Race day started for me at 12:30 a.m. when some idiot’s car alarm went off outside the hotel room. I was eventually able to get back to sleep, but it took a little while. The alarm was set for 3:30 a.m., which was the time all the swimming, biking and running Team Mud Dux (myself and Kurt Wagenbach) would be put to the test. Yup, this past Sunday was the Timberman, a half Ironman event that has participants swim 1.2 miles, bike for 56 miles, and then run 13.1 miles; 70.3 miles in all and all as fast as you can! Crazy! But more fun than one person should be allowed.
The 3:30 alarm went off, followed at 3:31 by the first joke of the day, uttered by Kurt: "We really should have trained for this." At 3:32 we flipped on the coffee and started eating ... carbs ... lots and lots of carbs! They say prior to a race like this you’ve got to eat at least three hours prior, another reason the alarm went off so early. At 4:25, we threw it all in the car and pointed it in the direction of the Ironman Start line. We arrived there at about 4:45 and started the long walk to the transition area.
If you’ve never done one of these before, let me take a moment to describe what goes on in the transition area (this is the area where you "transition" from one event to another). It’s organized chaos. More than 2,000 athletes working in a space no wider than the handlebars of your bike, constantly arranging and re-arranging their stuff. So, it can get a little nerve wracking. And what did I do? I cracked jokes. I kept trying to bum a smoke; for the most part everyone laughed except one guy from Brazil (who reached into his bag and handed me one!).
For the people who have done this a 100 times, they’re calm, but I was a bundle of nerves -- calm but nervous. You can lose time in transition and you don’t want that, so your setup is key.
My heat didn’t start until 7:17 so I had got plenty of time ... right? Wrong! I had no idea you had to be out of the transition area by 6:30; I was going to have to put on my wetsuit at the beach.
At 7:14 I highfived Kurt, we both yelled Mud Dux and walked toward the water (Kurt’s heat didn’t go until 7:37).
At about 7:16 I cleared my head and focused on nothing but the horn that would sound at 7:17 when my race began. It took me 42 minutes to complete the swim, then five minutes to get on the bike and start my 56-mile journey. Five miles into the ride I saw something I’d never seen before -- two grown men on $10,000 bikes getting into a fistfight while moving at 20 mph. That was interesting. At mile 15 I saw an athlete being worked on by EMTs. He was conscious but in pain and his bike got caught up in the guardrails. You’ve got to put that stuff outta your head and keep riding.
I passed mile marker 30 and thought it’d been a great ride! My average speed was up there and I felt great. Clank, clank, clank! What the ...? I picked up a nail that was rattling around the wheel; a seven-minute tire change and 16 more miles and I’m off the bike in three hours and 16 minutes. Then I ran 13.1 miles.
The way the course is laid out it’s the only time I’ll see fellow Mud Dux (Duck?) all day, except at the finish line, which I eventually cross six hours and 52 minutes later, when I get my finishers medal kiss from my wife, who stood there all day to see me for less than a minute total (she deserves her own medal).
Also waiting was Kurt’s Wife, Katherine, their two boys (who I understand were real troopers) and, of course, Captain Dondo (also a Mud Duck). Then I waited in the finish area for Kurt. Right on schedule he arrived 20 minutes after me! Team Mud Dux 70.3 next up 140.6 (the full Ironman)! What the hell is up with that!