Monday, January 12, 2015

Road Trippin' - The Biggest Loser RunWalk Panama City Beach 2014

People no longer ask us if we have any vacation planned. Neither do they ask us what we plan to do when we get there. In 2014, we had 22 weekends on the road, all but 2 were for races.  So when Ron's parents decided they wanted to bring the family out to Orlando, Florida to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, it was one time where we didn't have a race planned. Then the vacation pushed back a week and lined up with The Biggest Loser RunWalk in Panama CIty Beach. Even though it was a 380 mile drive from the Disney World area, it immediately got on our race calendar. So much for a race-free vacation.

About the only thing we had to do was get back in time for the anniversary dinner at 6PM at Forte back near Orlando.  We'd be cutting in close. By 7 AM Saturday, we were on the road for the 6-ish hour drive. Without traffic, we'd be in time to stop for a driver change and catch the 2 - 4 PM presentations by Danni Allen and Dan and Jackie Evans. We also were going to meet our friend Tawni who was flying down just for the weekend to earn Diamond status on Delta.

One thing we totally spaced on was the fact that Panama City Beach is actually in Central time, not Eastern.  While that helped us get to the Expo and presentations with plenty of time to spare, it did pose a problem on the return trip with losing an hour. We'd have to race at 7 AM, try to walk the half in 2:40 or less, head back to the hotel, shower, change and get back on the road by 11 AM. Then we had to hope we don't hit traffic.

We checked in to find Callie and Christina at the Solutions desk. You may remember Callie from TBL Casper earlier in 2014. We're trying to get her to join us in a race walk clinic some time in the next year. We also found out Christina is engaged!

We missed Gina McDonald's presentation at noon. Gina was the (Season 14 At Home Winner). We did get a photo op with her though. The TBL contestants are generally down to earth and grateful for the opportunities they've been given so they take as much time as their fans want. 

Danni and Gina from Season 14

We wandered the expo until 1:30, catching up with our friends Amy and Dave at Gypsy Runner, then got seats for Danni's presentation.  She's a dynamic speaker and like a lot of former TBL contestants has found a career as a personal trainer. She discovered how much she loved running when she was on the show and work toward a sub-4 marathon. Her first one was close (Chicago in 2013, just under 4:10). She's just getting started.

Dan and Jackie closed out the presentations. Jackie struck a chord with a lot of moms in the audience saying she went on the show because she felt like she had failed her son, Dan. She gave some interesting advice though. "One of the most selfless things you can do is take care of yourself." If you don't make yourself a priority, you won't be able to give your best. And that rolls down to all the things you want to do and the people you want to help.

Dan and Jackie with the "Before" picture in the background.
On the way out, we met a young lady who was doing her first half marathon. I thought I heard her name as Marquita Miller, but I can't seem to find her pictures. She was in People Magazine in the last year for having lost over 300 pounds! She was one of the most amazing stories among dozens of inspiring stories in the audience. We heard a lot of 30, 50, 100, 150 pound weight loss stories.  If anyone wanted to kick off New Years resolutions right, this was certainly the place to find the motivation!

Tawni joined us for a quick dinner at Montego Bay Seafood House. One of the disadvantages of being in Panama City Beach in December that Yelp won't tell you is that some restaurants close for the season. Montego was undergoing some remodeling, but the food was good.  Dan invited us to the staff pre-race party later that night. Seeing he race crew the night before really gave us an appreciation of what they're putting into this. They have dozens of races all over the country and this is their passion.

We arrived at Pier Park about 45 minutes before the 7 AM start. The new start location was ideal since it was right across from the mall and parking was plentiful. We had lots of room to stretch out on the park lawn and get in some warm ups in front of the stage. Dan and Jackie were joined by other former contestants to send us off.

Someone in the first corral dropped her iPod. The entire stage called it out and returned it to a grateful runner.  
It was quite a bit warmer that we saw in the forecast. After shivering through IRONMAN Florida, we had to adjust to a mid-60s starting temp with what felt like fall Florida humidity. Susan and I started in the front of the second corral with the faster walkers. It should be noted that TBL doesn't enforce form in the Walk division. It's kind of understood that walkers walk most of the time like Fresno. There is not separate bib or course, so we're on an honor system.

About a mile out we caught up to Marko and Larry. They actually WERE walking B-rules (no loss of contact). They were also relatively local so they had the advantage of timezone and humidity acclamation.  Pile on the fact that we hadn't worked out seriously since San Antonio and we were in for a bit of a race.  Marko, Larry and Susan made the turn at mile 6.5 within 10 feet of each other and I was about 20 seconds back.

Right about then both of us felt like we hit a wall. Susan reminded me we had a slight tailwind on the way out and with her allergies acting up, the headwind on the way back was a bit of a challenge.  I tried to close the gap on Marko and Larry and got to within 7 seconds, but my heart rate was in the mid to high 170's by then. I knew I had to dial it down a bit or I'd be likely to have a very unpleasant 6 hour drive home. Marko and Larry pulled away, but turned to check on us on the last left turn before the finish. Marko and Larry crossed the finish line 1st and 2nd overall in the Walk division.

Susan finished about 7 minutes later, high-fiving Gina and Danni at the finish line. Susan was the first woman I saw to walk across the finish line, so as far as pure walkers, I'm pretty sure she was the fastest on the course. We caught up with Tawni who had a solid sub-2:30 to finish out her race year. We even got a surprise Repeat Medal for having done Casper earlier in the year!

We said a quick goodbye to Tawni, Dan and Jackie, got back to the hotel and on the road by exactly 11 AM. We got caught in a few back ups on I-95, but made it to dinner in time to finish off appetizers and order our main course. Dessert, of course, was required.

It's great when you get to spend time with family. Getting to see more than one family in the week? 

That's priceless.


The Biggest Loser RunWalk Panama City Beach 2014 was the third year of the event. There were 412 finishers in the Half Marathon (312 RunWalk, 100 Walk) and 542 finishers in the 5K (349 RunWalk, 193 Walk). The participants ranged in age from 7 to 78.

The course was out and back along Front Beach Road with only 120 feet of total elevation gain/loss for the half. The course was a little long (13.5 miles by GPS), but I look at it as bonus steps.

Ron finished in 2:39:36. That was good enough for 3rd overall and 3rd in age group for walk. Overall (run and walk) it 149th of 412 (14/20 AG overall). 56.47% age grade. I'm going to need another few weeks to give my stress reaction in my foot to get better.  Susan was disappointed with her finish time of 2:46:07, but it placed her at 7th overall in walk, 3rd in age group. It was also 174th of 412 overall (21/57 AG overall). Her 59.58% age grade placed her 2nd overall in the walk division. I didn't check the other age groups, but she may have been 2nd overall on AG%. Disappointment, it seems, requires perspective.

Looking back on 2014: we finished with a total of 62 races between us (1 Ultra, 4 full marathons, 47 half marathons, 6 10K's, 1 3.35 mile, and 4 5Ks). We crossed over the combined 150 half marathon mark in December and have 183 events at the Half/Full/Ultra distances. 112 of those are Rock 'n' Roll races.

January of 2015 marks 10 years since we started our first marathon training season. Back then, we thought it would be a one and done. That's when we got hooked. And started Marathoning for Life.

Here's to an awesome 2015!

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