Dudley and I started out pretty early Friday morning for Raleigh. It's funny that the more races you do, the less stressed you get about packing. For my first HIM, I started packing a few days before. For this race though, I started about 8:00pm on Thursday. I have a good checklist so I wasn't too stressed about forgetting anything. We threw everything in the car Friday AM and off we went.
One thing I didn't realize before the trip: Raleigh is FAR! For some reason, I thought it was like 6-7 hours away. Sure, I looked up the distance on Google and it had a stated 8+ -hour drive, but Google is always wrong and I figured we could make up some time here and there. Nope. Raleigh is a good 8+ hours away and you also lose an hour because of the time change. So while I was planning on us getting there around 3:00pm, we didn't roll into town until a little after 6:00pm. You win, Google.
Fortunately, the expo and packet pickup were open until 7:00pm. Dudley dropped me off at the Convention Center so I could check in before they closed. Other than not having signs directing people to where the Ironman Village was so I had to wander around a bit (it was a BIG convention center and I might have walked into a high school graduation), check-in was great. No line at all AND I ran into fellow Nashvillian and Tennessee Women's Cycling Project club member Catherine while filling out the paperwork. YAY Nashville!
I spent the rest of the time at the expo taking random pictures and talking myself out of purchasing a lot of unneeded race swag. I did a pretty good job, too. I only bought my standard items of a name shirt, a water bottle and a race event sticker. Granted, it was still about $50 but the damage could have been much worse.
It took me a village to find the Village.
So. Many. Balloons.
Good Lord, I look tired in this photo. The longest car ride in the world will do that to you.
I ALMOST bought this towel with everyone's names...but didn't.
I met up with Dudley at the tail end of the expo. He had been checking in to our hotel, the Marriott, which was also the host hotel. This was hands-down the most conveniently located race hotel I have ever stayed in. It was across the street from the expo and the finish line for the race literally outside of the hotel doors. Plus, they went all out for the athletes and really made us feel welcome.
This was my room key! And yes, I painted my nails to match the race.
The hotel was also right in the heart of downtown. When we went out to find a place to eat, we walked into a giant blow-up IMAX theater screen set up for downtown movie night. It was like a festival down there with all sorts of people wandering around, food trucks and other vendors. Fun! Dudley and I had decided on an artisan burger place for dinner which was an easy walk away. (No, I still don't eat red meat, but they had other non-meat options.) Afterwards, I treated myself to some homemade ice cream from one of the street vendors. So good.
The next morning I attended the athlete briefing. While these meetings are mandatory, lots of people skip them. The Raleigh 70.3 has different setup than most races with two transition areas and a shuttle and assigned-time bike drop-offs... I figured I needed to go to this one. I'm glad I did too. It was probably the longest athlete briefing I'd been to, but it was very informative and I felt a lot more confident about what I needed to do logistically to be ready for race day.
After the meeting, I took a short run to shakeout my legs. It was about 10:30 by now. Y'all - it was no more than a 20 minute run and I was dripping with sweat by time I was done. It was HOT, and race day was supposed to be more of the same, but with the potential for severe storms. Great...
I went back to the room to get ready to drop off my bike at transition. I laid out everything I was going to need for the race to make sure I didn't forget anything, and decided to make a quick stop back at the expo to pick up an extra CO2 cartridge as we were told in the meeting that the heat could affect your tires. Better safe than stranded on the side of the road, right?
We then headed over to T1, which was at Lake Jordan. It was about a 30 minute drive. Since we arrived during our assigned time slot, we were able to pull right into T1 and park. Apparently, if you arrived at a different time, you weren't allowed completely into the area and had to walk some. I did a quick spin around the park on The Weapon to make sure everything was running smoothly and then racked her up. Something to note - it was so hot that we were told by race organizers to place a towel under our front wheel to prevent our wheels from contacting the hot pavement. Apparently, the tires will melt. So that was something fun and new to worry about on race day.
The Weapon racked and ready to go.
I took a quick look out at the swim course. The lake was really choppy, but I was hoping that was just from all of the boats on the lake. Usually when I look out at a swim course, I kind of get a pit in my stomach and think "that looks SO FAR!" For some reason, that didn't happen in Raleigh. I looked at the buoys and thought "that doesn't look so bad. I got that."
It doesn't look that choppy, but this dock was really swaying.
The orange buoys in the background mark the course.
Yellow buoys lining the swim out.
Something you pray doesn't need to be used.
We headed back to the hotel and met up with one of my best friends from college, Mark, and his wife Laura, for dinner. (FYI - we ate at a restaurant called Bolt. It was fantastic. If you go to downtown Raleigh, you should check it out.) Raleigh was Mark's first HIM and it was fun to experience the race from his perspective. While I was starting to get nervous for Raleigh, it was nothing like how I felt before my first HIM! Of course, since Mark and I went to George Mason, we had to get the obligatory Ironman photo in Mason gear.
When Dudley and I got back to the room, I, yet again, went through everything I was going to need for race day. It was then, at 8:30 pm before a 3:30 am wake up call, that I realized I forgot a race belt. I checked my gear at least three times and never realized it until that moment. I ALWAYS forget a race belt! Of course, the expo was long closed, so I texted Mark and Catherine to see if either of them had extra belts. Nope. Improv time. So I started digging through my gear. Surely I had SOMETHING I could use as a race belt. I was almost resigned to the thought of just pinning my bib number to my kit at the start of the run when I saw an old Garmin heart rate monitor and strap. It wasn't perfect, and was a little too big, but it would do in a pinch. Boom. I had my race belt and was ready to go.
Next up: RACE DAY!