Wednesday (11/1): Kristen (wife), Amy (3yr old), Megan (18 mo) and I started this family vacation by heading to the airport at 5:00am. Girls asleep and carrying 5 tons of luggage, we flew to Memphis then onto Tallahassee. When we arrived in Tallahassee, we received all of our luggage except for one small, insignificant item…. my bike! It was still back in Memphis! The airline was very nondescript and couldn’t say when I would get my bike, so we decided to not wait around and made the 2 hour drive to Panama City. After several calls and countless minutes listening to automated attendants, they finally delivered my bike at 11:30pm Wednesday evening.
Thursday (11/2): We headed down to the Ironman Village for the packet pickup. The atmosphere was energetic and inspiring. After looking at Adonis-like physiques all day and bicycles that cost more some cars, I felt a little inadequate. This feeling soon passed as I reminded myself to stick to your [my> game plan and don’t run anyone else’s race. That evening I attended the Welcome Dinner that bled into a mandatory athletes meeting. The evening was filled with inspiring stories and critical information for Saturday’s race.
Friday (11/3): After picking up my bike from the Bike Techs (the airline managed to bend my back derailleur so bad it scraped my spokes in 1st gear), I gave it a little test ride to make sure everything was in working order. Rich (brother) came into town that afternoon and joined me as I dropped off the gear bags and checked in my bike. The forecast for the following day was 40 degrees around the start of the race with 10 – 20 mph winds. Not having packed for those weather conditions, I made me way to the local Wal-Mart to pick up a sweatshirt for the bike ride. This wasn’t a unique idea because all the clothing had already been picked over. I was lucky enough find what I needed and I was on my way. As I relaxed back at the house, Kristen innocently asked me which pair of running shoes I planned on wearing tomorrow? I calmly said the ones in the bedroom… wait… the ones in the bedroom? Those should already be in my gear bag at the transition area! Crap! I managed to pack all the special needs / gear bags, checked them once, twice, three times and after all that, I forgot to pack my running shoes. If it weren’t for Kristen asking the question, I would have looked like Zola Bud come the run Saturday. I was able to slip my running shoes into my gear bag before they closed the transition area. As expected, we had a low key evening and hit the bed about 10pm. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous at all and slept great.
Saturday Morning (11/4): The day of my 1st Ironman and my 6th Wedding Anniversary (all my love KB). Rich and I made it to the transition area about 5:30am as I filled water bottles and checked over my bike. It was cold and windy. The wind was more brisk than I anticipated and Rich, literally, gave me the jacket off his back for the bike ride. It was a game time decision, but it was the right decision. Thanks Rich! About 30 minutes before the start, I stuffed myself into my wetsuit and made my way to the beach.
Swim (1h 12m 31s)
I funneled into the swim chute for the beach start 15 minutes before the 7:00am start time. Fortunately, I saw Rich, Kristen and the girls 5 minutes before diving into the 70 degree water. Inexplicably, I was extremely calm and didn’t think about what the next 13+ hours held for me. The cannon sounded and I shuffled into the water with the masses. The water was shallow enough that everyone walked about 100′ before the punching and kicking began. Wow! I’ve been part of some mass starts before, but nothing could have prepared me for this! The first 1.2 miles were nothing more than surviving the fists, elbows, knees and feet. Someone actually put their hand on the back of my head and tried to dunk me – what gives? The cool part of the swim is that it was a 2 loop course and you get to see all the spectators be