Clearwater: Final Thoughts…

Wow. This is freak’n AWESOME. Folks, this, Clearwater, is simply an amazing place to be. The number of international athletes is staggering. Just this morning while climbing out of the Gulf of Mexico I immediately went up the beach to where athletes were gathering to store bags while putting on wetsuits and jump into the water, when it occurred to me that of all the people around me, a count of maybe 30, I was the *only* one born and raised in the US. The accents and foreign languages spoken was staggering.Not much time here, but some random thoughts…

The Gulf on Thursday sucked. We arrived by plane at noon, get registered, then immediately went down to the beach where the swim start will be staged. While eying waves crashing to shore, I very nervously slipped into my wetsuit and get the Gulf a try. Holy f&ck. Visions of Coeur d’Alene flooded my thoughts. It was tough. I got stopped up every few seconds and made very, very little progress. I swam — if you call it that — out to the second buoy (of 10 all the way out) and came home, nauseous, dizzy, and with a nasty taste of salt in my mouth. The only thing from causing me to write off this entire event as one in which I do not belong was prior experience and my determined stubborn side. I would try again in the morning, figuring that the water, as everybody said, gets rough after 10 am when the winds tend to pick up considerably. Since it was 4 pm, yeah, I wrote it off. My luck couldn’t be that bad.

So this morning I went back and had much flatter conditions. Although the word flatter would give even those conditions a benefit. I made it to the 4th or 5th bouy, over to the other side of the course, then home, all much better, without nearly as much nauseous feeling, and much less dizzy. Feeling better but still wigged, as the waves carry you up and down at least 5 feet, making sighting very difficult, and the going very slow for me.

Water temperature, no joke, is 68 degrees, and maybe even a degree or two colder. Temp is perfect. I honestly can’t believe it’s so cool. Seems all the Mexican’s and Brazilians and other warmer climate countries find the water too cold.

Tomorrow will be tough. But it’s a battle I’m ready to face. But it will suck. I really wish it wasn’t such a struggle for me, but know that when I pull my arse out of that water, the party will start. I will concede to messrs Smith, Lessing, and Craig the swim. But watch out on the bike, because I drove the course, and if the wind is low enough, I am going to fook’n hammer… and I mean hammer. The course isn’t nearly as flat as I thought, but being used to the hills of New Hampshire, these things are cake. There is one good hill and many long graduals that are indeed very long but are more gradual. No wind, I will fly. I will hurt because it’s flat. I will hurt because I’m going hard. But I will fly. What happens after that, I don’t care. Of course I want to be able to run, and of course if I really want to run I should hold a touch back on the bike, but I will not — not if the conditions are like I expect.

A few hours ago I came out of the restroom to find my little Ironmate sitting in a cushy hotel lobby chair in deep conversation with a guy who looked very familiar. I knew right away who it was. One look at the metal posing as his legs in the form of prostetics told me it was Scott Rigsby. He said he saw me a few times that day because of my Ironman Coeur d’Alene pullover I had on. Coeur d’Alene, to jog your memory, was his first Ironman. He told me about his day and then Kona, while we then went on to complain about the water conditions there.

It’s really cool. Where ever we go, the Ironmate will say to me, “Hey, I think she was on the cover of last month’s issue of…” Or I’ll see somebody and say, “I don’t know his name, but that guy won…” Or “He’s a Pro…” Or…

The Athlete Meeting was an eye-opener to just how competitive people are, and just how competitive this race is. Rules are set up to aid that. To the point where I had to shake my head a few times. Hopefully I’ll be able to share details at some point, but the gist is that the rules here are very different than all other races I’ve done. Not like it’ll change anything I’ll do, but they are different, and they’re all set up to aid competition for what the event is: a RACE. A race for Pros, and a race for each age group.

Off to bed for me. Sorry I couldn’t be more organized with my thoughts here. Just know that my goal is to survive the swim. There is no way in the world I would touch a toe in this water without a wetsuit; in fact, I haven’t seen a single person in the water without one. And it’s not because of the water temperature. The conditions are rough. After I survive the swim, I will take the first five miles on the bike to get warm (it’ll be chilly in the morning, and my dress will anticipate me pushing very hard on the bike, because if I don’t push hard I will be cold), and then, after I warm up, I will gobble a Gu or maybe nibble a PowerBar, and then I will start pushing hard. There’s a very long gradual incline from, maybe, mile 5 to 10; by the time I get there, I will be ready for pushing yet harder. Then at about mile 20, just after a turnaround, there’s a long 20-25 mile stretch with open road where the wind should be at my back; it will be this stretch where I will average over 30 mph, even up hills… this is also where I will pass my competitors Smith, Lessing, and Alexander. But this is also where it will get very difficult for me, because I will be pushing very hard. And I will carry that hammer as long and hard as I can and hope to fly right back home to Clearwater Beach. By then I hope to run. I know the run will hurt, but that’s okay. Just know that I will be hurting, because I plan to go as hard as I can. To be honest, although I expect this run split to be a touch slower than my other half Iron run splits, mainly because I will test my limits on the bike, I will try like I can to tick off fast enough to stay ahead of whatever their names are. As for the run course, it’s actually quite tough. I was surprised. 12% grade for a quarter mile or more over a bridge. Few rolling but easy hills. All exposed to the sun and wind. But very, very gorgeous.

Oh, and one more thing… this morning while swimming the swim course, just as I reached the third buoy, I got stopped up by a few consecutive waves. One took me up and down while another down and up. In between I kept seeing something large, seemingly floating on the surface of the water, but because of the waves, I would see it only when I was on top of the wave. I put my head back in and swam. Just then, I noticed a bird dip toward the water. I stopped up again at the size of the bird. Now bobbing in the water, I look over and see three massive pelicans floating in the water only 25 feet away. As I was doing that, another dove from high above and disappeared into the depths of the salty Gulf. I spun around to glimpse back to shore, as if to see if anybody else had just witnessed this amazing display of nature, when I caught a view of the entire stretch of beach with hotels and large buildings running up and down. That’s when it hit me… This was a World Championship race. How cool is that! My giddiness disappeared when I had to swim again, again through ever increasing waves that make me nausesous.

Will be thinking of you guys.

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