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Friday, April 08, 2005

Settled In

Today was my first full day at IMAZ and I am all settled in. I started the day by riding my bike over the run course; at least as much of it as I could. Many sections of it are on packed dirt trails which I did not want to ride on. The trail heads were also hard to find as the course hasn’t been well marked yet.

Along one section of the course, I passed some nice cactuses (cacti?). It was the perfect opportunity to take my first picture. Other than that, the course is not particularly scenic. Some large hills can be seen in the distances, but the course does not go through them. The course is also completely devoid of hills and shade. The sun will be a major factor.

After riding as much of the run course as I could, I swapped my bike for my wetsuit and headed to the traditional Gatorade swim. The Ironman Wetsuit people were also out and I spoke to the sales rep about the possibility of swapping out my long john style for a sleeved model. He said I can get a $75 trade-in for my old suit. That was hardly worth it.

The water however was not bad. I figure it was around 65 degrees. I have definitely been in colder water and did not mind it at all. The surface was completely flat and the water as brown as flood waters. Visibility was only about two feet.

I decided to swim across the lake a couple of times. Each way took me 5 minutes to cross. On my second return to the start, I noticed that everyone else was swimming along the course. I could see why the logical thing for me to do was to swim across the lake – It was right there. When else was I going to get a chance to swim across it?

Having discovered where people were really swimming, I then started to follow the swim course. As you swim east on the river towards the rising sun, you pass under two bridges. Each time I came upon the shadow of a bridge, I got the sudden sensation that I was about to swim into something, which caused me to stop and look around. On race day, I will know to expect these two shadows. I continued to swim for 30 minutes and then got out of the water.

For the next hour or so, I tried to take in the environment at Ironman Village. I ran into a couple of local NYC Triathletes that I know. We took a picture by the lake and then drifted off to do our own things. The mood in the Village is decidedly subdued. The village and the town lack the race day energy that I experienced in Lake Placid. I am going to attribute that to people’s desire to stay out of the sun.

The Endless Pool booth was the last thing that you pass when you leave the village. I took my obligatory swim in it and had myself video taped. An endless pool would be a good nice to have, if I happened to have an extra 20-30 thousand dollars burning a hole in my pocket. For now I will stick with Masters swimming at Asphalt Green.

I then went back to my hotel to change and relax a bit. Shortly after I arrived, my roommate Chris showed up. We hooked up on a Triathlon message board, when he responded to a posting I placed about sharing my room. He is a 45-49 Age Grouper, previously Kona qualified and has two children the same ages as mine. We are also in the same line of work. We settled into a rhythm so smooth and easily it was like we are old friends.

After he settled in, we went to grab some lunch and headed back to Ironman Village to get him checked in. I took this time to grab some more swag. It is not possible to have enough water bottles at these events. I also managed to get another IM goody bag. It contains a good mix of mildly useful stuff and total crap. The brochures for various future local races and time shares went right into the trash.

After registration we went back to the hotel to drop off the swag and grab the car to check out the Bike Course. We were delayed for about 20 minutes since the valet dudes lost the keys to my car. No big deal as it saved me a buck since I didn’t tip them.

The course has two sections. The first is the local town section with many 90 and 180 degree turns. This part is approximately 9 miles. It will be very hard not to draft in this section and so many turns exists that riders will definitely get bunched up.

The second part heads outside of town. It is out and back 12 miles each way. It has several 90 degree turns, but not as sharp. The longest straight drag of the bike course without a turn is about 4 miles. All of this section out of town is sadly lacking in scenery. On the way back towards town we began to notice a lot of debris on the road, especially in turns. I am sure that some riders will go down if the take the turn too hard when on top of the loose gravel.

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped at a local bike shop for CO2 charges (none were at the IM Village yet) and went to the grocery store for provisions. I was hungry by this point and ate a box of cereal on the way back to the hotel. We were also drinking water all day long as you were thirsty all of the time.

After we dropped off our groceries, Chris went for a run and I wanted to go get my bike checked out. I noticed that my headset appeared to be a bit loose. I am glad I went as it turns out that when the bike was built the person did a terrible job putting in the compression fitting. It was all bent and cracked. InsideOutSports fixed it without a problem and my bike is primed and ready to go. I took it for another late afternoon spin. This race will be fast if you have good bike handling skills. Against the headwinds it was no problem riding over 20mph.

Chris and I ended the day by going to the Athlete welcome dinner. They severed pasta, with fried chicken cutlets and your choice of marinara or Alfredo sauce. It was very good, but I would have preferred plain grilled chicken. They showed various videos about the race among others. They also had someone speak about Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal who dropped his ticket to the NFL to fight in the war on Iraq.

I have heard a lot about Pat Tillman ever since his unfortunate death. His bravery, honor, compassion and commitment to god and country are without question second to none. It is hard to comprehend the sacrifice he made when he felt the call to duty. His good looks, supreme athleticism, good natured-ness makes him seem too good to be true, like a fictional hero you read about in a comic book. In fact, every time I think of him, I can’t help but think about the character Sergeant William Schumann, played by Woody Harrelson in the movie “Wag the Dog”.

After the dinner we went back to the hotel, stretched and both took sleeping pills. The antepenultimate night before the race is your main opportunity to get your sleep in and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.


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