Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chapter 4: Carnage

T1: I started by running out of the water and grabbing my Bike bag from the volunteer. This took slightly longer than I expected. Then I found myself in the changing tent-- with a bag-- and no volunteer. For some strange reason, I couldn't get my fingers to open the strings on the bag. I pulled. I grabbed. I started to panic. Then it hit me (no, not the humidity-- that comes later), but the Big Idea-- I could simply rip into the plastic bag and pull my bike gear out! Pull and rip I did and out tumbled my bike shorts, socks, shoes, helmet and, the most important ingredient, Chamois butter. I pulled off my bikini bottom, remembering to put it in a separate plastic bag, and pulled on my bike shorts. I pulled on my shoes, snapped on my helmet, and applied vast quantities of chamois butter to the insides of my shorts.

At that point, I was ready to enter the sea of bikes in transition to find mine. As usual, about 80% of the bikes were in transition. Fortunately, they were racked by number and 446 was right where I'd left her-- ready for a ride. I walked to the mount line-got on my bike and headed out.

I was off. I reached down to start my Garmin--which I probably should have done earlier-- and was met with my first surprise--I'd forgotten to switch it out of run mode after the Falmouth Road Race. Duh-- So, with one hand, I started fiddling with it--trying to get it to 1) go into bike mode and 2) display my pace--i.e. I knew I had to average at least 15 mph, and I wanted Garmin to let me know how I was doing. Well, I did get it into bike mode but I never did get it to display my mph.

As I was fiddling with Garmin, I came across the remains of the first accident of the day. Somehow, someone's bike was lying in the ground in 3 pieces. Not sure how it happened, but the front wheel was in one place, the handlebars were in another and the remainder of the bike was in another. The cops were on the scene and the victim was no longer there so, taking my fingers off my Garmin, I kept rolling. No speed and more importantly, no every 15 minute reminder to take in nutrition.

Rolling. . . now that I mention it-- that is what the hills in Kentucky were supposed to be. Although, after training in San Francisco, I wasn't particularly impressed by the hills, many of my compatriots on the bike course were not agreeing with the description of the hills as "rollers." Maybe it was the heat? Many thought they were mountains.

I probably would have preferred mountains. It has always been hard for me to ride rollers-- I don't really like to go fast on the down slopes so I find myself with some creative shifting in order to make it back up the hill--- if I'd just let myself go faster on the downhill it probably wouldn' t be as much of an issue. . . That being said, I felt pretty good out there on the bike.

I'd set my watch for 1:00-- figuring that it would give me ample warning that I had an hour and 20 minutes to make it to the start of the second loop of the bike course. . . turns out-- I didn't need it. By the time the alarm went off, I was well past the beginning of the second loop of the bike course-- and well on my way to making the final bike cut off time. That being said, compared to many of my fellow competitors, I was standing still. The official statistics show that I was passed by 880 bikers during the time I was out there-- and it felt like more than that. Every time someone would pass me, however, I would think to myself (or say if it was a fellow TNT'r), "Why are you in such a hurry? We only get one day to actually be out here doing this. How lucky are we?" I was soon to find out what the hurry was all about.

That being said, all was not particularly well in Paula-city. I was getting hot. I was having a hard time choking down my "magic" potion of Cytomax and Carbo Pro. Warm, grape, sticky, sweet Carbo Pro and Cytomax is not something I'd wish on my worst enemy (you know who you are). I was waiting for the Special Needs station.

And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. For some reason, I thought that the special needs station was going to be right around the beginning of the second loop of the bike course. NOPE. In fact, it wasn't at the 1/2 way point of the bike. It was more like Mile 70. I finally got myself there (to replace my yucky bottles) and met my Special Needs Volunteer -- Wayne.

Wayne kindly held my bike (and chatted with me) while I switched out my water bottles (more yucky warm grape potion) and electrolytes. He watched me scarf down my Pringles-- high level Iron Man salt delivery system. He watched while I used my baby wipes to wipe the salt off my face and splashed water down the backs of my legs to rinse off the salt-- a little trick I learned after chafing at the triple brick behind my knees. He even managed NOT to tell me I looked like garbage OR that we were all crazy for being out here. Wayne, like many of the Special Needs volunteers were members of a Church that had cancelled Sunday services to come on out and support us aspiring Iron Men. I thanked him kindly, and, not having another reason to procrastinate, it was time to go on my way.

That was when I started noticing things. Like the heat (96 degrees) and the humidity (86%) and the heat index (103+). Not to mention the people sitting on the side of the road. The people lying on the side of the road. The people splayed out on the side of the road with their helmets thrown to the side. The folks who were lying in the hot sun-- to tired to drag their bodies to the nearest shade. The ambulances. Multiple ambulances. The sirens. The guy passing on ON HIS BIKE and, as he fell to the ground, knocking another participant (and his bike) to the ground.

It looked like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Bodies, Bikes, Helmets and other assorted equipment everywhere. No one looked good. No one was smiling anymore. Maybe this was why they had all been hurrying? They wanted to get done before the heat index really climbed up there. Funny thing though, even though I didn't really pass anyone on the bike-- I must have passed a good 200 people sitting on the side of the road.

Those rollers had turned into mountains for some and I passed people walking their bikes up the hill. When I recount this story-- people are shocked. Walking your bike? In an Ironman? I think I was too tired to really think about it. But yes. It was true. I, on the other hand, felt pretty good. I was excited that I was going to finish the bike portion of the race well ahead of the 630 pm cut off time. I was tired; but was still feeling pretty strong. I was even hoping (up until the last 5 miles or so) to break 8 hours-- which would have been a great ride for me given the heat and humidity (my best 100 mile ride was 7 hours 41 minutes in much cooler weather).

I didn't break 8 hours-- I pulled into transition in 8 hours and 4 minutes. Little did I know it, but it was time for the real Iron Man to begin.

Chapter 3A: The swim start

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chapter 3: Row Row Row Your Body

Waking (or not sleeping) bright and early, I headed down to check my bike in transition and get in line at the swim start. I was pretty nervous about getting there, pumping up my bike tires (since I hadn't brought a stand pump) and getting a good place in line-- since I knew that I'd need almost every minute of the day later on.

You see, unlike other triathlons, Ironman Louisville uses a time trial start where each person enters the water individually. That being said, however, the midnight countdown starts at 7:00 am regardless of what time you actually get in the water. SO, if you don't get in until 7:45 (the last athlete in), you still have 2 hours and 2o minutes to swim, but your bike and run cut offs will stay the same. Most importantly, you then only have 16 hours and 15 minutes to finish the entire event.

Thus, I wasn't so much nervous for the start of the race as I was getting a good spot in line so I could finish the race.

I walked down to transition as fast as I could (actually sharing sidewalk space with revelers from the bars the night before) and found someone to loan me their stand pump so I could pump up my tires-- no small feat when you think that we were all jockeying for starting positions in the scrum. (those that hadn't let the air out the day before were greeted by some unpleasant surprises when they found the heat had popped their tires). Four minutes later-- I was off-- half walking, half running to the line.

WOW was that a long line. Fortunately, I found Sandy, who had skipped transition (Maria was pumping her tires) and had been standing in line early. I jumped in with her-pretty happy with our position in the line. We hunkered down to wait for 2 hours.

About 20 minutes later, Coach Simon came by. Apparently, some of the LA team's spouses had come down to the line directly after the bars closed the night before. They had been in the line since about 230 am and and secured a spot about 30 people behind the pros (who, coincidentally, don't have to wait in line). Now we were cooking with gas. The 2 hours seemed to fly by and before I knew it we were standing down on the boat dock. Suddenly, like lemmings, we were following each other off the boat docks in 2 lines.

I hesitated briefly (you can actually see me if you look really closely at the end of the video-- I'm in a green top and a black and white striped bikini bottom -- the video wouldn't load, so I've added it as Chapter 3A) and then was in the water. The warmth again surprised me and I loved it. I started swimming out and around the island. I wasn't really getting jostled or kicked-- just enjoying my swim. I avoided the branches and the other low hanging things in the water and headed out past the island. Now, from looking at the course maps, one would think that the turn around was at the end of the island-- so as I sighted out, I was excited to see the end of the island not looking so far away. HOWEVER-- the actual turn around was about 2 buoys later. This little bit of the course seemed to take forever to navigate.

Coming back, I notice that the buoys all of a sudden went from yellow to orange? Was that the 1/2 way point already? I guess it was. I was feeling good and enjoying my swim. At one point I found a swimming buddy-- or someone that I kept bumping into repeatedly. . . over and over and over again. Nothing personal-- but we couldn't seem to stop bumping into each other. I'm not sure who got out of the water first, but I'm sure she was as happy to get away from me as I was to get away from her.

Around this time, I was swimming along and then found that I WASN'T MOVING! I swam 10 strokes and looked up for the buoys. I'm not sure what was going on but I didn't think I'd moved. So I swam 10 more strokes. . . same effect. What the heck was going on? The end of the swim was supposed to be DOWN RIVER (aka with the current), why was I not going anywhere? I was underneath the bridge to Indiana. This huge bridge (which we would run on later) apparently created its own current. It took about 30 really strong, hard, exhausting strokes to get myself out of its pull and get myself back on course.

The end of the swim came pretty quickly-- although my time was a little bit slower than I'd expected. I'd been "hoping" for an hour and 10 minutes or so-- but it came out to be an hour and 17 minutes (I'm blaming the chip mats, not my slow swimming)! I pulled myself out of the water-- Ironman has steps-- much easier than doing the fish flop on the dock-- and started out into T1.

Chapter 5: And Miles-- 26.2 miles actually--to Go Before I Sleep

What I never, in 10 months of training, understood; despite many trying to explain it to me; (and you probably aren't going to understand it now); is that Nothing Matters In An Ironman Until You Get Off The Bike. And, hopefully, start to run.

I pulled into T2 feeling pretty good. I'd enjoyed my bike ride (except for the lack of water at one of the water stops) and was fairly proud of my time (even though I'd hoped to go under 8 hours on the bike). I disengaged myself from my pedals and dismounted. I offered the volunteer the opportunity to sell my bike for me (probably the 20th time he'd received that offer) and walked slowly towards my run gear bag. The concept of an aquabike (just the swim and the bike) was looking really, really good. . . No one was running to those bags-- there was simply no way I was going to risk running, in my bike shoes, after 8 hours on the bike. Just wasn't going to happen.

I got my run gear bag from the volunteer-- did I ever mention that there were 3000 volunteers that worked on Sunday to manage the 2500 racers-- and headed into the changing tent. Most of the seats were taken. Except for the seat right next to the giant 4X4 fan. OH MY GOODNESS. Sitting Down Next To That Fan Was Heaven. And a huge mistake. I sat down and ripped open my gear bag (no struggling with cords this time-- I went right to the chase). Spilling my run clothes onto the floor, I accepted a gatoraid from a volunteer and started to work.

First off-- the bike shoes-- Oh the sweet relief. 8 hours of spilling water down into my shoes as I tried to keep cool-- those dogs were happy to be peeled out of my socks. First on-- the new pair of toe socks. Way easier said than done.

Second off-- the bike shorts-- YUCK. White sweat encrusted nasty pants replaced with super cool blue running shorts.

Finally, it was time for the shirt change. I stripped off my soaking wet, sweat encrusted tri-top and put on my trusty Worcester Academy Tank Top. You know, the one I've had since 1990. It just celebrated its 20th year of racing. (Yes, I could probably use another one-- I wonder if I know anyone who works at Worcester Academy).

I sipped my Gatoraid-- I chugged down some electrolytes and some pretzels. I used the potty-- twice. And finally it was time to head back out of the tent and onto the run. It was about 4:15 pm; I'd been on the go since 7 and had 26.2 miles to go before the day was over.

(as an aside, as soon as my transition time was published on the website-- my next door neighbor, running partner, and friend extraordinaire came running up to my mother-- "14 minutes in T2," she said-- "that is PATHETIC"-- little did she know that there was a woman who spent 42 minutes in T2).

Getting started was the single hardest part of the entire experience. It was so hard to get moving. The course started with a brutal out and back over the bridge-- or, more specifically, 1/2 way across the bridge. I WAS NOT FEELING IT. I saw Merla-- our team manager there to cheer me on and I tried to get the run started. My run pace, at this point, however, was slower than my walking pace. I tried to run my 5 minutes-- so I could walk my 1 minute but found that it wasn't going to work. I couldn't make the first 5 minutes. So I made a deal with myself-- I said I'd try my best to make it through 2 walk cycles. If I made it through that-- I would be able to walk if I still wanted to. . . 12 minutes later-- I still wanted to walk so I did. I found myself walking pretty quickly (15 minute miles) but for some reason walking was what I was comfortable doing.

It was on the bridge that I met my friend the sponge. Water stops in an Iron Man marathon are like a small grocery store. There are (in this order): sponges---water---gatoraid---coke---chicken broth---pretzels---cookies---fruit---powergel products---gatoraid---water--sponges. At mile 2 (still carrying my own shot blocks for energy) I took 2 ice cold sponges and a water. Those sponges were heaven. They doused my body in cold water. Then they scrubbed the salty/sticky gunk from my face. To keep myself cool I shoved one under each strap of my tank top. HEAVEN ON EARTH. I made it over the bridge and back through town where I started the lonely out and back past the University of Louisville.

Lonely is the only word to describe it for me. It was long. It was, despite the multitude of people out there walking, running, and shuffling along with me, a very quiet experience. Unlike the stand alone marathons I've run, where us middle to back of the packers tend to chat and enjoy our camaraderie, here people had hunkered down into themselves. Those of us on the first loop weren't feeling like sharing-- and those on the second loop-- well, they were looped. Or so happy to be almost done that I didn't want to talk to them.

At some point, I found my energy and started to run again. I'm not even sure where on the course I was-- or what kind of magic moment I had, but I found myself able to run again. It was still slow-- and I was still using my 5/1 strategy, but at least I was running.

I finally hit the turn around and started back towards town-- grabbing sponges at every aid station. By this point, I'd given up on my shot blocks-- just the taste of them made me nauseous. Sips of water left me dry heaving. I was OVER THIS RUN-- but I wasn't done.

What has 2 legs, two arms, and doesn't move? Speed Bump Guy. He had passed out cold in the road--perpendicular to the flow of traffic. He was tall enough that he took up most of the road. The only accurate way to describe him is as a speed bump. Competitors were forced to either go around the foot wide space at his head, go around the foot wide space at his feet OR go over him. Not surprisingly, while medical aid personnel rushed to his side, I saw people do all 3.

After passing Speed Bump Guy, I saw my friend Sandy headed towards me. We waived as she went by and that gave me another momentary lift in my race. Soon after I got my special needs bag and unable to even contemplate anything contained in it-- promptly dumped it into the trash. At this point, I hadn't had anything to eat or drink for 6 miles.

Coming into the center of town was both bitter and sweet. The crowds were amazing. So many people, screaming, yelling, cheering, music blaring, Mike Reilly (the voice of Iron Man) calling out "Jane Smith, YOU ARE AN IRON MAN. Alas, none of this was for me. In a cruel twist of race planning, the course went right by the finish line as we turned to run the last 12 miles. (Although I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit I wondered what would have happened if I'd simply run down the wrong chute and finished after running a 1/2 marathon--surely that was far enough).

On my way back out I passed my friend and teammate Sandy. She was about 6-7 miles behind me on the course and it was getting late. She screamed at me, "how far away is that turn around and how long do I have?" as she passed. I didn't have time to do the mental math as to how far the mileage was but I knew she had about 90 minutes to make it before the 9:45 cut off. I gave her that information and started hoping that she, and Maria, would make the turn before the cut off time. (as it turned out, BOTH made the turn around before the cut off and made it onto the second loop of the course).

I was headed out again-- ignoring everything at the aid stations except for those glorious sponges. At every aid station I saw volunteers raking those sponges up into piles and putting them in kiddy pools of ice water. At every aid station I pulled my sponges out of my running garb and grabbed at least 3 to cool my face and to put in various places in my running attire. At one point, I had doused myself so thoroughly with sponge water that my running shorts looked like I'd taken them out of the washer before the spin cycle. I ran with a guy who'd been knocked off his bike by a guy who fainted for a while. He believed he had a concussion and hadn't been able to keep down food or water since mile 80 on the bike.

Speed Bump Guy was gone; but I noticed a lot of people trying to take his place. The sides of the road were littered with people who simply couldn't go any farther. Many said they didn't need any help, but I often informed law enforcement officers on the course of a fallen comrade.

About a mile before the turnaround out came the dreaded glow-sticks. For you fast people, glow sticks are what us slow folk get so that we can be seen by motorists and others in the dark. From something Margaret had said, I'd secretly hoped that I wouldn't need one-- but that was most definitely not the case. Glow necklace wrapped around my neck, I soldiered on.

Next came the turn and the way home. At least I was on the way home. It was dark and while the course was still populated, people were dropping like flies. My legs were tired but my arms and back were exhausted. I made bets with myself and deals. Deals with the devil were not far off. Finally, knowing I had an hour to spare on the midnight timeline, I gave up. I set my watch timer for 4 minutes and sat down to stretch out my entire body. IT FELT WONDERFUL!!! I got up 2 minutes into my 4 minutes and started happily running again. Why hadn't I tried this sooner (oh yeah, I was afraid that if I'd sat down I wouldn't get up again).

I saw Sandy headed back out onto the course. We hugged and I told her she was rocking the house. She looked great! She looked Strong. I wish I looked as good as she did. As we hugged I apologized to her for not thinking I would be able to hang around the finish line to see her come in-- her response? "I wouldn't wait for you-- go to bed."

The rest of the run is a blur. I know I stopped for another 2 minute stretch break. I know I saw my friend Maria headed back out on the out and back and called encouragement out to her. I know I made it back into town. I don't really remember much about it. (Come to think of it, as I write this, I remember that I used to say that about stand-alone marathons as well-- that the first 10 miles are hell, the second 10 feel pretty good and the last 6 I don't remember-- I guess that is just my pattern).

The last .2 miles is also a blur. I was moving. I was running. I was coming down the finish chute. The music was playing. . . spectators were banging the boards and were holding out their hands for high fives. I remember trying to navigate over to give someone a high five and then deciding that it simply took too much energy to actually get there so I ignored the rest of the people with their hands outstretched.

I came across the finish line in 15:53:10. My finisher photo shows me looking wasted and tired but happy. At some point I'd moved my glow necklace to my head and was wearing it like a crown. I was done. I was Iron.

I was headed to the medical tent.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chapter 2: Panic Time

On Friday night, our coach made us watch a video that suggested skipping the practice swim and sleeping in as long as possible. . . and GOD did I want to (knowing that sleep would be hard to come by Saturday night) but I was back to my clothing issues. I hadn't had a chance to try and swim in my mens tri top and bikini bottom combination yet. . . and, I was afraid to simply "try it out" on race day. So, 7:45 saw me waiting for some of my mates down in the hotel lobby to "try it out". . . We walked, slowly the mile or so to the end of the swim course where Ironman was

allowing athletes with timing chips and wristbands to get in the water and preview the course.

Although this was what I'd been waiting for-- and that 85 degree water was AMAZING. I was nervous. I really hadn't done much swimming in a month. . . (shhh . . . don't tell Sedonia). I took a few minutes in the water to get used to the feel, taste, and warmth of the water and after about 10 minutes, I climbed back out of the water-- experimenting with how it was going to be to find the stair platform when I got out of the water at the real race. My race outfit felt good-- so I decided to stick with it.

We headed back to our rooms to finish organizing our bags and get ready for the pre-race Inspiration Lunch. At this luncheon, TNT teams celebrate the accomplishments that have gotten us this far and rededicate ourselves to our honorees and to those suffering from cancer. Here we talk about why it is that we, as people, do these events to cure cancer-- not just to accomplish a personal milestone. This one had an open mike-- and some teammates got up for the challenge. Although my honorees: Laura, Bonnie, Collin, Tyler, Peter, Richard, and so many others are never far from my thoughts, there was no way I was going near that open mike. . .

especially with less than 24 hours to go before race day.

After lunch it was crunch time: Time to deliver the bags and my bike to transition where I wouldn't see them until I opened them on race day. Saying a quick prayer, I handed my run, bike, and special needs bags to the volunteers and paused to take a picture of my name tag where I was to rack my bike. Without my bike and bags I felt both light and relaxed AND scared to death.

I headed back to my hotel room--alone-- the way I was to spend the night and most of the next day.

I'd love to say, as some of my teammates have, that I fell asleep quickly and had a restful night's sleep. But I'd be lying through my teeth. I started out watching Twilight: Eclipse. During the movie, a packet of cards came under my door from my teammates, friends, coaches and mentors. While each one offered encouragement-- each made me feel more isolated: each person seemed to say the same thing--signifying, to me, that I did not get to know my teammates nearly as much as I had hoped to during the course of the season. The cards started the waterworks, however, and they continued for the next few hours-- all I could think about was "I'm wasting water". . . hydration I would need the next day.

After Twilight, it was Forrest Gump-- then the local news. The forecast for Sunday was 96. Shouldn't be too bad. I couldn't sleep-- I wasn't hungry. I was downright scared. I was wide awake, laying in bed, watching the ceiling, when my alarm went to to remind me to take in a few hundred calories. Sometime after that however I fell into a fit full sleep.

Looking at this post-- I'm amazed at how short it is. This day felt interminable. I didn't think it was ever going to end. How is it that, written up, it is so short. . .

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ironman Louisville 8/29/10


Most of you remember, 9 months ago, when I signed up to do an Ironman triathlon in Louisville, Kentucky. Many of you have been reading along as I spent the last 9 months training, planning, hoping, worrying and dreaming about this one day: August 29, 2010. The actual day goes by so quickly, and so slowly at the the same time. The weekend surrounding it, however, turns the day into a much richer, fuller story. Accordingly, this "post" will be done in chapters (something one of my teammates did earlier) so that I don't lose you, the reader, as I chronicle the events.

Frankly, I think that it is as difficult to write about this experience as it is to actually have done it. There are so many things that went on that weekend, that, even now, having joined the club, seem insane-- and so many things that, no matter how well I could describe them to you, I doubt anyone who was not there could understand. But try I shall. . .

This is my story.

Chapter 1: Thursday and Friday: The Blind Leading the Blind

As previously mentioned, packing for an Ironman Triathlon is NOT an easy thing to do. This time it was even more complicated. We were allowed to send ONE bag. along with our bike, with Tri-Bike Transport. On August 1, when I left for the Cape, our bikes and the bag were due on August 23rd. While on Cape Cod, however, the date changed. My bike (which needed a new chain (and some truing of the wheels)) and my bag were due on August 18th. . . or the day I got back from the Cape. I begged my way into the bike store and got a tune up. It was a good thing I did-- it turned out my wheel was crooked and needed to be straightened out.

Then, what to pack? As usual, not much is easy-- I'd been sent a size medium women's tank top which fit me like a sports bra--stopping about an inch below my breasts, AND a men's extra large tank top-- which was baggy under the arms (and a few other places). I also really wanted to wear my bike shorts (with full pad) on the bike, but didn't really want to swim or run in the diaper. Then there was the issue of my Worcester Tank top. . . Can I run with out it???

I finally decided on the mens tank with a bikini bottom for the swim; I would do a full change in T1 into the mens tank with my full bike shorts for the bike; and then do a second full change into running shorts and my Worcester tank for the run. That decided, my gear, my nutrition, my shoes, and my bike headed out to Louisville. I still had a week to wait.

There were eight of us on the flight to Louisville: 7 of us who had never done an Ironman before (one of those of whom this was her FIRST TRI) and a Coach. We were all full of nervous energy as we tried hard not to talk about our goals, plans or fears for the weekend. We arrived and were immediately met by humidity and heat-- mild by Lousivillian standards, but significant enough to the residents of the Bay Area.

A good night's sleep brought us to registration day: or where things got interesting. We met in the lobby to head to registration. Small problem: no one knew where it was. All 7 of us walked along behind Coach Simon, frantically checking blackberries and iphones trying to find athlete registration. Given that I have gotten lost on EVERY SINGLE COURSE SO FAR-- this was either par for the course or not an ambitious start for the weekend.

We finally ended up at the Gault House and found that we were to stand in a long line. . . not so surprising, but the long line was for WEIGH IN!!! How did no one in 9 months ever tell me that you get weighed before doing an ironman; and to add insult to injury, we had to stand in line for the privilege? Lovely.

After weigh in it was time to grab out numbers-- or though I thought. First-- the medical forms: 2 of them. A waiver and a release, and a form to list any health issues, medications, and significant others. . . Hmmmm. . . why am I doing this again? (and why am I reminded, yet again, of giving birth?).
We received our blue wristbands-- to be worn all weekend, got our numbers, made a quick trip through the Ironman store and I headed down to pick up my bike.

The humidity had picked up quite a bit-- as had the heat. My green 2006 Peachtree Roadrace T-shirt began to look like I'd actually done Peachtree in it. I walked the mile or so to the Great Lawn and picked up my bike and gear bag. On the way, I stopped and oogled at the signs all over Louisville reading "Possibility City." It felt like the time was right. I also had my first glimpse of the Ohio River-- (aka, the reason I'd chosen this race). It sure was muddy; it sure was brown; and the turtles sitting on the logs floating on the water were at least a good sign that things could live in the water.

Then it was back to my room to unpack my gear bag and get ready for the Ironman Welcome Dinner. I also started to pack my gear bags: one for my bike clothes; one for my bike "special needs"; one for my run clothes; and one for my run "special needs." These bags were due on Saturday, so I needed to get them started. Somehow, however, just looking at all that gear and looking at my bike numbers, and my run numbers, and my bags -- made me scared. I was used to a transition situation where on race morning I got to lay out all my gear under my bike. . . what if I forgot something?????

Packed I was and off to the pre-welcome dinner team picture I went-- dressed in my bright, obnoxious flames. I got down to the lobby and found that none of my teammates had arrived. When they finally gathered, (the three of us that gathered), we were the only ones wearing flames. The others had left us hanging in our colors. . . We joined up at a table of non-TNT athletes-- two young (18 and 20) boys and their parents from Tennessee. Both were also doing their first Ironman-- and there was a friendly competition between the two of them as to who would be first.

As Mike Reilly, the voice of ironman, came on the stage, we learned that there were about 1300 people doing their first ironman. . . in a field of 2900, it just made sense that we felt like the blind leading the blind.