Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Race Day: Part 1

I had a hard time getting to settle down and crawl in bed the night before, but when the alarm clock went off at 4:30 am, I wanted to hit the snooze for some more sleep. I started to get my race clothing on and devouring a Power Bar. Bathroom stop #1. I started hearing the rest of the guys moving around downstairs. I headed down to get some oatmeal and see everyone else's status. I had been using my Rescue Remedy spray to help me chill out. Still, I was nervous as all get out. I have done tons of these but I still get the hee-bee jee-bees before a race. Geoff took advantage of the Rescue Remedy as well. The oatmeal was not sitting well, but I knew that it was just nerves. Nervous bathroom stop #2.

We were bundled up for the 55 degree weather and we headed out the door at 5:20 am for the short walk to the Transition Area. When we stepped out the door we were greeted by the music and the instructions from race officials booming from the speakers at the race venue. There were also those search lights scanning the sky that you see at grand-openings and strip clubs. This was a BIG DEAL!

Once we got to the Transition Area, Geoff and I got in line to get our "Official Ironman Markings" on our arms and legs.
No Sharpie wielding kid who messes up the number and tries to go over the 5 to make it look like a 6. These volunteers were using the number stamps here. We really looked like Cat. 1 racers! It was then on to our bikes to load on the water bottles, bento boxes with gels and food, attach the shoes to the pedals, and check the tires. I finished up pretty fast and Geoff came over to borrow my dental floss to tie up his shoes on the bike. I found Johnny Tri (JT) at the fence and I went over there and hung out for a while. I met the wife of the Ironhead Race Director. Ironhead was the Olympic distance race that we all did this year back in July. There were lots of people speaking lots of different languages milling about and some were starting to pull on their wetsuits. Transition was getting ready to close and I had to high tail it out of there. One last hug from JT and then it was off to find the other guys. I found David and he watched my stuff while I went in search of a Port-o-can for pit stop #3.
I stopped on the way back to meet David for the National Anthem and then it was the start of the race with the Pro Women running down the beach and into the Gulf of Mexico at 7 am. Not long after I got back, Geoff found us and we started to watch the Pro Women and Men crawl out of the water and dash into the Transition Area. Dang they were fast. Andy Potts finished the 1.2 mile swim in 22 minutes, but he was not the fastest guy out there. I saw the timing clock and realized that It was about 15 minutes to my start. I took a Power Bar Endurance Gel, washed it down with the last of my water, dropped off my morning gear bag with all of my clothes in it and then headed over to the start corrals to get with the rest of the women in my wave start.

The sand was cold, but it was soft under my bare feet. Everyone was pulling on purple swim caps and goggles in anticipation of being led up to the start line by the head swim start volunteer. Mike Riley, the "Voice of Ironman" had been starting the swim waves and giving updates on the athletes running out of the water and now he was announcing that it was time for the fastest Age Group women to join the party. I felt like I had sneaked in and crashed the party on this one. I am NOT fast. Not even close to fast. I would be hard pressed to make it back to Clearwater in a legitimate race spot. The luck of the roll down was the only reason that I was even there. But there was magic in the air and Dr. DeWalsh had used "Magic" Kinesio-tape on my ankle so something magical had to happen during this race. With the crack of the starting cannon, the magic had begun!

The 150 women in my group and I sprinted down the beach and into to chilly surf and dove in to start putting 70.3 miles behind us. The swim field was gentle compared to my mass swim start at Arizona Ironman where I duked it out with over 2000 men and only 384 other women. All the gals I was swimming with were actually polite and swam around rather than over one another. We had a half mile swim out and a nice line of big yellow markers with the Ironman logo on them to follow. There were Coast Guard boats, life guards on jet skis, kayaks, surf boards, and helicopters roving overhead. If anything was going to happen, there were plenty of people to take care of us in case of an emergency. Since we were all fantastic swimmers, the only threat that we might encounter would be sharks! "Excuse me, but we are racing here and do not have time for your predator instincts. Yes we look like slick seals in our wetsuits, but we are NO WHERE as fat and juicy as a seal. We are lean, mean, racing machines here Mr. Mako--so SCRAM! BEAT IT!! GET THE F--K OUT OF MY WAY!!!" Whoa, there is the orange marker to start the turn around. At this point I see one or two green swim caps from the men's wave from behind us and then, I swear on it, I saw David! Who else would be this far up on the swim course in a red swim cap and in a sleeveless wetsuit??!!?? David swam for UT and was only hundredths of a second off from making the Olympic trials. As we turned the second orange marker and turned towards shore, we were blinded by the sun that had gotten high enough to become a major distraction. I now had to look for large triangular shadows rather than yellow markers to make it back to shore. I was feeling faster on the way back in with the waves pushing me along. Soon a larger group of men in green caps overtook me and I was able to draft off of them for at least 100 to 150 yards. Now I was seeing pink caps from the men's swim start that was before ours. I started to see Pier 60 on my left and I knew that it was not long before I would be back on the beach. Surprisingly, I was able to see the bottom of the gulf and saw the ripples in the sand that were highlighted from the sunlight streaming through the water. I was getting close. I started seeing people stand up, but I knew that I had to try to get as close in to shore as possible. Some people stand up in waist deep or thigh deep water, but they still have to wade into shore. I shorten my stroke so that when I stand up I am only in water that is half way up to my knee. It makes it so much easier to get out of the water and get running up the beach. I unzipped my faithful Orca/Team in Training wetsuit and dashed up the beach as I pulled it off my arms and got it down around my hips. I ran over the timing mat, through the showers to rinse off my face and then over to the volunteers who were stripping wetsuits off of the athletes. They helped me up off the ground, gave me my wetsuit and then it was off to get my blue gear bag.


Bigun said...

the sharks around here only take little bites...tastes, as it were, and then usually spit that back out.

Evelyn said...

excellent! I can't wait to read the rest :)