We did it! Short story? Donnie finished 6 minutes faster than his dream time. It was a great day for all of us! I’ll post the longer story later but I thought I’d share some interesting/weird things I learned Sunday. If you think Why would I find this interesting? I don’t care about triathlons. you should still give this list a try because SO MANY of these things are SO INTERESTING. And some are a little (a lot) weird. You would think that being married to a triathlete for 5 years and participating in several triathlons myself would have made me prepared for this weekend. But MAN! Did I learn SO MUCH about the sport in general, but also about what makes Ironman races different (both because of the amount of racers and the distances completed) than other triathlons.
Things I Learned Spectating An Ironman
- At our small local races, there’s always one color of swim cap in the packet pickups. But at the Ironman there were at least four. Silver were Pro Men. Yellow were Pro Women. Green were “age group” Men (non-pro). Pink were age group women. There were also orange caps and I think they were the the athletes in the physically disabled division and supposedly there were white but I never got confirmation on what those meant.
- Speaking of physically disabled athletes…some of the athletes in that category were blind! One I saw on a tandem bike. I’ve heard of blind runners at big marathons because I know someone who volunteered to be a leader one time, but I didn’t ever consider a blind Ironman – but there were a few I think this weekend. I know I saw one for sure!
- The officials posted at 4am race morning that the water temp was too warm for the race to be “wetsuit legal” but they allowed athletes to choose to wear their wetsuits anyway. They would simply forfeit their right to an age group award and they would have to be part of the group that entered the water last. I thought that was REALLY interesting and there were a lot of people in that group! I can see why – from what I hear wetsuits really help with buoyancy.
- There are naked tents! Basically…if you don’t want to wear the same thing all day (Donnie has a Tri kit he wears for every event) there are big tents – separated for men and women – where you can run in and get naked to change your clothes! NAKED TENTS! I found that SO INTERESTING because I am almost dangerously modest so to know there are people who just don’t care and do what they gotta do just BLEW MY MIND.
- There are bike aid stops! I have only done small triathlons so there’s no aid on the course but at this one there’s several and there’s evidently a “technique” to slowing down and grabbing the aid and finishing it before you get past the stop so you are “cleared” to litter. Another reason I couldn’t do an Ironman. I’d need to stop completely for that type of thing and I’d cause all SORTS of problems.
- Everyone uses Blue and Red bags at the Ironman – those are the run and bike transition bags. Most people use the green bags which are your “morning clothes” – the things you keep on until you get in the water. You get to pick all of those up after the race. But there are also Orange and Black bags for “special needs” while on the bike and run. They get trashed if you don’t use them so they’re mainly for nutrition type things. I imagined you stop and get your Orange “special needs” bike bag and do what you need to with it and then disposed of the trash and ride off. BUT NO! We saw professionals riding through the 53-mile point getting the stuff out of their bag WHILE THEY WERE RIDING AT SUPER-FAST SPEEDS. I think there must be rules about “littering” because several seemed to be asking spectators to grab their bags and one girl was trying to get someone to take her trash and they didn’t realize it so she just shook her head and put it in her shirt. It was SO WEIRD watching people dig stuff out of bags going like 17mph or faster. Some were even filling up the water bottles between their handle bars WHILE RIDING. INSANE.
- Some of the cyclist were getting High Fives from spectators where we were and that FREAKED ME OUT. I told the kids “DON’T GIVE HIGH FIVES!” because we are NOT a graceful family and I was TERRIFIED one of us would accidentally cause a huge bike wreck. I have NEVER seen cyclists ask for high-fives before. NEVER. And since Donnie was kinda in the “front” half of athletes, we saw all of the really fast guys/girls before him and THEY were the ones asking for high fives – so we’re not talking about the Kim-Type cyclists in the back! These are SUPER FAST cyclists! It blew my mind.
- PEOPLE PEE ON THE BIKE. This was ENTIRELY new to me. I was listening to one story where a guy said he watched a girl pop up off her seat, hold her leg out to the side and then you see the pee coming down the leg sticking out. Another girl evidently congratulated her on her form and she said, “Thanks! I’ve never done that before! I’m proud!” And then the guy telling me the story said he had never done it either so he thought, “Great idea!” and did it too – several times! He was just as proud. Of course it happens, they’re on their bikes for 6 hours (that’s Donnie’s bike time, some are faster, some are slower) and they’re supposed to be drinking a lot so they’re bound to have to go. And what a pain – especially if you’re a girl – to stop and unclip out of your bike take off your spandex etc. But I had NEVER thought of it before! NEVER!
- Someone threw thumbtacks and oil on the bike course. AND THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE. Evidently in some circles this is considered a “funny prank.” Donnie was still out on the bike when I heard the official report but he was on the second loop so I was confident they had cleaned it up and he’d be safe from at least that problem.
- For an Ironman, you don’t rack your own bike after you finish. A volunteer takes it from you while you head to get your run bag. I would NOT want to be one of those volunteers because I would NOT want to be responsible for those expensive bikes!
- Interesting aid given out on the run course: Wet/Cold sponges and popsicle sticks covered in vaseline.
- Close to the transition/finish areas there were HUGE yellow flags that said CROSSOVER and there were volunteer security crews there. Basically, that’s where you go if you need to get from one side of the run course to the other. The security was in charge of queuing people up until there was a “break” and then letting them through quickly until other athletes came up to that point. As someone who has seen spectators cluelessly crosse racer’s paths and almost get tackled? I was happy to see that.
- There are volunteers in blue gloves at the finish line who basically carry finishers either to the medical tent (where TONS of racers get IVs of fluids) or to the chairs in the waiting area where their family can find them. It’s an insane job as a volunteer but I bet you just feel SO INSPIRED seeing all of those finishers!