We have seven days left until Ironman Arizona, so it’s time to pack our suitcases and prepare our minds for the desert. Not long ago, my stepfather (and kidney recipient) asked me why I chose to do an Ironman in Arizona, instead of some place more familiar and somewhat within driving distance, like Florida. The question really caught me off-guard, because it made me question my decision, one that I made over a year ago and have been working toward ever since. I do have my reasons (a somewhat flat course, the weather is warm now, but not too hot, and no humidity)… but in the end, this is what I chose and re-thinking it now is futile. It helped to watch this video again from last year’s IMAZ; it really makes me excited to think I’m about to do this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrsqgPgekW4&sns=em
Still, I am a little nervous about the fact that – to me, someone who grew up on the East Coast, going to Arizona is going to seem a little like going to another planet. But I am transfixed by the idea that the desert is a spiritual place. A place you can go and find yourself. So, that brings us to the point of having to decide what to pack for a trip to the desert. I have a number of triathlon checklists that I’ve been referring to. And we already packed quite a bit of our tri stuff in the bags we sent with our bikes. (We shipped them through TriBike Transport, and for an extra fee, you can ship a bag along with your bike.) So, I’ve taken care of my helmet, bike shoes, gloves, sunglasses, neoprene swim cap, goggles, extra tubes, extra CO2 cartridges, an extra tire (given my luck with tires), and numerous other small items. We didn’t pack a bike pump, so we’re hoping they have enough of them in the transition area that we can borrow one.
We will have to pack our nutrition stuff and other clothes in our luggage. Key race day clothing items include our RaceJoy shirts (see photo above). RaceJoy is a really cool company our friends started. It provides mobile technology that tracks an athlete while racing or training, so that loved ones/spectators can know where they are and even send them a “cheer” while they are out on a training ride or a race course. We’ve been testing it for our friends throughout our training — on long rides and runs and even in a couple of our races. Unfortunately, when our friends asked Ironman whether they could load the course into their app and track us during the race, Ironman said no, because the app currently requires that we carry a cell phone with us on the bike and run, and it’s against the rules to carry a phone in the Ironman. So, we won’t be doing that. But we will still be wearing our RaceJoy kits in the race and sporting their great slogan, “Bringing Joy to the Race”. I am excited about that, because I really want this to be a joyful experience, and I hope that seeing the slogan will put a smile on other athletes’ faces when they really need it. (In the future, RaceJoy may use a simple tracking device that can be worn – without needing to carry a cell phone. We hope to help them test that out as well. It’s fun to be part of something like this!)
As for other stuff I plan to pack, that will include a very wide range of clothing! While we are in Tempe, the temps will go from lows in the 50s to highs in the upper-70s, maybe low-80s. But when we drive north to Sedona and the Grand Canyon after the race, the temps will drop. So, we need to have both shorts and long pants, t-shirts and coats. Lots of layering! I don’t want to pack too much, though, because I’m hoping to buy some finisher gear, and I’ll need that space in my suitcase!
Watching the video I mentioned above really reminds me that even though I will care about my finish time at some point, and even though I know friends and family members will be tracking us online that day and evaluating our times to determine how we’re doing — in the end, I just want to finish. Right now, I sit before you – a person who does not know if she can complete an Ironman. I hope to rectify that soon. It’s just a huge thing to *not know* if you can do something … and then to do it. That’s all I’m going for here!
Before I close this post, I have to mention my husband, Craig, and reflect on the huge role he has played in my journey thus far. He started doing triathlons back in the mid-90s. I don’t even know if I went to his first triathlon. I did go watch quite a few of them, though. And while I was always in awe of him, it always just seemed like ‘that crazy triathlon stuff Craig did…’ not something I was even remotely surprised that he could do, and definitely not something I thought I would ever do. To this day, I feel bad that I wasn’t in Florida to see him do his first 140.6-distance race – The Great Floridian. I had started a new job and couldn’t take the time off to go. But I wish I had anyway. Now that I know what it takes to do this sort of thing, I hate the fact that I wasn’t there to see him cross that first finish line (even though I saw him do his other six Ironman-distance races).
Perhaps it’s because I know what kind of person Craig is – that I’ve never been surprised by his ability to do these types of things. Craig totally does things his own way, never following the pack. He’s driven from the inside out. He does what has to be done, when it needs to be done, no matter what the circumstances. Even though he’s extremely nice and personable, always making jokes and making people feel at ease, he’s also made of steel. He’s so strong. He constantly helps people who are in need, but he doesn’t cut anyone slack if they should be able to do things on their own. When I decided to follow his path, he was right there with me to give me the best advice I could possibly get and make sure I could stand on my own. Truth be told, there have been times this year when I would have completely taken an easier path, given up on training rides, packed it in early, skipped workouts, etc. — But I didn’t because he was there, doing them along side me, and not giving up, because that is not in his vocabulary. He actually never pushed me to do any of this, but just waited for me to say I wanted to. And by “waited” – I mean he waited until I took the steps on my own. He didn’t make it easy for me; he put it on me to show that I was serious about wanting to do it. If I’m ever really having a hard time and need help, he’s there. But if I’m just being wimpy, he doesn’t give me an out, he just lets me dig my own hole. That gooberhead! 🙂
Seriously, though, I couldn’t have asked for a better person to show me the realities of what I’m about to try and do. It will be hard for me to do this race without constantly wondering how his race is going. We are such a team, and yet this is an individual event. We will be together in the desert doing this thing. But we will also be alone, finding ourselves out there. When we find each other at the finish line, I wonder how the desert will have changed us and what kind of journey it will have prepared us for … next.
What a great tribute to Craig! Hope he reads your blog. Good luck and swim, bike, run your own race! You WILL ba an Ironman!
Yes, very honoring to your amazing husband! Looking forward to being there to cheer both of you on and hug you after you cross that finish line! “Jennifer Barnabee, you ARE an Ironman!”
Getting ready for this Ironman as been a give and take experience. I would have to say I got more out of training with Jenn than she did training with me. For once I followed a training plan. Lost weight and got in better shape all due to Jenn. She didn’t push but led by example. While out running one day she noted that she really thought I wouldn’t follow the plan with her and was surprised now that I was sometimes the one saying we needed to run or ride a little further. We each have had our days doing that and its been great having your best friend to train with …watching her get stronger and stronger all the time. Anybody that knows me knows over the years I have trained very little for my prior races. I merely SURVIVED off of natural ability however that was starting to fail me. I gained weight and my health was not the greatest. It was about this time that Jenn stepped up her racing despite selflessly donating a kidney. I think her donating the kidney made her realize she too needed to take better care of herself which she did. It was a win win journey. Again she didn’t push but led and together we have both gotten better about what we eat, drink and how we train.
Jenn claims I’m the one constantly helping others and I may to some extent but she is the one always volunteering to help out with various groups and charities to the point I sometimes say “don’t feel you need to raise your hand” if it looks as though someone needs someone to step up and take over something.
Running this race is going to different. I usually only have to concentrate on myself. This time I will be wondering how Jenn is doing. I think anyone that has done one of these races will tell you that the swim is the most nerve wrenching. When you have 2000 plus people swimming for one buoy people tend to get kicked, punched, and swam over…mostly unintentionally. Additionally my legs tend to cramp in the swim so I’m always relieved to exit the water and get on the bike. This time I won’t feel safe till Jenn has exited the water….maybe she will before me though so I won’t have to worry. Usually I swim faster than she does but at distance in a race due to my cramping she ends up having a better swim.
It would be great if we ended up on the run together but I think we both agree that we need to race our own race and see where it ends up. Not going your own pace can be painful in many ways. We finished Jenn’s first 1/2 Ironman together. We started off in waves, me before her. Her swim was faster than mine, her bike just a hair slower and she eventually caught me on the run. From there we leap frogged for a bit and then eventually settled in supporting each other through the final miles to the end. This time we start off together and will have several opportunities along the course to see one another. Jenn is a smarter racer, her pace is strong and constant and if she hits a low she is able to recover. My pace tends to be more haphazard. Again leading through example though Jenn has taught me to pace myself a bit more.
I will have one driving force this race and that is to finish before or with Jenn so I can be there for when she crosses the finish line. We will have to see how that plays out. Either way I couldn’t be more proud or honored in having Jenn for a wife. I may set the bar for many of our activities but she continuously surpasses any expectations.
This makes me cry every time I read it. I can’t wait to hug you at the finish line.
Wow. What a beautiful honoring of your wife, Craig. Both of your supportive attitudes and loving dispositions for one another will carry you guys a very long way in this demanding but rewarding adventure! Press on toward the goal!
I just found your blog today and I wanted to wish you all the best in the IMAZ. I too leave will be heading to AZ in a few weeks…a trip to the Mayo Clinic for my evaluation to be a kidney donor for my brother. Thanks for sharing your journey. Go get it ookgirl! God Bless.
Patrick – I’m not sure if my other reply got posted… It is a wonderful thing that you are doing for your brother. Just trying to see if you can donate is a huge gesture. If you have any questions that I can answer, let me know. Best wishes.