Almost a year and a half ago, I started a crazy journey that finally culminated at Ironman Florida this past weekend. Its crazy to think about all of the things that happened to get me to the starting line of the race. Some of it was cosmic intervention. A lot was pure grit. The journey was important though and for anyone that would ever consider taking on something like this, be it an Ironman, a 70.3, marathon or whatever your goal is, enjoy the journey. The end result should be the icing on the cake. I’ll get this part out of the way: Ironman Florida had no swim this year. Due to weather conditions that made it impossible for the safety crews to get and stay in position, the WTC made the correct call to cancel the swim. So this year’s Ironman Florida was a 138.2 mile race rather than 140.6.
Hugo and I drove up on Wednesday morning. We’d gotten a condo together very close to the race site and between this and Augusta we’ve become long course roommates. We learned some important lessons from last year. Snacks. Bring snacks for the drive. Its really long! So we had cookies, water, gatorade, and bananas. After getting up to the race we quickly signed into the hotel and got checked in. It was really key to take care of this on Wednesday since that gave us more time to do other things the rest of the week.
On Thursday, rather than checking in, Hugo and I met up with Amanda and her coach for a morning swim. While the session was unfortunately not something we could use in the race, it was great to get in the water and get a bit of a swim in. I got some good pointers from Amanda’s team (I can see why she loves her coaches, they are awesome people) and at least I got in the water once up in Panama City Beach. This also gave us a chance to meet back up with Andrea and Jon that morning.
As Thursday was basically “work out the kinks and not go crazy” day, after the swim the next thing up was a 20 minute bike shakedown. The plan had been to do 20 min swim, 20 minute bike, and 20 minute run. Once I got on the bike I discovered that no matter what prep you do, you better make sure you check your equipment. The only real goal of the bike ride was to make sure the bike still worked after the car ride up. My Kestrel Talon is only a year old and I’ve never had a single issue with it. So of course on race week, I’d discover a problem! I shifted through the rear cassette without an issue and then proceeded to test out the front deraileur. It wouldn’t move. Well crap! Fortunately there is a bike tech at the race expo and we were already riding past it to meet up with Kari. Everyone else continued their shakedown ride while I dropped my bike off with the mechanics for an overnight stay. I was a little nervous about it but honestly I didn’t think there was a major problem and the techs are great so I took off my bike shoes and walked down the beach back to my condo.
Since I did so much walking I felt like a run was unecessary. At this point Hugo and I only had to spend the rest of the day eating and packing up our gear bags. I’ve never had both so many gear bags or had to drop them off the day before the race. Packing was a bit nerve racking but I remembered Melanie’s mantra: make sure you have the essentials. If the gear required to race is in the bag, you can deal with anything you forgot that you wanted. It was a bit complicated to make sure I had my bike gear as my bike wasn’t there for me to pack up which did add a little stress. Fortunately when I did pick the bike up on Friday (only to immediately check it into transition) it was fine. The deraileur was gunked up apparently from sweat and (most likely) sports drink.
Thursday night was the Athlete Dinner. This was something I was looking forward to as a first timer since they did some presentations of their highlighted charity and a couple featured athlete stories. The featured athletes were especially cool since they were about Lew Hollander (oldest IM finisher) and a para-athlete named Jacob. When the going is tough out on the course, you just have to remember a guy like Jacob is out there too. Puts things in the proper perspective. The food itself? Total crap. I’d been warned. But if you’ve never done an IM before you should go. Its mediocre pasta and various other things but its all about the presentations.
Friday was mostly final prep of the special needs bags and relaxing. There was no reason to do anything except lay around the condo. Around 4:30, Hugo and I headed to Pete & Kari’s condo for dinner. Pete was making pasta with meatballs which were really good. It was great to sit around with a bunch of people doing the race since Maria and Mike were also there. I was comitted to only staying until 6:30 so at that point I got a ride back from Pete’s friend Dave (Hugo wanted to stay a little longer) and went back to the condo. This gave me some important quiet time to calm some of the butterflies.
Before long I got in bed and despite it being around 8pm, I was able to get to sleep in fairly quick order. I even slept through the night! If nothing else I was going to be well rested on race day. Race week was a lot of fun. Most races I’ve participated in, even ones that require travel, are at most a 1 or 2 day experience, including the race. Ironman was 3 days at the race site before I even got to the race itself. Just that part of the experience was really cool and it was great having a few days to do nothing other than get prepped with my friends.
Only thing left now – race my race!