Disney 1/2 Ironman - Part I

author : adumey
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Faithful Readers,

Long last I am writing about my first triathlon...the Disney Half Ironman.  A little preface to begin: although I would like to admit orchestrating some of the events that are described below, unfortunately, I cannot. To help you extract the most from my account, I will highlight the specific take-aways that will not only improve your race time, but also reduce (dare I say...avoid) unnecessary swelling and needless bloodshed. Due to the length of initial draft, this piece is split into two parts.

No more suspense...

Traveling - Friday May 21st
The day was spent traveling from NYC into Orlando, Florida. From the second we landed I had a good feeling about the journey.  Luckily I was able to secure the companionship of a longtime friend for my trip. Initially my parents were going to rally their baby boy, but my mother's illness prevented both from traveling.

We arrived at the Fort Wilderness Lodge and checked in without a problem in the mid-afternoon (around 2:30ish). Apparently the bulk of triathletes arrived on Saturday, which allowed us to get a sense of the hotel without all the ensuing chaos of children screaming, dodging people walking their bikes etc. All in all, I enjoyed our stay in the hotel. There are several restaurants within the structure (ranging from somewhat pricey to fast food) and the course was a short boat/bus/walk away.

Race Check-In

After checking into the hotel, we proceeded to race check-in. The entire process took about 10 minutes.

LESSON # 1: CHECK IN EARLY! SAVE YOURSELF THE TIME OF STANDING IN THE SUN OR WAITING ON LINE, OTHERWISE TAKING SOME PRECIOUS (AND NEEDED) RELAXATION TIME.

After the quick process, I wanted to check on the status of my bike. Being that I was new to the process of shipping/installing/riding a bike, I purchased a service from the race sponsor (Inside Out) by which technicians received, assembled, disassembled and shipped my bike to an address I specified. Unfortunately, the bike was not ready on Friday. Other than this snag, I was very pleased with the service and would do it again.

Relax Before the Big Day

Because I could not take my bike for a practice ride, we were able to enjoy the different vendors at the Ironman Expo. Again, there was no crowd and we were able to participate in the festivities. I'd say we spent a good 2 hours walking around, looking at the different products and asking questions of elite triathletes.

Dinner was next. We chose the Whispering Canyon because it was right in between the expensive dinner and fast food restaurant the hotel offered.  WARNING: THIS PLACE IS LOUD. If you would like a calm, quiet dinner, go elsewhere. Waiters and waitresses are intentionally loud and boisterous, which some guests found annoying, but coincidentally the children had a phenomenal time. Being that by age I am an adult, but by maturity level I am an infant, I struggled between bouts of laughter and irritation. Adults at my table?   Very annoyed.

The Day Before - Saturday May 22nd
Could not sleep that well. Perhaps it was my semi-rock hard bed or my anxiety. Nonetheless, the few minutes I did sleep, I dreamt of breakfast and Whispering Canyon lived up to my cravings. I ordered the pancakes and they were quite large, which is important for a slob like myself.

After breakfast, we returned to the Ironman Village for the morning practice swim in Bay Lake. Only one buoy was prepared so the traffic, although less than what I expected, was present. Everyone was very pleasant, choosing to defer to one another when contact was made in the water.

LESSON # 2: IF YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT THE RACE COURSE, DO IT! IT HELPS WITH ONE'S CONFIDENCE AND INSTILLS A SENSE OF FAMILIARITY THAT MAY SERVE TO QUELL THE NERVOUSNESS INHERENT IN RACE DAY - ESPECIALLY FOR YOUR FIRST TRIATHLON.

This was my first chance to test out my wetsuit. LOVED IT! Immediately you feel the difference in buoyancy and fluidity. Unfortunately, the water was warm enough not to warrant its use.

LESSON # 3: UNLESS YOU ARE 100% SURE THAT YOU WILL BE ALLOWED TO USE THE WETSUIT, PRACTICE WITH AND WITHOUT IT. I FOUND MY ELATION DESTROYED UPON THE UNFORTUNATE NEWS THAT WETSUITS WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED FOR THE RACE.

After finishing the swim, I went to pick up my bike and had a delightful conversation with a bike tech. It went a little something like this:

ADAM: Ok, I need an honest answer. I have never used my aero bars, but I want to. On a scale of 1-10...10 being I would certainly crash and disrupt the race with the ensuing pile-up and 1 being there is no way in hell I can do wrong, how bad of an idea would it be to try the aero bars for the first time tomorrow?
BIKE TECH: 7.5.

Now readers, my threshold was 8. So I hooked those bad boys on and took my bike for a spin around the hotel. Honestly, they are a little unstable, but nothing to fear. Of course I would have been better prepared and able to take full advantage of what the aero bars had to offer had I rode with them earlier in training than 17 hours before my first race, but such is life and then you die.

So I rode the bike/run course along the hotel for about 40 minutes which is another important point to mention. The hotel was very conducive to training and warming up leading up to the race. Besides proximity to all the Ironman events and race course, there were bike and running paths to follow as well as a relatively decent gym.

After returning my bike, I decided that the long lines of participants and million dollar bikes would only service to increase my nervousness. So we left and sat by the pool for the remainder of the day until dinner. Again, this took place relatively early because I wanted ample time for the food to digest and to relax in my room, gathering my thoughts and preparing mentally for the next day's events.

RACE DAY - Sunday May 23rd

After waking up, we went downstairs to get some food. Again, the hotel prepared well for the large number of participants and had an early opening at one of its restaurant locations. Bagels, breakfast bars, juices and fruit were available for purchase. I'd recommend brining your own food, as the items were grossly overpriced. Ever hear of a Powerade costing $3? I have.

Oddly enough, as this has never happened to me, I did not feel like eating.  Call it performance anxiety. My pre-race meal consisted of a 1/4 bagel and some water. Again, the sight of people immersed in their pre-race routines was adversely affecting my relatively calm state, and I decided to walk to the transition area.

A quick check of the tires, strategic placement of towels, sunglasses, helmet and water - I was ready to hit the water. Our wave (18-24) was relatively early in the race, so there was not much waiting. In the while however, I did learn about a device that allows you to keep you race number attached to a belt...it's called a RACE BELT.

LESSON # 4: RACE BELTS ARE YOUR FRIEND. WITHOUT THEM, YOU RISK BLOOD LOSS AND EXCESSIVELY SLOW TRANSITION TIMES.

My age group is called to report to the beach - so I went. I could not locate the first buoy where the swim course turned. I looked, stood on my tippy-toes, maneuvered my way around for what seemed like 15 minutes - then there it was.

I noticed that the crowd was becoming much more rigid and dense. Usually not a problem. Then I also noticed my feet were wet. Oblivious to reality and in my futile attempt to identify the course turning point, apparently I positioned myself in the front of my wave - dead smack in the middle.

Now, I am not a good swimmer. But at this moment I felt inspired. Things happen for a reason, good or bad. And I went into the next couple minutes with that notion. I was caught in the middle and there was no way I was moving out. Then the horn sounded...

I sprinted into the water like a baby turtle venturing into the tumultuous ocean. Reflecting upon the many episodes of Bay Watch and Saved by the Bell I enjoyed as a young person, I knew the rhythm - three steps in the water and then jump. So I did.

LESSON # 5: TV SHOWS ARE FAKE. TRIATHLONS ARE REAL.

Oddly enough, I felt people stepping on my back. Unless every participant was blessed with the Jesus-like quality of walking on water, I knew something was not right. Sure enough, the area of the lake I dove into was about 3 feet. When I looked up (on my knees) the water was slightly below everyone's belly-button.

Not discouraged nor embarrassed, I stood up and continued my run into the ocean.  Strangely, a good number of people in my wave surrounded me. So we swam out together.

LESSON # 6: DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN OTHER PEOPLE'S RACES. MAKE A GAME PLAN AND STICK TO IT. THIS CAN BE VERY DIFFICULT FOR COMPETITIVE PERSONALITIES BUT FOR BEGINNERS, PLAY IT RELATIVELY SAFE.

I was going stroke for stroke with another racer for about 10 minutes which taught me many lesson about open water swimming - namely developing a groove which is very easy in a pool.  Difficult because of the continual interference with others. I supposed practicing and racing will increase comfortability in such situations but what do I know?

About 15 minutes into the race, I located the buoy - tremendous relief.  Soon thereafter, I rounded it and can see the final buoy. Seconds later, I feel a tug on my right ankle. Now this was different than the usual pitter-patter of other swimmers which I ignored. This seemed like a tug of someone going down.

So I turned, right in time to have some women (18-24 age group as well) knock me in the race, resulting in a bloody nose and mouth, as well as the removal of my goggles. Now I was a little unnerved but kept my calm as I treaded water and tasted my own blood. After a pack of swimmers passed, I saw and retrieved my goggles and continued the course.

Luckily no more swimming stories. I swam until I could stand and then I started running out of the water. Then readers, things got interesting...

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date: September 4, 2004

Author


adumey

Personal apple pies, loaves of banana bread and stacks of pancakes and/or french toast. Not withstanding these weaknesses, 05 Lake Placid Ironman or bust!

Author

avataradumey

Personal apple pies, loaves of banana bread and stacks of pancakes and/or french toast. Not withstanding these weaknesses, 05 Lake Placid Ironman or bust!

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