Update: This post is current as of 10/31/17.

We have been to Ironman Florida on several occasions. Panama City Beach has great white sand beaches, which you’ll get to take full advantage of during the swim segment and sun & warmth for all of you already in the cold. If you are staying by the Boardwalk Beach Resort, which is the host hotel and where the start and finish line are, you have the luxury to come and go as you please. We have to tell you it makes a huge difference as the bike course is one loop, so you have a lot of down time before you see your athlete again for the run.

how to spectate ironman florida

Gentle reminders:

  • It can be a bit chilly in the early morning, so best to be prepared with long sleeves and assuming your triathlete is not in the pro category, time-wise, chances are the sun will be setting by the time they finish, so you may need those sleeves later, too.
  • Watch where you park if you have to drive to the race site. We’ve seen people getting their cars towed, so be aware of No Parking signs. It’s always a good idea to check this out ahead of time and have your location decided upon or see where shuttles are available and park accordingly. There should be parking available at the WalMart on Front Beach Rd. They start shuttles to the race site area at 4:15 am and run every 1/2 hr. during the day.
  • Since T1 & T2 are together, make sure you know where your triathlete’s number is so you know directly where to run to after the swim and bike.
  • United Health Care IRONKIDS Florida 1 mile Fun Run will take place on Friday at 3:30 pm. You can register online or during Expo hours and the $15 entry fee goes to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Here are the TriWivesClub spectating tips to help make your day supporting your triathlete fun and easy:

If you are staying close by, you have the option of going down with your athlete for body marking or catching a few more zzz’s before you have to go down for the swim start. Chances are they will also come back to the room after they are marked anyway.

spectating tips for ironman florida

Swim Start – As you can see from the picture, the swim takes place right on the beach outside the Boardwalk Beach Resort. It’s a two-loop course, so you have the opportunity to see your triathlete come out and run back in – spotting them is just pure luck in my book. The Resort does have a little deli that you can get snacks, coffee, breakfast, etc.

Swim to Bike – Once you see your triathlete come out of the water from the second loop, you can run up to T1, which is in front of the resort. Once they are on the bike, they hang a left out of T1 and are gone for the rest of the bike segment.

Bike Course – Now is when you have a lot of time on your hands. As we said, this is a one-loop bike course and it is not recommended that you get in your car and try to catch them on the course. While it tends to be on the fast side, we’re still talking at least 4 plus hours.

spectating tips are here for ironman florida

Photo credit Ironman XC.

Plus, the town also has a lot of traffic regulations that you have to be aware of, even for pedestrians. You’ll need to have a general idea of your athlete’s bike time so you know when to be back by T2. Perhaps take a swim, lie on the beach, walk around the Expo, or grab something to eat. If you did take a shuttle, decide if you have time to go back to the car and make it back to see your athlete off the bike – if that’s important.

Bike to Run – Once your athlete completes the bike course, you can catch them at T2 – again in front of the resort. Once they ditch the bike and put on those running shoes, they hang a right out of T2 for the two-loop course. In order to see them at the turnaround, which is right by T2, you either need to have a good guestimate of their split time or just hang out until you see them.

Run Course –¬†The run course is two-loops, so you will have several opportunities to see your triathlete. The turnaround is close to the finish chute, so you can see them here around mile 13. Having them see you at this point provides great inspiration.

ironman florida spectating tips

Photo credit Ironman XC.

While the end of the race is getting near, they can really be exhausted at this point and just need a few words of encouragement from you. After you see them make the turn around for the second loop, you can then decide where you want to be located for the finish and head there in plenty of time.

Finish Line

ironman florida finish line

After the second loop, they round the last corner for the final 1/4 mile to the finish. Once you cheer your athlete across the finish line and have gotten the appropriate pictures, hugs, and congrats done, we recommend if you and your triathlete feel up to it, to go back to the finish line after you grab something to eat and they get cleaned up. The energy is always so high and these are the racers who we just love to root for.

Mike Reilly and spectators cheering on the late finishers…..

You can track your athlete on the Ironman website or on their app, which is really, really good and get the live feed during the day.

Nothing to do with the race, but don’t forget to see one of the sunsets – they are simply gorgeous.

ironman florida sunsets

Here’s a link to the IMFL Spectating Guide to help you out – anything to make your spectating life easier. Enjoy the race!!!!