Monday, November 16, 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report: Race Morning

To any of my friends and family members who are non-athletes, I apologize for the incredibly long race report posts that are going to follow. I’m writing the type of race report that I found helpful while I was training for my first Ironman. Read the bold parts if you just want the overview!

Pre-race - Race Morning

I went to bed around 8:30 the night before the race. I slept a lot better than I expected. I thought I’d be up all night in anticipation. If that had happened my plan was to just focus on breathing and relax. On race day I woke up at 3:15, the alarm was set for 3:30 so I didn’t go back to sleep, but I stayed in bed mentally going through the race. (So glad my husband noticed the alarm clock battery warning light was on a few days earlier, so we got that taken care of before race day!) The day my watch had been counting down to for over a year was finally here!

As soon as I got up I put on my tri top and tri shorts, my heart rate monitor (HRM) strap and watch, my timing chip ankle strap, my Xtreme Sports ID, and my sweats to stay warm. I’d taken off my wedding rings the night before – hate worrying about them while swimming! I’d made a list of what to do in the morning and what I needed to bring with me to race site.

To do: wake up, put in contacts, bathroom, get dressed (see above), breakfast, put on Body Glide (neck, ankles, wrists, shoulders, armpits, hairline on back of neck (prevents chafing from swim caps) then put on some more Body Glide, put on Arnica (arnica flora is my magic gel that rids aches and pains. how do I always have random aches and pains on race days?), take medicine + 2 Endurolytes with plenty of water

Bring to race site: banana and Gu chomps for pre-race, wetsuit, goggles, swim caps, morning clothes bag, RX sunglasses in case, for backup in T1 in case my contacts fell out after getting kicked in the face during the swim, Special Needs bags, Floor pump, To Do lists and copy of Race Plan from Coach to review.

Around 4am I ate my usual big workout day breakfast (60g cream of rice cereal, 20g Aria protein powder, dash of cinnamon, banana and splash of milk) – I’m a little particular (insane?) about my food but I didn’t want to bring my kitchen scale to FL so I’d measured the dry ingredients and put them in a ziplock baggie before we left CA. I had my usual cup of coffee too. I didn’t want to try having more coffee than usual to get the caffeine boost because I was afraid it’d mess up my stomach. Did some stretching and tried to go to the bathroom a few times. We left for the 15 minute walk to race start/transition area around 4:45am.

The race site was really happening at 5am! Lots of people and excitement and music. We dropped off my special needs bags first then went to the transition area. A volunteer wrote my race number, 63, on each arm, and my age, 30, on the back of my left calf. Only athletes are allowed in the transition area.

It really is a small world. I knew 3 other bloggers who were doing the race; we'd met in person a few nights earlier at Bob's blogger party. Even though there were 2500 athletes, we all happened to be in the same spot that morning for race numbering. Bob, on the left, actually volunteered to do body marking before the race, so he was working and couldn't show off his awesome magic marker tattoo with me and Melissa.

Walking through into the transition area after getting body marked, I really felt like “wow I’m doing an Ironman today!” It felt more real than it had all week. I pumped up my tires and handed the pump over the fence to Dave who carried it around in his backpack until after I was on my bike a few hours later! I mistakenly then put my RX sunglasses in my T2 bag which I didn’t realize until I got to the other side of the transition area to my T1 bag. Ugh. I went back to the T2 bag, retrieved my RX sunglasses and put my T2 To Do list in my T2 bag. In the T1 bag I placed my RX sunglasses and my T1 to do list along with my sunblock (which I’d put on after getting body marked, but thought I might want to reapply after the swim). (Photo below is me fixing the T1 bag)

I was really glad we got to the race start early. I’m not sure what all I did, but I didn’t feel like I was ever just standing around with nothing to do. I went through the port-a-potty line twice (finally success, yay!). It was cold with the wind, even after the sun came up, though it wasn’t miserably cold – just cold by Kendra standards. I was dreading putting my sweats in my morning clothes bag, but then I realized I had a wetsuit to keep me warm. This was only my second race with my wetsuit! I saw a sorry soul trying to use a one-time use Body Glide on his neck to prevent wetsuit chafing. I used my real stick some more (you can never use too much Body Glide!) and handed it to him. Those one-time uses are pretty useless, though I did put one in my Run Special Needs bag just in case.

Once I had my wetsuit mostly on, I threw everything else in my morning clothes bag and then tried to figure out how I was going to fit that bag into the bin of bags for racers 1-100 that was already overflowing. A pro came over and suggested we just put them on the ground. Somehow the 1-100 bin was far more full than all the others. Maybe because the pros started earlier so were already on the beach? Anyways, it made me feel special to share a trash bin with the pros for our morning clothes.

I walked to the beach while eating my banana and a few Chomps and I almost forgot that we had to go through the swim chute so that our timing chips would be registered and everyone would know we were in the water. I thought the chute would be really obvious, but it seemed like you could miss it if you're looking for a place to toss a banana peel... (maybe it would’ve been obvious if I’d tried to walk all the way down to the water before realizing my mistake.) I saw Dave and Lauren as I walked through the swim start chute, and I went over to where they were, standing behind the fence that separated the swimmers from the crowd. I got a few hugs, posed for photos, and tried to enjoy the last few moments with my people before I headed to the water with my caps and goggles on. I wore a pink cap as my base cap, then the goggles, then the race cap. I like wearing two caps because my goggles seem to stay put better over my swim cap, but adding another cap over the goggles ensures that if I get kicked in the face the goggles won’t fall off entirely. I didn’t bother wearing my ear plugs because I’d done a practice swim earlier in the week without them and realized the water was warm enough that I didn’t need them to keep my sensitive ears from freezing. I think it’s really best to go as minimalist as possible so you have fewer things to worry about and keep track of before and during the race.

By the time I wandered to the far right side of the beach it was probably 6:40 or 6:45 and Mike Reilly was already yelling at everyone to get out of the water for the pro start. Oops I hadn’t done any swimming to warm up. I wasn’t too worried about this since I realized the same thing happened for my Vineman 70.3 race. I wandered into the water to pee again before the race – seems like everyone else was doing the same thing. Meanwhile Mike Reilly is getting ticked, but I'm sure he's used to this. I tried to find my starting position. I just kept walking to the right until I could see the spectator barrier on that side. I had no idea if we were all supposed to be on the beach, or if the ankle deep water was okay. I stood just behind the water line, but it was behind a bunch of people. I looked behind me and saw lots of guys who looked like strong swimmers. I didn't particularly feel like starting at the very back, and these guys seemed pretty laid back and I heard some saying they planned to just let everyone else get in the water first, so I figured it was unlikely they would swim over me too hard. I positioned myself what seemed like 10-20 people from the right and about the same number of people deep in front and behind me.

I heard the National Anthem played before the pros went off with their cannon start, and I heard Mike Reilly ask how many of us were about to do their first Ironman. Lots of cheers for that! I think they said over 1300 of us were first timers! But other than that I didn’t hear anything else. There was no announcement that I heard, just the cannon and all of the sudden the race had begun!


  1. I love these kinds of detailed race reports. I always remember reading your stx swim post (I think I had it memorized before I went on the trip!)... plus it makes us feel like we're in on the action. excited for the next installment -- the swim!! (My fav.)

  2. Arnie and I got 50 yards beyond the barrier. In fact we ran into Joe Bonness who is 50 to 54 world champ, so I think way down the beach is the way to go. a lot less commotion on the first lap also.

  3. Never too many details for your big fans. Looking forward to the rest of the story.