On October 10th we all watched as Hurricane Micheal hit the Gulf Coast, only 3 hours away from home. The aftermath of the storm damage to Panama City was heartbreaking. I knew that there was no way a race was going to happen so I made alternate plans and set my goal for Ironman 2019.
I drove down on Thursday and immediately was blown away when I arrive in Haines City. This small town was so welcoming and Ironman had done a phenomenal job pulling off the impossible, changing locations, race course, and conditions within a few weeks of a full Ironman. It was very impressive how well everything was set up and ready to go for race day. I met my weekend housemates who all had unique Ironman stories of their own. I felt comfort in being in their presence race weekend.
Race morning, I dropped off my gear bags and headed to the Haines City Aquatic center to warm up for my swim, surprisingly barely any racers were there, so no bathroom lines and I had plenty of time and space to put on my wetsuit and get in A few laps. I felt very calm which never happens to me on ANY race morning. I walk down to the swim start, seed myself in the swim corral and the canon goes off here we go! The water felt great and the swim course had lots of turns, it even had a swim timing mat in the middle of the course. The first loop I had to do lots of sighting to figure out the course the second loop it was more familiar and I knew where I was going. I hit my finish time like I expected.
I headed to T1 which was a very long path. I got in and out of the change tent fast and ran to my bike (which was a long path as well). Hopped on and I was gone, started out at the pace I wanted and my legs felt great. I came up on the first aid station, grabbed a bottle and started to feel my bike wobble, uh oh this wasn’t good. I veered towards to the opposite side of the road and crashed in the grass. I got up, asked a volunteer if I was bleeding, and had no pain (thank goodness I didn’t take out another racer). I picked up my bike, adjusted the chain and in my head I heard my teammate Katie scream “Candice close the Gap” and I took off. I never looked back, I had to make up for lost time and that was all I focused on. The 2 loop bike course took you through orange groves, farm land and some hills at the end of the loop.
It was another long trail to T2 and I went through quickly. I started my run feeling good, it was hot, but I kept chugging along. The 3 loop run course took us through a few neighborhoods, a school, and several out and back turns with some hills to make the distance for 26.2.
As I turned to head down the finishers shoot I was running besides a gentleman from Colorado. I said go ahead have your moment first and he said no lady you earned this.... I head down the shoot look up at the timing clock and about lose it, I could not believe my finishing time! Every single emotion I had hit me all at once, it was as just as special hearing “Candice, you are an Ironman” as it was the first time.
Thank you to all of our sponsors that have made 2018 a great year!