Member Spotlight: Marne McLyman Finishes the Florida Ironman in Panama City

It’s time to shine our latest member spotlight on Marne McLyman and her experience at the Florida Iroman race in Panama City, FL.  When Marne isn’t busy working in the music industry here in Nashville, she is training for triathlons! This is Marne’s Florida Ironman story in her own words:

Nashville showed up in full-force and took over the “Redneck Riviera” at Ironman Florida this year! 

Race day in Panama City Beach was November 3rd and would be my 3rd Ironman after doing Lake Placid in ’08 and Louisville in ’09.  My decision a year earlier to sign up for Florida was mostly based on the time of year (cool temperatures!), logistics (drive to PCB!), and the cost (off season in PCB!). The one thing I knew I was gambling with was the ocean. I had a 50/50 shot of starting my day off really great or really seasick. 

Race week started as they usually do with packing, organizing, packing, and organizing some more.  This is kind of my most favorite part of racing.  When you do an Ironman they hand you bags upon bags at athlete check in and that whole process can be overwhelming.  To make it easy, I pack all of my gear in two-gallon labeled zip lock bags before I leave town.  When I get my bags from check-in I just have to match them up and dump everything inside. Yay for a Type-A personality!

I headed down to PCB on Wednesday with my trusty training buddies caravanning along with me and our cars filled to the brim with anything and everything we could possibly need for the race.  The two days leading up to Saturday were filled with getting checked in for the race, shopping at the Ironman store, and a couple practice swim, bike, run sessions to make sure our gear and our legs were all tuned up and ready to go.   I sent a few prayers up for calm ocean waters as well.  On Thursday night we celebrated a year’s worth of training at the Athlete Dinner.  The best part of Ironman training is the people that you do it with.  I can honestly say I have the best training group and couldn’t do any of this crazy stuff without them.

On Friday, after another practice swim and prayer to Mother Nature, I checked in my bike and bags then headed to the hotel to put my feet up and wait for my parents to arrive.  At this point there’s really nothing else you can do but trust in your training, relax, and have fun. 

Saturday morning…race day!  I woke up excited and ready to get the day started.  I headed over to Transition with my Special Needs bags in tow and bike nutrition ready to load up on my bike. With all the prerace “to do” stuff out of the way there was only one thing left…head to the ocean. 

The waves didn’t really look so bad when I was walking down to the beach. I am a strong swimmer so I was confident in the ability to make it through the swim…it’s just this stupid motion sick thing I have that screws me up.  When the cannon went off all 2,800 of us charged into the ocean.  The waves were breaking about shoulder high and it was chaos.  The waves were throwing people on top of you and overall it just seemed a lot crazier than Lake Placid and Louisville.  I don’t think I really even did a legitimate stroke until I got around the second turn buoy and was heading back to the beach for my second lap.  That’s the “fun” thing about Florida.  You get to crawl out, run along the beach, and do it again.  On my second loop it was less crowded but for me that was worse.  I could really tell how big the swells were out past the breakers.  They were those big, long, slow swells where you were essentially swimming downhill and making me progressively more seasick. As soon as the tips of my toes could feel sand I got myself on solid ground and out of that washing machine.  Needless to say I was glad that was over.  My parents saw a few people at the start go out to about their knees, turn around, and not even do the race.  A few others swam to the first bouy, turned around, and headed back to the beach. 

A quick transition and I was off on the bike course.  Here’s another fun fact about swimming in the ocean…it can make you sleepy.  The motion of the ocean made me sleepy and I mean “slap-my-own-face-because-I’m-operating-a-bicycle-at-high-speeds” kind of sleepy.  I’ve never had that happen but I really didn’t “wakeup” until Special Needs at mile 56.  There’s not much to say about the bike course because it is pretty flat and pretty boring.  It’s one loop, there’s nothing to look at, and the only “hill” is the bridge you go over twice.  I prefer a bike course with more variety and at least a little civilization to look at.  Oh well…overall it was a good ride.

The run at Ironman Florida is flat, fast, and is by far the best part of the race.  It is through residential areas and the community really gets around the race. People set up in their front lawns to cheer us on and the volunteers manning the water stops are awesome.  After a quick hello to my parents I set off on my first 13.1 mile loop.  I felt great and was happy to be running.  A little GI distress hit from about miles 7 – 13 but thank goodness for Coke and chicken broth.  That combo was like rocket fuel.  I ticked off the miles on my second loop and had some off and on moments of feeling good and bad.  My goal for this race was to go under 13 hours.  With about 3 miles to go I heard someone say that it was 7:25pm, which meant I had 35 minutes to go 3 miles. Normally that would be no problem but in an Ironman that’s a different story.  I gave myself a little kick in the butt and found the energy to push those last 3 miles.  I crossed the line in 12 hours and 55 minutes and reached my goal of sub-13 hours.

After the race I saw my training buddies who all had great races.  My parents were there with big hugs and congratulations.  Doing an Ironman is a huge accomplishment but to share it with your family and friends is even better.  It’s amazing how a familiar face out there during the day can give you an extra little boost.  I’m not doing an Ironman next year but will have the more important job of joining my Mom as the support team/Sherpa/cheerleader for my Dad who will be doing the 2013 Ironman Florida.  This will be his first Ironman and I can’t wait for him to experience that feeling of getting his name called.   Maybe after his first we’ll find one to do together…but not with an ocean swim.


Marne McLyman

Athlete #560 – Ironman Florida




Photos Courtesy of Marne McLyman