You all know how this goes. This will be waaaaaaaaaay longer than most of you probably want to read but I wanted to capture most everything. Read on if you think you have the mental fortitude :)
I essentially spent most of Thursday making the seven hour drive to Wilmington. I was anxious to get my bib number and check out the swag so I stopped at the expo before heading to my hotel.
After picking up my number, I checked in at the hotel and unloaded the car. The amount of things you need for this race is ridiculous. Had CR come with me, he probably would have had bags in his lap the whole time. I am sure he was thankful to miss that experience! I took my chances and parked next to honey badgers. I have heard they can be fierce so I kept alert, especially since these weren't average honey badgers. These were the Bad A@@ kind.
After the 18,001 bags were carted up to the room, I headed to Wrightsville Beach. I wanted to get a look at the beach before race morning. As I was driving along the 2+ miles I would be swimming on Saturday, it felt like the longest distance ever. When you are swimming those laps in the pool, you don’t get a real sense of the distance. When you see it all laid out like that it starts to seem a little daunting.
I found a parking spot and headed onto the beach to check it out. Nothing was set up yet so it was kind of hard to tell where the start was. I followed a couple of other racers around and we eventually saw the first turn buoy and kind of put things together from there. There were quite a few swimmers testing out the water. On my way back to the car, I grabbed a couple of shells as a momento of the weekend.
Thursday night was the pre-race dinner. There were not a lot of people there but was glad I went. It was the typical buffet of pasta, chicken and salad and gave us the chance to talk to other racers. There were quite a few first timers there; B2B seems to be a magnet for them. Fast swim, mostly flat bike course, lower entry fee – can’t go wrong with any of those things. It certainly appealed to me for those very same reasons. Everyone I talked to was so friendly which was par for the course for this race from the racers to the volunteers. They gave a few speeches and played a video about the PPD heroes, cancer survivors who were running the race. Pretty inspiring stuff.
After dinner, I went back to the hotel and put together my transition bags. I had the foresight to assemble everything in groups before I left the house so it was pretty much just a matter of making a few last minutes changes based on the weather and transferring the items from one bag to another. I HIGHLY recommend packing your transition bags at home if you ever do an ironman, it saves so much time when you get to the hotel. At that point, wouldn’t you rather be relaxing than worrying about your bags?
The transition bags were white Hefty bags. No expense was spared.
I joke only because for the IM branded races you get these fancy color coded bags for each transition. In all seriousness, these bags had much more room than the bags at Augusta and who needs fancy logo printed bags that you just throw away anyhow? I will say the drawstring made it easier to carry especially at the end when you have 5 bags plus a bike to get back to the car.
Friday’s plan was to sleep in, go the athlete meeting and then drop off my bike. On paper that seemed to add up to a whole lot of free time at the hotel but it didn’t seem to work out that way somehow. I was wide awake at 6:00 AM. Sigh…. I ended up watching TV and looking at facebook before deciding to head out and eat breakfast. I somehow overlooked the event merchandise area the prior day so wanted to go back there and at least get a shirt. Can I say these event merch people were thinking. There wasn't a lot to choose from but there were two ladies shirts. One was a bright pink and one was a gray with pink trim. Very few ladies can resist the call of pink. Smart marketing right there.
By the time I did all that it was time for the athlete meeting. I did not attend the meeting in Augusta and my friends who did came away with some good information so I thought that it probably would be to my benefit to attend this one. I could use all the help I could get… The main thing I remember from the meeting was that you could float a Dorito bag from the start to the finish in less than 2 hours so we all should be guaranteed a good swim time. Good to know.
As I was heading over to drop my bike, I got a text from CR. He was on his way! He was able to get someone to cover the shop for the weekend and would be in Wilmington by 9:00 PM. Hooray! It sounded as though he had tossed some clothes together and didn’t think to ask him if he brought anything warm so I made a pit stop at Wal Mart to get him a sweatshirt and gloves just in case. I knew it would be in the 30s and wasn't quite sure he realized how much standing around he would be doing on Saturday.
Finally, around 4:00 I made it to bike drop off to rack my bike and deposit my various transition bags. I ate an early dinner with the senior citizens at Olive Garden and then stopped at Panera for a sandwich to take back to the hotel for later. Before I went to sleep, I wrote out notes and addresses for CR to use the next day. Since he was arriving so late, I would have to go over the spectating particulars in the car.
CR got the hotel right around 9:00 and got settled in. I remember waking up a lot that night. Not from noises or anything, just excitement and nerves I suppose. I finally got up around 3:30 and started getting ready. It was a little earlier than planned, it felt a little like a Disney race with the crazy wake up times. I ate an uncrustable sandwich and a banana and drank some powerade. At 5:00 we headed out to T1.
We got parked and I gave CR the run down on where the various transitions were, how to get to the battleship (finish line) and information on how to pick up my bike if needed. Being a spectator at this thing really is an event all on its own. T1 is in Wrightsville Beach so once you leave there on the bike, spectators have some time to kill before they need to head to downtown Wilmington. There is no parking at the finish so you have to take a water taxi, trolley or bus over to the battleship to get there. Once there, you can either stay there and watch your family and friends when they come through there or you can be super ambitious and watch them come through T2 then hop on the water taxi and back across to spot them again around mile 4, 10, 16 and 23. It was definitely more information than I could impart on CR in a 5 minute conversation in the car at 5 in the morning. I had the addresses programmed into the GPS in the car so he took it from there.
I put some air in my tires, dropped off my swim to bike bag and gave CR one last hug goodbye. He was happily chugging hot chocolate as we walked to the trolley that would take me to the start line.
The trolley dropped us off just in front of the beach which at that point was pitch black. Everyone was sitting on the curbs along the street waiting for the sun to start coming up before they put on their wetsuits. It was pretty chilly and I wished I had socks on my feet instead of flip flops. I chatted with other racers and waited. Finally the sun started coming up so we put on our wetsuits. I waved goodbye to them and headed to drop off my bag and make my way to the beach.