Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 Race Report - Pre-Race

We flew down Thursday before the race and leading up to IMTX, I didn't have too many nerves.  But let me tell you, when we touched down in Houston, wow, did the butterflies light up.  All of a sudden, I knew this was happening.  We landed at 11 AM, talked with some other racers while waiting for our luggage, and were quickly off and running with our rental car, thanks to using TriBike Transport to ship my bike.  I had a 12:30 appt with my old chiropractor for a pre-race tune up.  While waiting for the appt, I stopped by and said hi to my old swim coach, who was overseeing a lunch-time practice.  Once I was all set and adjusted, we drove up to The Woodlands for athlete check in.  We showed up around 2 PM.  It was hot and there were a TON of people.  We stood in the athlete check-in line - it was loooong.  My friend Anne stopped by and made a comment that they were selling out of a lot of IMTX gear.  I was worried about there not being anything left by the time I got checked-in, so I made a slightly-smarmy move and left Will in the check-in line to hold my place while I power-shopped.  I ended up getting a visor, a bike jersey, and a tri top.  Its amazing how a person has no trouble what-so-ever forking over ridiculous amounts of money for things like this.  The jersey logo is cool - Texas is made to look like carbon fiber.  This is probably the first time I've ever wanted to wear something "Texas" - it helps that I don't live there anymore.  By the time I was done shopping, Will was only ~15 people back in the check-in line - PERFECT.  Check-in was smooth and easy.  Then it was time to pick my bike up from TriBike Transport - I was very happy to see my bike.

We had several hours to kill between check-in and the manditory pre-race meeting.  It seems that the race organizers wanted you to hang out in the Woodlands and spend money, as check in closed at 4 PM but the race meeting wasn't until 7:30 PM.  There was an athlete dinner from 5:30-7:30, but it would have cost $30 for Will to attend with me.  We ended up driving up to Conroe, where we were staying with friends, and hanging out in the AC for a bit.

Back down to the Woodlands and to the athlete meeting.  Turns out my friends didn't want to make a special 1 hour drive up for the meeting, so I was also responsible for giving them the cliff-notes.  We ended up sitting at table in the back with some empty seats - turns out, we were next to the people from our Denver flight.  Very cool!  Athlete meeting was nothing spectacular - no, you won't get your special needs bags back; wear your chip to the Friday practice swim; if the swim is delayed by weather less than 30 min, you'll start late but we won't extend the bike cut-off time (!!); if the weather is bad for more than 30 min, we may cancel the swim (!!!!!!).  The meeting ended earlier than planned - we headed  over to Chipotle for a late dinner.  Then back to Conroe and bed.

I woke up before my alarm ready to roll!  I had an easy 15 min bike ride to do - just to make sure that my bike was ok mechanically after its trip in a van.  After that, I did the final once-over of my run and bike bags (we had to drop those off Friday). Then I left Will in air-conditioned comfort in Conroe to do the pre-race swim practice at the swim start.  I met my swim team-mate Carlye at the parking lot across from Transition.  From there, it was a 0.8 mile walk to the swim start.  We really didn't know where we were going, so we followed the arrows, figuring they were meant to guide people to the swim start.  Turns out we were following run course arrows, so we probably walked a bit longer than we should have.  Got to the swim start with ~30 min left in practice, found Anne (also from swim team) and the three of us headed out on an easy 20 min swim.  After spending many months training by myself, I was so incredibly happy to be swimming side by side with my friends.  We had a good swim - the water wasn't too horrible (murky) and the water temperature was just right (78).  I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my final training day - training with my friends with whom I started this whole crazy journey with when we all signed up together last summer. 
After the swim, Anne went to ride her bike, so Carlye and I headed to Transition to turn our bags in and get our bikes set up.  By that time, Anne was done testing her bike out.  Carlye went home and I stuck around to hang out with Anne.  Another swim team (David) friend showed up and we decided to have lunch together.  Ended up walking over to the athlete check-in area (maybe a half mile away?) and had sandwiches.  Then it was over to the check-in area to get a few questions answered (really - you won't give us the chance to get our special needs bags back?).  By that time it was nearly 1:30 and I had been out in the heat for 4 hours - way too long.  We said our goodbyes and I headed back up to Conroe to do final preparations and to put my feet up.  Everything was pretty smooth and easy that afternoon, with a lot of puttering around.  I discovered that I had developed three (!!) unfortunate blisters on my right heel - likely from walking around in sandals for the first time.  Ugh.  We went to a country Texas Roadhouse for dinner, where I had a really boring dinner of chicken with a baked potato.  Then it was back to the house and a bed time of 9:30 PM.

The alarm went off at 4:15 AM.  I had a pretty decent night's sleep and was excited to get going!  I had Will do a pre-race sunscreen application for me.  After Galveston, I decided to get some super-strength sunscreen - SCAPE 50 SPF lotion and SCAPE 50 SPF face stick.  We did a base layer of the lotion, put my tri top on, then we put a layer of the face stick (which was sort of a greasy, wide chap-stick kind of thing) around all my strap lines. I was NOT going to be burned!  Once I was dressed, we grabbed my bike Infinit and my special needs bags, and we were off.  The plan was to be at Transition around 5:15, as they closed it at 6:30.  Parking was a ZOO.  It was so bad that I ended up getting out of the car to run to transition while Will went and found a parking place.  Turns out that they were closing transition down EARLY at 6:15, and with the crazy parking, it was now something like 5:30 AM.  I got to my bike, gave Carlye my bike pump.  Neither of us brought flashlights, so we ended up airing up our tires by cell phone light.  Ahh technology.  Then I had to run over to the run and bike bag area to put green ribbons on my bags for visability.  By that time they were emptying transition and I was flustered.  Carlye was waiting for me and by that time, Will had parked and was waiting for us.  Then it was over to the swim start for body marking, special-needs drop, a pit-stop and the start of the race. 

Things were really crazy and it took a while to find the body markers.  One of my friends was volunteering as a marker so I wanted to make sure I found her.  After several minutes, I did, and I got my good mojo.  Then I dropped off my special needs bags, took a few pics with Will, applied a final layer of sunscreen, then kissed Will goodbye so he could get a good place to record the swim start.  Then I stood in a long line for the bathroom - ended up standing next to someone from Golden, which was really cool.  After a pit-stop, I put on my Torque but needed help zipping it up.  I asked these two wetsuit clad ladies to help as I anxiously kept tugging at the zipper.  I was over-zealous with my zippering and ended up getting the zipper caught, about 6 inches below the top of the suit.  PANIC!  I don't know what it is with me and Torque zipper issues, but I was having visions of swimming with my back zipper flapping open, with the drag negating any savings my fancy speedsuit would have afforded.  Thank goodness for these ladies - they managed to fix the snag and get me zipped up.  Then it was a quick run over to the swim start and squeezing in between people taking their own sweet time getting in the water.  I had 5 minutes before the race start and I was not going to be on dry land when the gun went off.  I managed to get in and positioned not too far back and over to the right side of the course, with the plan of swimming towards the far off buoys, and hopefully staying clear of the masses of people who were hugging the buoys.

They started playing Black Sabbath's Ironman and that's when I really got excited.  I was in the water with 2,200 other athletes, and at the end of the day, I would be an Ironman!

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