The first thing we did was check into our hotel - the Hilton Garden Inn. Check in usually isn't until 4:00, but they allowed us to even though it was only 2:00. Thanks, Hilton! The staff was very excited about having the Ironman in Chattanooga, and we even received a little welcoming bag from the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce! Nice touch, CoC.
Coupons, Powerade, a Moon Pie and an Oatmeal Creme Pie. What else could a potential Ironman need?
One thing that was interesting about our room was that is was a "whirlpool room." The employee who checked me in was all excited about this fact. "Oh - YOU got a whirlpool room" - like I was someone really special or something. Know what a whirlpool room is? A room with a giant whirlpool IN it! Not in the bathroom, where you would expect it. Nope, actually IN THE ROOM. And it was huge! Seriously - the thing took up half the room - it had columns and everything. And if you've ever done a triathlon, you know how much gear this sport requires. So, guess what became my race staging area? Yep - the whirlpool.
So. Much. Stuff.
After unloading an amazing amount of luggage, Dudley and I headed down to Ironman Village, which is what they call their expo. I have to say, I've been to hundreds of expos since I started running 5 years ago, and I have never felt the feeling I had when walking into this one. Generally, I'm excited, which I was here, too. But I also had an overwhelming sense that I was completely out of my league and that I had no right to be there. This is freakin' IRONMAN. These races are no joke. What the hell was I doing there? Well, other than taking a lot of photos.
Welcome to the most intimidating expo ever.
I decided to pick up my bib number before looking around at all of the vendors or the Ironman merchandise tent. It was kind of a weird system. You first have to stop by a table in the front of the tent where you show your ID and USAT card, and they give you a piece of paper with your bib number on it. Then you take that piece of paper and show it two the IM bouncers at the front of the check in tent. Once they deem you're OK, you're allowed to enter the tent. Then you go to a table where you're given two forms: one that signs any right to sue if you should die during the event and the other giving Ironman permission to contact your loved ones if you do die. Remember, this is the FIRST table you come to when you enter the tent. I understand that Ironman needs to protect themselves from lawsuits, but do they have to scare the crap out of you right at the start? Geez.
After signing your life away, you go to another table and are issued your race packet. Inside is your bib number, stickers for your bike, helmet and race day bags. THEN you move to another table where you get your timing chip. Of course, by now you're holding a bunch of random stuff, because on top of all of your race necessities, they give you 5 pounds of magazines and a poster. Fortunately, they do give you a bag to put it all in. Unfortunately, it's in the merchandise tent. Because why wouldn't it be? So, you have wander over there and stand in line to get your (very nice) backpack. Of course, what do you do while you're standing in line? Look at all of the cool Ironman swag they have for sale! Very sneaky, Ironman.
$200 later, Dudley and I were back in the hotel room with all of my race stuff AND new IM swag (M-Dot name shirt, a tri-top, a water bottle and a long-sleeved running shirt). I know that might seem like a lot, but I know several people who spent twice that. One girl I met admitted to purchasing over $1,000 worth of merchandise - and she was buying more! Crazy.
Dudley and I then, finally, went out to eat. Unfortunately, while my favorite restaurant, J. Alexander's, does have a Chattanooga location, it's not located downtown. Since we'd been traveling and didn't want to get back in the car, we just hit a local joint and got a salad. It was really cool walking around downtown because you got to see how much support the race had by the local establishments. There were welcome signs everywhere.
I didn't want to spend to much time on my feet, and Dudley had to get some work done, so we headed back to the hotel to nap (me) and work (Dudley). We then met up with some of my FTP teammates for dinner. That was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, while we train together a lot, we don't get to socialize that much, so it was good to just hang out and chat.
Next up: Day Two of my IM adventure!