Ironman is an interesting beast. It's not just about swimbikerun. There is way too much to pack, remember, practice, test, and organize. You have 6 months to figure it out, yet it seems like there are still way too many last minute decisions and freakouts. What special need item did you really want on that one long ride? What was that perfect breakfast you ate before that amazing ride? Wet shorts, dry shorts? You can't predict the weather. What if you didn't try this certain specific clothing combination? Are you f'd because of the "nothing new on race day" LAW that every triathlete tries very hard to follow?
For those of you not familiar with the Ironman bag scenerio, here's the scoop. You get 5 bags.
1. Morning Clothes bag. I packed all the stuff I'd need for the swim; wetsuit, earplugs, swim cap, neoprene cap, silcone cap, 1 vanilla gu, green goggles, tinted goggles, HR monitor. I was wearing my sports bra and bikini bottoms. After putting most of that stuff on, opting for the tinted rather than green, I put my sweats, iPod and shoes in that bag and handed it to a volunteer before booking it towards the swim start.
2. Bike Bag (aka T1 bag). Included is everything you need for the bike. Mine included: Towel, bike shorts, bike jersey, vest, arm warmers, bike shoes, socks, aero helmet, 1 vanilla gu, garmin, sunglasses.
3. Bike Special Needs. They pass this to you around the midway point on the bike. I put an extra bottle of my 1200 calorie drink and some chamois cream. Neither of which I used.
4. Run Bag (aka T2 Bag). Run shoes, socks, body glide, another garmin, Splish tri top, tri shorts, visor, water bottle and hand holder, salt tabs, 1 gu, shotbloks.
5. Run Special Needs. Didn't drop it off, didn't use it. Didn't need anything I didn't pack.* (with a small exception)
Here is my Run Gear Bag, with a bright green lei. I was surprised at how many people didn't have a bag marker. It was an addition I though couldn't hurt. And...it actually came in handy when I found my bag before the volunteer at T2.
I had a gmail chat conversation with Beth a couple days before the race while we were both contemplating the, what goes in which bag, issue. It ended with me typing in frustration, "Why is everything so complicated?! This sport is so messed up."
Fast forward to May 1, 2010. Race Morning:
3:00am wakeup to Dr. Dre on my iPhone alarm, alerting me that yes, it is finally here. I was awake much before the alarm.
3:15am Breakfast: Oatmeal, brown sugar. Banana? I can't remember.
4:00am Out of the house and to the bus
4:30am On school bus. Listening to iPod to drown out wind and cold water talks. Hold my breath through someone's horribly stinky butt. Triathletes sure are regular.
5:00am Arrive at transition
5:00-6:30am. Get ready. Porta-pottie twice. Pump tires. Sat alone on a rock by the swim start mentally rehearsing, jamming out. Ate half a powerbar smoothie. Quick jog. Wetsuit on, walk to swim start with socks on.6:40am Eat vanilla Gu. Wait in swim start corral for the pro's to start
6:45am First one to enter the water. Swim out, warm up, but really it was more of a cool off. Scoop out the buoy situation, find an ideal front row middle spot, chat with kayakers, freeze. Keep reminding myself that it's 58 degrees, you are wearing 3 caps, you are fine. (really it was somewhere around 54 according to the reports). Pee. Mmm. Warm again.
7:00am BOOM. (a very loud cannon)
What do we do? We swim, swim.
After the gun went off, I just started swimming. At a normal pace. No sprinting, no rush to get into anything. I didn't get hit once. I found some calm waters near the outside and just went with it. Found my stroke and went with it. During the first stretch I was settling in, looking for feet and doing my best to hold back. Some thoughts:
"wow, it's really here"
"Hmm, why didn't I get attacked?"
"Wow, this guy is wearing a sleeveless, crazy person"
"Hmm, hands are a bit frozen...kind of like blocks. Keep your form, they are still working"
"Find feet, find feet, sight"
Found some feet, and before I knew it, we were at the red buoy and making our first turn. Brace yourself.
"Oh wow, that man in TYR wetsuit was nice! He didn't cut me off, am I really racing? Did I fall asleep? Am I at the back of the pack where everyone is nice? WTF?! I thought this was the Ironman, the craziest swim, the no-holds bar, rip off goggles, run over, kick faces swim? Yet, everyone seems to be working together, minding their space. This is awesome!"
Turn two and we are on the long back stretch. Sticking with the same people. I didn't see any yellow caps (women) around. Looked behind me, orange drafters. Looked ahead, orange pullers. Okay, you are sitting pretty. Effort check? Again, I felt amazing and had to ask myself if I was going to get serious and race. Passed a pink cap (pro women). Hands are now really frozen. Try to open and close fingers really fast while recovering. Ouch!!!!!!!! Your tendons were frozen and that was not comfortable. Still too frozen to really realize what happened.
Turn 3. You can see the boat ramp. Another pink cap. You can see the exit. This is taking too long. Don't push too hard. Don't slow down! Get there. Engage legs. Flex feet, wow calves are really tight. Be prepared for cramps. Keep moving ankles. Get ready to stand. Stand. Walk. Don't walk, come on, you know you are up there. Don't look like a freak who wins the swim and walks through transition. Wow, this is steep.
7:53:14am Swim Finish (1st AG, 1st Female Ammeter, 22nd overall-including pros, although I had no idea where I was at or what my time was. I didn't see the clock) Pass wetsuit strippers. Stop at the last one, remove wetsuit. Get T1 bag. Run. Ouchies, they freaking run out of carpet on the way to the woman's change tent?! That's not right. Now get ready for chaotic organization. Dump bag. Conversation with 3 AMAZING volunteers. It pays to have a fast swim. Many ready and willing handlers to rock your world. Basically it's me barking orders:
"Towel. Shorts. Gu. Open it. Jersey. Put it on me. Socks. Help me. I am cold. The water was cold. You guys have your work cut out for you. There are going to be people way colder than me. Shoes, on please. Garmin on my left wrist. Helmet strap unbuckled. Is it warm? (They respond that it looks like a hot day) Okay, no arm warmers, no vest, back in bag. Make sure ear plugs are in swim cap and in this bag. Do not lose them. Wetsuit in bag."
I run out screaming "Thank you, thank you!!! You guys are the best!!" And I feel a bit guilty for barking at those ladies. They were so helpful. You were cold and conserving energy. Why does your hand hurt so bad?
Out of the tent, I see more volunteers, grabbing bikes. There he is, Kermit, waiting for me in the hands of a small lady. I grab him. I hop on. (it was more of a slow mounting) I head out the long chute with many cheers. I do not see anyone I know. Somehow that took 4:09. It's around 7:58am before I look at my watch.
I focus on lowering the HR, settling in and immediately begin eating. And more eating. Shove 1/2 a powerbar in (100 caories), 2 sips of carbopro (200 calories), salt tabs, and keep in mind I just had a gu (100 calories) in transition. I needed to get the calories in before the hills. Little did I know, all that food would ruin the better half of my day.