I am an IRONMAN - again! This makes number seven (number five for IronBrand). It was amazing, hard, fun, different, hilly and hot.
What a day. What a race! In short: I nailed this race. The outcome (my times) may not reflect it, but I nailed the process. I arrived fit and fresh. I had a great pre-race morning with Ace. I felt ready and calm and excited about the challenge.
As previously mentioned, the swim was canceled. By the time we arrived in Chatty, my attitude was adjusted and I prepared myself for the course that lay ahead - the longest bike I’ve ever done and the hardest marathon I’ve ever done.
I’ll back up a little and recap our few days before the race because there were some highlights that I want to mention. We arrived on Thursday and settled in to our hotel a few blocks away from the MDot Village. We went out to dinner and headed to bed fairly early. The next morning, I dropped Ace off at the Chattanooga Country Club for a round of golf and I headed out of town for a bike and run session. I headed to the Chicaumauga Battlefield Park (actually in Georgia) for what was touted to be a great place to ride - and it WAS! Many of the roads were newly paved. It was early in the day and most traffic cuts right through the middle of the park - leaving the outer roads clear of traffic. Plus, I felt safe riding alone.
I rode over a one-lane bridge, past several rushing streams, stopped to talk to a black and white cow (my theme for the weekend) and even saw two bovines trying to make baby bovines (Geez, oh man, that’s not something you see every day)! I ran past Confederate and Union monuments, down a red-clay path, through what felt like a cemetery/battlefield even though I saw no headstones (spooky) and through a grassy field as the sun peeked through the fog. I felt like I was in a Runner’s World rave run calendar.
After that, I headed back into town and to packet pick-up. It had been raining in Chatty for days and the village was muddy and wet. I waited in a short line for numbers, a souvenir swim cap, chip and of course, the bag - which was AWESOME! It was a duffel-slash-book-bag hybrid. I went shopping in the MDot store and found
My go-to souvenir - the micro-fiber towel with every participant’s name - was not my favorite, so I bought a cute tri top and matching trucker hat (my new thing). I stood in a long, but quickly-moving, line for gear and then headed out to fetch Ace on the golf course. The Chatty Country Club happened to be along the run course, so I was able to preview the famed Barton hill and the back side of the second loop in the light of day. Kinda wish I hadn’t done that. It intimidated me a little, but I let it go.
On Saturday, we woke up early and went for a shake out run. We ran down to the start/finish/transition area at Ross’ Landing then up the Riverfront Parkway to Veteran’s Bridge. It was fun to look down into the river that we wouldn’t be swimming in. The lights from the banks were sparkling in the dark water and you could tell that the water was running high and fast. The roads were already blocked off so it was quiet and cool.
Later that day, I did my chores: packed my bags, dropped them off in T2, checked in my bike. I met Lisa for a picture at the MDot sign and asked her about the athlete meeting. That may be the one thing I wish I had done. Lisa was smart. She went to the meeting. And took notes. Lisa gave me the details that I needed - how they were going to do the start, the timing of transition, the deadlines for adding stuff to the run bag. But I didn’t write it down. In the back of my mind, for the rest of the day, I worried if I was going to remember the timeline. If I’d have gone to the meeting or written down the details from Lisa, I wouldn’t have fretted so much. Duh!
After meeting Lisa, I tried to keep things familiar. I headed back to the hotel room, pretended to nap. I futzed around with gear and bottles and bags (similar to Fridays at home). I even made Neal take a walk around the block - as if we were walking Sunny before dinner. I think I’m going to make this a new thing because it cleared my head, it relaxed me and we were able to explore the neighborhood. I ate an early dinner and hit the pillow.
When race day rolled around, I was up and ready to go before my alarm sounded its happy little chime. I ate (sweet potato biscuits with turkey and mayo + banana + coffee + a Larabar), donned my super suit, wrote my inspiration on my arm and did a little functional strength warm-up. Ace and I walked down to the village and I dropped off my run special needs bag, filled my bike with all its bottles and food and headed to my run transition bag to grab my shades.
One thing I would recommend at every race: go check on your bag on race morning! Mine had been moved! My bag (983) was lined up behind number 982 on Saturday, but by Sunday morning, it was lined up behind 981. I got a little frazzled because I’d already paced out where my bag would be in a line of 2499 other red and white bags! One of the volunteers - a woman with a Captain America shield on her sweatshirt - helped me find my bag. They had lined up the odds on the left hand side and evens on the right-hand side.
After that, I mapped out the bike start, the bike finish, the changing tents, the run start and the finish line. We mapped out how Ace would get to see me at all the intersections and how he might get on his bike to see me out on the run course.
We hung out by the riverfront for what seemed like forever. I warmed up a little. Were warned by race officials about the impending cannon blast to start the race (Dude! That little thing is only a little bigger than my Pez and was louder than a jet). I was surprisingly calm and having a good time. We talked to people in the crowd. We watched the pros (males only at this race) start a minute apart. Then the first of the age-groupers began their departure. Two-at-a-time. Five seconds apart.
I finally went into transition, looked for Lisa for a few minutes and then skeedaddled over to my bike. I chatted with the other women in my age-group. We introduced ourselves, told funny one-liners, nervously shifted from one foot to another in our bike shoes and fidgeted with our helmets. Finally, a race official came to our rack. Now, you can get your bike off. Now, you can walk your bike up. Now, you line up two-by-two. Now, you can lift one leg over the frame. Now you an clip one foot in. All this time we were moving forward and before I knew it we were ten spots groups away from the start.
Right about this time, I spotted my superhero volunteer. She was still inside the run bag area and cheering us all on. Have a great day. Enjoy the ride. See you when you get back. As I clip-clopped up to her, I handed her the red volunteer appreciation bracelet each athlete is given. You helped me so much this morning to find my bag. Please take this and know that you are loved. She beamed and said GO GET EM, GIRL!