First off, this race was AMAZING. It was probably the most fun I have ever had at a race. The organization was superb, the course was fantastic, and the race village was huge. Secondly, I am an idiot and didnt know that my Garmin has a "multisport" function that lets you switch easily between biking and running without having to reset it, so I didnt wear it on the bike. Seems like I keep learning stuff about it's functions AFTER a race. Oh well, now I'll know for next time.
Bryce and I rolled into Des Moines around 3 on Saturday and headed straight to this sports bar, Legends, to meet up with his friends Dutch and Tony (who also goes by Skinny or Big Gay Toni, depending on who you ask) who were also racing. Tony's girlfriend Katie was there too, as well as his parents. We hung out there for a bit, and then went over to the MANDATORY race briefing that was being held at a school not far from the race site. Usually the "mandatory" race briefings aren't ACTUALLY mandatory, but this one was. You had to attend before they would let you pick up your packet. Lame.
Anyway, lets get on to the first cool thing about this race. They give you the greatest schwag bag ever. You get a bike jersey (and not a crappy one, a really nice one that is actually in your size), a good Headsweats hat, and a nice back pack that is absolutely stuffed with goodies. I havent even gone through it yet to see what all is in there. IMNA needs to take a lesson from the HyVee folks, because you really should get a goodie bag of this caliber for doing an IM. I mean, this wasnt even a half, and it totally trumped anything else I've ever gotten.
So after that, we headed back over to Legends for some dinner. Tim had joined us by this point, and some of his buddies from Columbia came and met up with us for a bit. The Columbia guys are FAST, and rolled up in a truck with about 20K worth of bikes on the back of it. Jealous! I think they all ended up placing in their AG, or something crazy like that.
After dinner we headed down to the race site to drop off our bikes and check things out. This was my first chance to see how amazing the venue was. I think the thing that impressed me the most was the finish area. It was HUGE!! They had these huge grandstands set up on 3 sides of it, two separate enormous video screens set up so that everyone on the whole site could watch the finish line, and even just the lead up to the finish was so cool. Really made me look forward to finishing!
The way the site was laid out, the road that the runners came in on to finish created sort of an "island" in the middle of the site. It was cut off from the other side of the site with the TA and lake and all, but in that middle "island" is where they had all the tents with vendors and food and entertainment and such. So to get to it, they had 3 or 4 huge pedestrian bridges set up that crossed the run course at various points, connecting the two sides of the site. It was really neat. And I would have pictures of it, but I got there and realized my camera was dead. Damn!
Got our bikes checked in, checked out the site, checked out the swim start, and then headed back to where we were staying since it was about bed time. We were staying with Bryce's friend Stu's dad. He and his wife were nice enough to let us crash at their house even though Stu wasnt up there to race. Was in bed by shortly after 10 with my alarm set for bright and early at 3:45.
My one complaint about this race is the parking situation. There was minimal parking on the race site, so they had other various locations set up with shuttles to take people in. The weird thing was, they had the volunteer and spectator parking areas WAY closer to the race site than the athlete parking areas. The athletes were supposed to park about 5 miles away at some mall! Which would have been OK for getting TO the race, but afterwards you'd have your bike, and you couldnt take a bike on the shuttle. Which meant that you'd have to ride back to the mall. Which again, isnt that big of a deal, but sort of annoying. Lucky for us, Stu's dad offered to drop us off in the morning. His house was actually a lot closesr to the race site than the mall, so we'd have a shorter ride back. Plus we wouldnt have to wait around for a shuttle to get us down there.
We arrived before 5:00, got our chips, got body marked, and TA areas set up. As I was setting mine up, I realized that I had forgotten my swim cap. Damn! I knew they would have extras somewhere, so I set about trying to find them. It seriously took me about 45 minutes to track them down, because every volunteer I asked told me something different, so I spent a good deal of time walking around trying to find a damn swim cap. Finally I found them in a crate RIGHT next to the swim start. By that time, I had just enough time to jump in the water and test the temp before the first wave went off. They had told us that the water temp was 86, which is HOT! It appeared to have cooled off a bit though, and was actually pretty comfortable. Still not wetsuit legal, but not boiling either.
The first swim wave went off at 6, and then another one went off every 4 minutes. Mine went off at 6:24, and the time seemed to pass pretty quickly while I was waiting for it. There were a lot of people in each wave, and I had a hard time finding some open water to work with. It was very crowded the first 300m or so, and I was getting kind of frustrated. Also, my goggles fogged up pretty quick, and they had the buoys spaced really far apart, so I was having a hard time sighting. I kept having to sight about every other stroke, and that was really slowing me down too. Finally I was able to get some open water, but I was still going pretty slow because of my sighting issue. I should have just taken the time to stop and take my goggles off and rinse them out. Oh well.
It was a clock-wise loop, and after we turned to head back to shore, we were pretty much straight into the rising sun. Which was making it even HARDER for me to sight. Fantastic. Also, somewhere in here, I was just swimming along, minding my own business, when my hand came down right onto some dude's package. I dont know if he was backstroking or what, but it was definitely package! Ha! So I finally made it back to shore, not really sure what my time was since I wasnt wearing a watch, but just happy to be out of the water.
When I got to the TA, I was happy to see that there were still quite a few bikes left. Even though I was in one of the middle waves, I was sort of worried that I would be at the very tail end of people heading out on the bike since my swim was so slow. But I wasnt, so that was good. I feel like I had a pretty quick transition, just pulled on my helmet and socks and shoes and was off. We had a short ride through the park, before pulling out onto the main road for the course, which was a simple out and back.
This course was completely flat, with just a couple of small hills before the turn around. On the way out, we had a slight headwind, which I only really noticed because I felt like I was working really hard and not going very fast for my effort. I got to the turn around, which kind of scared me a little bit after falling over and landing on my face at the one during IMFL, but this one was a little wider and I maneuvered it just fine.
The ride back in was FUN! I did drop my chain one one of the hills here, which usually freaks me out, but I just stayed calm and clicked back up a gear, and caught it right back. Now we had a tailwind, and I was able to keep my speed at over 20mph the entire way back. I was passing quite a few people, which felt great. There was one chick who was going just a TINY bit slower than me, but every time I would try to pass her, she moved over and blocked me. Granted, there were a few people right in front of her, so I couldnt tell if she was doing it on purpose or doing it because she was thinking about trying to pass them. But it was pissing me off, and I knew I needed to get around her. So finally I just punched it up a notch and got by.
Coming back into TA I was just having a great time and feeling realy good about my bike. Since I decided so late in the game to actually do this race, I'd only gotten in 3 rides, none of which were 25 miles long. My goal had been to average 16mph, and I ended up averaging 17.3. So I was very happy with that! When I got back to my rack, the two people on either side of me had racked really wonky, so it took me a minute to get my bike on. Then I just switched out my shoes, grabbed my race belt and the Garmin, and headed off.
The run was the part I was least worried about, since a 10K is cake, but this is where my lack of training really hit me. It was pretty apparent that I hadn't done any bricks, and my legs felt like lead. About the first mile of the run course was inside the park, which was nice because there were so many spectators. Once we got out of the park, there was a pretty decent hill, which I decided to walk up instead of expending too much energy running it with my heavy legs. Of course, this is where I saw Tim, as he was flying down the hill going the other direction. At the top of the hill was an aid station, and then a nice downhill, before we turned and had to make our way up another gradual incline. About half a mile after I turned around, I saw Bryce going the other wasy, and of course I was walking, AGAIN. Seems like I only see people I know when I'm walking.
After I got up the last hill and hit the aid station, I FINALLY started feeling really good, and was able to run the last mile or so at a pretty good pace. Coming into the finish was as cool as I had imagined, they just really made a big production out of it. I got my medal and a water, and then headed off to find a place to rest in the shade for a few minutes before looking for everyone. Really, the only part of the race that I'm disappointed with is my run, I know it could have been a lot faster. But I'm happy with the rest of it, my main goal was to have fun, and I did. My splits ended up being:
Swim (1500m): 43:42
Bike (40k): 1:26:26
Run (10k): 1:13:17
After I cooled off a bit, I crossed one of the pedestrian bridges into the middle of the action, and went straight to the beer tent. I knew that's where they would all be hanging out! I found Tim and his Columbia friends there, so I grabbed a beer and joined them. Bryce joined us shortly thereafter, and we just stayed there for a while in the shade enjoying some beverages. We knew Dutch would be finishing sometime soon, so we went to watch for him, and then straight back to the shade and beers after he came through. I can't remember exactly how long we stayed there, but I think it was about noon when we left.
Tim had been lucky enough to grab a close parking spot, so he offered to drive Bryce and I back so we didnt have to ride. Definitely nice to have a ride. We got showered up and headed back to KC, and I was home by about 5:30.
So I would absolutely recommend this race to anyone, I really dont think I've ever had a better experience. IM was close, but I think this was actually better, in terms of just the overall event, and I didn't think I would ever be able to say that. I will definitely be back next year. If all races were this cool, I'd race every weekend! :)