Tuesday, September 15, 2009

IronMOO 2009

Saturday Night
We left Minneapolis at about 2 in the afternoon. I took it upon myself to kick-start the weekend by screaming at my wife on the phone, "TURN ON YOUR FRICKING PHONE AND TURN THE RINGER VOLUME UP! JEEZE!" She wished me good luck by hanging up on me. CLICK!

(I did call back later and apologize for being a "dick" - which, admittedly I was. She soothed her wounds by going on a pub crawl with a bunch of parents from our kids' Catholic school. Obviously my insults didn't cause her to reorder her priorities. I am so ineffectual.)

At some point in the ride CS told us that high fructose corn syrup is mostly mercury. It became a running joke. "I'll have that with a side of ketchup and extra mercury." Maybe it was only funny to us.

Arriving in Madison at about 6 we checked into our hotel and then headed to the Start/Finish/Transition area to make sure we knew where we were going the next morning.

We found a sushi restaurant on State Street and ate until we about burst.

CS & MS waiting for sushi.

One order down.

Gelato after sushi - an international evening.

We were going to have a very early morning so we headed back to the hotel and decided to watch a movie.

"The Hangover" was just what the weekend needed. I highly recommend this picture. It is ridiculous, but so funny. We trotted out lines for the rest of the weekend. I can only imagine the irritation of the people in rooms around us at our hysterical laughter as they were trying to get some sleep before brutalizing themselves for 12 to 15 hours the next day.

4 AM came very quickly. We figured we would be out of the room by 4:30 and downtown in plenty of time for our 5 AM shift helping people place their run special-needs bags. I decided to make coffee for everyone in the room. First attempt - PERFECTION! I nice hot cup of DECAF coffee. Damn it! No one wants decaf at 4:15 AM. Second attempt - ripped the coffee pouch in half. FAIL! Third and last attempt - pouch in the maker, water in the maker, cup under the maker, coffee all over the place and none in the cup. This is exactly the reason I never make coffee at home. I am a rétard!

Luckily, Starbuck's opened at 4 AM right in front of our first volunteer location. It is surprising how few people are in Starbuck's at 4:30 AM on a Sunday morning. But even more surprising is how quickly a line will form and snake out a Starbuck's front door and down a block at 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning. Our timing was perfect!

Volunteer Shift One
This shift went great. The athletes were very nice, relatively calm and so excited. The other volunteers were a lot of fun and we made some quick friends and shared a lot of laughs.


More bags.


Volunteer Shift Two
Bike transition and catching might be the best volunteer job in my opinion (and having never done anything else, that means very little.) First of all, I got a great workout. We spent the first two hours of our shift doing striders back and forth on the top level of a parking ramp in 80 degree, sunny weather. We would get the bikes handed to us up a four step staircase and then we would run them to the appropriate rack. It was hot, sweaty, funny work as the volunteers tried not to lose their minds in the heat.

It must be pointed out that rubber gloves were provided. (Do you know what people do on their bike seats over five to eight hours? I did not want to get "The Hiv.") Water, Gatorade, subs and pizza were also provided. When I couldn't take it anymore I took a break, went to the rest room and washed my hands and came back to eat a sandwich. My hands were really pruney and weird, but clean. Then I spied another volunteer eating pizza with his gloves still on! (Did I mention that people do disgusting things while on their bikes? And "The Hiv?") I almost threw up.

Watching people come in after hours on the bike was absolutely inspiring. All the different ages and body types that were actually doing this thing was amazing. I developed a new respect for this race and for the people participating. When it was getting close to the cut-off it was so much fun. Seeing people driving to the line and so excited to have made it. Then there were the people who I suspect did not really want to make it, but did none the less. I think they wanted an excuse to stop. Finally, there were those who missed the cut. It was absolutely heart wrenching to see them get the bad news. I genuinely felt bad for them.

After our shift we headed back to the hotel. We ran into Steve in a Speedo and his wife on the way back to the car. They are both super nice and were volunteering as well, but neither are doing the race next year - Steve seemed very adamant about that fact.

After well earned showers we headed back downtown to eat on State Street and cheer on the runners. By the time we got down there a lot of the restaurants were closed or stopped serving food. What is it with Madison and food!?

We found a place with sidewalk dining, open tables and burgers. We all wanted burgers. I had a fantastic "Breakfast Burger" with a fried egg, bacon and cheese. It went down fast and easy.

Gary Project
MS "knew" one person doing the race this year. "Knew" because apparently this guy is the friend of a friend who she made eye contact with across a park at sometime the week before the race. She knew the guy's first name, Gary, but nothing else about him - no last name, no bib number, nothing. She had to text her friend - Gary's friend - and get his bib number. (I still don't know the guy's last name, but I remember that fricking bib number - #877.)

After watching the swim start and the first pros come out of the water we headed to the "bike-out" to watch everyone descend "The Helix." While waiting, MS kept asking CS to check Gary's progress on her iPhone. (Which I referred to as her "Apple phone" all weekend just to be annoying - I was quite successful at accomplishing this goal.)

"The Helix"

"Is Gary out yet?" "I know you guys are hungry, do you mind if we just see Gary go out on the bike course?" "What's Gary's status?"

Finally, Gary's status announced he was out of the water. "Now - what does Gary look like?"

"Well, Gary is wearing black with yellow printing on it." Uh huh, thanks for the details - we did know Gary's bib number, but really, I am no good with numbers.

After getting vertigo watching people spin down "The Helix" MS announced - nay, screamed - "There he is! There's Gary!" "Go Gary!" I looked in the direction she was gesticulating toward to see #877, AKA Gary, in a black kit with an orange design on it. Not yellow writing. Jeeze! Who is this guy?

Good! Gary is on his way so now we can be on ours. I was so damn hungry I was about ready to start gnawing on my left arm.

We walked down State Street to find some place to eat breakfast. I wanted an omelette and/or pancakes as did MS & CS. We walked for awhile and couldn't find anything open so we stopped into a coffee shop and asked a customer if they knew of a place we could get some pancakes. "No, I think you need to get out of downtown Madison to find those. Yeah, you'll find that kind of thing in the suburbs." Really!? Downtown Madison, Wisconsin does not offer breakfast anywhere? College students never eat breakfast on the weekend? OK - they probably don't, but I KNOW they eat brunch. Preferably with bloody-marys. Right?

We had CS use her "Apple phone" to google "Madison Wisconsin Pancakes." That "local" may have been right as very little showed up and none of it was in walking distance from where we were. Since CS had her phone out MS asked for an update on Gary. Nope, he hadn't crossed the first bike checkpoint. At which point the battery died on the "Apple phone." CS and I met eyes and I know we both silently thanked God that we wouldn't have to track Gary any more.

We did find a place that served pancakes, but when we got there, they, in fact, did not serve pancakes, but they had a variety of breakfast sandwiches. And French Toast Sticks. I think I may have mentioned my ravenous hunger so I ordered a truck load of food. Disappointed! It was by no means awful but it was far from awe inspiring. The French Toast Sticks were at least hot, but then most things come out of a microwave hot, right?


"Damn! Don't bite your own fingers."

Our next volunteer shift didn't start for about four hours so we went back to the hotel to charge the "Apple phone," use the "facilities" and figure out where we were going to watch some of the bike course and hopefully meet Tasha.

With some juice in the "Apple phone" we hopped in the car and headed to Cross Plains. I plugged in the destination on my GPS and CS plugged it in on her phone. You would think that between the two we would get there without getting lost, right? Ah, you don't know me very well now do you? I am such a directional rétard that I am surprised I don't get lost backing out of the garage. So we got a little lost. Not much, but really, we had two fricking GPS guides. Just sad.

We finally found the course. Hey, Gary is on the bike course. Let's see what Gary's status is? CS looked up Gary's status - a-gain. Then we started doing math. I was told there would be no math required! MS and CS started to try to figure out if we might be able to see him at this point on the course. CS was a math minor in college so she got recruited to do all the number crunching on the trip. I think we may have missed him or he wouldn't be by for more than an hour (I really wasn't paying attention) so no Gary sighting.

However, I did get to meet Tasha. She was dressed in a red wool blazer with many sparkles and a flowey skirt-type thing. She had slushies. And Cokes. And was walking with the Queen of Spades - or at least someone dressed like a playing card of the same suit. She was very nice and funny. Hopefully, when I am in Chicago we can get together for coffee (she lives near my bro-in-law) and talk a little more.

After watching for a short while, we headed back to downtown for our next volunteer shift at the "bike-in." But first, let's check on Gary. Nope, not passed the next bike checkpoint.

After running bikes in transition for two and a half hours, MS made the jump to grabbing bikes at the dismount. CS and I quickly followed. MS had kept checking the racks in transition so she knew Gary had not arrived yet. Then suddenly, there Gary was!

MS pushed a couple of other volunteers out of the way causing a 75-year-grandmother to completely tear her ACL and an overweight guy to curl into a fetal position and cower, crying in terror until Medical came to carry him away. She then hurdled a participant who had fallen down and screamed an obscenity laced tirade at two other athletes as she sprinted toward Gary. Grabbing his handle bars she lifted him off his bike and carried him across the timing mat on her shoulders all the while yelling encouraging platitudes, inquiring about his feelings and generally being a certifiable maniac. CS swears she saw MS mop his sweaty brow, massage his feet and help him change into fresh shorts, but I don't believe that last part. (We saw him in the same shorts on the run.)

At the end of our shift we packed up and went back to the hotel shower. We would be back downtown for dinner on State Street to watch and cheer people as they ran by and to check out the finish line. Oh, and to hopefully see Gary (read with sarcastic emphasis.)

Sitting at dinner on a sidewalk table MS again implored CS to check the "Apple phone" (annoying, isn't it?) to see how long we would have to wait to see Gary. CS, being the math minor in college does some quick figuring (actually it wasn't so quick and I am pretty sure she made reference to Pi, cosine and asked the waitress for a number between 1 and 75) and comes up with a completely inaccurate estimated time of arrival - "He should be here any minute now." Oh, how MS's face lit up with excitement. CS and I are starting to get worried at this point and we are exchanging panicked glances. MS is now referring to Gary as her lover, making up stories about trips they took together to France and the Bahamas, talking about how he is going to dedicate his Ironman win to her and generally losing her mind over Gary. CS and I play into her neuroses. Hell, we got nothing better to do, right?

After being kicked out of our table because the restaurant closed at 9:30 PM and Gary still had not "arrived." We got on the street and started cheering for all the runners still coming in. We made friends with a Chicago cop who was standing across from us waiting to cheer on someone he also barely knew. Actually, as definitions of "knowing someone" goes, these guys were blood brothers. He knew the guy's last name, occupation - a fellow Chicago cop - and where he lived - more than we had going for our IF (Imaginary Friend), Gary.

We became fast friends with this cop, too. Hey, if nothing else, we are friendly. He explained that he was cheering for this guy because "cops just don't get the whole endurance sport thing. Cops are all about bustin' guys, handcuffs and tazers." "Pretty much describes my wife," I said, "Minus the tazers."

An hour after Gary was supposed to "arrive any minute" ("Ooops, I forgot to account for the moon phase," CS says) I am peering into the darkness and I see "them." Those three magical numbers - #877. Halle-fucking-lujah!

(This next part is not made up, I swear!) I yell, "Hey, there he is! There's Gary!" MS looks down the road to where I am pointing and yells at me, "That's not Gary! That's a woman wearing a swim cap!" WTF!

No! It is, in fact Gary! MS suddenly realizes this and starts running with him. Yelling. "How are you feeling!?" ("Like Shit!") "Well, you look great! Is there anything I can do for you!? ("Don't get me disqualified!") "All right, it's all you from here!"

MS comes back to report Gary has proposed to her and she is now carrying his baby and they will be married just past the finish line "any minute now."

(This part is also true.) When MS gets back, our cop friend looks at her and says, "I don't know that guy, but he looked like he had absolutely no idea who you were." At this point MS snapped back to reality and made the startling realization that we have been chasing a guy who she absolutely does not know and who has no idea who she is other than some psycho who keeps haunting his nightmare. Good times.

(Yes! Gary was mentioned that many times - and about ten times more - during the weekend. And Yes! Every time Gary was mentioned I saw the linked image. He even became a verb - "Don't pull a Gary" = don't obsessively look for, track, cheer for and over-enthusiastically pursue a triathlete you know by first name only.)

After a good night's sleep we were up at 5:30 to get in line to register for IMWI 2010. By the time we arrived at about 6:15, coffee in hand, the lines were crazy long. And registration didn't start until 9:00!

The line in front of us.

The line behind us.

There was more friend making. And then the line started moving. We were getting in early.

I am pleased to report that I am shitting in my pants and we have successfully registered for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.

CS double checks her confirmation number.

MS signs on the line.

Let the lunacy begin!


NJ said...

First off...congrats on getting in for next year. Reading your training will be interesting.

While long...very funny post! Loved it.

Hopefully you got pizza before glove guy manhandled it all!

Tasha the Triathlon Goddess said...

*Snort* - great stuff, as always. Definitely, call me when you're in Chicago - we can reminisce about the good times at IMMOO 2009! Umm, you know, those 10 minutes we got to stand around and chat.

Btw, since you're doing the race next year, let me know if there's any particular theme you'd like to see at Cross Plains next time. Our aid station won the "Best Aid Station" award this year, so we have a reputation to maintain.(though I have to say, I think anything with scantily clad women would do the trick, based on the racers' reactions....)

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Great report - nice job out there! I can't BELIEVE that someone actually ate their food with their gloves. Ugh.

FYI - the BEST PANCAKES EVER in Madison is at Mickey's near Camp Randall Stadium. Seriously - I was a Badger in college and that's where I went for great and cheap food. Great pancakes, awesome shakes, and some incredible invention called "The Scrambler" with a bit of everything.

Good luck with the IM training - you'll do great!

PS - Tasha is awesome. :)

D said...

Dude, the pizza with gloves on. Holy hell.
If this Gary situation was even slightly more annoying in person than it was reading it then I can't believe someone didn't get the shit kicked out of them.

Tasha the Triathlon Goddess said...

Love the pictures! Though I was a bit concerned about the "pancakes only in the suburbs" concept, until Marit set things straight. I mean really, what are Madisonites - Communists or something?

P.S. Marit is totally awesome. :-) Hey, I know, all my favorite people from BlogLand (you, Marit, D!, etc.) should come to Chicago to visit! Par-tay at my place! D!, you can even bring all your dogs.....

Roo said...

The sushi isn't done until someone eats the head, dude. Amateurs.

Roo said...

Eat it. It will make you run faster.

Question Authority. said...

Somebody needs to follow-up on GARY!

Steve Stenzel said...

"adamant" indeed! ;)

And that's a CRAZY line! This next year will be great!! Enjoy it!!