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.

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