I did it! I’m an IRONMAN…..AGAIN! Wait, didn’t I just say that? Just five weeks after IRONMAN CHATTY, here I am with another shiny medal and a finisher’s hoodie and an awesome finish line dance. I finished my eighth iron-distance race and my sixth MDOT race.
This one was a doozy! It was so EXTRA. I know that IRONMAN ain’t easy on a good day, but this one gets bonus points (demerits?). Despite its wacky-ness, it will go down as one of my favorites of all time. Not because of my performance or the outcome. But because of the summer that preceded it, the adventure in the days before and after, the internal battles I fought and won and most importantly: JENNIFER, MARIA, TONYA, ACE, JULE, HAYLEIGH, CASSIE, SCOTT, CAROLYN, PAUL and WENDY. This tribe of amazing athletes, fans and family made it a jewel of a day.
I left Wilmington on Thursday with Tonya and her mom, Jule, following in her car behind me. I was looking forward to the nine-plus hour trip in Honey’s fancy Benz with heated seats and MASSAGE and Sirius XM. I’d planned out a few podcasts and had a coaching call with some new athletes. We stopped for coffee on the way out of town and hit the road. Things went smoothly until we hit South Carolina. Suddenly, Jen’s bike, Scarlet, decided I wasn’t driving fast enough! She tried to hop off the bike rack and pedal the rest of the way. Or maybe she wanted to go back to Pedro’s sombrero at South of the Border. I pulled in to the next exit off I-95 and realized one of the bungee/fasteners had a hole in it. I rearranged it and jumped back in. Two miles later - it happened AGAIN. This time, Scarlet’s front end bounced off the arm of the rack. At that point, I was talking to Jen, Tonya was calling to tell me to pull over and I was watching out of the rear view as the handlebars shook and bobbed. Right there on the side of I-95, T and J and I MacGyverred a new contraption with her belt and a pipe cleaner. That lasted an hour and proved to be too much for my nerves. I stopped somewhere in Georgia and took Scarlet off the bike rack! We figured out that the aerojacket disc wheel was catching so much wind that it was creating lift and tension on the bungee. I removed her front wheel and put it in the front seat next to me and placed the frame on top of the luggage and gear in the back. DRAMA!
On Friday morning, Tonya, Maria and I set out on a mission to do a shake-out swim. Our first attempt was a hilarious fail at the neighborhood fitness center. We went to the front door and banged a bit on the glass to get the attention of the manager. No one answered. We walked back around to the fitness center door just as a man with a Boston tee shirt and an accent to match walked out. Could you please let us in? We asked sweetly. Do you live here? he asked in that heavy Boston brogue as he shut the door with emphasis behind him. Sorta. Yes. No. We all answered. That sealed the deal. He went on to tell us that they’d let in guests before that had stolen the weights out of the fitness center. You’ll have to check in up at the desk, he said gruffly.
We decided that our next best option was to visit the Omni Resort down the street. We zipped right on over, parked in the guest lot like we were the boss, walked in the side door, asked for the best way to the pool and found ourselves inside the “adult pool” complete with fountains and cabanas (which we used) and a hot tub (which we did not). Here we were at a swanky pool with our spandex and goggles practicing our open water swim starts and alligator avoidance tactics. We each spent a lap in the middle while the other two bumped us at the hip, tried to grab our leg or reached for our arm. We spent about 30 minutes playing and then headed back to our little neighborhood of rental homes and our six-room mansion in Davenport.
There is so much to do before a race. One of the challenges for this race: our accommodations were 30 minutes away from the race site. There are very few hotels in Haines City and with the change of venue from Panama City Beach we struggled to find what we did! In fact, we were bumped from our original spot and had to rebook to Championsgate in Davenport. The best news is that six-room house! Nine people, five bikes, three cars and a plethora of tri gear fit in this fantastic space. Ace and I had a sweet suite on the second floor with a king-sized bed and a king-sized shower.
Of course, when there are more than two people involved, it adds a new dimension to all you do before a race. We had a dozen people in our tribe! Remarkably, we all meshed. On Friday morning, Maria’s parents made breakfast and brought it over. Ten of us went out to dinner on Friday night. Tonya’s mom and Haleigh made breakfast on Saturday. Some folks went to Disney, others went to Ironman Village and Ace went to play golf. It was the most relaxed team effort!
This race had an added aspect for me. Not only was I racing, but I was also working. It’s not like I was steering the ship or even had to be the social director, but I was on call to answer questions. My team took care of themselves, but I am invested in them. I love them and wanted them to have the best experience ever.
With all that said, we packed a LOT into the few days leading up to the race!
Pick-Up Haleigh, Ace and Jen at the Airport (40-minute drive there with tolls + 60-minute drive back because I got lost).
Meet for Lunch
Drive to Race Site for Packet Pick-Up (30 minute drive there). Shop the merch. Shop the expo. Lounge at NormaTech tent.
Tornado Warning! They closed down Ironman Village! Look! There’s a water spout!
Head Back to Davenport in a crazy storm that foreshadowed
Wake Up and Coffee
Prep Gear Bags
Shake-Out Ride. Why is it so cold? What is up with 15mph winds?
Drive to Haines City (4 bikes, 8 people, 2 cars)
Drop Off Bikes and Gear Bags
Look for Lost Merchandise at NormaTech tent, IM merch tent, bike shop, IM Info Booth and TheraGun tent (where the NormaTech guy was and said he found my lost gear!)
LUNCH at Big Tony’s PIzza
Back to Davenport
Final Gear Prep
Bed at 8:00pm
TOMORROW IS RACE DAY!