Third time is a charm...and boy was it!
Today was the Muncie Ironman Sprint race at PCR. I picked up a bib late in the week and decided to go for it. The excitement of having Ironman in town, combined with Molly being on the Ironman staff now really sucked me in!
Picked up my packet and got body marked on Friday. Attended the athlete briefing, and went out to the race site to check my bike in. Nearly 2000 athletes created a transition area much larger than anything I ever imagined. Friday night we hosted my friend Matt who was doing the 70.3, and Molly's friend Tracey who was helping volunteer. We all tried to go to bed by 10, but with Molly up and gone at 2:30 a.m., I didn't sleep much before my alarm at 4:30!
Arrived at the race site at 5:30 and got set up in transition. Found several acquaintances there to help calm the nerves, and with a quick dip in the water (81 degrees), it was Go time! I was in the first wave of the first race. 6:30 airhorn to a growing crowd and I'm off!
Felt great during the swim, stroked every stroke freestyle, no breast this time, and only got kicked twice. Fought through several drifting bodies to maintain position, and focused on my breathing. When I came out of the water, I looked at my watch....4:59!!!!! but wait....it's not moving....it's stopped! When? For how long? Where was I? No clue! I ran up the hill to T1 and sat down to put socks and my bike shoes on. Lots of bikes still on the rack, so I must be okay..
Once on the bike, I restarted the watch so I could get my bike splits. I went for a drink of my gatorade, only to realize it was still mostly frozen from being in the freezer all night. I do this on purpose so it's ice cold, but apparently it doesn't thaw fast enough at 6:30! I passed two competitors quickly on the bike, and found a good rhythm of around 20 mph. Though I've done this course many times, this was the first time I had rode the bike clockwise around PCR. We usually go the other way, and I suspected this may help me. Only 2 people passed me through mile 6, and I passed 2 others myself. Wasn't sure why a motorcycle was creeping next to me around mile 7, until I realized it was the lead female escort! Yep, there she was, started the swim 5 minutes after me, and caught me roughly 30 minutes into the race...RESPECT! My initial fear when I heard the motorcycle was that it was an official coming to penalize me. I raced hard to pass 2 more on the back half of the course, and no one else passed me prior to the dismount. I had to guess, but I assumed I'd been on the bike around 40 minutes.
Very quick T2, and I was out fast on the run. I knew my friends from the YRC were working the run aid station at mile 1 and 2.2, so I couldn't wait to see them. Ran hard and was not disappointed. They were as loud and excited for me as any pro on the course. I can't explain how much it helped my confidence. I stayed focused on my pace, and couldn't wait to get to the turn around and head back. Once again, they went crazy for me! Because the run is an out and back, I was able to size up where I was, and was impressed by the number of people I was ahead of. Once I got up the dreaded last hill, I could see the crowd which was quite large now as the pros were on the beach ready to start their race for the long course. A nice downhill finish toward the beach area through a 0.2 mile finish chute with people on both sides made me feel like a world champion. Sadly, the finish clock was not on (they were saving it for the long course), and so I still had no idea what my time was...was that a good thing...I think so...
ANOTHER PERSONAL RECORD!! -- 1:20:32
39th out of 123
Swim - 10:04
T1 - 2:37
Bike - 39:09 (18.9 mph)
T2 - 1:40
Run - 27:04 (8:44 pace)
Didn't place in my age group, but very rewarding!
Once I recovered, and changed my clothes it was on to part 2 of my Ironman experience.
Because Molly was the Director of all Volunteers, and she let me race this morning, I wanted to be sure to give back all I could. Besides that, I'm so inspired by the 70.3 athletes, that I wanted to be a part of the event.
My original assignment was run SAG, which includes driving around in a Gator or pickup truck and picking up athletes who quit on the run course. This may sound crazy, but after 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, under the near 90 degree sun, many runners are overwhelmed for the half marathon run. Some runners start the first mile and know they can't do it. Others get to the turn around, and are smart enough to listen to their body telling them it is at its limit. Sadly, there were not enough vehicles available for me to help with this because they were needed to transport more ice and supplies to the aid stations and medical.
While taking my bike back to the car, I found myself near the bike in with the pros coming in. I could tell the pedestrian traffic was a problem, so I stationed myself 300 yards off the dismount line, and instructed pedestrians to clear the road as cyclists approached, then as the athlete got to me, I would yell "300 yard", this helps athletes gauge when to come out of their shoes. Most pros, go barefoot all day, and keep their shoes clipped to the bike to save time in transition. I did this for almost an hour until the flow of athletes was steady enough to scare the spectators from attempting to get on the road.
I returned to the athlete food tent to grab some lunch, and got to watch the overall winner finish. Then I was assigned to the crosswalk at the finisher chute. This job was supposed to be to control pedestrian traffic coming and going where it crosses the finisher chute. As it turned out, many of the athletes found their way to me to turn in their chip when they gave up early on the run. Crowd control didn't sound very glamorous to me as I stood there in the hot sun, and faced depressed athletes and angry spectators; but I quickly realized that the real opportunity was that of a cheerleader. I was the LAST volunteer that athletes saw before they finished. My attitude quickly changed to that of a STRONG voice that yelled "Great job, You're here, You made it, Bottom of the Hill, Congratulations!" I repeated these phrases countless times for over 3 hours, and loved every minute of it. Many of the athletes gave me high fives, thumbs up, fist pumps, and of course thank yous! It was also a great point to provide information to uninformed spectators, and to congratulate finishers that after exiting the recovery area, had to come right back by me to get their things out of transition!
The only scare I had was an athlete who got so excited, that as he jumped for joy, he literally cramped right in front of me. The guy was 0.1 miles from the finish, and couldn't walk! The spectators gathered along the chute and offered words of encouragement. I didn't know what to do. I offered my hand and he grabbed it. He leveraged himself off of me and we did a partner calf stretch together while he grabbed his hamstring. When he finally took his first step, the crowd went nuts and he hobbled down the hill to the finish. Several others found incredible strength to sprint the last leg, while others could barely walk to the point they were almost scared to descend down the hill to the finish line.
It was hot, I got a good sunburn, and lost my voice...and it was worth every second!
Great day. Great athletes. Great volunteers. Great event. I am so blessed to have been a part of it, and inspired to consider the 70.3 next year!