"I'm doing a FLIPPING IRONMAN!" went through my head the entire day. Despite the stressors and logistics issues leading up to race day, I was ecstatic to be doing it. Because....if life had gone differently I wouldn't be here. I mean on this earth. But it did, so my mindset is "I GET to do this!" Because....if life had gone differently I wouldn't be here. I mean on this earth. But it did, so my mindset is "I GET to do this!" For that reason, I dedicated this season to Team Fight/ Ulman Cancer Fund and raised money to support young adults dealing with cancer in the Baltimore, Maryland area. (For those that don't know, an Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mike bike and 26.2 marathon). My history in triathlon: I guess I should give some history of myself and triathlon before digging into this post filled with GREAT tips! I am 9 years cancer free and a mom of five children. I was a competitive swimmer, and my athleticism stopped there. In 2014, while pregnant with #5, an Ironman friend of mine sent me a pair of running socks and said "go run". So I started. Yes, this all started with a pair of SOCKS. I started running but didn't run the whole pregnancy. Gave birth in February 2015, two-weeks post-partum (early I know!!) I started back to T25 workouts and light running. Shortly after, restarted c25k application, got a re-sale shop road bike, and started swimming again. June 2015 I did a mini-tri with a pool swim and enjoyed it. August 2015 - I finished IronGirl. November 2015- My first half marathon. I trained through that winter and completed my first half Ironman June 2015 (Eagleman). Before I even finished that race I had signed up for IMNC. I share all this not for accolades. Not to show I'm this great athlete (trust me, athleticism doesn't come easy to me) but to show you that there is no timeline to your dreams. At all. Before the Race: Leading up to race day I was getting antsy, scared, and downright just ready to do it! My work as a business consultant (helping small business owners) takes me traveling around the world speaking - and of course, I didn't even consider all of this when I signed up for IMNC on a whim (Note: after a few glasses of wine) in June. So things got a little hairy leading up to IMNC but everyone kept saying "better to be under trained than over trained." At this point, I had done a fairly good job of sticking to the Be Iron Fit Intermediate plan. Although this was my first full Ironman, I wanted to do more than finish and knew I could do better than my Eagleman 70.3 (June 2015) performance had been. Taper was pretty crazy to be. I've tapered before but NEVER like this. All the doubts start creeping in. These phantom injuries popped up - which is so crazy because I was relatively injury free my entire training. I started to feel flu-like so I was sucking down vitaminC like crazy and keeping my kiddos at arms length (germ factories I tell ya!) Tuesday before the race we get this notification that the bike course had been changed from 112 miles to 50 miles due to lack of first responders. These first responders were busy in the counties helping to clean up since Hurricane Matthew had just come through two weeks prior. This was really disappointing as this was my first race -and my disappointing doesn't negate the sympathy I have for the community - but I had poured my life into this all year. It had been a therapy after my grandmother had died, and I had learned so much. I finally embraced the change and headed on my way. Pre-Race Festivities: The race was Saturday, so on Thursday I loaded up my Craigslist entry-level tri bike and headed south to North Carolina. On my way there I saw a friend, whom I had competed in Eagleman with, was ALSO on her way down. We ended up passing eachother on highway, pulled over and were able to give hugs. We spent pretty much the entire race weekend together after that. Tip: Get a race buddy! Friday is mandatory athlete-check in, mandatory bike drop off and mandatory gear bag drop (MINUS special needs, those are dropped the race morning). However, I'm glad we didn't skate into town Friday morning as it would've been stressful. IMNC is a point to point race. Meaning your swim start, T1, T2 and Finish were all in different locations. This was super stressful and required more running around town. Once getting grasp of what needed to be dropped where it was much better. SIDE NOTE: This race used to be B2B- or beach to battleship - this is the first year that Ironman had ahold of this race so you will see that there were major growing pains. The Bags If you haven't done an IM before, you're in for a treat to learn about "The bags". You get 5 bags. This may vary depending on race! Morning clothes bag - for your swim start clothes to go into Bike bag - the bag you will retrieve with your T1 bike stuff (helmet, gloves, kit, shoes, socks, etc) Bike special needs - the bag you will see at mile 56ish of 112 (favorite treat, notes from friends, arm warmers.) Be careful, you do not get SN bags back at most races! Run bag - T2 bag with your run gear. For me this included socks, shoes, glide, notes from friends (for encouragement), arm sleeves, sunscreen, glasses, visor, race belt and headlamp. Run special needs - same thing as bike pretty much - you get it at mile 13.1. I wish I had put a snickers, instead I had a rice krispie treat. It worked either way. I also recommend, since you're not getting it back, to put in throw away socks and make arm warmers out of old mens tube socks with the toes cut out. I can't believe I actually forgot to take pics of "the bags" during this whole process. But alas, I don't have any. Here you can see the bike gear bags laid out - some races have racks. IMNC did not. One thing I do want to point out, I was so stressed trying to remember where my bag was. But the volunteers can be amazing - and they were for me. As I ran in from the swim, I had a volunteer going "375, right here, right here" and showed me my bag. I also did put "superman" tape on it -but that didn't help. BIG TIPS ON BAGS: I recommend packing all of your gear at home in 3-4 huge ziploc bags. I did swim, bike, run, and then an extras bag with extra junk. Within the bike/run I already had my special needs prepped in a gallon ziplock. So when I arrived I just had to take out of ziploc and into my bag. That being said, if there is any inkling of rain, keep the stuff in these ziplock bags and put them in the IM provided bags. I'm so thankful I checked the weather and did this - because NONE of my gear was wet, while others started the bike/run with soaked shoes. As you see, they are the ground so I feel like they collected water even more so. Another big tip - although non bag- Learn whether you're grabbing/racking your bike or not. For this race, when we swam IN at t1 - we had to grab our own bikes after the changing tent. BUT for T2 (bike in) volunteers took them and put them away. I will remind you here, please make sure that when you do mandatory bike check in you have them take a photo of your bike AND remember exactly where your bike is COMING from Swim In/ Changing tent. My bike was misplaced for five hours after I returned from the bike and it was "fun". Expo Fun Since we checked in Thursday and I had all night to obsess over my bags, we had time to putz around in the expo Friday morning. I dropped Stitch (my bike) off to get his RaceDayWheels on, and I headed with my friend to get a Normatec treatment. Seriously ya'll, get a buddy. Oh yea, we also went to the athlete meeting. STRONGLY suggest you do this. We also found out that the course would be 56 miles instead of 50, I guess 6 more miles is better than nothing! I picked up Stitch, headed out to my car and obsessed one last time over my bags. Then it was time to go drop them suckers off. Nothing was going to change. I had been packing these suckers for weeks in my large clear ziploc bags - nothing was going to change now! My biggest recommendation is to go into the expo with a limited time frame in mind (to get off your feet) and a budget. It's easy to go overboard with the Ironman shop stuff! Pre-Race Tips:
- Print out the most updated schedule
- Check that schedule 50 times
- Order Tri tats - and apply the night before
- Glide ALL of your clothing the night before
- Have contingency plans for clothing etc in mind before that day. One thing with the bags that you will get back, you can put more than you need just in case. I'll walk through my plans below and what I ended up doing.
- Don't try to put your race tats on with the plastic still on them :-/
- Before the 50 mile cut -Swim suit/tri kit for swim and then was to switch to bike shorts with a new tri top and throw on bike jersey over.
- After the cut - I did a full change from a wet tri kit to dry, and threw on a long sleeved jersey over. I also added on gloves and socks, which I had NOT trained with, due to the cold.
- I left on the same sports bra.