Although I struggled with a restful night of rest on the days leading up to this IM, I never seem to have trouble sleeping on the night before an Ironman. In my opinion, heading to the start of an IM is much more simple than going to any other triathlon because almost everything is done on the day before the race. On race day, you just show up.
Around 6pm, Karel and my dad picked up Outback and I enjoyed the fresh brown bread, along with a sweet potato, broccoli (and shredded cheese) and scrambled eggs - which I made in my condo. I did a great job eating throughout the day, eating small meals every few hours after my morning race warm-up (20 min swim, 1 hr bike, 15 min run) so I didn't need to "stuff" myself in the evening.
Kevin Grogan and his wife (Kim who is racing in Kona), are staying in our condo plaza so while Kim and I relaxed in our seperate condo's, the "guys" went out for a beer. I suppose to "carbo load" before a LONG day of spectating.
I went to bed around 8:30pm and I think I was quick to fall asleep. Karel let me have the bed to myself and he slept out on the pull-out bed in the condo. The alarm went off at 4am and my entire family (and Karel) were up. We started a full pot of coffee and my parents left around 4:15 to walk to the pier for body marking and Karel stayed with me as I ate my typical pre-race breakfast (toast w/ PB and banana slices, oatmeal w/ protein powder, raisins and nuts) around 4:15am. I had a bottle of water to sip on with my breakfast and made my 3 bottles for the bike. I decided to freeze 1/3rd of the bottle of water, the night prior, and then add water w/ powder on the morning of the race. I then stuck the pre-made bottles in the freezer as I waited until 5:30am to head to transition.
I carried my "swim" bag which included my wet suit, cap, goggles, sunscreen, body glide, water bottle w/ Hammer fizz and a gel and put on my race day outfit and timing chip, along with my compression sleeves.
Karel made our quick 10 min walk to the pier/race venue and we headed to body marking. I got stamped by some fabulous volunteers and then I said hello to my parents, who were also volunteering at body marking. After I let the paint dry, I put on my Oakley Women jacket and yoga pants and headed to the transition area to pump up my tires and put in my bottles.
OH MY!! I forgot my bottles. I couldn't believe that I did that (first the first time ever), especially since I always remind my athletes ****DON'T forget your cold bottles in the fridge on race day morning!!
Karel, being the lifesaver that he is, ran back to the condo as I pumped up my front tubular tire (back tire didn't need it) to 120psi and put on my power tap (cleared it to zero). I decided to save time and put on my speedsuit and grab my cap and goggles and then headed to a meeting spot to find Karel waiting for me. Pheww, what a relief - Karel saves the day!
Karel told me it was a good thing that I forgot my bottles because it allowed me to take my mind off the race for a minute and to shake out some nerves. I suppose he was right because after I put my bottles on my bike, I felt extremely relaxed and fresh.
I said my good-bye to Karel and headed to the race start to wait in line for the port-o-potty. I had been sipping on my FIZZ and after one more stop at the restroom, I was ready to stand for the national anthem and here the cannon for the 6:30am pro start.
Right after, they let the age groupers into the water and I found my good friend Ange. We chatted for a few minutes and then I slowly made my way into the refreshing water (I'm guessing around 77 or 78 degrees) and swam around 40 yards to the official swim start.
Knowing that I would be out there for a while, I held onto a surf board until 6:50 and then occupied my time by looking underwater at the NBC video crew. A few of the guys kept popping up and videoing us above water but they spent most of their time swimming underwater with the fishies. The water is amazingly clear and that made for a great view for 2.4 miles.
I always wear a watch (in addition to garmin during the run) during my IM's because I like to know the time of the day. There are only a few "total time" clocks on the IM course so it is helpful to know where I am with my splits, since I am covering a lot of mileage in a 10+ hour day.
I noticed the official clock on the pier, next to Mike Riley, so I synced my watch with the official time and around 6:57, I could feel the crowd of people getting tighter and tighter. With 1 minute to go, it was almost as if you could feel 1800 heart beats, beating faster and faster...all the anticipation and training, leading up to this very moment.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ....BOOM!!
The cannon went off and to no surprise, the most brutal race start of my life.
The water felt extremely choppy, in addition to swimming over, around and under so many people. I was getting hit, swam over and pulled down but that is all to be expected. I just stayed calm and focused on spotting for a pocket of empty swimmers. It's amazing how we can all be in a huge body of water but constantly swim on top of one another. I was near the middle of the mass of athletes but as I was swimming I was getting closer and closer to the buoys. I stayed right on course, but having my goggles knocked off (luckily I caught them), pulled down and not being able to take full strokes at times, made for an exhausting swim.
It was a bit choppy in my warm-up swims and Ange and I had discussed focusing on smooth strokes, really reaching through in the water in order to not waste energy.
I avoided looking at my stop watch before the turn around but when I noticed 33 minutes at the turn around, I knew this was a really rough swim for me. I hoped that we would get a little push by the waves on the way back, considering that it was a tough swim to the turnaround, but that was not the case. I managed to find some smooth water but then I found myself working hard with no one to draft off of. I suppose it is a tough scenario - draft and swim with the masses, or swim by yourself and possibly expend more energy. I choose to draft..but it certainly was not my best swim as I was getting more and more exhausted as the swim went on.
As I neared the pier and passed my goal time of 1 hour, I knew this would not be a best time for me. Because the Ironman is a long day, I removed any negative thoughts from my head and focused on ways to regain some energy (calories on the bike) and focus on a quick transition.
As I exited the water (very slowly up the stairs), I jogged through the hoses to cool myself and rinse off and headed to my bag. I spotted my bag quickly, due to my bright colored ribbons on my bag and pulled it off the hook and headed to the transition tent.
The women's changing tent was extremely crowded and I managed to find a chair. A volunteer emptied my bag and I asked her to open my shoes and my cycling gloves. I slipped on my buckled race belt, put on my goggles, put in my nutrition into my pockets and put on my socks, shoes and gloves. I thanked the volunteer that was helping me as I exited the transition w/ a cup of water as the volunteer put my swim belongings back into my bag.
I made my way around the edge of the pier, then ran down my bike lane towards my bike. I grabbed my GIRO aero helmet, buckled it, turned on my power meter and ran with my bike to the mount line.
There were people everywhere and it was super exciting to hear the cheers from the crowd. Also super excited to be done with the most exhausting swim of my life!
I knew this bike would be tough so I re-focused, had a quick sip of my bottle and climbed up a short, yet steep climb out of transition.
As soon as I started riding, I felt amazingly good on my bike yet incredibly tired. The riding legs were on and it was time for the most challenging 112 mile bike ride of my life....