Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin - Part 1

I don't care who you are.  4AM is too dang early to be getting up on a Sunday.  I had been battling butterflies in my stomach all night, and probably got around 4 hours of sleep.  Not in a row, mind you, but 4 hours total when you add together the 15-20 minute chunks of unconsciousness.

I hopped, okay, stumbled out of bed and staggered over to the shower.  A couple of minutes under the hot water did wonders.  I suited up into the two items that I'd be wearing all day - my tri shorts and my heart rate monitor.  Over those went a comfy pair of warmups and a long-sleeve t-shirt.

I snarfed down a bagel, some peanut butter and a banana while The Wife freshened up.  I checked my special needs bags one more time and then we hit the road.

Special needs on the left..uh, my left, your right.  Morning clothes on the left, uh, right, um.  You get the idea. 
All things considered, we were pretty early to the Terrace on race morning.  There were still a couple more things to do before the race started.  First, I had to drop off the special needs bags so that they could be transported to the course.  These held some basic necessities for mid-race.  You know, things like fresh socks, Vaseline and Aleve.

Bye bye stuff!
Then, we headed over to the bike racks where I filled up my aerobar-mounted water bottles with sport drink and water.  By this point it was getting pretty crowded.  It took an uncomfortably long amount of time to find the body-markers - the people who write your race number on your arms and your age on your calf.  It seemed that everyone we asked thought that these maestros of the Sharpie were in a different place.  Not to worry, eventually we tracked them down.

There were only a few more minutes left before I would have to start heading down to the water.  I took a sharpie and wrote a few things on my arm.

First, I put some key words up on my wrist.

Just a few reminders to keep me from flying off the handle.
Then, I dedicated some of my run miles to a few special people.

Yep.  Mile 26 was for you Wife.  Oh yeah, and mile #19 says EXACTLY what you think it does.
Then it was time to pour myself into my wetsuit.  There's just no graceful way to do it.

Struggling with my superhero suit while the sun rises in the background.
Once suited-up, we followed the mass exodus down from the top level of the Terrace and onto the shore.  As we neared the shore line the music got louder and louder.  Soon, we hit the end.  It was time to say goodbye.

And one with help from a stranger.  The guy behind us looks like he's never seen a camera before.
Before I turned to head into the water, The Wife gave me a kiss and said "be careful, and listen to your body".  I said, "Why?  Did I fart again?".  Ah yes.  I combat anxiety with humor.  She picked a spot up on a hill and I got in line with 2900 other nervous athletes clad in rubber and neoprene.

Soon, the cannon went off and the pros started their day.  That meant it was 6:50 and there were only 10 minutes left until it was my turn.  The only problem?  I was still on shore with at least 1000 other athletes.  You see, before any athlete could get into the lake, they had to walk over an electronic 'timing pad' so that the timing chip strapped around each of their ankles would activate.

These timing mats were only about 6 feet wide, causing an anxious bottleneck.  The clock continued to count down.  With 5 minutes to go, I was really starting to get nervous.  Then, with 3 minutes to go, I finally squeezed my way through, heard my chip chirp, and dove into the lake, right in the middle of the national anthem.  No.  I did NOT remove my cap for the anthem.

I swam slowly out to the crowd.  Before I knew it, I was smack in the middle of what can best be described as a 'floating mob'.  I didn't want to get too close to the front of the pack.  I figured that would just make me available for more people to swim over.  However, the more that swimmers were packed into the mob, the closer I was pushed up to the front.  I turned around, drew an imaginary line in the water with my hand and yelled "Okay.  THIS is MY SPACE".  I only got laughter.  Oh well.

When I heard U2's 'Beautiful Day' come on over the loudspeaker.  I knew that there were only seconds to go.  I could feel my heart beating in my neck.  I took one more glance towards land to see thousands of spectators lining the shore and climbing to the top of Monona Terrace.

Then,  BOOOOMMM!!  The cannon went off.

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