I arrived in Santa Rosa on Thursday, got through Athlete check-in, which if you’ve never done it before can be an experience, long lines with a hurry up and wait kinda atmosphere. This was my third Ironman branded event and I could not believe how fast it went. I was in and out of that tent in less than 5 minutes. My last check-in, which happened to be for the half Ironman Santa Rosa had taken well over 30 minutes! So pro-tip for first timers, check in early, two days before your event and you won’t have any lines or crowds to battle.
The merch tent was also fully stocked, so I made my way in and bought myself a finisher’s jacket, mug and more stickers, because I can never have enough stickers. I hesitated buying the jacket, what if I didn’t finish? I told myself I would and if I didn’t I could burn it (or maybe sell it).
After the athlete meeting, I met up with fellow Coeur teammates Briana and Karen Aydelott for a quick chat and picture. Quick side note if you haven’t met Karen or heard her story, you really should. She is an amazing lady and athlete. I hope to have a fraction of her will and determination when I grow up. Truly inspiring!
Friday I headed to the lake to check my bike and gear bags in. I got the lake fairly early, the racks were all still mostly empty and was able to check my bike in pretty quickly. Which was good, because it was hot and my friends were melting in the sun.
Upon check-in they take a picture of your bike. I was unaware of this and found it pretty amusing, especially because I pretty much had the cheapest bike on the field. If someone had stolen my bike it would have been pretty comical. It’s a $300 Vilano, aluminum, bottom line gears, shifters and brakes, clip on aero bars and two sizes too big for me. My watch costs more than this thing! Definitely not the best bike and probably not the best to use for such a long distance, but hey I got it done! Next year I will absolutely upgrade. With my wedding and the already high costs of Ironman itself, upgrades just weren’t in the cards this year.
After getting my bike racked and my bags lined up, I headed down the ramp to inspect the lake. It was warm, uh-oh. I asked a volunteer what the temp was and it was well over 76.1, NOT wetsuit legal. I was told that it may dip back down below to wetsuit legal temps by morning and that it would be a race day decision. That kinda spiked my nerves a bit. I am a decent swimmer, not super fast, but very comfortable in the water. My wetsuit adds speed and a tiny bit of confidence to my swim. I mean, it’s pretty hard to sink in a full body floaty! But there was nothing I could do, so I put it out of my mind. Whatever happened, would happen. There was nothing I could do, so I might as well not worry about it.
The rest of Friday was spent eating, resting and trying to keep my mind off the race. Which meant Scrabble and movies! I downed my NBS pre-load the night before, which by the way, is very nasty tasting. It works wonderfully, so definitely no digs on the product, but it is not something I’d like to sip by the side of the pool. I put my race day tattoos on, I like to look like a walking billboard during races, and I’m slow so my sponsors and teams definitely get a LOT of exposure.
Considering the nerves I had to deal with, I slept a decent amount. I brought some noise cancelling headphones and popped on a wave soundtrack on my phone and left it on a loop. I deal with anxiety often and races only add to that. The wave music is something I utilize at home to get to sleep and it worked like a charm this time. I got about 4 hours of sleep. That doesn’t sound like something to brag about, but it really was a pretty good amount for a pre-race sleep for me.
Saturday morning, I munched my oatmeal and banana and had my friends loaded me up in the car and drop me off at the athlete buses. I walked up to the bus line and was immediately directed onto a bus. So fast! I’d soon be in the water! I met a lady named Deb on the bus who was doing 50 Ironmans for her 50th birthday, not all of them branded, but still! I couldn’t believe it. Here I was just trying to survive one and she’s on number 27 of her 50! That kinda put things in perspective for me. There are so many cool stories to hear if you take the time to talk to the athletes of Ironman. Make friends in transition, waiting for the swim or on the run, everyone has something interesting to say.
Talking to my new friend Deb made the time fly and soon the lake and transition flood lights came into view. I was minutes away from doing my first Ironman!