Most races have packet pickup days leading up to the race itself and some even have it the morning of the race.. The IRONMAN is not ‘most races’.. The latest time to do packet pickup for the IRONMAN is by 5pm on the Thursday leading up to the race, which is on Saturday. coming all the way form California, and wanting to miss as few days of work possible, this meant the fun started for me at 11pm on Wednesday night with a flight from San Francisco to Chicago.
I’m doing us both a favor by leaving out the frantic moments of packing last minute and having to change flight arrangements a week before the race.. Side note: Thank you Eric for the ride to the Airport, and to my roommate Ryan for helping me pack/find my things, and calling Uber to drive me to Eric’s. I owe you both some delicious food of your choice.
Sitting in the middle seat on a 4 hour ride, I made friends with my neighbors. One was an environmentalist who plays Amateur Ultimate Frisbee for a club in San Francisco (she seemed super legit!) and the other an ‘international’ Physicist who is studying at Berkeley and is traveling to New York to partner with another lab for a project – That is about all I really understood from our conversation.. definitely a real interesting guy though. I did end up sleeping for a solid hour or two.
What would have been a two hour layover in Chicago, became a few minutes when I was able to hop on an earlier flight to Houston Texas that left around 6AM instead of 7:30.
Scoring an aisle seat with the middle seat empty, the gentlemen sitting against the window actually initiated the conversation with me – definitely a new experience! John was a great guy, Chemist by profession and has an entrepreneurial drive with a few different ventures in mind. To read more about our conversation and my thoughts on starting a company/nonprofit, check out my post HERE.
It was my first time in both Illinois and Texas, but I have to say that when I got off the plan in Houston, I could tell it was Texas – it was a huge airport, with long moving sidewalks (‘flat escalators’ in airports 😛 ), large people (both tall and wide), plus BBQ places in every food area. Also, most conversations I had and that were happening around me were pertaining to sports and college football – much different than in Silicon Valley and in the Bay Area.
Finally boarded a prop plane for Panama City with new friends Ollie (short for Alejandro) and his girlfriend, both on their way to the race as well. This was Ollie’s first IRONAMN too.
In the Panama City airport, I befriended a Colombian couple who live in Houston and were on the same plane. The guy was decked out in IRONMAN branded socks, shirt, backpack and bags! He has done IRONMAN Triathlons around the world and this will be his first one since shoulder surgery only a few months ago. They were getting picked up by friends who drove over from Texas and offered me a ride, obviously I was down – Panama City does not have Uber!
For those keeping track We all needed to be registered and signed in by 5pm – we arrived in Florida just before 2, and drove directly over to where registration was happening. The IRONMAN Village.
The IRONMAN Village is the hub of everything IRONMAN related. From the week long expo with vendors, music and food, to the IRONMAN merchandise tent, this is where all the action happens.
Once we registered, we explored the merchandise tent (conveniently located next to registration..). We met a cool guy named Josh who was looking for his name in an IRONMAN cloth near some hats. He and I connected quickly and helped convince each other to buy a new IRONMAN hat. When finished shopping, it just so happened that my Colombian friends stayed in the same hotel, so they gave me another ride down the street! Relaxed for around an hour, then I took a taxi back to the IRONMAN Village for the Opening Banquet for all athletes and families.
11/5 – Check-in and registration for Race
Posted by David Waitforit Nassau on Saturday, November 7, 2015
That is when it all hit me.. Reality set in. The intensity of the videos, emotional speeches being made, and listening to the incredible stories of the many other athletes I would be competing with in only a couple days. If I was going to have an emotional breakdown, this was definitely going to be the time and place for it. Was my training enough? Did I put in enough hours and as many workouts necessary to even finish the race? All these people around me are so incredibly in shape and here I am thinking I can complete this race with them.. That said, they did have a buffet filled with carbs and cookies, so that definitely helped calm down my nerves. Saw my friend Josh again where we exchanged some words of encouragement, both wearing the hats we bought earlier. Called it a night soon after that.
Woke up close to 6AM on Friday, and as it got closer to 7, I knew the countdown had begun – the final 24 Hours.
Went to breakfast, provided by the Hotel, and connected with a family who was there to support the Father, David (ironic). Big Gator fans, David and his wife had a son who was a sophomore in High School with aspirations for UF. Honestly, I could not be happier talking about UF, Gainesville, and the Innovation Academy again. It was also David’s first IRONMAN as well, and he started asking me how I was packing my Transition bags or any special needs bags to use during the race. Completely dumbfounded confused, David explained to me how he watched a YouTube video the night before where he too learned that the transition for an IRONMAN is very different than a traditional Triathlon and there were specific bags where you had to place items in for the T1 (Swim to Bike) and the T2 (Bike to Run). He and his family offered me a ride and nicely waited for me to go back to my room and pack my transition bags.
Back at the village, transition bags in hand, I went over to the TriBike Transport tent to pick up my bike which had been shipped over from California. Brought my bike and bags over to a mandatory athletes meeting to learn about any rules and race conditions. Obviously people were interested in water temperature and if the race would be wet-suit legal or not. If you wear a wet-suit and it is not legal, you still are considered a finisher, but are not considered for any Age Group awards or a qualifying spot for Kona – the World Championships in Hawaii After the meeting, I set my bike in Transition, placed my transition bags in their corresponding locations, and met up with my mom who drove up from South Florida to support (Yes, I am lucky and have thanked her at least once that I can remember 🙂 ).
Before Dinner, David and I met up for a quick open water swim to ‘test the water’ and ended the day at Olive Garden for an endless Pasta to finish off the night!