Now, for the pre-race race report!
So even though I did a triathlon last year that was 140.6 miles long, I didn't feel like I had the full "I AM AN IRONMAN" bragging rights because it wasn't an Ironman-brand race. There was no M-Dot gear to buy, no announcement when I crossed the finish line proclaiming that I was an ironman. And even though I enjoyed the low-key atmosphere of Beach2Battleship, I wanted an Ironman water bottle and an M-Dot visor, a kind of visual validation for all the world to see that I was really and truly an Ironman.
I felt pretty confident in my ability to compete and complete Ironman Florida. I already had one 140.6 mile race under my belt, Florida was a flat course (nothing scary like Savageman), and I had done all of the training. So I wasn't nervous in the days leading up to the race. The lack of nerves could also be attributed to the fact that school is kicking my butt and Mark and I close on our first house 6 days after Ironman - so there have been other things on my mind. But I still found it slightly odd that I was totally calm about the race in the days before (I did have a freak-out in the middle of the night the night before the race - more on that in a bit).
Mark and I arrived in Florida on the Wednesday before the Saturday race, 14 hours of driving in one day. I harbored a not-so-secret hope that Ironman would take me less time to complete than the drive to Panama City Beach. We stayed in a Team Z house with Bryan, Mel, Iwan and Robin. It was right on the run course and about two miles from the finish line. I was also thrilled that we were staying with Mel and Iwan because it was the first time I got to hang out with them since they eloped last month! There were in FL to be spectathletes extraordinaire. Plus, sharing a house with Mel and Bryan brought back fun memories of Mooseman 2008.
Thursday morning, Bryan and I met up with other Z'rs who had arrived to poke arond transition and see the swim course. I had NO IDEA the Gulf was such pretty shades of blue and green. As the day progressed, PCB became overrun with ridiculously fit athletes sporting copious amounts of spandex and riding prohibitively expensive bikes. The line was loooonnnnggg for packet pick-up, but the volunteers were great. I even got to use my (super rusty) French to help a guy from France figure out the medical release form. I then went on a little shopping spree for M-Dot gear (mug, magnet, socks, shirt, water bottle, two visors). But because I am superstitious, all of that stuff sat in a bag until I completed the race. Bryan and I had a gear-bag packing extravaganza that afternoon. And holy crap Ironman demands alot of gear, fluid, and nutrition! I'm going to type up my packing list for use in future races. After the packing extravaganza came a bike cleaning extravaganza. By the end of the evening, the bulk of the preparations were done - dry gear bag, T1, T2, bike special needs, and run special needs bags all packed, the bike was clean and sporting a new aero water bottle holder.
Friday morning was a pre-race brick, beginning with a frolic.... errrr swim, in the Gulf. The buoys looked REALLY far out and it was hard to wrap my mind around swimming that course twice on race day. But the water was beautiful both in looks and in temperature, although it was choppier than I had expected, because from the shore it didn't look like there were waves. But I didn't feel motion sick and the waves were actually kind of fun, which was a pleasant surprise. I was less concerned with what it would be like to have a choppy swim on race day. Then it was off for a 30 minute bike ride. I rode with Ryan for part of the ride, but took a detour on the way back so I could pick up a snack from the rental house because I was STARVING! Then I did a 15 minute run and the last workout for Ironman was complete! The weather was beautiful, I definitely got some sun, and I was feeling good for race day. I dropped my gear bags off in transition along with my bike. I hemmed and hawed on whether or not I should let air out of my (super cool rented) Zipp tires so the tubes didn't pop if it got hot. I decided not to and it turned out to be fine. The rest of Friday was just a hurry up and wait kind of day. I kept looking at the clock thinking "in 24 hours from now, I'll be halfway done with the bike... I'll be on the run... hopefully I'll be finished the race... etc." We went to the team dinner, ate some yummy pasta and I totally grabbed like 4 little desserts because they all looked good (I planned on splitting them with Mark). It was so nice to be able to mingle and chat with my teammates and supporters who came down to watch - there were so many of us! Forty-three racing plus about 100 people coming down to just watch. Awesome! We did a team picture and Ed gave a very touching speech, and suddenly I realized that the next time I would see everyone, we'd all be wearing wetsuits and be on our way into the Gulf! It's kind of funny, when I first joined Team Z in November 2007, one of the first team events I went to was the holiday brunch that December. They showed the team video from Ironman Coeur d'Alene that was taken that summer - there were shots of the pre-race dinner, interviews with the racers beforehand, and shots from the race itself, all complete with music that perfectly fit the mood of each moment. That video really made an impression on me, I could feel the nerves of everyone getting ready for the race, the excitement and anticipation of the start cannon, the emotion and pride of everyone because of all their hard work, and it made me want to do Ironman. I downloaded alot of the songs that were used in the video and even now, two years later, I always think about that video when I hear them. So, in a way, it was surreal that here I was, two years later, about to have that same experience for myself - the pre-race team dinner, the exciting start, the exhilarating finish. I was really happy to be a part of Team Z and I was really grateful that I had the motivation, desire, and capability to compete in a race like Ironman.
I went to bed early the night before the race, only two wake up two hours later feeling like I had a butterfly emporium in my belly - hello pre-race nerves, I was wondering when you'd make an appearance! I don't know if it was all pre-race nerves, I was also nervous about eating at the buffet dinner that night. I am really particular about my food in the days/weeks leading up to a race because I don't want to get sick before a race. I like to prepare my own food, stay away from too much meat, just so I know what I'm putting in my body. At the pre-race dinner I just had bread, pasta and alfredo sauce, and the requisite dessert. So I was fine, just paranoid. I managed to go back to sleep and when I woke up a 3am, I felt fine, just excited.
Race morning had finally arrived!!!