Panama City Beach, FL---In it's 33 year history, the Gulf Coast Triathlon has become a part of the fabric of the Beach's sports calendar. Since 1982, triathletes have competed against the challenges facing them in the Gulf and on Bay County's roads in the 70.3 mile trek.
The swim portion of the half-Ironman was canceled in 2014 due to rough conditions in the water, the first time ever in the event's history. 2015's race went off without any real issues; competitors mentioned some slightly choppy waves and increased heat as the temperature rose throughout the day, none of which truly hindered their performances.
Athletes hit the white sand beaches bright and early at the Edgewater beach and Golf Resort, the new host of the event which moved from the Boardwalk Beach Resort. The first wave dove into the Gulf at 6:15 AM for a 1.2 mile swim that lead to a 56 mile bike path up Route 79 through the rural parts of Bay County.
Arriving back to Edgewater, racers traded in their two wheels for a pair of running shoes, pushing their bodies through a 13.1 half marathon on Front Beach Road and Thomas Drive.
First to finish the course was male winner Tony White from Nashville, TN, clocking in with a time of 4:08:33.
"I love racing in Florida, especially early season," said White. "Typically, I'll try to find a race, whether it's racing in Tampa, Clearwater, Panama City. So I love coming down to Florida to start the year off. It's nice and laid back. The course is nice and flat. (There's a) little bit of wind, and then the run is just hot. You just suffer past it so you just had to kind of put your head down and go."
The first female finisher and winner on the women's side was Lori Williamson from Birmingham, AL. She crossed after besting the course in 4:41:19.
For the 11th time in 12 years, the top local finisher was Panama City Beach's David Shearon.
"I love Gulf Coast Triathlon," said Shearon, taking part in his 15th GCT. "It supports all these charities. Everybody that's in this area, southeast, we need to support this race. (Race director) Shelley Bramblett does her best to organize this race. It's a great course."
Shearon placed ninth in the men's event, finishing his day after 4:29:02.
Full female race results can be found here: http://sommersports.com/results/GULF15-HALF-Female.htm
Full male race results can be found here: http://sommersports.com/RESULTS/GULF15-HALF-Male.htm