Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lessons Learned as an Ironman Rookie

If you follow me on Facebook, you were probably well aware that we spent 5 nights in Texas last week for the Hubs Ironman Woodlands race. And if you know me, which you should by now, you had to predict that I would have some blogging to do after our return. I mean, how can I not share some stories with you after such a cool trip? Had your fill of IM Texas already thanks to Facebook, meet back up with us on Friday. You have my permission to take a pass at the next two days.

As a rookie spectator, I can honestly say that I was blown away by the entire experience from start to finish. Usually after a trip that tiring, I'm ready to come home, sleep in my own bed and get back to some normalcy. However, I didn't want to leave come Monday morning (especially when our wake up came at a whopping 3:30am. Barf.) It was such a packed weekend, but one full of high energy and so many things to see. Volunteering at Ironman Madison in 2013 gave me my first taste of this sporting event outside of the Hub's stories, but after this weekend, I'm a true fan. I hope to continue to volunteer or simply be a spectator in Madison regardless of whether or not the Hubs chooses to put himself through that participate again.

And as an avid list maker, I bring you a few Lessons Learned as an Ironman Rookie:

  • The Texas sun is H-O-T. Our pasty Midwestern skin was not prepared. Make the guys at the Bullfrog sunscreen booth your new BFFs. Thanks to their SPF 50, I came back home about as butt-white as I arrived. I'm guessing I could've used a little sun, but avoiding the pain of a burn as we stood in the sun for about 13 hours was a top priority. The Hubs was not so fortunate.
  • Port-o-potties will also be your new BFF, whether you like it or not, especially when pregnant. They are often times the only option around.
  • Apparently all 2,500+ athletes strive for bathroom "success" before they plunge into the water. Unfortunately, if you're a spectator who has to wait to use the dreaded port-o-potty until all the swimmers have done their business, it's going to be a rough experience. I almost puked about 10 times in a 3 minute span. I was happy for them, as I can only imagine that pooping in your wetsuit would set an awful tone for the next 8-16 hours, but dang Gina, that was nasty.
  • Splurge on the big, fat, colored chalk. I bought a pack of standard, white chalk to doodle encouraging messages for our Ironman along the running route. All I could muster was "Go Tim F." and that alone snapped 4 sticks of chalk. After my fingernails and knuckles slammed into the pavement with each chalk-snap, I gave up. Dang those $3 extra dollars I was trying to save for Ziggy's college fund.
  • Carrying your Hubs jumbo sized, warm Gatorade is stupid. Once he hits the water, chuck that puppy. Your "oh this isn't heavy at all" backpack tends to gain weight as the hours pass. Don't need it, chuck it, and don't worry about whether he'll need it as he passes you later on.
  • Be prepared to eat your way through the day. Okay, twist my arm on this one. You will have a lot of windows of time to kill and there might not be a ton to do other than shop and eat if you're in a good location. Our longest time span without seeing the Hubs was about 6 hours and you cannot shop that long. So we ate.
  • Bring a chair. By about 6pm my legs and back were tingling and the only place to sit down was on top of my backpack in a sea of prickly ground cover plants. I feel dumb even typing this when the athletes could hardly stand by that point, but it's my list and this is a lesson I learned whether I'm a wimp or not. As I plopped down on my bag I wracked my brain for anything "crushable" in the pack before I sat down on it. The one thing I forgot about was the banana I had stashed for later. Needless to say, I had some wonderful "banana pudding" smeared all over the inside of my pack that evening. Small price to pay. RIP banana.
  • This is one major sporting event where everyone is nice and happy. No one is drunk or booing for their opponent. Everyone is on the same team. If you're standing next to another family and awaiting your athlete together, it's 100% normal to ask where they're from, what their athlete's name is and then scream just as loud for their Ironman as they pass as you do for you own (and vice versa). One couple's athlete passed about 20 minutes before the Hubs did, but they knew we were anxious of his whereabouts and they stood next to me until he passed, all the while yelling "Looking good, Tim! You've got this, Tim!" You're all in it together and your pride runs deep for each athlete regardless of name and hometown.
  • My mother-in-law was amazingly selfless for my sake. She fought my resistance as she offered to carry my heavy backpack as the day went on. She carried it herself for much of the afternoon to my dismay. I felt horrible watching her carry it as I knew how much it weighed, but I can also tell you that it saved my aching back and feet for awhile as I got to walk without it. It was a long day for all of us, but to have someone look out for the pregnant chick in the group meant a lot and made me feel like part of the family even more.
  • And most importantly, be prepared to be obnoxiously proud of your Ironman (or woman). You just can't help it. You're watching firsthand someone accomplish something incredible, and unthinkable for people like me, and there's just something that clicks inside of you. You're watching someone fight for their dream, which is why America loves to watch The Voice, American Idol, Biggest Loser, etc... We're hungry for inspiration and dreams realized because it means that we, too, can do anything if we're willing to fight. As our matching shirts stated "Ironman, Superman, #1436 is both to us!" It's so true. If you're willing to fight for a dream, I will always rally around that. Always.

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