There's plenty to cover about this event so I will forgo the usual pre-event chit-chat and get right to the meat of the matter.
The announcement was officially made at the 2:00pm athlete meeting. An immediate and collective "whaaaat?" could be heard throughout the conference room. Explanations were made by the race director and safety personnel as to the reasons why this decision was made.
Almost immediately the buzz around the triathlon community, both on site and on line was about this change. Opinions on both sides were strong, stronger on the side that didn't care for the change.
As for me, I was disappointed and extremely bummed out. I had trained for the possibility of extreme heat and I felt I was ready for whatever would come. But, as I have learned to quickly do, I remained cool, calm and collected. I quickly realized that there was nothing I could do about this, that no matter how much bitching and complaining I did, I was not going to change anyone's mind. I thought about what had happened and I understood why the decision was made. I still didn't like it but I accepted and moved on. I had a race in less than 16 hours. I had to get ready.
What I do not agree with and I still don't, is the fact that in order to make it up to the athletes, the WTC offered a $125 discount towards the registration fee of any one of four races: Steelhead, Timberman, Branson or Austin... problem was/is that all these races are only for the 2011 edition and the discount can not be applied to a race you have already registered for. I have already registered for Branson.
As it quickly became apparent to many, the choice of races was made without consideration of the athletes. It was made to help the WTC fill races that usually don't sell out. Should anyone register for any one of these races, its just found money for them. Most of us already have our events scheduled for the remainder of the year. Not much room to add an extra race, at an extra expense at the spur of the moment. All these facts render this offer invalid.
In my opinion, great damage was done to WTC's public opinion today, not so much due to the fact that the decision was made but how it was made. Many are of the opinion that they waited until the last moment, when most everyone had arrived or were well on their way to the site, at a time when it was to late to turn around and go home. Two folks I met in the hotel, one from Texas, the other from London, England were not to happy about this.
The weather did not change overnight. This decision could have/should have been made at least two days before. Again, the athletes were not taken into consideration. It was all for economic reasons... or so, many believe. I don't know what I would have done had I known earlier. Good thing I didn't have to make that choice.
I do believe that the WTC has a lot of mending to do.
For me, there was a bright side to all this: This would be my first Olympic Distance event.
REGISTRATION AND EXPO
As is the case with all Ironman events, registration was a breeze. Everything well organized, problem free. What was surprising to me was the quality of the expo. Not up to standards, I thought. Event merchandise was lacking something. Not the usual pop. I usually purchase a cycling jersey and a visor. This time I did not. It just wasn't appealing to me, so I passed on it this time. Even at the 50% reduced price offered after the race, I still passed.
I had been told by many who raced here last year that the venue was spread out all over town; hotels at one end of the city, registration somewhere in town, race site other side of town. I was told there would be a lot of driving involved. Not so!
My hotel was 3 miles from downtown Muncie where the Convention Center is located and the registration / expo was being held. The race site was 8 miles from downtown. Total driving from hotel to site was eleven miles. Not any more, actually a lot less than a lot of other races I've been to.
Race start had been moved up to 6:30. We arrived at 5:00 am (this means that the alarm clock went off at 3:30 am). We were lucky because parking was close by and well organized. I had opted not to check in my bike the night before, so hauling the bike a short distance in the morning was a plus.
I organized my transition area in what seemed just a couple of minutes. I must be getting better at this! Had plenty of time to compose myself and put my game face on.
Met up with my wife and grandson and walked down to swim start. We were allowed to get in the water to warm up if we so wanted. I did.
As usual, us old guys went first. That is after the pros and the paraplegics. As I was waiting our turn, I happened to look back to see how big the wave was and was amazed at just how big it was. I estimated some 75-100 of us, age 50 and over. As it turns out, there were 160 of us. Oh boy, the swim would be crowded!
As usual I found me a spot to the outside of the crowd. I swam here the entirety of the leg. It would prove to cost me an extra tenth of a mile (longer) but in the whole scheme of things, this turned out to not be a big deal for me.
The water was cloudy and murky and somewhat warm. The swim out seemed like it took forever; that first red buoy would not come... it just wouldn't! The swim back was difficult in that you couldn't see a thing. The sun was in your eyes the entire way. I had to follow the swimmers in front of me, which I hoped were following the swimmers in front of them, and so on. I had no idea where I was in relation to the swim finish, so I just swam until I got there.
My Garmin showed a time of 51:38. Official swim time was 51:00. I was pleased, very pleased for this is a very efficient time for me.
Let me say this right of the bat: From point in to point out, T1 is a long, long way. I did not find out how long, until I looked at my Garmin's data and it showed it to be over a quarter of a mile from in to out. Is this long? It seemed long!
I still need to do a lot of work here. A lot! Yes, due to issues with my feet, I have to wear socks, compression socks. This takes a long time because the feet have to be dry in order to put these suckers on. Did I mention that this takes time, a lot of time? And just how much time did it take? 6:41... see, I told you this took time!
The bike course was fast. Flat and fast. It was also crowded. Due to the shorter distance, an out and back with a loop back was added to the middle of the course. In this area you had to be careful with how and when you passed, if you dared. We had a slight wind on our back most of the way, this was a welcome change for me for I always seem to find head winds in my rides.
Somewhere along mile 10, I noticed on my Garmin that my average speed was 23.2! WOW! I knew this would not last but I was hoping I could finish with an above 20 mph average. I worked hard to get this done! My Garmin read an average of 20.1. The official time came in at 1:27:31 making the official average 20.57! Fastest bike split ever for me! Did I mention this course was fast?
Much better time: 2:45. Not great, but much better!
Coming out into the run was challenging. My legs felt good but my back, my lower back was tight and stiff. I could not run upright; slighter than normal bend forward. When I tried to straighten up, it would pinch my nerve. My only thought was "Oh crud, not this, not now". I haven't had a back episode in a couple of years, but today was not the day! I was hoping that at the first water station when I could walk, my back would be okay. As it turns out, it was. The rest of the way, the stations were spread out about 1/2 mile apart. This also proved to be helpful.
Having to deal with my back right of the bat I had not even noticed that the doors to hell were wide open! The heat would hit you in the face like a sheet of hot lard. It was suffocating and made it hard to breathe.
Up to this point I had been thinking that this weather did not warrant the shorter course. Up to this point I had been thinking all along that I could have finished the original distance without a problem. But as I got deeper into the run, I began to praise God that it was only a 10k that I had to run for I quickly realized the difficulties of running any longer.
The approach to the finish line was uphill. The chute towards the finish was on grass. A couple of obstacles to cross (really,,, a slippery wooden piece of plywood placed on the ground to cover something), but nothing to worry about. Crossing the finish line was uneventful. The usual medal and finisher's hat was handed out. But then I noticed a barrage of sick athletes. Many were throwing up, and yet many more were receiving medical attention. A couple were being carried out on stretchers to the waiting ambulances. If this was as it was, I would hate to think how it would have been had the race gone the full distance.
I did not choose this race as a training race for an Ironman. This was not my first 70.3 distance event, and relatively speaking I did not drive a long way to get to Muncie. Therefore the issue of the event being shortened was not that huge to me. Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with those who feel like something was taken from them this weekend. I will not stop participating in WTC Ironman sanctioned events but sincerely hope the powers that be reconsiders the terms of the "discount offer".
As far as the race itself, I'd like to see WTC pay a bit more attention to the small details. Somehow I left feeling that this race is like an "after-thought" for the organizers. However, I will be back. I'd like to do the entire 70.3 just to see how I do on the full bike course.