Sometime in October 2014, I had asked Ryan “What would you think if I did an Ironman?” I had been researching it and it was definitely something that I was dreaming about doing. I was expecting a response from Ryan to bring me back to reality and remind me how difficult and time-consuming the training would be, that I would miss out on time with friends and family or the fact that I really wasn’t much of a swimmer. However, he said none of those things. He turned to me and said “I support you.” I was kinda shocked with how he said it with full confidence. He supported me and I could tell he believed I could do it.
Believe it or not, I did not sign up in October. Ryan might have believed in me but I needed a little more convincing. I began to talk to friends who have completed Ironmans for advice and most tried to talk me out of it because I was so new to triathlons. So I ignored them and talked to the friends who were crazy like me and jumped into endurance events head-first. I researched many training plans, bike workouts, and pool swim hours before I finally registered in January…just days before it sold out for the year.
After months of swimming with the Lakewood Master’s Swim Club, swimming at Lake Medina and Lake Erie, countless hours on the bike on the trainer in the basement watching Game of Thrones 1-5, rides down in the Metroparks, plenty of early-morning runs, and managing 15-20 hours-a-week of workouts, it was finally Ironman weekend and time to make the drive down to Louisville, KY.
Arriving in Louisville, I miraculously found parking and was able to walk to athletes village. The expo was held outside and judging by the wet grass, I just missed the storm that rolled through. I made my way to get in line to check-in and was greeted with the most amazing volunteers. Everyone was so well trained on what they had to do and it made the check-in seamless.
After athlete check-in, I met up with my coworker’s sister, Anna. Months ago, my coworker told me that his sister was doing an Ironman. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, assuming he meant a Tough Mudder (nothing against the Tough Mudder, but people confuse the two events when they are quite different). When he said it was in Louisville I thought he might actually know what he was talking about. Naturally, I friended her on Facebook and he was right; she was also signed up for the Ironman. She lives out of state, so we were unable to train together, but we were able to keep in touch about our training. Anna and I hung out for the rest of the day. We grabbed late lunch on Fourth Street Live (the site of the finish line) and we also walked around the swim exit/transition area to get familiar with it for race day.
It was an early night for me on Friday as I had to head to my room to check-in and to compile my race bags. This should be the true test of an Ironman; can you pack all the items you need to swim, bike and run for one day?
I was really nervous that I might have forgot something, but after packing my bags it looked like I had everything I needed…even chap-stick! Then, I was nervous that it wouldn’t all fit in the bags.
Friday was a jam-packed day for me so I went to bed early and was up early. Saturday morning was very important to me as it was the only chance I would get to do a practice swim in the Ohio River. There was a lot of talk about the toxic blue and green algae blooms leading up to the race, but it had been cleared for swim practice and race day.
I met up once again with Anna and her dad and we headed to the swim practice. The temperature was in the mid-50s and with me being the freeze-baby, I was really nervous about jumping into a cold river. I heard the river temperatures were in the 70s but the air was so cold that I couldn’t believe it. I shivered as I took off my layers of clothes and put on my wetsuit. The “sherpas” in the area looked at us triathletes like we were crazy for swimming in the cold weather.
I walked down the swim exit to the water and was pleasantly surprised that the water was warm…like, really warm. I got in a couple of strokes and felt amazing. It wasn’t super crowded but a lot of people were stopping and looking around, which made me have to stop as well. I only swam a couple of minutes, but that’s all I needed to do to tell myself that I would be OK on race day. I tend to freak out during the swim, so practicing in the water really calms me down.
I must have been a little more nervous than I thought thought because I took very few pictures on Saturday. After double checking my to do lists to make sure I didn’t forget anything, I fell asleep watching a video of the bike course.