Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ironman Florida Part 2- pregaming

The good thing about destination races is that you get to see and experience new places! For me, this would be the first time I'd ever been to Panama City Beach, and I was interested to see how that gulf beach compared to Galveston- the only other gulf beach I'd ever experienced. Needless to say, my expectations of the scenery I'd be experiencing for 140.6 miles were pretty low. Because, I mean, I work on Cape Cod. I do Cape Cod beaches. ("If you like makin' love at midnight.. on the duuuuuunes of the cape"...yeah, that song? That's where I live every summer. So. I mean...)(#totalnewenglandsnob)

Since the drive time was manageable, we decided to drive to Florida and try to save some expenses on flights and shipping our bikes.
All smiles

The bikes are racked and the snacks are packed- lezzgo!

We made super good time, and were able to make it to Mobile before 10 pm when we decided to crash at a hotel. The hardest part of IMFL was, without a doubt, trying to get our bikes through the hallways of the hotel, along with all of our stuff, and then cramming all three bikes, numerous duffel bags, and 3 people into our room. And, for me, parting with the snacks in the backseat. #triathleteproblems
Day 2 and we're psyched! (I'm especially psyched because there was a Starbucks right across the street. Win!)

We continued on the road, and made it to Panama City Beach by about 1:30. For those of you who haven't been to PCB- it's mothereffin beautiful and is NOTHING like brown and dirty Galveston! White sand and perfect turquoise water?! Heavenly! I was so pleasantly surprised and rode that high for the next....20 minutes or so.

We had to check into the race before the end of the afternoon Thursday, so we headed straight to check in when we got to town. We hadn't gotten out of the air conditioned car yet, so we were psyched to get out and stretch our legs and be in the sunshine! It looked to be a beautiful day, and we flung open the door with excitement and nerves, and leapt out of the car- only to be greeted with air that was way hotter and more humid than Houston. Ugh. If I wanted hot and humid, I would have saved my money and done TX. Woof.

But, alas, you cannot change the weather, only adjust your sails. We headed toward check in amidst a sea of athletes wearing IMFL backpacks (bright blue and orange and not boring black! Win!), families wearing their athlete's old IM backpacks, and newbies like me- people who just looked like they wanted to barf, carrying around a half empty Nalgene bottle of water because they didn't think this all the way through and appearing to have the directional prowess of a 5 year old at a birthday party playing pin the tail on the donkey. I'm the biggest, blundering mess right before the first time I attempt a new, longer distance race. (I apologize to everyone I know and love for my behavior the last few months, and the terrible words I said to you when I was hangry.)

Checked in and sweating our asses of before checking out all the merch we wanted to buy- because that's what Ironman needs- more of our money.

My sweet parents came into town Thursday night, and oh what a blessing that was. As soon as they arrived, I felt this feeling of peace. Plus, my dad is super duper certified in all the first aid and life saving, so at least if I dropped from stress or anxiety beforehand, my dad would probably be able to work some magic somehow with a quick response time. 

Turns out, my parents of course had to save the day within an hour or so of getting there. To illustrate the blundering mess I turn into pre race day, I packed my nonracing gear suitcase with 4 pairs of running shorts, 2 sports bras, a bathing suit, one pair of socks, and 1 t-shirt, and a button down flannel (?). To last me 3 days. Neat. My mom and dad schlepped me right to Walmart before the night was over so I could buy a pack of t-shirts and some socks. Life savers.

Speaking of life savers... <3 Houston take over! Whatever peace was not brought to me by my parents I got when I saw these guys. I met Jimmy after my very first 70.3. And then from there, through him, I met everyone else who lives in Houston. Because Jimmy knows everyone, and everyone loves Jimmy. Since my first half ironman, I've trained with these guys for 2 more 70.3s, countless marathons and halves, supported Jimmy, Diane and two more badasses not shown in their first IMTX, and have gotten grow and know myself as an athlete. And a person. And a lover of pho. This crew builds me up, and forces me to push my limits, and wake up earlier than I ever want to on weekends. To say I'm thankful for them would be an understatement. Joining the Houston running and triathlon community was definitely one of the best choices I've ever made. I have learned and grown so much with the help of these amazing athletes and devoted friends.

Ok, ok. Sap's over.

Friday- t-minus one day!! It was a whirlwind day... But so fun!!
The girls and I kicked off the morning with a shake out ten mile ride. It takes skill to look this cute in spandex and helmets, y'all. And look at how Emily, Diane and Aydee rock it- so effortlessly! (Photo cred to Rita, my sweet mom, who documented as much of the day for us as she could. My BIGGEST regret is not getting nearly enough photos of my parents and me. Biggest. Regret. Do-over in IMTX 20XX, ok guys?)
This is how awesome and stoked we felt on our ride! Florida! (And that water though!) Sorry, we were just so cute that I had to make this photo extra big.

After our shake out ride, we double, triple, quadruple checked our bike and run gear bags, gave our whips one final wipe down and lube up, and rode on down to check in our bikes and gear bags. 
Shit's gettin' real- my sweet Cracker was racked and ready. I let some air out of her tires, gave her one final pep talk, and tucked her in for the night.

Our bike and run gear bags were packed and lined up according to your race number. On race day, volunteers would be in this area, calling out numbers as you came out from the swim and entered the transition area, while other volunteers would find your bag in time to hand it to you as you ran by to the changing area. (God bless the sweet volunteer who tried his darndest to find my bag on race morning. I spotted it before he did, and while he searched frantically through all those identical bags I quickly grabbed mine. If that volunteer that searched so hard for 1229 is reading this- no sweat, guy! You gave it a really solid effort, and it didn't slow me down.)

After we dropped our gear bags, we figured we'd take a little dip in the ocean, and check out what we were up against. The water temperature was right on the cusp of being wetsuit legal/illegal. It could have gone either way. I decided to scrap the wetsuit for the practice swim, and see how cold the water actually was. (For this New England girl, it was pure. heaven.) I was torn between wanting it to be legal, and not. I knew I wouldn't need the wetsuit for buoyancy or warmth, thanks to 11 years of Cape Cod summers in the Atlantic. I actually worried that, if I wore a wetsuit, I'd overheat. However, all of my tri kit tops were too loose on me so to swim in one with no wetsuit to suck it all in made me feel like I was swimming with a t-shirt on. #triathleteproblems

Since you should never try anything new on race day, I decided to see what it felt like to swim with just a sports bra. (And bottoms, duh.) While that totally worked, I was a little surprised at the amount of, um, huge jellyfish that I swam over, through, and pushed out of my way. While I didn't get stung, they were far different from the tiny moon jellies I swim through on the Cape each summer, and the lack of material on the top made me feel Regardless, we made it through the swim. I played in the waves and with the current for a while, reveling in being in my element (since I sure as hell don't feel at home on the bike or the run). I even made some new friends about 200 yards off shore. I love meeting people in random places!

Swimming into shore I found Diane!! She was just about to start her practice swim, so I headed out with her and got my swim on again (I just can't get enough ocean swimming!). Once we had our yardage in, we came back in to shore and played in the waves for a while, practicing swimming under and through them. And then we had an awesome photo shoot and tried to look seductive in the surf. I think D really brought it home, since nothing says "I'ma seduce you" like a wetsuit.

Emily and I dried off and headed back to Ironvillage to wait for the parents to come and buy us all the things. :) While we waited, I had an enormous grilled pita bread stuffed with tomato salad, that I inhaled like it was a pill it was so good. And then we played with all the stuff.
This crazy contraption provided like the highest quality of compression in all the right places. The leg sleeves pumped full of air, and the air kinda moved around, almost like it was massaging your legs, but providing compression in different areas for different amounts of time. It was heaven. And a zero gravity chair?! Boom. Yup.
Once the parents came, it was photo shoot time all over the place. We walked around taking one final look at some things while hoping I was acclimated enough (and there'd be enough signs and volunteers) to not get lost in the morning. My parents also tried to scope out the best possible places for viewing, but nerves were kicking in again in full force, and I turned into my blundering mess and unfortunately was unable to give them any sort of rational ideas or insight whatsoever.

One final shot on the beach before we headed back for the evening. See you in the morning, white sand beach!

The parents were SOOOO awesome and SLAVED over the stove and in the kitchen for hours to make this delish, carb loaded feast for us! The last supper, if you will. Emily, Bing and I are so lucky to have such a strong support system behind us every step of the way!

And while I'm talking about support systems- these. girls. These. Girls. Through thick and thin, at work and not, we've got each other's back. They're not just friends, they're my backbone. These two NEVER take a day off of work (because their students are all a little bit needy, and they never want to leave them and disrupt their schedule if they don't have to), and yet they both took the day off, left Houston crazy early in the morning, with two pups in the back of Caroline's Honda Accord, and made the 10 hour+ trek to PCB just to be there for me along the way. This also meant that all of the Special Education teachers, and 3/4 of the staff members certified to restrain aggressive children, were all on the beach in Florida. Sorry, BCS! Sometimes I don't know how I got so lucky.

So my bags were packed, my bike was checked, my belly and my heart were full. The only thing left to do was to get tatted up....

We had to document in photos, of course. I tried to reenact the deep burn of a new tattoo. #overdramatic

Numbers were on. Bags under the eyes. There's no turning back now.

You had to pay a little extra if you wanted the temporary tattoo numbers. I figured, since I'd already spent mostly all of my yearly salary on this damn race, what's another $10 to look super official and ensure some badass tan lines. Bing felt the same. He was a little unsure on how to tatt himself up, so we made it a bonding experience and did it together. Clearly, he was not a 7th grade girl in the late nineties who constantly temporarily tatted herself up with tattoos of footprints and peace signs. 

So. The tatts were on. The special needs bags were packed. The kits were laid out. My nails were done (the MOST important part of prepping for a race). There was nothing left to do but sleep. Which thankfully I was able to do. With the help of a whole lot of Xanax.

See you on race morning!


  1. I love reading your blog!!! So proud of you! I want to be like you when I grow up!!!!! <3 Carla

    1. Carla, I wanna be like you!! I can't wait for you to do IMTX!