Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Iron Inspired

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I am not a morning person.  So what possessed me to roll out of bed (and drag The Husband along too) before sunrise on Sunday morning and drive an hour south through some truly spectacular construction detours?  This:

Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

The Husband and I arrived at the event just as the male pros were coming out of T1 and beginning the bike portion of the race.

#11: Marko Albert

#8: Tim Reed

#1: Craig Alexander
 I was really excited that we made it in time to see the pros hitting the bike course because it meant that I caught a glimpse of reigning Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Champion Craig Alexander (who happens to be my favorite male pro triathlete) as he sped by!

After the majority of the pro men flew by, we made our way down the hill (yes, the bike course started with a truly evil-looking hill), past the transition area, and out onto the beach to watch athletes come through the swim finish.

Looking downhill toward Transition

Transition area: Racks upon racks of bikes, surrounded by Porta Potties

Standing on the beach and watching the swimmers come in was really cool.  When I looked out over the water, it appeared that there was a small breakwater just offshore. In reality, it was an unbroken line of athletes churning up the water!  Once they made the turn for the shoreline, they would swim until their hands touched the bottom and then stand up and begin running toward the beach, stripping off the top half of their wetsuits, swim caps and goggles as they made their way out of the water.

Best use of a kiddie pool - ever!

While we were on the beach, we met up with Miss Placed who was there to cheer on her mom, dad, and younger brother as they raced.  After Miss Placed's brother came out of the water, the three of us made our way back to the Bike Out/Transition area and watched for a while.

Bike Out/Bike In

I can't imagine trying to find my bike in that sea of bikes!

Female Pro Missy Kuck exiting transition

 The 'Bike Out' was chaotic as athletes ran their bikes to the mount line and then had to stop dead while they climbed onto their bikes, clipped in, and began the 56 mile bike leg with an evil-looking hill climb.

Evil Looking Hill

 I was a little taken aback by how many people had mechanical problems before they even got started. I suppose those bikes get bumped and jostled pretty good on the racks and that can lead to problems.  One person's back brakes were rubbing against their wheel. Another person toppled over and was nearly mowed over by other riders - fortunately a volunteer managed to get to her and help her unclip her foot so she could stand up and try again.  Yet another rider dropped his chain and had absolutely no clue what to do.  I can't imagine owning a $3000+ tri bike and not having at least basic knowledge of what to do if my chain fell off! Fortunately for some of those riders with mechanical problems, they didn't have to go running back to the mechanics tent because bike shop owner (I bought my bike from his shop) and former Olympian Brent Emery was on the sidelines shouting advice (although he wasn't allowed to physically assist any of the athletes) and coaching people on what to do to solve their problems!  I think the thing I heard come out of his mouth most frequently was, "Shift to a lower gear or you're never gonna make it up that hill!"  I hope that if I ever have mechanical problems at a race that Brent is nearby!

Eventually, the three of us made our way back up to the top of the hill and scouted out a shady spot to sit while we waited for the pros to finish the bike leg.  The crowd gathered at the top of the hill went crazy as the first rider turned the corner.  I think everyone had the same question brewing in their head: Is it Craig 'Crowie' Alexander?  It wasn't.  It was #24 Jordan Jones (who lead the race until the second half of the run when he had to retire from the race due to cramps)!  After he whizzed by, everyone leaned a little farther forward, expecting the next rider to be Crowie.  Nope.  The World Champion was 8th off the bike.  After he sped by, speculation turned to 'Can he make it up on the run?'  We would have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, our little trio moved just past the 'Run Out' area so we could hopefully catch a glimpse of Miss Placed's mom, dad, and brother as they began the final 13.1 miles of their half ironman journey.  The run course was a double out and back (2 loops), so there were multiple viewing opportunities without having to move from around the course.

We were standing right by the giant red arrow

 As we waited for various members of the Placed family to come by, the male pros were finishing the first lap of the run course and passed right by us as they began their second.  The crowd went crazy as the first pro approached.  They went even crazier when Crowie passed by!

Crowie finishing Lap #1

Pro's Joseph Lampe and Paul Ambrose beginning their second lap

Craig Alexander starts the final lap

Eventually we spotted Miss Placed's mom and brother as they ran by us looking happy and strong.  Miss Placed's dad elected to withdraw from the race after the bike leg.

Watching the age groupers run by was a unique experience.  Some people looked like they were out for a Sunday jog, never mind the fact that they had already put 63+ miles on their bodies that day.  Others had looks of grim determination on their faces.  Still others looked like they were on a death march, pouring every ounce of physical and mental strength that they had left into finishing the race.

Once the pro's had crossed the finish line, we bid farewell to Miss Placed and went up to the finish line to get a better look.
Getting this close to the finishing chute and having to do another lap just seems cruel!

I saw the craziest thing on the walk back to the car.

Yes, I was within about 5 feet of Crowie!
I seriously considered 'going fan girl' and running up and asking if I could get a picture with him, but he just looked so...I don't know...disheartened/exhausted/pissed off that I couldn't bring myself to do it.  I've had bad races and I know that the last thing in the world I feel like doing when that happens is being polite to anyone.  I want nothing more than to get home, take a shower, and figure out what went wrong, so I can't imagine that a pro athlete of his caliber feels any differently.  I would have felt disrespectful bothering him, so I'll settle for this picture.  I really hope he races this sucker and wins it next year, because if that happens and I get this close again - I'm so 'going fan girl'!

All in all, I had a lot of fun watching the race and I think it's almost impossible not to be inspired by the men and women, both pro and age grouper, that were competing.  I left the race determined to tackle my stupid fish phobia by next summer because I want to do this race.  A half ironman is probably at least two years away, but I'm convinced that by next summer I'll be ready to do some sprint distance races and possibly even an olympic distance race.  Whatever the case may be: I've been inspired to TRI!


BeringSeaJunkie said...

You never really appreciate how tough the competition is until you actually 'see' it!!

Shame he didn't win and you couldn't go 'fan girl' - but at least you saw him in action, whether it was good or bad!! And then you've been inspired... which is even better!!

Sounds like getting up before sun rise on Sunday was totally worth it!! :)

Anonymous said...

We need to work on that fish phobia! Lol

Just a note...one reason it was so hard for us to find a room in the 'dacks this weekend http://ironman.com/events/ironman/lakeplacid

Yup, Ironman Lake Placid is Sunday!

Rae said...

ohhh, I think I would have bitten my lip not to go fan girl, too!! Next time :-) I think you totally could rock a tri...they are so much fun and a great way to cross train!

Mary said...

I had to force myself to stay rooted to the spot where I was standing! Then again, I'm not sure I would have been capable of talking to him without sounding like a total idiot (and maybe drooling a little).

Delyth Edwards said...

I was talking about this with my mam since the Olympics have started and we definitely think the Biathlon's and Triathlon's must be the hardest competitions to do. I just look at them in awe, I can't imagine how tough it must be!

Glad you got to see it all up close hun, maybe it will be you competing at some point!

Mary said...

It will be me...hopefully the 2014 race!