Monday, April 6, 2009

Race Report - Volume 1

For those of you who’ve peeked at the race results, whether my finish time indicates this or not, I am alive and well. Sunday was an extremely tough day for a number of reasons – much tougher than I would have wished on myself. Yet as always, with Ironman racing, there’s more to learn from the pain than from the pleasure, and certainly some good stories to tell!

I’ve been thinking how best to report my race – because trust me, after spending just shy of 14 hours on course, I have a lot to say. Given that we’re in the midst of some post-race travel with limited internet connectivity, and given that a blog is not conducive to a rambling epic, I’ll break it into several shorter entries. I also have many more fun photos to share, but will save those for the end (and for a faster connection).

In contrast to the lead-up week, race morning hinted at sunshine and clear skies. Sure, it had torrentially dumped the night before and into the wee hours of the morning, but by the time we headed to transition the rain had stopped and the sun teased from behind the cloud. The transition area was a sopping, slogging slush-pit of mud, covering our feet and splashing our legs with every step. But it no longer mattered – the day was on and, as I heard one athlete remark, “It’s an Ironman, not a beauty pageant.”

My first stop in transition was for bodymarking, where a young volunteer marked my calf with the letter indicating the men’s 40-44 year-old age group. Knowing I likely wouldn’t be much competition for the guys, I had another volunteer wipe my calf clean and mark me as a woman.

Michellie (MJ) and our cheer squad of Ryan, Belinda, Damien and Whitey helped Pablo (HPP) and I pump our tires, drop off our special needs bags, suit up in our “wetties” and head down to the swim start. It had to be torture for MJ, who so badly wanted to race but had been forced to withdraw due to a bout of the flu, to be down in transition, fielding good luck wishes (from those who did not know she had withdrawn) and expressions of concern and caring (from those who were aware). She stoically switched gears from race contender to race-day Sherpa, making sure our every need was met.

I was thrilled to employ one of the best new tricks I’ve learned while here – covering each foot in a plastic bag before sliding it into my wettie. Trust me, try it and you’ll wonder how you ever pulled on your wetsuit previously without this valuable tidbit.

The swim was relatively smooth and uneventful – no wayward bashing of arms and legs, no chop in the water, not too strong of a current. It did feel extremely long, but no one said that 3.8k is short! I was a bit nauseated by the smell and taste of the muddy water and tried hard to ingest as little as possible, fearing it would haunt me later in the day. Heading toward the turn buoy on the second lap, the tide pulled a group of us off to one side, making it difficult to reach the turn, but all in all I felt it was a consistent, decent effort. I was actually surprised to see my time when I exited the water (1:25), as I felt I was swimming 5-10 minutes faster, but I shrugged that off in deference to my promise to myself to simply race my race and not worry much about the clock.

I made a slow slog through the mud of the transition area, my bike shoes filling with goop, and headed out to start the ride.

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