Since my race report is going to be ridiculously long, I'm breaking it up into two parts (or maybe more, we'll see when I get there). For now, here are my memories from the days leading up to the race:
Race week started with the trip down to Panama City on Tuesday. Since this was my first IM, I wanted to give myself plenty of time to de-compress and for all of the logistical stuff all week. I see no point in heading to the race on Thursday morning. I can't think of anything worse than rushing around and being stressed getting ready for a day I've worked so hard and so long to get to.
Putting things into perspective, I started thinking about doing this three years ago, and started training for it in January 2005, when I started training for my first marathon. So why not take a couple of extra days.....
Fortunately we had found a townhouse about a mile from the race site that was dog friendly on vrbo.com, so we packed up the dogs and all of my race gear I had fortunately started packing the week before. It’s amazing how much you need for an ironman.
It was an easy drive, and we had some time to relax and for me to get in a quick 45 minute ride before picking up my mom from the Panama City airport. Note to Panama City government: PLEASE put up signs to the airport. The only reason we were able to find the airport was that I had printed directions from the house on yahoo.maps. There wasn’t a single sign to the “International” airport on the way there from the beach.
Anyway, we got there right when my mom did, since her flight landed a few minutes early. We got crabs at Dirty Dicks (I know, a bit cheesy, but they picked the name, not me), and relaxed at the house later that night. The house was great, except for one minor issue – the windows/insulation in the master bedroom SUCKED, and the traffic noise was so loud, I though the window in our room was open. Hmmm...that should be fun the night before the race. Scratch that…who am I kidding, there’s no way in hell I’m going to manage to get any sleep the night before the race anyway.
Wednesday morning I got up early and headed down to the race site for one of the morning practice swims. The water was perfectly clear and flat. WOW. I remember thinking I hope it’s like that on race day. I put on my wetsuit and headed out for a ½ hour swim. I swam out for about 15 minutes at a nice easy pace and headed back in. Mission accomplished: my wetsuit fit perfectly and I was able to focus on my stroke and relax a bit. I wonder how well that's going to work in the midst of 2000 other totally obsessive type A personalities on race day....Hmmm.....
It was about 10:00 and registration had just opened, so I headed over to hopefully beat the lines. There were already a couple of hundred people there, but things moved quickly and I got my chip, number, transition bags and special needs bags.
Then I noticed half of my swim watch was blank. After spending an hour driving to Wal-Mart and a few jewelry stores to finally find someone to change the battery, since I was hoping the problem was the battery....I found out the problem wasn’t the battery. Fortunately there was a Timex tent setup at the race site. A HUGE thanks to those guys for hooking me up with a new watch for the race. 1st glitch of the week solved.
When we got back to the house I started packing the transition bags to get a bit of a head start. At this point I realized that my taper must be going perfectly, because I was edgy as hell. Ahhhh....the fun of taper madness....I next switched my attention to my bike and was thrilled to see a few cuts in the rear tire. Nothing like brand new race tires that need to be replaced. Uggghhh....Glitch number two.
I took my bike over to the race site to get a new tire put on....better safe than sorry. The folks at the bike shop took a look and were absolutely positive that the cuts were nowhere near the puncture barrier on the tires, and told me not to give it a second thought...so I took their advice and put it out of my mind….glitch number two solved. God I hope I don’t get a flat in the race...
Thursday I took the day completely off from any workouts and tried to relax as much as possible. We drove the bike course, since I HATE bad surprises, and spent quite a bit of time packing and re-packing the transition bags, making sure I didn’t forget anything. I’m a bit surprised I don’t read about more people driving the course. If I’m going to spend such an enormous amount of time and money for an event like this, I want to eliminate as many of the unknowns as possible. 112 miles is a long way to go, and I want to know what’s coming.
Speaking of unknowns, I of course spent quite a bit of time in front of the tv obsessively checking the weather. What else are you gonna do when you’re edgy as hell and have WAY too much pent up energy.
We headed to the athletes dinner and meeting and came back to the house to watch one of my favorite movies: RUDY. Gotta love a guy with, as the coach put it, not a spec of athletic ability, who keeps getting the crap beat of him, but hangs in there. It’s all about heart. I can relate to it I guess. I have ZERO athletic ability (especially when it comes to swimming – just check my swim splits for proof), yet here I am getting ready to become an Ironman.
By the way, thanks to Susan for getting to the dinner early and holding a bunch of seats for the rest of the hammerheads. Also, thanks to the person who gave me their extra dinner ticket for Lori, saving me $25. Good karma – I hope you had a great race :)
Friday gave me one last chance to make sure everything was ready for the race, including the most important piece of equipment: ME. I headed out for a quick 10 minute swim in my race gear and wetsuit, a very easy 20 minute ride (mainly to shift through all the gears and make sure everything was in order), and a 10 minute run with a couple of quick pickups to stretch out a bit. Everything seemed to be in working condition, including me, so I checked my transition bags one last time and headed to the race site to drop off my bike and bags.
One little problem – they won’t let my bike into transition without the bike numbers on it....duuuhhhh....how many races have I done? Ughhh....Quick trip back to the house, his and hers 15 minute massages (gotta do something nice for Lori for putting up with my edginess all week), some significant $ damage done at the expo (once again, gotta do something nice for Lori for putting up with my edginess all week), and I had nothing to do but wait for 7 am the next day, except be nervous as hell and continue checking the weather obsessively. By the way, we found the CUTEST swim bike run shirt for out little girl who's on the way...pictures to follow.
Friday night I had my usual pre-race pasta w/ pesto and garlic bread dinner at around 6, put one one last inspirational movie (Rocky), packed my special needs bags, got all of my morning gear laid out, and put a quick message on the mirror for the morning.
I’m a big believer in giving yourself positive messages at critical times. I got this idea from Rich Strauss at Crucible Fitness, as well as many others I’d use on race day. I put a couple of things on the mirror so that they’d be the first thing I saw when I woke up:
SLOW IS SMOOTH…SMOOTH IS FAST. (perfect for my pre-race routine and transitions. The point here is to take your time. Things are going to go wrong. Fix it and move on)
My one thing: See how far I can push myself. Be the man your dog and daughter think you are :) (OK – so I had two things. It’s a LONG day and is going to be an emotional rollercoaster with lots of highs and lows, so I’ve been told. When you hit the lows, it’s time to remember why you’re doing the race)
Andrew Hariton You Are an Ironman (just for good measure)
As luck would have it, I felt tired and had no problem falling sound asleep. I woke up at 3:30 for the adventures of race day to begin....Hopefully between 3:30 am and 12:00 midnight, I’ll hear Mike Reilly announce those magical words: Andrew Hariton, You Are an Ironman.
3 weeks ago