Definitely NOT the post I wanted to make…Today was not my day. Mother nature won. My first attempt at completing an IRONMAN in Panama City Beach, Florida ended in a DNF (Did Not Finish) from the ocean swim. The first 800m felt really good. I gave it my all, but not too soon after, I just felt like something was off. I was putting in the effort I trained for, but wasn’t going anywhere.

The rip tides and waves were legit. I knew I wasn’t going to make the swim cut-off, I was asked twice by the kayaks if I wanted to call it quits, but refused. I did not give up or quit on my own will. But after coming out of the water, the official took my timer chip despite me wanted to still do the bike and run. It is what is, and was out of my control. As I went to the transition area to collect my bike, I was stunned to see how many were still racked. Apparently 300-400 triathletes also DNF the swim, which was abnormal. I later heard that there was double red flags on the beach, which meant no one should have been in the water to begin with. I really don’t want to make excuses, the swim is my weakness to begin with, and after this it’s well confirmed that I need to focus on the swim. It absolutely sucks, and I’m feeling so many mixed emotions. I cried and hugged many of the other DNF’ed athletes, a lot of them were 10+ veteran Ironman finishers too. Everyone close to me know how much training, time, and effort I put into this over the last 2 years. Even coming back from a broken collar bone. I wanted to be called an “IRONMAN” so badly. Right now, not really feeling clear minded and very doubtful in myself. So, it will take a long while for me to get motivated again. Despite this, I could honestly not ask for a more phenomenal first IRONMAN experience than this entire week. And on the positive side, I can proudly say I swam over 5km in ocean rip tides.

It was a roller coaster of emotions 100%. however I got to meet all of my heroes, even made into a Lionel Sanders YouTube video and got a high-five from hi at the finish line, and made the best people ever. At the end of the day this is all about the community. And it’s a beautiful one. I will finish what I started. I will become an IRONMAN one day. But for now, time to reflect, settle the feelings, and rebuild. Thank you all for all the kind messages and love today. It means the world to me.

On my last day in beautiful Panama City Beach, I ran to where the IRONMAN Florida Finish Line at Pier Park was. I don’t have a medal to show for it. But I’ll always have the good memories. Thank you to all the volunteers, spectators, and race organizers for making this an ironic classic event. In such a short time, I met new friends, Amanda, Chelsea, Marissa, Jenny, Logan, Chris, & many more, who turn out to be some of the most kind and best people on Earth. After about two years of training for IMFL non-stop, I’m officially in off-season! A few weeks of very unstructured exercise for fun and a ton of time to reflect, and recalibrate. Despite not having the race and result I wanted, and leaving empty handed, I got and learned so much more. This will be a week I cherish forever and never forget. I’ll be back Florida, one day, I promise. Peace.

Mark Allen’s thoughts on IMFL 2021: