Race Report: 3:20am Wake up Call
The night before I attempted to eat my traditional pre race dinner of pizza. I was so nervous that I spent most of the time trying not to be sick to my stomach. We returned to the hotel and watched Knocked Up, the laughter helped. We went to bed by 10pm. Imagine an average size hotel room. The Professor in one bed, Coach
and I in the other and What About Bob on the floor in a sleeping bag. I actually fell asleep. Every hour or so I would awake with the “what ifs” stress thoughts. I thought what if I die? But what if I don’t die? Can I finish? Can I swim? Will my bike break? Suddenly at 3:20am my alarm rudely went off. I jumped into my clothes and headed downstairs where the kind hotel managers hosted a pre race breakfast. I ate my oatmeal, banana, half bagel pbj and bottle of Gatorade and chewed all of it like it was dried cardboard. We attempted to go back to bed and the food just sat there for the next hour. Race anxiety rampant and despite my best efforts, I was unable to slow down the clock. At 5am it was time to move again.
I jumped up and got dressed. Celebrated the pre race colon blow (sorry but it is part of the experience) and finished prepping my nutrition for the day. Imagine consuming liquid chalk. Lots of it. Needed to use the bathroom again except what about Bob decided to shower and primp for the day. Banged head against desk. Repeat. Notice the anxiety of this lovely photo:
The crew finally left with all the special needs bags, bike pump, wetsuit and anxiety attacks. I just tried to breathe as we walked to the start. At one point I remember reaching over to hold the coaches hand. She kept repeating that I needed to breathe. As we approached the start I noticed the music and then lots of other terrified people. I am not sure which people are most nervous; the virgins or the people that do Ironman’s over and over. What about Bob visited Starbucks for us as the Coach and I headed to find the body tagging…err I mean marking people. Suddenly I realized that Bob had the bike pump. Oh no! Coach saw the panic start and told me to stay in one place while she retrieved the pump. I think she actually ran…fast.
They found me again and I promptly slammed a double espresso. Yippee. One more notch on my caffeine journey. I I I found the body marking and was promptly labeled and on my way to the bike. Tires inflated, ego deflated. The field of bikes was amazing. There was so much eye candy on this trip that I was overwhelmed…and I am not just talking about the bikes.
I found the troops and we headed down to the swim. I had some time and managed to squeeze in one more almost panic attack. The music was booming, the salmon were heading in the water and I knew it was time. I spread body glide all over myself and squeezed on the sausage suit (wetsuit) half way. Coach helped me get the rest of it on and then I asked for my prescription goggles. The Prof and Coach looked at each other in a panic. Uh oh. The Prof finally realized she had them wrapped around her arms. At least I had confirmation that I was not the only one freaking out.
It was time to get in the water. Last hugs, kisses and off I waddled to join the rest of the penguins. The minutes to the start rolled by faster than I could of imagined. I decided to start to the right of the course with the rest of the slow folks. The horn sounded and the pros took off 10 minutes early like a school of dolphin.
As I waited I noticed a bunch of men behind me standing on the rocky shore waiting to get in the water despite the announcer telling them to get into the water. I didn’t really think about it and just assumed they were slow as well. I decided to float on my back for a water and tried to relax. Didn’t work. I kept scanning the crowd for Coach but there was way too many people to identify someone.
Finally the cannon went off (notice the chaos of 2400 swimmers…)and as I was about to swim, one of the guys behind me inadvertently punched me in the eye with his first forceful stroke. It was hard enough that I was stunned for a brief second. Thankfully, the prescription goggles did not fly off into the depths. I really think the “punch” ended up knocking some sense into me to realize this was real…time to stop the panic and start living the race. A day later I realized I had my first Ironman Souvenir!
The water was amazing. For the first time all week it was perfectly flat and clear. I have a deserved reputation for being unable to swim a straight line. I have spent many a race doubling my swim distance after zig zagging along the course. This time I decided to use the other swimmers. I drafted and sighted other swimmers instead of the buoys. It worked perfectly. I also took my time and tried to avoid future injury…there was a couple of “kickers” out there that could have rearranged my dental work!
2.4 miles is an awfully long distance to swim. I tried to keep it fluid and know that every segment I finished of the damn long rectangle was one segment closer to the end. By the start of the second loop I celebrated each segment as my last one I will ever swim on the course! Really, the swim is the toughest part because we are all in it alone. There is no words of support and there is the real and present danger that you could quietly slip into the depths never to be heard from again. The darkness and quiet can be eerily disturbing. I was also super hydrated between the pre race Gatorade, the espresso and the gallons of lake water I consumed. Needless to say, my wetsuit became a port a potty…multiple times. The wetsuit has now been labeled a hazardous waste site and is applying as a Superfund clean up site. PCB’s got nothin’ on me!
As I rounded the last turn, I could see the finish in the distance. All of a sudden I could stand. I tried to walk up the steep bank but started to fall backwards until a volunteer grabbed my hand and pulled me out. I was shocked when I saw my time. The first day we arrived in town I swam the course in swells reminiscent of the Pacific Ocean. It took me an unbelievable 55 minutes and I was absolutely exhausted. I really thought it might take me two hours to swim the course. When I saw 1:35:20 I was thrilled.
I remember running up the ramp but I wasn’t sure what to do about my wetsuit. I didn’t know whether to take it off right then and there or to wait until the transition area. Fortunately, the answer came quickly when two volunteers grabbed me and told me to lie down on my back. They stripped off my wetsuit so quickly that I almost felt violated. Next thing I know, I am on my feet, retrieving my glasses and running towards the Monona Terrace. My support crew was there in force as the helix was lined with spectators.
The Monona Terrace is the only Ironman race where you run up the parking garage helix to enter the transition areas in the ballrooms. Yes, indoor transitions with chairs and no grass or sand. The transition was amazing. As soon as you enter the room the volunteers yell out your number. They help you get your bag and you run into the dressing area. Immediately a volunteer assigns he/she to you and they help you get dressed for the next event. I remember her putting my gloves on and handing me my helmet etc. As I left they put sunscreen all over my shoulders and sent me on my way. I carried my bike shoes because my bike was at the other end of the transition area. I found it, crossed the mounting line and was on my way…