Originally, today’s plan was to wrap up our Kona coverage. But as we sit here marveling at Ryf and Lange, we can’t help but think about Panama City Beach and all the city and its residents have been through after hurricane Michael. And while every article we have written for the past 5 years has been written by AeroGeeks at large, today, my name is Mike. I am the chief editor of AeroGeeks, and these words are all mine.
One of my first memories of childhood family vacations was staying at a hotel in Panama City Beach, watching two huge manta rays swim by just off the beach. And then, quite a few decades later, I decided it was time to earn my MDot. And after months of debating where I should experience my first Ironman, Panama City Beach was the one and only answer. I can never thank enough the people of PCB who cheered me on during my lows, and helped me celebrate the highs. From the awesome volunteer at bike special needs who sat there patiently as I dug through my bag for that specific gel flavor, to the amazing fans on the run course who kept me up-to-date on my Gator scores while cheering me on as darkness fell. And to the waitress who served me breakfast post-race morning as I silently consumed all the foods I could imagine – she smiled and kept the food coming. I have a very special place in my heart for Panama City Beach.
So as I watched Hurricane Michael hit, just a year after Hurricane Irma tore through South Florida, my heart grew heavy. There are no words that come to mind as I watch the footage below. Where transition stood for me (and will one day soon stand again for another group of soon-to-be Ironman athletes), now there is nothing but destruction. I couldn’t help tear up as I watched this. For the people of Panama City Beach, and the people set to race there in just a few weeks, myself and the team at AeroGeeks.com stand with you.
To the people of Panama City: as a resident of South Florida, I know how hard it is to come back from something like this. But I know you will. Your city is full of amazing people that will never let a bad storm get you down. I personally have friends there who were impacted by this event, and I know they will come back – stronger than ever.
And to those who are supposed to race IMFL in just a few weeks: I know last night you saw a letter from Ironman that will likely just create more anxiety. Don’t forget how much you have accomplished in the months training for this event. I know the ups and downs of IM training. I have sat with a pit in my stomach imagining what it would be like to think your training, your months of pain, sacrifice, and tears will be unrewarded. You may be sitting glued to your email Tuesday for the follow up letter from Ironman. But dont. Start working on your plan B. There are plenty of races around the country (and the world) coming up. Go celebrate your hard work with another Ironman, a 70.3, a marathon, or any other event that can serve as the culmination of all of your hard work. I know an Ironman was what you set your sights on. But the race was always the reward – the training was the hard work.
And to the rest of us, please take a moment to give back. The IRONMAN Foundation is collecting donations at http://ironmanfoundation.org/relief/ for those in need.
Or, simply buy a Hurricane Relief T-shirt. All proceeds support the IRONMAN Foundation’s Humanitarian Relief Efforts. You can check them out at https://shop.spreadshirt.com/IRONMANFoundation/mens+hurricane+michael+relief+relief+effort+t-shirt-A110543598.
And lastly, think about volunteering. You can sign up at https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/ironman-for-relief and provide hands-on rebuilding assistance during race week at 2018 IRONMAN Florida, 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 Puerto Rico, 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Rosa, or sign up to be notified of new service projects as announced.
Every Ironman has a story. Mine is tattooed on my calf and was written on the streets of Panama City Beach and it’s surrounding communities. I hope, after reading this, each of you takes a moment to give back. Share the love the people of Panama City Beach have spent the past 2 decades sharing with you and your fellow athletes. For those who have already given their time or money, I thank you – as do the people of Panama City Beach. And to those who call Panama City Beach home, as well as those who will race there one day again, I wish you all the luck and give you all the love in the world.
Chief Editor of AeroGeeks.com