When Hurricane Michael ripped through Panama City Beach in October, the athletes that were signed up for Ironman Florida, set to be held in PCB on November 3rd, were uncertain if they would still be able to race. Yet Ironman acted fast. They moved the event to Nov. 4th and 6 hours east to Haines City, Florida, the site for a 70.3 race held earlier in the year. Athletes adjusted their travel plans just as quickly, booking new lodging, flights, and transportation. The event went smoothly. By Sunday at midnight, Paragon Training had welcomed 3 new Ironman finishers to the fold!
Race morning dawned cloudy and humid as the athletes utilized a rolling start to enter the water between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. The two-loop swim course with a timing mat in the middle allowed spectators to get 4 different swim splits from their favorite athlete and track their progress throughout. Team Paragon racers reported a very congested swim because of the loops and turns on the course, but many still had their fastest Ironman swims ever.
Alli Koch emerged from the water first for Team Paragon with a trio of Nix brothers hot on her heels. A steady stream of athletes rushed through transition and onto the two-loop bike course where they would encounter light winds and rolling hills. The bike course was undulating but still allowed the cyclists to spend most of their time in aero. Spectators could take a short cut to the 2 mile and 56 mile point of the bike so that they could cheer for the cyclists as they started lap 2.
Justin Nix was first from the Paragon crew to finish his 112 mile ride. He had caught Koch at mile 70 of the bike. The humidity hadn't let up a bit from the morning. Proper nutrition and fueling was proving to be crucial on the muggy day, and those who paced and fueled well on the bike would have the best finish. The triathletes did a 3.5 mile out-and-back section of the run course before they started their first of 3 loops on the run. The 3-loop feature made it extremely spectator friendly and also allowed teammates to see each other and motivate one another, even if they were on a different lap.
Nix ran consistently throughout the marathon but Koch caught up to him before the halfway mark on her way to placing 2nd in her age group. Coming from over 30 minutes down off the bike, Valerie Lozano was running her way through the field, chasing that elusive Kona spot awarded to first in her age group. Ildar Mannapov and Nix teamed up for 13 miles of the run course as Mannapov, running a lap down, was able to push and motivate Nix to hold the pace. A cold front blew through around 5:00 PM that dropped the temperature and gave the athletes some relief from the humidity. Lozano caught Nix and Mannapov with 3 miles to go and sprinted to 2nd place in her age group, while Mannapov started his 3rd lap of the run and Nix came in just 2 minutes behind Lozano. Koch held consistent throughout the 26.2 mile run and ended up as the fastest finisher for Team Paragon.
All athletes showed tremendous dedication and perseverance to finish the event as the saying goes- "it never gets any easier, you just go faster." The cold front was followed by a driving rain storm for the last 3 hours of the race as Vaquedano and Holler came through to each finish their first Ironman. Jennifer Upton provided the final drama for the evening as she mistakenly turned her timing chip in to a volunteer at mile 18, before running back to the volunteer, taking her chip back, and running the last lap in the pitch dark to sneak under the 17 hour cut-off with less than 5 minutes to spare. A big thank you to Diana Toledo for finding and giving her some motivation the last mile!
A large support crew team also made the trip to cheer on the athletes and encourage them to the finish line. Other highlights from the weekend were Michael Nix, Jose Vaquedano, and Beth Holler finishing their first Ironman, Ildar Mannapov finishing his 3rd Ironman of the year bringing his total up to 4, multiple "PR" Ironman time finishes, and Team Paragon winning the Division V Tri Club competition!
Tour De Gruene Time Trial
The Tour De Gruene Time Trial is a Texas hill country cycling classic that should definitely be on your bucket list if you haven't raced it before. New team member, Fernando Sanchez, wasted no time in donning a borrowed Paragon kit and racing his way to 3rd place in his category! Word on the street is that there were plenty of hills and some extra wind for bonus. Texas sure knows how to make an athlete suffer.
Wurst 5 Mile Run
We welcomed Robin Golden back into competitive running with a killer performance at the Wurst 5 mile run on Saturday. Robin had been training for this event since the summer. She followed a gradual build-up to reduce the risk of injury and give her the best chance for success. She was planning on running 9:00-9:30 pace for the event but ended up knocking it out of the park with an 8:47 per mile average and 6th in her age group!
Saturday, November 3: Wurst 5 Miler
Robin Golden: 6th Age Group, 43:53
Saturday, November 3: Tour De Gruene Time Trial
Fernando Sanchez: 3rd in Division, 1:07
Sunday, November 4: Ironman Florida
Alli Koch: 2nd in Age Group, 11:13:53 Valerie Lozano: 2nd in Age Group, 11:25:23
Justin Nix: 18th in Age Group, 11:27:19
William Nix: 6th in Age Group, 12:07:16
*Michael Nix: 8th in Age Group, 12:40:48
Ildar Mannapov: 32nd in Age Group, 12:48:08
*Jose Vaquedano: 75th in Age Group, 13:02:51
*Beth Holler: 26th in Age Group, 16:08:52
Jen Upton: 70th in Age Group, 16:55:13 Justin Mckenzie: DNF due to medical reasons
*Denotes first time Ironman Finisher!
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San Antonio Triathlon Team - San Antonio Triathlon Coach