Ironman Austin 70.3 2012 – My Perspective

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Austin 70.3 – Post Race Recap.

So its been a week+ since the race in Austin and now I realize why I usually try to do the recaps right away… because I am getting older and as a busy working mom of 3.. my memory, mind and details tend to slip away… and while I know I just need to sit down and get it done.. I want it to be as awesome as the event and experience.

I am not sure why, but this event seemed to sneak up on us.. or at least me.. the weekend before seemed to fly by and before I knew it – it was Tuesday afternoon and I was checking the weather forecasts and trying to pack myself and the kids.

That being said – Eric had his bike and gear bag all packed up on Saturday since SAGmonkey (www.sagmonkey.com) came by to retrieve his gear… We figured that we would try them since they work a lot of events with Eric’s coach and come highly recommended.. the cost is about the same (if not less) than renting a bike box and taking it via airlines… and it is worth 4 times the cost in terms of efficiency and AWESOMENESS.. seriously.. talk about VIP treatment for your bike and gear… you are not having to break down your bike or re-assemble in a hotel room.. and the bike and gear are taking care of in true VIP style… this extends to the athletes and families as we soon discovered as well…

So Tuesday evening.. I was re-checking the weather again and seeing lows of 60’s and highs of 80’s+.. so I packed for the girls and I accordingly… with a few warmer layers for race day, as I expected we would be at T1 before the sun came up….

We made the decision to sleep at home and get up early on Wednesday and just park in long term parking, meaning it would be an early day – just like a normal commute day… Eric and I had everything staged and got up early Wednesday for tea and our English Muffins with PB… we then packed the van and got the girls up and dressed and off we went.

It was actually pretty seamless… We found a spot – opened up the stroller and strapped the kids in and grabbed the suitcases…. We were able to check-in, relatively quickly and then were directed to a “family” security line.. it was a pleasant surprise at SFO.

We made our way through security and found a breakfast spot to get the kids some grub and Eric and I some coffee and Whole Wheat toast.

Our flight ended up being delayed around 45mins and then realizing that we were on a crop duster (aka: regional jet) for the 3hr 15mins flight was not exactly a happiness inducer.. but we all managed and the girls did great… and we actually arrived in Austin right on time.

We grabbed our bags and headed to the airport shuttle… We had chosen a hotel that was affiliated with Ironman and went with the Hilton at the Airport… They had a free airport shuttle, shuttle to downtown (which we then discovered was actually the city bus) and free wifi (which we then discovered was really only in the lobby).. LOL…

We got checked in and while at first we thought we were in an episode of Seinfeld… it was quickly fixed… One of our major requirements in a hotel is a fridge in our room… Not sure about you guys.. but my athlete is VERY PICKEY about what he eats.. especially PRE-RACE…. So while he made sure that I didn’t throw too big of a hissy fit…. We made it to our room.. and were called shortly afterwards to be told that they found a fridge and it would be coming… and it only took 3 calls to get the portable crib for the little one.

We quickly discovered that the “free wifi” was really only in the lobby and while we are based in Silicon Valley – our expectations of technology are a bit different than those of other parts of the country… LOL.

We got freshened up a bit and then headed out to downtown Austin to meet some good friends of mine, with a daughter who is the same age as our Mackenzie.  Christa and Kevin remind me of what GOOD FRIENDS are… they really are the ones that you can-not see for a few years and when you do see them, it’s like not a day as passed.  This was the first chance that Eric has gotten to meet them as well, as our schedules had never aligned very well in the past and they had lived in Lake Tahoe – but fate would have it that they just relocated to Texas.

We had originally decided to not get a rental car and just taxi and shuttle about.. the cab ride to downtown proved us wrong in our thinking… $35.00 later, we arrived at the little Italian place!  Let me say that the folks in Austin are all VERY VERY NICE and family friendly.. La Traviatta is a smaller Italian place right in trendy downtown and they welcomed us with open arms… and we had two 3yr olds and a 9month old…We had a great meal with wonderful conversation and then walked around a bit… The weather was perfect… warm with a slight breeze.. and tons of twinkle light lined streets.. the girls ran around as we adults chatted… it was a great night and soon we found ourselves all needing to get the littles situated… We grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel.. it was only $25.00 on the return trip.. but it solidified our need to make a rental car reservation… Lesson Learned!

Back at the room – we got the girls all ready for bed and passed out.

Thursday morning we got up and booked a car through Hertz on Hotwire, had breakfast (the hotel restaurant was the shining star of the property) and then made our way to the airport to pick up the car.

Let me first say that both Eric and I have had our fair experience with rental cars and travel – I used to travel a fair amount for work and count it high on my list of things I enjoyed… this experience with Hertz, was NOT one of them.

We got to the counter and the lady came off as genuine and helpful and trying to save us money… we knew that we would need two carseats and that would be added… After all was said and done… we believed we had gotten upgraded (free of charge) with a GPS and the two carseats for a minimal charge… and when we were told that we needed to wait for 25mins for them to FIND A CAR… we were understanding and went to get a cup of coffee…. Once we returned 35mins later and were told they still didn’t have a car and we needed to wait more – along with the large crowd that had now assembled – our understanding began to disappear… it further retreated when we were FINALLY given a car – without GPS and then discovered that the “upgrade” was a Jeep Liberty – which was in fact probably smaller than the full size vehicle that we originally rented…. (the story doesn’t end here but ultimately ended up having charges of over 600.00 and hertz trying to charge us 45.00/per day – instead of the 18.00 per day we had secured).

We then headed over to drive the course a bit and get familiar with the area.. We also wanted to meet the SAGmonkey and figure out the plan with the bike and collect Eric’s gear bag.  The weather was gorgeous and perfect.. even a bit on the hot side.  We saw SAGmoneky pull in and decided to go grab some lunch before making our way back over to T1.  We navigated our way to a subway to feed ourselves and the girls… After a light lunch we headed back over to T1 to meet Nick and Jimmy from The SAGmonkey.. the bikes were being unloaded and cleaned and lubbed… Eric had a training ride called out so Nick offered the van as a changing area and Eric got ready to ride a sample of the course…. Nick and Jimmy went OUT OF THEIR WAY to make us all comfortable.  As Eric headed out on his ride, Nick put Winnie the Pooh on the DVD for our 3.5yr old and offered up cold drinks and wifi…. Jack – His Golden-Doodle was the sweetest, most well-behaved dog ever and happily played catch with our daughter and I…

After about 25+miles, Eric arrived back and we collected his gear bag and headed off to Wally-World to get supplies for the week: Whole Wheat English Muffins, Yogurt, Gatorade, water, spring cheese, fruit, etc..

We arrived back to the hotel and all changed into our suites to enjoy the hotel pool and hot tub.

We called it a night.

Friday we woke up and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant again… this was an odd place… their website claimed it was Farm to table and local sustainable ingredients but it was the oddest laid out hotel restaurant ever… it was fully exposed and appeared to be more of a hotel lounge/bar type set up.. however the food was OUTSTANDING! With fresh made pastas and truly farm to table ingredients… the pancakes were honey whole grain and offered a number of healthy food options… because of this we ate here often; most breakfasts and a few dinners..We are a tough bunch to feed… Eric is VERY particular about what goes into his body… usually only whole grains and super lean proteins with little seasoning and he closely watches his sodium content – which typically limits us eating out… Then you add me to the mix… I try to eat like Eric but don’t eat meat and while I do eat seafood – I am beyond pickey – it has to be fresh and not fishy or tough, etc.. (the grilled shrimp as a pasta add-on were A.MAZING).. then we have a 3.5yr old who typically says she wants pancakes for every meal and a 9month old who is just starting with foods (the 15yr old and 6yr old couldn’t join us on this trip due to school)… but The Creeks Restaurant was able to please us all and provide well-balanced and healthy meals… so it rocked!

The day before we realized that just because it looked over-cast out.. didn’t mean it was cold… it had pushed 90degrees on Thursday… however… when we walked out of the hotel on Friday we realized it was a very different day.. it must have been 40-degrees with a wind-chill.. and we were worried… We headed over to the expo to pick up Eric’s packet and bags and check out the event area…

It was gusty and cold and we realized that we were not prepared… So we got the girls inside and realized that the expo was much smaller than we had anticipated.  We both envisioned something similar to the expo at the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego.. but then later decided that that had 25,000 participants and ironman usually has 2,500.  We got in line and picked up Eric’s bib, timing chip, bags and such… we then hit the Ironman store to buy the kids their gear, some extra water bottles, etc.. We also picked out a coordinating framed photo/medal set – from the same company that did Eric’s first Marathon… I think it got my more excited than Eric.. but again.. I am the cheerleader.. and felt it was important to have his first Ironman event documented… and it helps that it comes already put together.. it’s a time saver for me!

We then decided that we should go look for an Aero Helmet… When talking to Nick and Jimmy from the SAGmonkey – we were told that an Aero Helmet would take 20mins off an Ironman time… So we tracked down a bike shop and went for a ride… Unfortunately the shop had a specialized Aero in the wrong color and MUCH to Eric’s dismay, the Giro felt so much better… it was a struggle but he finally realized that comfort was going to be key here… but I also knew it would be a struggle that he would hate… So we ended up at another shop and their selection was not any better… but alas.. across the road appeared to be a larger version of the first shop… so we went for a walk and found a red and black Giro in his size and on sale!!! We each did a happy dance.. though mine may have been “outloud” and we exchanged the first purchase for the new and coordinating helmet… It’s been agreed that the Aero Helmets make you look a bit like a tool.. but the key here is to train in your normal one and race in the Aero… we both quickly got over the looks and moved on.. and to be honest… its actually growing on me.. but then again, I think my guy is a stud… so his helmet choice won’t affect that..

The day drug on a little longer than we had hoped so we headed back to the room to relax… we by-passed the hot tub due to the outside chill and got the girls for bed.

On Saturday we woke up and had breakfast and talked to family and bit and then headed back over to the expo center for the bag and bike check.  We hit the athlete meeting and actually caught the tail end of the Pro session… which was really helpful.. especially when talking about how to prep for the cold.  Eric’s coach was going to originally be racing but got called back home.. so this was helpful to listen to what others would be doing… we decided that gloves and arm warmers were going to be required… along with MUCH warmer clothes for me and the girls.. we had NOT packed for sub 40degree temps and I think both Eric and I were worried, not only about him but about putting our girls out into the elements for 5+hrs.. We got his bike all checked-in and then we were off…

Unfortunately, we are talking about Texas in October… so we hit up REI… and while I have fairly expensive taste.. I don’t like spending like I do.. or without being prepared for it… but when we were talking about our kids well-being… all bets were off… we bought gloves for everyone, fleece pants and fleece under-shirts and a down jacket for me (of course I rationalized this by not fitting into any of my winter clothes – courtesy of Body By Eric…) and we needed to make sure that Eric could stay warm before he started the race… the down size to all of this was that they day drug out a bit… He was now hungry and his legs were tired.. so we jumped back into the car and into Texas traffic.. I am guessing it’s not normally bad.. but with extra people in town and road construction.. it felt like it took 30-45mins every time we got into the car….

We got back to the room and decided to do pasta and such at the hotel restaurant… We then got Eric’s bags all squared away, got him to soak a bit in the tub and I laid out the rest of our clothes for the morning.. complete with our TEAM CONNELL T-Shirts… Because we were going to wear them.. even if I figured no one would ever see them (and I am still bummed that we didn’t get a picture all together in them)…

RACE DAY

Sunday morning came pretty early and we did breakfast in the room with our Walmart toaster for English muffins and Peanut Butter… We got the girls up and dressed and checked our nerves and headed out… We headed back to the Expo center, where everyone was supposed to park and then be shuttled over to T1…. It was cold and dark and the road we had planned on taking was now shut off and the detour consisted of miles of cars… to say that the anxiety level shot up would be an under-statement….

We finally got to the expo center and the girls and I got in line as Eric went to drop his bag in T2… While in line for the shuttle Eric remembered that he had not grabbed his water bottles for the bike or the bottles for his nutrition belt… I didn’t think I had time to go back to the hotel.. but I offered… and was trying to do whatever I could to keep Eric calm.. but he is the king of calm… and was handling it well… though I bet he was freaking out on the inside.. as nutrition is such a HUGE part of these races and he had a plan and was going to want to stick with it…the stroller made the shuttle difficult to navigate so Eric took the girls and our extra stroller seat (Phil & Teds) and I folded up the stroller and stood upfront… Once we arrived at T1 and the start – we saw The SAGmonkey right out front… THANK GOODNESS!!!! Eric went and talked to Nick and he lent him a couple of water waters with water and Gatorade for the ride… and Eric figured that there were so many aid stations on the run that he would be fine… Nerves eased up a bit and we headed over to transition… Let me say.. it was cold and dark.. like so dark that people were wearing headlamps and I thought it was a brilliant idea and need to remember to buy a few…the Sun was just started to break through the horizon as T1 was closing… w3e went to find the bathrooms and get Eric some banana and get him changed into his suit… it was cold.. and it was clear that the weather had caught many of us off guard… they said that over the course of this race, race day can and usually is between 75 – 101degrees.. this was a shocker… the air temp was around 40 degrees and the water temp was 71degrees… so at least we knew that Eric would get warm once he got into the water…..

We took a few pictures but to be honest… I was just trying to keep myself and the girls warm, help Eric with his nerves and figure out my game plan… I knew that I would be on the course with the girls for 5-6hrs.. once the race started and to be honest.. I was a little worried but figured I had some time to scope out the routes and plans… I had downloaded IronTrac and was super frustrated that it was not recognizing Eric’s name or bib number.. I had planned to track him with it (I later got a personalized apology stating that something in the IM system had been changed and the two were not talking.. but that now it should be fixed…)… The sun was coming up and it was getting light out but was not really warming up but before long.. it was Eric’s turn to go line up with his wave.. it was purple caps again.. and we sent him off with kisses and “good lucks”… Pretty quickly as Eric’s heat started, the pro’s started to roll in… we watched what we could of the swim but then went to line up along the transition route…. The athletes probably had a good ¾ of a mile run UP HILL to T1 and I knew that Eric was hoping for a 30-45min MAX swim… I really had no idea how the cold or the run would affect him and this is where my butterflies kick-in.. trying to attend to the kids.. track his time and hold my anxiety for him in close proximity…. Eric doesn’t want to be the slowest guy out there.. nor does he want to be the slowest of his coaches athletes and would like to qualify for Kona and finish in the top of his age group….

We found our spot near the top of the hill and close to the T1 transition entrance… we have our cow bells and form finger prepped and Mackenzie went between being super excited and yelling for everyone and telling everyone “Go Daddy Go!!! You can DO IT!!” to not wanting to cheer… at around the 30mins mark I still had not seen 1 purple cap.. which usually gives me a good indication of where Eric wants to be and where he will be.. after seeing a few trickle in… I had Kenzie be ready and tried to have my camera in the ready-set-go stance… pretty soon we saw Eric running up the hill and we yelled and yelled… So I then got Kenzie settled and started to run off towards transition.. and picked up speed when I realized that Eric was actually on the end and we could see him transition… we yelled from the fence and watched as he got his arm warmers on and yelled at him to pick up and carry his bike as others were getting flats from the pricklers in the grass.. we ran along side of him to the mount line – where I got thorted by a rogue log.. and it took me a while to get the stroller over it… At that moment.. I figured I would have 2-2.5hrs… The race did have shuttles set-up to return spectators to the T2 transition area.. but to be honestly.. I was worried about getting the girls on the bus with the gear bags, etc.. and having to break down the stroller and hold the stroller, the baby, while keeping an eye on kenzie.. strangers and especially strangers at these events are great.. but I didn’t want to rely on their help.. so I asked around and found out that we could walk about 1.5 – 2miles back to the expo center… We walked along side of the road and was sorta off-wheeling and after fighting the stroller on an incline.. I waited to cross the cyclists pack to get to the other side of the road.. After walking for a while I realized that I hae not seen 1 car on the open side of the road and decided it would be a much easier journey for us on flat ground… I had Kenzie in the front of the stroller.. Madison in the lower jump seat.. the diaper bag on the canopy and Eric’s transition/gear bag on my back… so it was a lot..

We walked along and followed the bike course for a while.. and as I was walking I felt really bad for Eric.. because everyone talked about these “rolling hills”.. and I found myself, almost saying out loud… “Rolling hills my ass! These are big!”…. so we trudged along, whilst I continuingly checked the time.. We found our way to the T2 area and I was trying to determine the best viewing angle for us… I also figured we had some time so I found an indoor bathroom – with heat – THANK GOODNESS – and gave Kenzie and I a potty break and changed Madison’s diaper… I also decided after taking off her gloves and feeling her ice cube hands.. that it was time for the Carrier.. she would at least get my body heat… the morning seemed to be warming up a tad.. but not by much.  We then ventured to the ATM machine and grabbed a couple of breakfast burritos and the best lemonade ever!  We tried to eat the tacos but the potatoes in one tasted like Sausage and the second actually had Bacon in it… so lemonade and bagels (that we brought) it was…. We saw the pros transition.. and that was actually really neat and then we saw this athlete with his guide (teathered together) because he was visually impaired and talk about inspiring… I didn’t hear the entire story and I have been meaning to look it up.. but this guy (and his guide) where at the front of the pack and making AMAZING time… and all I could think was “What was my excuse?”… seriously.. you see that type of determination and it pretty much puts you in your place.. but not in a shameful way.. more inspiring… Kenzie made friends with other spectators and I was trying to watch the clock and give updates to the family while nursing Madison in the carrier… That sure does make things easier… it kills my back to wear her for hours and hours.. but it usually keeps her happy and makes it easy (THANK YOU ERGO) for allowing me to nurse her without anyone ever knowing.. while still managing to keep an eye on Kenzie and the athletes…

Pretty soon we started to see folks who I figured would be here Eric and his time was coming up… I felt like he was doing a great job, but was probably a little slower than where he would like to be… I did know that we would see him on 3 laps for the run… and this was going to be the crucial part…

Before long we saw him transition out and yelled and screamed!!!! It was awesome.. it is one of the best feelings to know that he has made it to that point safe and sound…. Kenzie started to get excited again and was tracking not only daddy but the guy running in a Spiderman costume, Ironman and Captain America… I also saw a poor guy run out of transition with one running shoe and one bike shoe… I giggled but also felt terribly guilty for doing so because I can only imagine the disorientation you feel.. and I am a FIRM believer that anyone who is doing one of these races should never be giggled at in spite or mal-intention because it is AN AMAZING thing to do…

So we tracked daddy and waited for his second lap.. I was guessing 20-40mins per lap.. depending on his pace and how his legs were holding up…. We timed it pretty near perfect and we had the bells ready and we were yelling and yelling and I was pretty darn sure that Eric had heard us.. I later learned he didn’t… and that sorta broke my heart… I try like hell to position us in places that he can see us and hopefully helps him inspire through the next laps or laps.. but at that moment I was sure he had seen us…. Mackenzie also decided that she need to GO POTTY RIGHT NOW!!! And after trying to get her to hold it.. as soon as we saw Eric run by…. We ran up to the top restroom.. I figured I had 30mins and could hopefully catch him again!… so I got everyone their potty break and were back at the top of the hill for Eric’s start to his 3rd lap…. Again we cheered like crazy and I was not yet sure if he actually heard us or not….

So we ran inside the building to scope out our positioning… It was a very odd finish and while there were people on the lower floor – I was not really sure if I could get us and the stroller out of the building and get around the course closures to find our way around, find the entrance and get a solid position… So I parked the stroller and took the girls down the stairs to the floor..

We got ourselves lines up just past the finish line.. hoping we could see him finish and then have him see us before going to the finishers area…

It was def. a tight fit – especially with everyone trying to do the same and getting a glimpse of their loved ones.. but we managed and saw Eric cross the finish at 5hrs 42mins.

My heart exploded for him and I was gushing with pride… he had completed his FIRST IRONMAN EVENT in just over a year since he quit smoking… and he put in a solid and respectable time… I also knew that while he would be happy to have completed it.. he would not be happy with his time… As much as he said anything under 6hrs would make him happy… I knew that that really meant that he wanted to complete it is 5hrs 15-30mins MAX…. I also knew that the winds were crazy.. the weather was up and down and the hills were not expected….

He got wrapped in his warmer and we got him over the finishers area… I found it amusing that his warmer was all about Chocolate Milk as a recovery drink.. and yet – they served Diet Coke and BBQ sandwiches… LOL… but we got him fed and then went up to the stroller to grab the chocolate milk that we had brought.

We then went back downstairs to look at the finisher gear… and disappointed was a bit of an understatement… Eric came in like 550th-ish and the finisher shirts were essentially sold out… there was one small and about half a dozen L and XL’s.. I asked about back stock and they had none.. we bought the small, hoping it would fit (it does but Eric feels like the hulk in it).. so we figured we would order one online… (which they had about the same stock as onsite)….

We got Eric all settled and made our way back up to the stroller, packed up the girls and went off to collect his gear.  It went relatively quickly and we soon arrived at The SAGmonkey to check the bike and gear bag back in.. Nick and Jimmy were positioned perfectly each time and made the hand-of super easy!

We then loaded up the car and headed back to the room for showers and such…

We found a highly recommended Pizza Place in SOCO and headed down – hoping that at 4:30pm in the afternoon there would not be a wait… unfortunately, there was a 1hr wait at “Home Slice Pizza”.. we made the decision to wait instead of looking for someplace different… We finally got seated and enjoyed the meal with the girls… garlic knots and pizza all around…  Once dinner was completed we all headed back to the room to relax and order-in dessert… it’s our treat for a race well done… We train and support each other as a family and we celebrate the same!!!!

Eric and I spent the night stalking his official results – and I will share the race specifics from his perspective as soon as I get it… he did a quick rundown email to his coach but wants to spend some more time on it… and I think it’s fun to see it from my side and his side.. ultimately we have some things to work on for the next 5months… and being that Eric had a chain fall off his bike and was dealing with the elements.. I think he adapted VERY WELL.. I am beyond proud of my guy and am looking forward to the journey… right now we are waiting to hear confirmation from his coach.. but are pretty sure that IM Los Cabos will be on the agenda for the end of March… then IM Mont Tremblanc… I have a feeling that the training and racing will continue to get harder and this will be a long term life style for our family.. its comes with good and bad… rewards and sacrifices… but in the end.. we are healthier and happier and if we can continue to attack this as a family.. I have no doubt that it will continue to stay on the good side of things!

Photo by IM approved Photogs: Rights have been purchased

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