25 November 2009

Mrs Sladed's Real Race Day at Ironman Arizona 2009

This is the race report from my wife, "Mrs Sladed". It was fun for me to read because I had no idea what was going on since I was doing the race. I never could have done what I did without her there. She was a GREAT support for me...

Tempe is 1 hour ahead of California time and you really feel it when the alarm goes off at 4:00 Tempe time, 3:00 Encinitas time!

Sunrise: 7:06 am – YEP! I saw it.
Sunset: 5:22 pm – Correct! I saw it as well.
Temperature: Low 51/High 75 – Right on. I spent about ½ the day in shirt sleeves, the other in sweatshirt and warm scarf. Should have brought the gloves I took to NY.
No chance of rain – Not a drop of rain, no moisture at all. Oh yeah, we were in the desert!

Sladed’s Goals vs. Actuals:
Swim (2.4 miles)
Planned time: 1:00 hour (7 to 8am)/Actual time: 1:00:49 (7 to 8:00:49)
Second Place for Age Group
Bike (112 miles)
Planned time: 5:50 hours (8:15 to 2pm)/Actual time: 5:44:22 (8:08 to 1:52)
Thirtieth Place for Age Group
Run (26.2 miles)
Planned time: 5:00 hours (2:10 to 7:10pm)/Actual time: 5:33:10 (1:58 to 7:32:02)
Goal: Be in top half for age group at end of race. Ended race in 59th Place for Age Group out of 170!

4:00am Groaned loudly as Sladed’s cell phone vibrates and wakes us both up. He slept like a baby and I slept fitfully. Go figure! Didn’t try to sleep, but wandered around the room grabbing my things. Applied bandages and in fact the bruises were lovely shades of deep purple. We will be posting photos on Picasa sometime this week, so check them out.

4:45 Left for the race venue. Sladed didn’t worry about his things until we got into the car. I refrained from asking him about his things and neglected my pre-trip routine of itemizing everything that will be needed. In hindsight this was a mistake since Sladed forgot his bike nutrition and we had to return to the hotel to get it. I ran up the stairs – four flights!!! And returned to the car where Sladed was suffering an attack of “What else is going to go wrong???” I calmly slapped some sense into him and reminded him that he had built in plenty of time for a minor delay and that he would be just fine. Fortunately he got his head back in the game.

5:22am First text from ItaliPhil. He is ready to track Sladed and keep us posted on splits, positioning, etc.

Dropped Sladed off at Tempe Beach and realized I needed gas for the car. Drove through the sleepy town in the dark and found a station. Decided that I knew my way around. Bad move on my part. I was turned around and heading in the opposite direction towards California. I didn’t get back to the hotel until 6:15, the time I’d told the kids to be ready to leave. Found them in the lobby casually reading the Sunday paper. I needed to drag them out of the hotel, not out of their beds. Missed the turnoff to Priest Dr and ended up at the AIRPORT! Geez! My lauded sense of direction had stayed in bed and not joined me for my early morning jaunts.

6:40am Dropped the kids at Tempe Beach and told them where to walk to see the swim. I hoped that at least some of us would be there to see the start. Found my pre-scouted parking space! Good deal.

7:00am I got to the beach, heard the gun go off, saw the helicopters flying overhead and tried to get to the waterfront but the route was blocked!!! I was very disappointed. Texted ItaliPhil. Called Son #1 “Where are you?” His reply “You can’t see the swimmers from where we are. We need to go to the bridge.” The scheduled debate with Son#1 over the best viewing vantage started about 10 minutes late. My timeframes for the rest of the day will be slightly off, but I’m pretty happy with my splits!

7:04am First phone call to JJ (Sladed’s mom) to report that the race had begun. She is excited, a bit emotional (so am I) and I promise to keep her updated. We will call each other 15 times over the next 12 hours. I know because my BlackBerry counted them! I honestly don’t remember all the calls, but we stayed in close touch all day.

It’s impossible to pick out Sladed, even with his red cap (snark). We watched the pros head back. ItaliPhil reports that the first one out of the water did the 2.4 miles in just over 50 minutes. Insane.

7:01 – 7:59am There is no such thing as strolling along the riverfront for the swim, at least not where you can see anything worth seeing. We did try both bridges and the views are spectacular, but you can’t identify anyone in the water. The kayakers serving as lifeguards look just like the people from the Oceanside 70.3. I think that’s amusing. Son #1 isn’t as amused, but is willing to tolerate his mother and I appreciate that very much.

8:01am Score! First Sladed sighting. Yelled at him to mind his heel. He looks great, focused and doesn’t see us. Italiphil texts that his swim time is 1:00:49 and he was the second in his age group. For a brief moment in time I fantasize about his qualifying for Kona. I call JJ and share ItaliPhil’s information. We decide not to try to spot Sladed coming out of the transition tent, but to head up the hill (hiking through the dirt and bushes, not a real path) to watch at the top of the transition area, near the entrance to the Ironman Village. It is a great vantage point. Lots of families looking for their athlete. Pasadena Trojan and I have a great spot. Son #1 disappears and doesn’t answer his phone or text messages. Pasadena Trojan and I see Sladed whip by. Very exciting.

8:22am I text Son #1 “Where RU?” No answer. Pasadena Trojan and I decide we need to get to the other side so we can get to our car. There doesn’t appear to be anyway to do that other than crossing at the spot we are at. Big problem. Bikes are whizzing past. The security guys aren’t going to let anyone cross. Second problem? Son #1 still hasn’t answered or called. The security guys keep telling us that we can’t cross until the SWIM CUT OFF! This is a bunch of nonsense. Currently the bikes are flying by but they will start slowing down well before the 9:20 cut off. Anyone who has seen an Ironman knows that the field starts to thin.
8:30am Finally, Son #1 calls and complains that we didn’t try to find him and that the two most important women in his life didn’t look for him when he was lost. We both reassure him that we love him. This doesn’t smooth his ruffled feathers. Because he is stubborn (he gets that from both sides of his family) he will hold onto this issue all day.  Son #1 wants us to give up our prime spots at the front of the line because he sees someplace else we can cross. We are reluctant to do so and tell him to prove to us he can get across in this phantom zone. Shortly after the challenge is issued the guards let us dart across the road. Scary stuff, not because of the bikes, but the people coming the opposite direction. We safely get to the other side and Son #1 strides over to us. So, he was correct – there is another way to cross. I make a note for next year.
8:40am After Son#1 sweet talks a policeman into letting us park off the pavement in a blocked area on Alma School Road we are in position to see Sladed riding down the Beeline Highway on the backside of lap 1. ItaliPhil, who is tracking Sladed online, continues to text vital information while I am the embedded reporter in the field. I phone JJ to report our latest sighting of her son and tell her that we are going to try to go to the movies.

I am being a bad mother and I haven’t fed the kids. We are standing on the side of the road watching the riders come and go. We meet a nice guy, even if he went to Texas, who has done some 70.3s. He is a strong biker and he lives locally so he is very informative. The wind seems to be picking up and our new friend reports that the wind can vary a great deal on the course. He’s a smart one too – went to Cal Tech for his Masters and is trying to get into MIT for his Ph.D. We get to see Sladed head up the Beeline for his second lap. He sees us and yells.

10:30am We decide to stop back at the hotel and get some food. The kids have to settle for diet food Oatmeal but they don’t complain. ItaliPhil is also taking a break to walk his dogs. We are going to catch a movie at 11.

11-1:06pm We take in “The Blind Side.” It is enjoyable even if it starts with that awful video of Joe Theismann’s career ending injury, which I remember witnessing on Monday Night Football. True confession – I felt a little guilty that I was watching the movie while Sladed was out toiling the Beeline.

11:08am Son#1 finally responds to my 8:22am text asking him “Where RU?” His response, “In the back left,” which is his location in the movie theater. Pasadena Trojan and I are very amused; Son #1 not so much.

1:10pm Head back to the hotel, pickup food and gear for the rest of the day and head back to the course.

1:28pm Extra bonus, as we are driving down Priest drive we see Sladed running across the street. This is mile 1 of the run. We don’t yell or honk. It reminds us of the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon and we take this as a good sign. Call JJ and texted ItaliPhil who reports that Sladed’s bike time was better than his race plan. I’m also ahead of my race plan by 20 minutes! Not bad for the Sladed family. Parked in my usual spot and headed down for the run portion. We had decided, as per race plan, to head to the South Shores Paths were we can see Sladed coming and going. This is a fun area, there is hydration, food and special needs bags available to the runners. Music is playing and there is an announcer who keeps talking to the runners and shouting to the volunteers to get them chicken soup or cola or a special needs bag.

I don’t know where the Ford Miracle Mile is, but I had entered Sladed’s bib number and put my special message into the system. They limit you to 25 characters, so this is tough. I opted for an emotional message “Got guts! Got heart!” This is particularly important because Sladed has been missing his colon for 23+ years, a long story for another day.

1:30-2:40pm I start checking ESPN on my BlackBerry for Charger score updates. Once we see Sladed come around again we are planning on finding a sports bar to try and catch the game. In the meantime we stop in the Ironman Shop to see if we can get some stickers for Sladed’s car. For some reason they shipped the 70.3 stickers and not the 140.6 or the m-dot stickers. Oh well, I’ll order those online. I spot a great Ironman supporter hat; it says “Support Crew.” I think that applies to me. Son #1 thinks it is too girly with a flower and in hot pink. I don’t care and buy it anyway.

3:30pm Headed to find a sports bar to try and catch the second half of the game. Stopped at the first bar at the top of the hill nearest the Ironman Village called Monti’s. They are packed and doing a killer business, but they won’t get ours – they are only showing the Cardinals game. I am prepared for this possibility and whip out my list of Tempe Sports Bars that I downloaded on Saturday. We walk down Mill and scour the storefronts for any familiar sounding names. Son #1 is excited to spot a promising looking frozen yogurt shop and as we round the corner he mentions the name of the next bar “The Tavern.” Eureka! That is one on my list. Even better, the original Tavern is in San Diego and this is considered at Chargers Bar!!! Score!

3:50pm We find a table and the game is showing on the majority of the screens and it is the audio feed that is being played in the bar. We are happy – they have fish tacos, hamburgers and salads. Call JJ to let her know we found a place to watch the game; we agree that 441 would be very proud. Son #1 isn’t happy with his beer choice, but he doesn’t care – the Chargers are killing the Broncos. The room is cool. We are relaxing and I’m texting ItaliPhil. We both agree that we are tired from our hard work but think that we shouldn’t share our fatigue with Sladed – but seriously, being a spectator is very tiring.

4:00pm We head back to our favorite vantage point at the South Shores. People watching is fun. There are a ton of kids and families wearing great t-shirts supporting their triathlete. Next year the Get Sladed Nation will have t-shirts. The on-site and distance spectators can all wear them in support of Sladed. I think we will have a competition for the best text and design. Send me your entries. There is a woman holding a huge dog like a small child. It is funny and both Son #1 and I take photos. The pros are finishing up or finished.

4:33pm The remaining runners are looking tired, in pain and no longer focused. That includes Sladed. The sun is starting to set and the sunset is pretty. It is cooling off and ItaliPhil texts his concern that we keep Sladed warm. I reassured him that there is a mountain of Mylar blankets awaiting each finisher. I don’t know what they do with the non-finishers; probably leave them to their own devices (not!)

4:37pm Son #2 (aka Perfect Copy) texts that the Chargers were amazing, and how is Dad doing? We text each other back and forth with the updates on Sladed’s times, splits, transition, etc. The kid has been paying attention.

5:21pm We see Sladed again and he gives us a big grin. This is reassuring since he obviously was hurting during the last lap. His Plantar F-ing-itis and his bike crash have left the run a big question mark. Yesterday we shopped for an ace bandage to wrap around the thigh muscle that is still badly contused. The compression socks and the bandage seem to help. In retrospect, he should have gotten compression pants and that would have been the best solution – so another note for next year.

5:38-6:23pm Multiple texts with Perfect Copy discussing Sladed’s progress, splits, etc. All important data has come via my computer connection, ItaliPhil.

6:33pm Only three minutes behind my projected split we climb into the grandstands with hundreds of others to cheer on the Ironmen. I report in to JJ. She has been following along on the computer with the athlete tracker. She’s been calling people all day and networking on Sladed’s behalf. This is scary – everyone is standing on the seats and they wobble back and forth. People bump you and you have to grab the person in front to get balanced again. It kind of feels like balancing on a surfboard. My thighs are going to hurt tomorrow. I can’t believe the number of people holding tiny infants and climbing into the stands. As each runner crosses the finish line the announcer, Mike Reilly (who calls all the Ironman competitions) calls out the person’s name, age, hometown and how many Ironman events they’ve been in. If it is the first one he says, “Joe Blow, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” There is a video screen that allows the spectators to see the runners go across the finish line. ItaliPhil is texting every minute with updates. I can’t keep up with them and I don’t want to take the chance of missing Sladed. I decide that later I will transcribe all the texts for Sladed. They are fun to read and a great way to keep track of what happened when.

6:59pm This is the magic time Sladed had hoped for. The announcer ramps up my anticipation as he counts down to 12 hours. I am hoping that Sladed will cross into my line of vision, but he doesn’t.

7:10pm Right on schedule, I am anticipating the end of the race and looking forward to seeing my husband’s face.

7:25pm Someone knocks the camera focused on the finish line and now the video screen only shows half of the finish area. I hope Sladed stays to the left!

7:32:02pm “Henry Skip Slade (aka Sladed) 53 years old from Encinitas California – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!” I am crying. I call JJ to let her know. I call Perfect Copy. I text ItaliPhil who texts his congratulations. Son #1 is getting great photos and catches it all. We are able to find Sladed at the finish line. We hug and cry together. He needs to eat and he wants those French Fries. We anxiously watch him.

8:00pm Begin the grueling job of collecting all of Sladed’s gear. There are the morning bags, the transition bags, the bike, etc. He is glazed over.

8:02pm Sladed has a fairly incoherent phone conversation with Laz who is calling from the Moscow (Russia, not Idaho) Airport at $4.00 a minute. Sladed says, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Thanks for calling” and hands the phone back to me.

I dress him in warm clothes. Son #1 wheels the bike out. I drop all three of them at the usual spot and go to fetch the car. Getting Sladed into the car is a challenge since his quads hurt more than a little, but we entice him with O’Douls and bagels. We drive back to the hotel. Getting Sladed out of the van is also a challenge. Good thing we have Son #1 to haul him out. We unload the car and take him upstairs and prepare the ice bath. Son #1 and Pasadena Trojan are driving back to LA so they can go to work on Monday. So we take our last photos and say goodbye.

8:48pm Text from Perfect Copy: “So u guys come home tomorrow night?” I wonder what’s been going on at home. My response, “Yes. So make sure everything is clean and put away.” I can only hold out so much hope. His response, “Okie doke, what time will u be back so I know how early to be up to do my final sweep?” This does little to instill much confidence in me, especially when he adds “OK, I cleaned up most of the stuff already but give me a heads up when u leave so I can do another once over in the daylight.” Exactly.

Despite my concern about my home I am exhausted and so is Sladed. We are in bed by midnight. I am asleep in seconds. Monday morning Sladed tells me that he wasn’t able to sleep and didn’t try again until after 2:30, but I was out. No second movie for me!

So, I need to offer my sincerest appreciation to everyone who made Sladed's Ironman so wonderful - especially all the volunteers who took such good care of him in the field.  Deepest thanks to Son #1 and Pasadena Trojan for making a road trip and driving in from LA to help me make my splits, take photos, catch a movie and the Chargers game.  Their presence made the experience all the more precious.  A special thanks to my chief correspondent and tracking guru, ItaliPhil.  You are forgiven for reintroducing Sladed to chlorine, etc.  A hearty thank you to JJ and her crew of supporters.  I'm sorry you couldn't be with us in person, but we had the next best thing.  And finally, a true thank you to Perfect Copy who didn't burn down the house.  His support from Encinitas was very much appreciated by his parents and JJ, whom he aided in her efforts to surprise Sladed with his Ironman sign.  Until next year!  Mrs. Sladed

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