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(note: this is a report of my daughter Cait and my athlete, Seth Chandler racing in 2007)
Arrived at the house where Cait and Tim and 99 other athletes stay every year. They have been going to this same house since the year after I did it (2002) and I swear every year there’s at least one more person staying there. I drove up in a torrential downpour and it had eased up a little by the time I pulled into the driveway. I called Cait on her cell phone as I was pulling in and she said she’d meet me because she wanted to get her Computrainer out of the trunk. She scooted through the rain and ducked behind the car to reach into the trunk as I was backing in.
All of a sudden she yelled out, “(expletive)!” and then (sort of whimpering) “Oh my God… Mom, can you help me?”
I jumped out of the car and ran over to find her doubled over, both hands cupped on her forehead and blood streaming out! She had banged her head on the trunk door while trying to hurry. I had a towel in the back seat and grabbed that and pressed it really hard to her head, walking her into the house. She was saying over and over, “I’m so sorry Mom. I just want to race”…..
Everyone in the house jumped into action as we laid her back on the coach and put ice on her head to stop the bleeding a little to see what we were looking at. I’m thinking, head wounds really bleed, so this might not be as bad as it looks and sure enough, within 5 mins the cut was clotting. She had a half inch gash that looked like it could use a stitch, but I was fairly confident she could still race. Of course, part of me was picturing her getting out of the swim, pulling her cap off and having blood streaming down her face sort of “Carrie-style”. Nice.
After dressing the cut with Neosporin and icing off and on she looked like the stitch might not be necessary and we were done with the drama for the day. I went for a run downtown, around the lake and up by the golf course and watched cars and bikes pull into town.
The next day everyone got up early, did yoga, swam, ran, biked – whatever – and then Cait and I went to the pro meeting. These things are really a trip. Each athlete walks in and sizes each other up. Everyone pretends that they are REALLY glad to see each other, but in reality there are 20 people in the room vying for prize money and 8 Kona slots, so cut the shit. Haha.
What I love about Karen Smyers is that she’s not like that, and she came in late (surprise, surprise) and sat behind us. She told us that her knee had been bothering her for about a month, that she had tried some last minute ART and was going to test it out but was probably not going to race. Bummer. It would have been nice to have her out there.
Paul Newby-Fraser did a great job of keeping the meeting low-key and friendly. Jimmy Riccotello was the head course marshal, or some such title and he went over drafting rules. The pros now have a 10 meter draft limit (5 bike lengths) and they are not allowed to ride up on the cyclist in front of them to make the pass. He was emphatic about this being enforced and I have to say, where we sat, the pro race was VERY clean (wish I could say the same about the age-group race). Mike Lovato and Greg Welch were there as well. It’s nice to see the old names in the sport (well, Mike Lovato is not an old name) coming back into it in another capacity.
Cait couldn’t wait to get back to the house to relax. Even though she seemed very calm all week, I know the pressure was getting to her and her big thing is that she doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. She was aware people had big expectations and while it’s a great confidence boost, you want to be able to live up to it as well.
We saw Seth and Arnold going down to the expo to buy lots of M-dot souvenirs and Arnold had his new race-day hair cut. Both wearing Pegasus jackets and they looked great. Everyone was asking where they could get one. Saw Vinu Malik (owner of Fuel Belt) with full beard and as nice as ever. I saw Ian Dargin about 10 times this weekend (but never during the race) and it seems like every other step you saw someone you knew. Fun!
Friday night was a huge meal with lots of people contributing and then we played a crazy game that was sort of a version of “The Newlywed Game”. You put 2 questions in a hat and then were matched up with someone. Tim Snow and I ended up partners and I’m thinking “we’re gonna win this thing!” but as soon as the first question: “At what age did you lose your virginity”, Cait was saying, “Can we go on to the next question? This is my mother and my boyfriend!”
The next question was “At what age did you lose your virginity?” ha! Three people had submitted that question! Cait kept saying, “This is so wrong” and then, “When are they going to get to MY question – ‘what is your favorite ice cream flavor’?!”
The questions got worse, but we were all laughing so hard and we didn’t even hear Tod and Christie walk in! They had seen my car and thought they’d say “hi”. Stephanie, whom they had never met, doesn’t even miss a beat and asks Christie who she fantasizes about during “quiet time”. Good Lord. They didn’t stay long.
Next morning – Saturday – Cait and I had a date for breakfast, and it was the breakfast she’d been thinking about for 2 months. Three blueberry pancakes, a side of eggs and a fruit salad. Two hours later a bagel. I thought she was going to explode. Carbo loading. It took us about 2 ½ hours to eat breakfast, but it was great. We went over the race step by step and watched people come and go. Tod and Christie had a nice breakfast on the patio and Seth and Arnold going for a last, legs-loose, 15 min run.
Bumped into Dave Nerrow with kids in tow and he told us that he had done a short bike ride on the run course, hit a pothole and cracked BOTH race wheels! He found race wheels to borrow and then just for the heck of it, had a brand new Scott Plasma FedExed to him! Not kidding!
Cait went back to the house and I got on my bike (beautiful day, by the way) and did the course minus Hazleton and down town, but added half of White Face mtn. I could not believe how many people were out there training. Hundreds – really. These were all people not doing the race. They had come up to watch, train, and many of them sign up for next year.
Just as I got back to the house, Mikaela called. She had just gotten in and we went out to the run course and hung posters and painted inspirations on the sidewalk. She had brought up bright green sidewalk paint which was awesome!!!
Later on that night I got a call from Shag and Eric who were in town and heading out to the LP Brew Pup. I was dying to go out with them, but also knew it was going to be a long, early day the next day, so had to pass. In bed by 8:30, lights out by 9.
Cait got up at 3:30 a.m. and had most of her breakfast, went back to sleep until 4:30 when she, Tim, Jay Munis and I got up, got dressed, packed bags for the day and headed down to transition and body marking. Stopped at the top of the hill near Crown Plaza to take in the breathtaking view of the town and the lake and headed on down. It was going to be a picture postcard day!
At body marking the friendly volunteer had Cait bare arms and legs and asked her her number. “Eight”, she said. “Eight??” He got very excited, lots of jokes, very good way to start the day. It was only 5 am – age group race went off at 7:00 and everything was in transition, so it was surprising to see so many people up. Cait said, “This looks like more than 24 people” (the number in the pro race, which went off at 6:30). We saw Mike Hardman, Seth – once again looking happy and ready to go – and lots of very sleepy looking fans. Mikaela called at 5:30 and asked where we’d be at 6. She hadn’t planned to come down until Cait was out of the swim, but she wanted to see her before the start.
After Cait dropped bags off in transition, we went down to the swim start and Cait got in the water to warm up. I found Mikaela which took some doing as the crowd was already getting thick. Great music, as always, got the crowd going and you could see the pros on the Jumbo-tron as they lined up in the water. Cait came out of the water one last time to give Mikaela a hug and I stayed where I was and videoed the whole thing. I also brought my binoculars, and from where I was I could see the pulse in Cait’s neck!
The gun went off at 6:25 and the pro women took off like it was an ITU race. I saw Cait settle in and followed her as long as I could through binoculars and at that point they were setting up the 2000 people for the age group race. They were to take off at 7, and the pros needed to be starting the second loop so as to be just ahead of them.
At 6:50 I could see the pros getting near the end of their first loop and Cait was in perfect position – second place in the main pack. (Two pros were out ahead of this pack). Just as Cait stood up to run around the buoy and go in for the second lap they started the Star Spangled Banner and for a second Cait thought she was supposed to stop! She got back in the water, swam away and just then the gun went off for age group race.
As was our plan, Mikaela and I left our spot and headed up the street to be on the gate for the swim-to-T1 path. Tereza Macel and Katja Consjak out of the water early and before we knew it Cait was running down the street, 6th out of the water. We went ballistic! Big smiles for us as she headed into the tent. We saw Peter Abdinoor out of the water very early as usual, then Dave Nerrow, Mike Hardman, Mame Donahue, Arnold Roest, Seth Chandler, Paul Ghelfi, etc. After about 2/3 of the swimmers had gone by, Mikaela went back to take a nap and I went up to the house to grab my bike, and Pam Roesch, Karl Amber, Aki Chiba, Brian Hughes and I rode backwards on the bike course until we got to where the swim and bike courses join. We passed Eric, Shag and Tod - I could hear Shag before I could see him - at their usual spot at the top of the bears where the course turns for home.
Tim Snow was doing his run workout on the bike course up the hill from where we were, Mikaela was watching at the foot of the Crown Plaza and my mother was at home on Ironmanlive, so we had continual updates on where everyone was. Tim, Jesse and I had all told Cait (and Seth) to hold back on the bike. If you go too slow, you still have a marathon to make it up, and since neither one had done this distance in a race, you are better off holding back than risking blowing up. At one point Cait was in 8th place, but she let the more experienced girls hammer the hills and settled in to a comfortable pace.
I have to tell you, it can be exhausting, being an Iron spectator, which I know we’ve all done. I had just taken a call from my mother when I looked through the binoculars and spotted the white aero helmet and blue race jersey! We all started yelling and Cait gave us a big smile as she cruised up the hill.
Some of the cyclists spotted us – they know where we usually sit and noticed the FastSplits kit – and Seth and Mike Hardman both smiled and pointed as they went by. It was starting to get very hot by now and I was glad that it wasn’t humid. There was almost no cloud cover though, and that had to be affecting the athletes. As I mentioned earlier, there was a disappointing amount of drafting going on by the age-group athletes, and if you don’t know the drafting rules by the time you are doing an Ironman, shame on you. Jimmy Roccotello said he handed out a record number of drafting penalties though, so they did their best to make it fair. Why should someone else do the work for you on the bike? I’m proud to say, no one we knew was drafting.
Anyway, Belinda Granger was putting a huge gap on the field in the race and it looked like everyone else was racing for 2nd. The women really didn’t change places on the bike, and as soon as Cait went by the second time, I packed up my stuff and headed on to the run course. I was by myself this time. Cait is usually with me, and Tim and Brian Hughes were riding the bike course backwards. I got off just past the last water stop on River Road and cheered as the pros started the long marathon. On this part of the course it’s very quiet and it must be nice to have someone there. Belinda Granger had already gone by, but as each pro went by me I noted the time on my watch and how their run looked. Mikaela called and told me Cait had gone by her 20 mins ago, so I knew I’d be seeing her soon (I was at about mile 6).
Peter Abdinoor was still in the lead for men and Vinu was right up front but already reaching for the Coke (stomach issues). He is so experienced though, he just tried what usually works and stayed patient.
All of a sudden I saw Cait with her quick little leg turnover, asking the aid station volunteers for caffeinated gel and saying “Oh, that’s ok” when they didn’t have it. She looked great, said she felt fine and I got on the cell and gave everyone the report. She looped around the end and passed by me again. After the last female pro went by I packed up my bike and headed back to town as I wanted to bring the bike back to the house and run back to the finish line. It’s amazing that you have to rush so much when watching an Ironman!!!
On the way up the first hill by the bridge and just before Econolodge I saw Brian Hughes and Tim Snow, so I waited with them a while. I had seen Seth about to catch up to Arnold, Mike Hardman looking great and Peter Abdinoor walking now, but still smiling his, “oh well” smile. Vinu looked better and Mame was very focused.
Tim decided to shoot down the course a different way to catch her at the turn around on River Road again, so I proceeded back to town and got a very excited call from Mikaela (now in front of Stewart’s) who had just seen Cait. I was by the IGA now and as soon as I hung up with Mikaela, Cait came by looking great! Smile and a wave, but still very focused.
I got up to where Mikaela was, left some of my stuff with her, wove through the crowds and blasted up the big hill by Crown Plaza, over to the house and dumped my bike. Quick change into running clothes and ran all around the detours to get to the grass hill near the finish line at the oval. Mikaela and Chris met me there and I called Tim and he said she had about 4 miles to go. The plan was as soon as we saw her come into the oval we would jump up and run over to the finish line. (Tim had already snuck in and was inside the chute at the finish).
Mikaela and I were talking and I saw Cait’s shoulder enter the arena. Mid sentence we both jumped up and ran as fast as we could down the grass hill to the finish. She had run every step of the way and you knew she couldn’t take one more. It seemed like an eternity before she could come over and hug us but it was only minutes. A 3:33 marathon for her first! Awesome! Next thing I knew, all our friends were around us with hugs and nice thoughts. Skip Chandler had come up and he was at the finish as well.
People started coming in: Vinu, Dave, Peter, Ginger, Arnold and Seth. I didn’t see Ian Dargin finish because we had gone back to the house and come back down, but just as we got near the finish we heard them call his name. As always, we sat near Stewarts and cheered the rest of the athletes as they came in.
The next day, nearly everyone in the house got up at 5:30 to be at the horse show grounds at 6 to stand in line for vouchers to sign up for next year’s race. By 9 a.m. 1,000 people were in line! They let everyone have 2 vouchers and you could sign up one person, then you had to get back in line to sign up the next. All of you who had someone do this for you owe that friend big-time!
At 11:00 we went to the Hawaii roll-down and again, huge crowd. They do Pro-women first and there were 2 slots not taken. The first name called wasn’t there, so we had hope. The next 2 were there, though, so Cait missed the slot by one. Oh well, not meant to be. Yet.
We went to the awards banquet at noon and very nice surprise – they have a whole table reserved for each pro. Cait and I were the only ones from our party there (Tim was biking the course again) and a guy with 3 young boys was sitting at our table. No problem. He seemed nice and the kids were very well behaved. He also looked very familiar. Then I figured out who he was – Mike Richter – former goalie for the Rangers. He retired a couple of years ago and this was his first Ironman. Great guy and we talked quite a bit. He knows Shag and Kevin Stevens (Mike is originally from Pennsylvania). He said he is going to do Ironman Canada as his next one.
Anyway, very nice awards ceremony. Mike Hardman was 2nd Clydesdale 39-under and Seth was 10th! We knew lots of people getting awards, Graham Fraser made a very nice speech, and the race video was great. The final memory I have of the day was as we were leaving, Cait heading off in a different direction and she was going over to shake Belinda Granger’s hand. I’m very proud of that kid!
Great race by all and let’s “put our hands together” for the race spectators! Psyched for all the people who got into next year’s race. The online entry sold out in a record 11 mintues!!!!
Tim Walsh, Eric Snyder, John Buckley, Dan Martin, Charles Williams, and Rob Delmonico – day one of IMUSA training began today.