Man, I have started this post so many times. I really want to blog about Ironman Brazil and I’ve struggled with writing a short blog, or a long blog, or 5 blogs, or what not. After going back and forth a million times, I just decided, heck…I’m verbose. Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t shut up. So, why should this be any different. I blog so that I can read back about my experiences after I forget about them, so I don’t want to leave anything out, because this one was too special.
So, Part 1 of what will be a 4, maybe 5 part series. IRONMAN BRASIL…everything you’ve ever wanted to know…and then some. Let’s get this party started!
Getting to Brazil is no small feat. Just preparing to get to Brazil is crazy. However, if you are going to go for it, I suggest Ken Glah’s Endurance Travel. It’s well worth the money and I will use his company again in the future. In fact, it’s made me more confident to travel internationally to Ironman, because I know Ken Glah will take care of me, and I can focus on the fun.
After leaving Annabelle in the capable hands of my mom, complete with power of attorney and a notarized will, we took a plane from Denver to Dallas and boarded a large half full plane to Sao Paulo. This flight was perfect, it left at 9pm, arrived a 7am and was about 9 hours of flight time. They fed us, turned down the lights and I slept on Troys shoulder for a solid 7+ hours.
Taking my toothbrush, contact case, blanky, and pillow made things easy peasy. Once in Sao Paulo we had to clear customs and recheck our bags to Florianopolis. Our bags were the last ones to show up, and we met Claire (who was american and spoke english) in the customs line. Finding the airline to recheck our bags was our first hurdle. There isn’t a lot of English spoken in the Sao Paulo airport. We would show our itinerary to someone and they would point us down the hall. We kept doing that until they pointed us back the other direction. Then we got in a line, they made us go to another line, then they made us go to a third line. Finally, we got in front of the right person. We literally needed help from 15 people to make that happen. They were good to go with the bike box (no fee) and bags and we were were left to wait out our 8 hour layover that was now down to 5.5 hours (yes, that’s how long it took).
At the advice of Jocelyn Cornman we used a double bike box on this trip, and let me say, it was awesome. My KE teammate Jordan Sher loaned us his and we only paid one $150 fee the whole trip (American leaving Denver). Our box weighed about 65 pounds with both bikes and all 4 wheels and it was SO easy to pull around the airports. Major bike box success.
The fight from Sao Paulo to Florianopolis was probably the most low budget airline I’ve ever been on. There was like 6 inches of leg room. Troy’s legs didn’t even remotely fit so he spent that flight pretty uncomfortable with his knees in his chest…which just happened to make the BEST pillow for me. I slept from take off to landing.
Suddenly here we are in beautiful Florianopolis! We got our bags, again, our bike box (the monster) was last off the plane and we almost missed the Endurance Travel folks because the door out of baggage claim got blocked when three nuns ran their bag cart into the wall and couldn’t get it unstuck. Literally, I couldn’t make this shit up.
Once united with Endurance Travel, just as they were about to leave us behind, and as a result, we got to ride in the front seat of the shuttle. That was a total highlight. We got a great view of the city during the 45 minute drive to the hotel which was mostly along the Ironman course.
Our hotel, Al Mare, was the cheapest that Ken Glah offered, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We like to keep things basic and we both let out a huge sigh when we walked into the room, it was basic, but clean and comfortable. The first night was full of barking dogs and we kept the windows open and the cool breeze flowing.
Our hotel had breakfast and dinner every night and that was a nice perk. To know that you only had to hunt down lunch everyday while getting in all your Ironman preparation was a good thing.
Thursday we loaded up and headed to the Ironman practice swim. They did a mass start which we did not participate in. The beach was amazing, white sand, so beautiful with little islands off in the distance we just had permagrin. We got in to swim and there was a buoy out there we wanted to swim to. I thought the buoy was a normal sized buoy but after 30 minutes of swimming and finally arriving at the thing, it was like 3 stories high! There are no sighting buoys in this IM course, just turn buoys.
The return trip was quicker, and we encountered a lot of small jellyfish along the way. At times it felt like you were swimming in a sea of corks, and you could grab handfuls of them. They didn’t sting, so it was more awkward than anything. Our swim to the FIRST (of 4) turn buoy and back took 50 minutes and hence I started worrying about the Ironman swim. Also there is a current dragging you left, and I was pretty worried about how to handle that.
After seeing the swim Troy and I decided to go on a course tour that Endurance Travel offered on Friday because we heard that Ken Glah leads them and we knew we would get good beta. I got a massage Friday before the bus tour and then we parked ourselves up front on the bus and asked lots of questions. Ken was great, answered every one of my (and others) questions and I totally understood the course after that. The good tips I got, which of course I will share are the following.
#1 – You can get messed up in the swim. You have to determine the current on race morning by watching the boats. It can change from day to day. If it’s right to left (common) you have to aim to the right of the turn buoy (1000M out). Start right, stay right, and aim right.
#2 – Brazilians know how to swim. There are fast swim times because of fast Brazilians, not necessarily because the course is fast. Also, they don’t really believe in the concept of the “Bucket List” so most people in the race are serious about Ironman racing, not a lot of one and done types.
#3 – Special needs is not so good for this race. Nobody hands you your bag, and you have to hunt for it. It’s also like 20+ miles into the loop so you aren’t getting it at 56, but more like 76ish. Ken said he always uses special needs, but not at this race.
#4 – Two of the hills on the run course you need to walk up, and down. There is no point to run up or down them, you are faster walking, and they will hurt bad if you run down them.
#5 – They write a massive amount of penalties at this race. Last year about 150 of them, and there are only 2000 people in the race, so almost 10% get a drafting penalty. Drafting penalty is 10 minutes served in a tent in T2.
So I felt like that race course tour was well worth the money. Later that night we went to the PreRace Pasta party. The food was really good and we did not understand anything that was said over the loudspeaker. They did have a fruit boat though. That was pretty awesome, no dessert, just an awesome fruit boat!
Poor Jody was still hoping that his luggage would arrive, and in the nick of time it did. He had the most crazy adventure getting here, but handled it so well, I’m really proud of him for that. We actually thought he might have to beg/borrow/buy every single thing to race. Whew!
Saturday was GAME ON day. We got up, I got another massage, and we got in our training for the day. A super scary bike ride where we passed not once, but twice, the Passion Motel! It was a pretty scary ride, Brazil is not so safe. We had a run off where Jody was barely breathing and I felt like I was panting and out of shape. I always feel that way during my Ironman taper.
After training we hit up an awesome Brazilian steakhouse and had a little adventure down in the downtown area. By now I was feeling pretty at home and we were excited that race day was soon to be here.
We were required to drop our bikes off between 6-7pm so we loaded the busses and went through that hullabaloo. They had a sweet bag to cover each and every athletes bike. This was an AWESOME perk (note to North American races). Troy and I were racked right smack next to each other and Jody was just a few feet down. They walked us through transition and when we walked in and said “Hi”, they immediately screamed “English” and there appeared a guy who spoke English to explain everything to us. Back home, and it was bed time.
Recently I have been sleeping really well before my races. I was hoping for a great nights sleep, but I found out that when both Troy AND I are racing, and we both have pre Ironman nerves…there is double the tossing and turning. Neither of us slept great, but at 5am we were on that bus with Jody, ready to go!
Transition was awesome. We hung together with Jody, got the bikes ready, visited the portapotty, and headed to the swim start. I ate a white bread sandwich with jam and salt and finished off a bottle of Osmo. I ripped THREE new holes in my Freak because my nails were too long. I smiled because ripping a hole in my wetsuit means I’m going to swim fast, and I just ripped THREE. We got in the corral together, and Troy and I held hands while I peed in my wetsuit. I hugged Jody, he slipped a bit in front of us and Troy and I stood there together totally freaking nervous. We were all the way right and we had NO IDEA what the announcer was saying.
The last memory I have before the gun went off was staring at the beautiful sunrise off to my right, and just soaking in the pure beauty of the situation. I also looked around and could not find a single solitary woman. I was a in sea of men.