good form and swim faster, so the announcement was quite the mental hurdle. Several people opted to still wear a wet suit and disqualify themselves from being listed as “official” Ironman finishers.

Ironman Panama City Swim

About half way through the swim. This was one of the few times in the day when I worried. Spencer’s tracker didn’t register him as having crossed the half-way point until about 45 minutes after I was expecting. We later found out that the live feed was just slow in updating, but watching the sea of arms and legs those 45 minutes was a little nerve wracking. Turns out that besides getting stung in the face by a jellyfish, kicked by other people, and having a slower time than he would have liked, Spencer was fine.

photo cred: finisherpix

photo cred: finisherpix

ironman panama city bike

Onto the bike!

ironman panama city

About 40 miles into the bike. From my perspective, he was coming in much faster than he had trained for, and I was a little worried that he would burn out later. From his perspective, he was feeling great and was going to keep going at this speed until he stopped feeling good. Apparently that never happened, so he kept going the entire 5 hrs 25 min and finished about 35 minutes faster than planned.

unicity ironman

A last minute decision to use disposable bottles (and grab new ones from volunteers throughout the race) was one of the best choices of the day. Another major player during the bike portion of the race was the fact that the Ironman does not allow drafting on the bike. (If you enter the space 5 bike lengths behind another racer, you must close the remaining distance and pass within 20 seconds or face a drafting penalty) Spencer used the 20 seconds to push himself and slingshot past in preparation of pursuing the next rider. And he passed 900+ people on the bike portion of the race.

spencer reynolds ironman

The start of the marathon. When he first got off the bike, Spencer stumbled a step or two and wasn’t sure he was going to be able to finish the marathon. This led to a slower transition (10 min), but by the time he went through this shoot he was feeling good and looking strong again.

ironman run Florida

Just before the halfway point. I love this picture because look who else made it into the shot. Spencer’s parents! They were such great sports to leave the house with us a 3:30 am that morning so that we could sleep in the back seat of the car and then spend the full day cheering with me. Spencer’s dad would go a little ahead of us on the race course, and then call us so that we knew when Spencer would be coming and I could get the camera ready.

unicity ironman

I had watched Spencer train all summer, so once he finished the swim I was fairly certain that he was going to complete the race. It was just a question of how fast he could do it. That said, from this point on a lot of the participants were visibly in pain. When the Ironman website showed that Spencer had crossed the final tracker and was headed towards us and the finish line, Spencer’s mom turned and told the stranger next to her “My son’s going to make it. He’s coming home!”.

ironman run

This picture of Spencer and his new friend, Fred, was taken earlier in the race where they ran together for a few miles until Spencer eventually pulled ahead. Fast forward to mile 17. Spencer got a little injured earlier in the summer, so before race day the farthest he’d run at one time was 15 miles. At mile 17 he was in the unknown part of the race and his right hamstring started cramping to the point where he had to stop and hobble along. Fred caught up to Spencer, gave him some salt pills and encouragement, and was able to get him running again. (photocred: finisherpix)

Ironman finish unicity

Wait, is that Spencer?

ironman finisher

You are an Ironman


Ironman Florida 2015 with a final time of 12 hrs 11 mins 44 secs. I finished 11th in my age group, 487th of all men, and 570th overall out of nearly 3000 competitors.

Ironman Florida 2015 with a final time of 12 hrs 11 mins 44 secs. 11th in his age group, 486th of all men, and 569th overall out of nearly 3000 competitors. (photo cred: finisherpix)


Ironman metal

Home. Exhausted and thrilled. Special thank you to everyone who followed along during the day and to Unicity for empowering people to achieve their individual dreams!

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  • Olivia Swenson

    Ah, even after talking with you guys when you visited, it was so fun reading this!!! I loved all the insider details that I wouldn’t normally think about for an Ironman (not that I ever think about Ironmans, haha). So so amazing!! And super excited for your adventures in Austin 🙂

  • Emily

    This post just leaves me even more impressed! You guys are a good team! Thank you for sharing!!