After a couple of hours (probably between 5-6) of decent sleep, I woke up at 3:00am without an alarm clock, which I had set to 3:30 with an additional alarm at 3:45am. That would be my personal night mare to oversleep on race day, but I have heard that it happens…
My wake up mantra since I started racing Ironman 3 years ago in 2013, has always been RISE AND SHINE. I actually say that to me upon waking. Quickly I wolfed down 3-4 “Ensure” (I don’t remember, I usually go by feel how hungry I am, but they clock in at 250 calories each and are amazingly tasty), 2 cups of apple sauce (my go to snack for the last 6 month), a scoop of whey protein, some cacao nibs and 1 shot of coffee. I probably had about 1500 calories, but that is not an out of the norm breakfast for me. My breakfasts are usually calorie dense, but usually also more volume, but I did not want to add too much stuff to my gastrointestinal system, so calorie dense it has to be on race morning. Usually coffee and butterflies in my stomach help with the anticipated bowl movments on race morning pretty reliably, but today I was somewhat calm. Too calm.
I wished I would have been a little more nervous maybe, especially since this was the most important race yet and my only race for the last 11 month, since I was somewhat unsuccessfully battling an incredibly stubborn Achilles tendonitis in my left foot. It had started about 11 month ago, in the build up to Ironman Arizona where I qualified as 3rd overall female amateur with a time of 9:55:00 and progressed even with complete rest and physical therapy over Christmas to me getting prescribed a boot and a disabled parking permit for the nearly all of the first half of the year.
Ironman Arizona 2015 memory – qualified for Kona in a time of 09:55:00
My bags were backed, so I slipped out the door, to drive to the start. I managed to park in the public parking lot near the finish and stood in line at the entrance to body marking for quite some time. I noticed a soft Australian voice behind me and it took me a few minutes to realize that Craig Alexander stood right behind me with one of his athletes. I was too shy to turn around and say hello at that point. I also thought that pro’s would not need to stay in line, as they also don’t have to stand in line at the bike check in (I have had Daniela Ryf and Leanda Cave squeeze by us while us agegroupers were lined up for bike check-in the day before).
Finally, body marking opened and I saw a facebook-friend from Coeur d’Alene volunteering there (very cool). At body marking they apply a temporary tattoo with your race number to your arm and after that you go by medical personnel who take your weight (again this year I forced myself to not look at the number, I was close or at race weight of around 142-144, which is about 10 lbs lighter than what I usually carry around in the off-season or early season, but on race morning I don’t want to be worried if that number was off.
Athletes getting their bikes ready while it gets light (photo off the internet)
Transition is on the pier and I went to my bike to top off the tire pressure to 90 in the front and 95 in the back (GP 4000S 25mm), add my nutrition and my garmin to my bike. All that was without problems and quick. A very nice volunteer brought me 4 small water bottles from their volunteer supply as there seemed to be no water in transition at that point (I did not see any and he did not know, which was unusual). I sat around on the hotel beach lawn for a bit, relaxing and waiting, and then suited up with my new Roka X swim skin (upgraded from the Roka Viper at the expo), while adding my waterproof Beacon tracker (the pro version) to the inside pocket of my LG race suit. I even double checked that the tracker was running, but unfortunately I must have hit the off button somewhen during the swim or while getting contact during the swim. Nevertheless I will use their GPS tracker again, because besides being super fun to watch the progress of the athlete for spectators, it is a small and very accurate device (much much smaller than the quarq device).
Still dark when the pros take off. Lots of paddle boarder and kayakers waiting for the much bigger age group waves to enter the water (photo off the internet)
The national anthem was played and off went the male pros at 6.25am followed by the female pros a few minutes later. Then the male age groupers filed through the swim exit arch into the water for the deep water start. The men went off with the canon at 6.55am and the ladies were asked to enter the water and line up at the start line.
Last men (light blue caps) leaving the pier (lower left) while a lot of them are already at the start line in the water (mid-upper left). Probably around 6:40am. (photo off the internet)
I intended to start all the way to the left as I wanted to avoid the usual full body contact start early in the swim. Earlier, I was given the information that the females have to start inside the red buoy and the pier, so I lined up to the right of the red TYR buoy, but a lot of ladies lined up on the other side too and a ref confirmed that they were allowed to do that, which is in contrast to the start 2 years ago. I was alarmed, I did not want to start in the middle of the field! Slightly panicked I looked around but the ladies were already lined up tightly at the line and I did not want to start in the back, so I stayed there occasionally being swept by swells into the surfboards that paraded in front of us. It was a bit hectic there in the first row as the swells swept us around quite a bit.
I could not figure out whether we had a current going out like in the training swim a week ago, where I swam my personal best of 1:02 over the Ironman distance. Thinking back I would almost say we had the curtent against us at the way out, but at that point I was not able to put 2 and 2 together. It seemed hectic, the paddle boarders were right in front of our noses, relentlessly paddling along the imaginary start line, it was anything than a pieceful sight as they were head to toe rushing along the stat line right behind the buoys. And we tried hard to not get hit by a wave picking those boards up and against us. I dont think I would wanna start there again, the most left position would likely be a little more relaxed, but it would work out great and i had a few yeards of free water in front of me at the start.
I have done a lot of swimming this year and also swam with a ROKA swim skin for the very first time. A lady behind me asked me about my projected swim time and I said about an hour (my dream goal), she seemed content to be in the right position for a great swim. Three minutes to the start felt like forever. I noticed that the big buoy could like create a bit of a break in the masses of swimmer, and I also did not have anyone getting ennoyingly close to me while waitiing. So that was nice and again, my heart rate settled to a very calm. I was ready and anxious for the start. Finally, the life guards got a litle bit more hectic and they turned their boards perpendicularly to us and the cannon blasted…