I'll probably hopefully only break this into three parts: pre-race, race day and post-race. Shouldn't need to do much more than that ...
This story really goes back about a year, back to when we first went down to Tempe to volunteer and subsequently sign up.
(That night we spent in the park? Yeah, no longer allowed to do that. Some people tried and got kicked out for "no overnight camping in the park." We're totally the reason why. Also probably the reason for the speedpass idea. Sorry, WTC/Tempe!)
Then, if you've followed along all year, we've been essentially training for the race since January - building up a base through the spring and then official training starting in May. It all came down to where I start my story - Tuesday, November 12.
I had hoped to get in a swim on Monday, but with work and all the stuff we needed to do to get ready to leave butt-early Tuesday am, it wasn't going to happen.
Tuesday morning, we left dark and early for Tucson. I surprised Brandon by swinging by our friend Norm's house in the Springs on our way down (after coffee) for good luck hugs and chat ... and hopefully to have some of his speed rub off on us (spoiler: didn't work).
From the Springs, it was a looooong time to sit in a car.
Back of my car.
Brandon rolling out his calf somewhere in New Mexico.
I'm bored. Also probably somewhere in New Mexico.
We rolled into Tucson that afternoon. First stop was to TriSports to drop off our bikes to get tuned. We ran into a slight snag there - we learned that one of their mechanics had quit and we were most likely not going to get the bikes back until Thursday morning. Um, great, need them tomorrow, but if we had to drive back down to get the bikes, so be it. Brandon, however, said "Unacceptable!" and ended up name dropping the owners somewhat.
We leave, unsure about when we'd get our bikes back, and check into the hotel. As we're bringing our stuff inside, I get a call from TriSports, saying the bikes would be done in the morning. Sweet. I felt bad, since that meant the mechanic was most likely either staying late that night or coming in for a while on his off day, but there was also a small, selfish part of me that was quite happy.
That settled, it was off for the usual round of food (eegee's, Wienerschnitzel, Lucky Wishbone) and then bed.
Wednesday, November 13
We were up fairly early on Wednesday - partly because that's our lives and partly because we wanted to be up to get the breakfast deal at Frank's/Francisco's (TONS of food for very cheap). After breakfast, we went back to the hotel and got another call from TriSports saying the bikes were done and we could pick them up whenever. We also got this call before the store was technically even open.
So, when they did open, we checked out, packed up our crap and headed over to TriSports. We got the bikes and a few other things (nutrition, small things of chamois butter, extra tubes (for Brandon), new hydration system (also for Brandon)), chatted with a guy who saw our car and had just done Kona and then drove up to Scottsdale.
Once we hit Scottsdale, we said hi to Bernie and Judy, brought in our stuff, learned a friend of Brandon's from college actually saw our car on I-10 (the odds, what are they?) and then changed to go for a quick run.
From our MX12 friend Mike, we knew there was a decent hill on the run course so we wanted to check it out. We parked under the same bridge we volunteered at last year and went for a quick run to shake out the legs and see the hill. It was crap and we knew it would hurt a lot on loop two.
After the run, back to Bernie and Judy's for delicious dinner and sleep.
Thursday, November 14:
We woke up on Thursday, ate breakfast, grabbed our friend Mike (different Mike; we know a few) who had gotten into town the night previous and went to get checked in.
At check-in, it seemed everyone else there had done Ironman before - we seemed to be some of the only first-timers. Apparently the newbies don't show up early on the first day (of two) of check-in. Little do these people know that while this is our first IM, it ain't our first triathlon (or WTC) rodeo; we know how this shiznit works.
Checked in! Could NOT keep the smile off my face.
We walked around a bit after, checking out the bike rack area and scouting out our spots (not that it mattered much). We then dropped off Mike at his hotel, promising to meet up with him later for a ride.
We went back to Bernie and Judy's to "check out" and to make "crack" (no-bake) cookies for bike nutrition.
We also said hi to Brandon's parents who had just gotten in, packed our car up AGAIN and drove to Tempe to check in to our first hotel. Once there, we got settled and unpacked a decent bit of our stuff so we could get ready to ride.
Aaaaallll the sunscreen/anti-blister prevention stuff we brought.
Mike showed up soon after that so we packed up the three of us and all our bikes into the car and drove some of the bike course. We were ideally hoping to ride the Beeline, but didn't see anywhere to park (or anywhere I felt comfortable parking) and didn't want to ride basically a full loop, so we parked at a shopping center along the route and did an easy 9 miles/30 minutes, riding almost up to the Beeline.
The ride went fantastically well and gave both of us a lot of confidence for Sunday.
The confidence dance.
Mike ditched us along the course to go back to his hotel to shower and change; we did the same at our hotel before picking him up to go back to Bernie and Judy's. They organized a dinner with all of our out-of-town cheer squad (my parents, his parents, Mike, Kris and Mark) which was a great time. The night started growing late-ish (sometime after 9), so we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel.
Friday, November 15:
We woke up, grabbed breakfast at the hotel and went into Tempe for our pre-race massages. We decided that might be a good idea, especially since we both had some nagging issues - for me, my IT band and my shoulder. Afterward, we headed over to the expo and the 11am athlete briefing. Just after that, we saw our friends Richard and Carlos from Run Colorado - Richard was racing on Sunday with us; Carlos was cheer squad/support (and also a volunteer, we found out later).
Mike ran down to meet us and we had lunch. We then hit up the pro panel with Brandon's friend Aaron and then sat through the second athlete briefing just so we could see/meet some of our MX12 teammates.
From L to R: Me, Mike, Brandon, Sasha, Ky
I'm not exactly sure what we did after this; I think we went back to the hotel to just chill for a little bit before the athlete dinner.
The athlete dinner is something that we heard mixed things about - go; don't go; go, but get there early to get a spot; go, but don't plan on eating - but since this was our first Ironman, we figured we'd do the whole experience so we went. The food wasn't bad - standard catered crap - and we were able to hang out with Aaron.
Me, Brandon, Aaron
We didn't stay for the whole presentation - we watched the beginning, learned who the "biggest losers" were, saw a tribute to the Filipino athletes (typhoon/monsoon relief stuff), etc. before leaving and heading back to the hotel for the night.
Saturday, November 16:
As always, the day started with us waking up decently early for breakfast and then grabbing our swim stuff to do the pre-race swim in Tempe Town Lake. We'd heard mixed things about this, as well - don't; you don't need the swim practice; the water's gross so it's best not to chance it - but since we hadn't swum in about a week AND we wanted to get a sense for how truly cold the damn water was, we decided to go for it.
Waiting for the swim to start.
We got in and did a short swim - not even a full loop of the small "course" they had marked - and learned that while yes, the water was chilly, it was no worse than some of the lakes/reservoirs we'd swam in here. Race day would be fine.
I did, however, run into a small snafu getting out of the water - I slipped off the step (as I was listening to them tell me how to properly get out) and jammed my toe into the concrete at the bottom. As a result, I ripped off some skin and started bleeding. Luckily, they had an ambulance at the ready, so I could get patched up.
I'm dumb sometimes.
We joked that since I made a blood sacrifice to the Ironman gods, the race better go well. From there, back to the hotel to pack up our gear bags so we could drop them off later that afternoon.
There's a lot of stuff. We really only needed to deal with the bike and run gear bags - those were due that day. The others we'd drop off the following morning.
With those all packed, we put them, all our stuff, our bikes and ourselves into the car (after checking out) and drove down to the park. We hauled all our crap in, gave Mike shit (he was working bike check-in) and then put our bikes in place. We got Brandon's on the rack and let some air out of the tires no problem ... but then it was my turn.
We were talking as I was wheeling my bike up my row and I realized I passed my spot. I walked backward with my bike to the spot and the wheel must have torqued into my legs since the next thing I knew, I fell over onto the bike. Embarrassed, I got up ... and realized I was bleeding. A lot. Out of a cut on my ankle that looked pretty deep. We tried to find medical help - a volunteer ran to find out for me - and realized it was back up near the finish. We racked my bike, turned in our gear bags and then I gingerly made my way up to the finish ... where they were setting up the med tent, but no one was there to help out. Apparently they only have medical staff on hand when the athletes are actually doing something (swim that morning, race day).
We knew I had to get it dealt with since I was bleeding everywhere. We made the decision to go to Judy and Bernie's and have Brandon's mom clean it out. If it needed further care after that, we'd make that decision then.
WARNING: GROSS PHOTO AHEAD:
Brandon's mom cleaned it out the best she could, but everyone assembled (his parents, Bernie and Judy) decided that it looked pretty deep and I needed to get it stitched up. So, we found an urgent care facility right down the street from Mike's hotel. I needed to get the go-ahead that I could race - you could tell the doctor was like, "I don't know ... but I know I'm not going to be able to stop you so ...". Whatever. Five stitches later, I was greenlighted and good to go.
We picked up Mike after that and went to get checked in to our second hotel. Driving back, I realized I forgot to let some air out of my tires, so I went and did that while Brandon and Mike checked us in and brought the stuff to the room.
While I was on my adventure, I also went to see if pro triathlete (and Steve Stenzel nemesis) Devon Palmer was still near the QR tent, as I saw on Twitter a bit earlier. To my luck, he was. Like I told Steve I would earlier when I knew that Devon would be at IMAZ, I told Devon, "Steve Stenzel says you suck," and then we had a nice chat. Some day those two will sort out their differences. Maybe. I think they like the attention they get from being frenemies too much to do so. I'll bet they're probably complete bros behind closed doors (closed browsers?) though.
I did, however, make sure to get a picture:
He liked the doughnut shirt, but then again, who wouldn't?
After that, it was off to meet Mike and Brandon again. We had sushi, said bye to Mike for the time being and then it was time to chill in the hotel for the afternoon.
We had a ton of visitors, though:
- Brandon's parents came by to see how my foot was doing and they also set us up with some ice so I could ice the damn thing.
- Corie, one of our fabulous teammates who raced the year prior and came down this year to volunteer and register for next year (and cheer us on).
- Layla, a friend of Norm's who came by to punch Brandon (long story) and show us the best sign ever.
See? Best sign ever!
Everyone left eventually, though. We met up with Mike a few hours later to grab dinner at Denny's - pre-race breakfast-for-dinner routine must go on! - and then to the hotel to try and sleep through the cannons going off at the ASU game ...
... to be continued ...