Alarm goes off. To my surprise, I was able to sleep well the night before the race. This night is usually filled with tossing and turning as my brain goes over the plans for the race and what I need to do in transition. With this being my first full Ironman race, I expected a sleepless night. I think having packed my transition bags and dropping my bike off the day before the race allowed me to relax.
Two medium sweet potatoes and a large glass of water down the hatch.
Water bottles for the day (at least the start of the bike) filled with lots of ice and water. I filled my aero bottle and a 24oz regular bottle full of clear water. I filled a second 24oz bottle full of 3 hours worth of Hammer Perpetuem mix. I took another two bottles of water with NUUN tablets with me to drink while waiting for the swim start. I also filled my gel flask with 3 gels to cover me for the first half of the ride.
Water bottles and Morning Clothes Bag in hand, I head out the door.
Arrived at the Hyatt parking garage. I debated about the best place to park considering that the race start and finish were a good 5-6 blocks apart. I chose a location closer to the finish, figuring I wouldn’t feel like walking far at the END of the day.
I run into my friends (and training partners) Brendan and Tim right outside the transition area. We walked over together and waited in line for them to open transition.
Transition is open. We set a plan to meet back up in 10 minutes or so to head down to the swim start. I made my way over to my bike. I placed the water bottles on my bike and then began to fidget with my bike computer. While dropping my bike off the day before I noticed that my bike computer was not picking up the signal from my wheel. More than likely this meant that the battery in the transmitter (mounted on the fork) needed to be replaced. I had picked up a new battery at Walgreens and made the change…still wasn’t working. I began to feel my pulse rise as I knew that I relied on my bike computer during my rides and I would need to today more than ever. I took a break from messing with it an borrowed a pump to top off my tires. The recommended pressure is 115 psi, but everyone tells you to inflate to slightly less than that to avoid a blowout as the tubes expand in the heat. I remembered hearing tires pop while I was a volunteer in T1 last year, so I decided to inflate them to around 105 psi.
Back to the bike computer. I needed a pen or pencil to push the reset button on the computer…which I didn’t have. I ended up using the clasp on my watch to get it to reset. After resetting the computer, it appeared as if it was working again. I breathed a sigh of relief and then headed down to find my transition bags and drop off my Garmin watch and GPS receiver from MyAthleteLive.com
Met back up with Brendan and Tim and hitched a ride with Tim’s wife (Lauren) down to the swim start. It’s only about 3/4 of a mile, but getting a ride saves time and legs. Luckily for me, our friend Jaime had been down at the swim start since around 4:15am and was holding a spot for us. I was about 10th in line! I was fully expecting to be somewhere in the middle of the line…around 1000th…not 10th! I stopped on the way down to the line and had by body marking done. “1255” on both arms and “33” on my left calf. I have to mention that the woman that did my body marking did an excellent job – very neat, well-sized numbers. For whatever reason, I like having good looking race numbers!
From left to right: Brendan, Jaime, Tim and Me
The wait begins. Not only had Jaime saved a spot, she had set up shop…complete with a blanket and chairs. We took turns walking down to the port-o-pots and just sat around chatting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. I ran into by buddy and swim training partner Bill on the way back from the bathroom and told him to follow me and sneak into the prime spot at the front of the line.
I was on my second water bottle with NUUN and since it was about a half hour from race start, I went ahead and ate my Cliff Shot Blocks. These blocks just give me a little boost of energy at the start of the race. I don’t normally eat of drink caffeine, so when I do, it has quite an effect!
One last trip to the bathroom. Brendan and I sweet talked our way onto one of the houseboats that was docked at the swim start. I knew I needed to “go #2”, but I couldn’t make it happen. I have a pre-race routine in every sense of the word and part of my normal routine hadn’t happened yet…
The pros start.
The playing of “The Call To The Post” from the bugler from Churchill Downs. Then the signing of “My Old Kentucky Home” and “The National Anthem”. I’m still not sure why the waited until the pro’s had started before doing all this. We all wished each other luck and pretended that we weren’t nervous.
My Ironman began! This is the time that I crossed the timing mat according to my watch. I jumped into the river feet first and started swimming that familiar stretch between Towhead Island and the shore. I swam this 3/4 of a mile stretch the last three Tuesday mornings with Brendan and Tim, so I knew it well. Things were a little crowded at the beginning (they are in every open water swim). I caught an elbow to the face pretty early that moved my goggles down a little on my face. It made them slightly uncomfortable, but no water was getting in, so I didn’t stop to adjust them.
Once I reached the spot where we normally stop and head back (around 0.8 miles) on our Tuesday morning swims, I looked at my watch. It was somewhere between 19 and 20 minutes, so I knew that I was swimming at the pace I wanted. This was the only time during the swim that I looked at my watch. I made an effort to stay in line with the buoys. There are lots of “experts” when it comes to doing the IMLOU swim. It’s a very unique swim in the fact that it’s a time trial (one at a time) start and it’s in a river. People will tell you to head out into the middle of the river because the current is stronger there. People will tell you that the buoys are not the quickest route because they follow the turn of the river and do not make a straight line between the turn around point and the finish. I listened to all this advice and then decided to follow the buoys anyway. Just about everyone else kept the buoy’s to their left, I swam on the other side, with the buoy’s on my right. It was much less congested and I believe that it was a slightly shorter route.
Somewhere around this time, about an hour into the swim, I passed under the first of two bridges (The Big Four bridge). At this point, I decided to start drafting. Starting at the front of the line means that I was being passed by faster swimmers constantly by this point. As a faster swimmer would come past me, I would tuck in right behind them and swim on their feet as long as I could. Most of the time I could only keep up for a minute or two, then I would look to both sides, find another person passing, and do the same. I did this for the last 15 or so minutes of the swim. I’m not sure how much this helped my time, but I felt like I was able to maintain my pace without using as much energy.
I had run into my Manny, my swim coach, while waiting in line at the swim start. He told me that he would be at the swim exit, helping people get out of the water. As I approached the swim exit (a set a stairs), I was looking for Manny. I spotted him and put my head down for the last few meters. As he helped me out of the water, I glanced at my watch. I was expecting to do the swim somewhere between an hour and 20 minutes and an hour and 30 minutes. Much to my surprise my watch read 1:12:23 as I crossed the timing mat at the top of the stairs. My first thought? I must have accidentally hit the lap button on my watch about 10 minutes into the swim and this 1:12:23 was the time since then.
I ran from the swim exit, up the shoot to transition. I was handed my Bike Gear bag and headed into the changing tent. I pulled my tri shorts off and put on my bike shorts (carefully, so I didn’t pull the tape off of my knee or hips). I put on my socks, bike shoes, heart rate monitor strap and pulled my tri shirt on. I took a minute to stretch my IT Band and hip flexors before grabbing my helmet and sunglasses and heading out to the bike racks. I knew that my transition time was going to be slow, but I felt that changing shorts and doing some stretches would make for a much more enjoyable 112 mile ride.
As I was exiting transition, I noticed that the large “official race clock” showed a time of an hour and twenty minutes. I immediately knew that my swim time of 1:12:23 was legitimate and I immediately became excited about the rest of the day!
…to be continued…