From the get-go of this trip, I felt like a jet-setter. We decided about three days prior to departure day that I would be joining the trip. Just me and my hubby jet setting to Vegas, what could be better?! Since we had separate reservations, sitting together was questionable but we ended up able to get seats next to each other on the plane - yeah! We ended up landing in Las Vegas at about 11:00pm Vegas time and about 2am our time. I was stuck in two different days, theoretically, and it felt extremely weird. Once we arrived at our rental house and got settled, it felt like 4:30am to us. I was wired, to say the least, but knew I needed to get to bed. My jet-setting excitement was now exhaustion, how does Lady Gaga do it!?
Our first stop Friday was the expo at Henderson Pavilion. Kenrick went to pick up his packet (athletes only - I guess they're afraid I'm going to steal a packet and hop into the race under someone else's name). I checked out the free offerings at the booths (waited until my extremely fit sidekick was with me so it didn't look like a non triathlete was trying to steal samples of GU Chomps or Powerbars). I think the expo would be even more fun if they had a band playing or maybe a restaurant/beer tent set up, just to get the buzz going (no pun intended - it was so stinkin' hot I really could've used a cold one). There were many familiar companies and freebies galore for the kids so that was a plus. It was nice to have been there the year before so we knew the lay of the land and I had no pre-race day nervousness on where to park, or if I would be able to see him, etc.
We headed over to Lake Mead so Kenrick could get a bike and swim in. There were quite a number of people there getting a swim in. Many of them were doing training swims in their wetsuit and very much regretted it because the water at Lake Mead was sooo warm. A homeless guy tried to strike up a conversation with me so I ended up pacing back and forth at the water's edge doing the avoid and dodge while waiting for Kenrick to return! He got a quick swim in, I got about 50 pages read in my travel book (The Help - highly recommend this book to all the ladies!). Friday night we checked out Red Rock Canyon (me as navigator was not a good call so we didn't make it out to Valley of Fire as we had originally thought due to wasted time trying to find Lake Mead).
Saturday we headed out to Lake Mead again so Kenrick could get another swim in and also run. I decided to run with him (well, I guess my pace was a tad slow for this Ironman because he started walking next to me and said "how's that pace going?!"). So he went on ahead and then came back to rescue me for the last ten minutes of our 30 minute jog/run. The heat, even at 9:30am, was insane! I can't even imagine what the athletes felt the next day. My throat was sore while running which then traveled up to the ears and nose from the heat. I was happy to get back to the air conditioning of the car after that! We headed over to the bike drop off at Lake Las Vegas. Not much going on at the bike drop off so that was pretty quick. We ran into a fellow Allentown athlete (Kenrick had a Fitness Central t-shirt on and that struck up the conversation). It was nice to meet a fellow wife who was also a non-triathlete and could relate to my frequent "why do they put themselves through this!?" thoughts. But just as I, even though we don't like it for ourselves, she was incredibly proud of her spouse and loves to cheer him on and be there for support. After bike drop off we headed to T2 to drop off the run bag and checked out the expo once more before headed home for pasta and air conditioning. We needed to rest up - the big day was tomorrow!
4:30am - Ughhhhh the dreaded early wakeup of race morning. My body is getting more used to this, and it's exponentially easier without kids in tow (though I do miss not having them at the race, they're always so excited for their dad). The drive into Lake Las Vegas race morning was backed up and a bit chaotic. I have to say, Ironman needs to drastically improve on this detail of the race. Cars were stopped trying to just drop off their athletes on the side of the road, because transition closing time was approaching and people were getting nervous. Also, once we got into the lot there was no one parking cars. Everyone had to fend for themselves, and it didn't look like people were utilizing the lot in the most efficient way. Hoping we wouldn't get parked in, we found a spot and started walking quickly down to transition.
The atmosphere at this race was definitely more international than I remember last year. I was incredibly impressed with the international fan groups for athletes. Some international athletes had huge contingencies cheering them on and awesome matching t-shirts, I always love that! (Though, to the guy from Switzerland, I could've done without your authentic Swiss cowbell that you were so proud of and had to ring for about ten minutes straight and then pass to your daughter for her to ring too. Any cowbell ringing prior to 6:00am is just plain rude!) Continuing on, Kenrick was able to get his pre-race stuff in order, gave me a final kiss, and was off to the staging platform as he was one of the first ten waves. It was a tad disappointing though, that his age group was put into 3 separate waves! The waves were small enough that I think they could've at least done 2 but 3 none the less. I found a great spot on a cliff area near the starting line where I could see the pros jumping in for their practice swim. However, note to the over excited Dad of a 30-34 male, I"m not too happy with you for your accidental nudge from behind me as I"m standing near about a ten foot drop! I understand you're excited and want to get a primo viewing spot like me, but I was here first and you near killed me!
From where I stood, the athletes entered the water, but then the official swim start line was on the other side of the hotel/balcony/bridge thing they swim under. So all of a sudden I got my second scare of the morning and heard the gun go off for the male pros and realized I would need to quickly watch Kenrick enter with his wave then hustle over to grab another primo viewing spot at the official swim start line. It worked out perfectly and I was able to continuing waving I love yous to him until seconds before his gun went off.
Having now experienced a mass start at Ironman Lake Placid, from a spectator view point I actually prefer the mass start. As a crowd, you feel more of a collective excitement knowing that everyone around you has their eyes on the same place as you and once you hear the gun go off for a mass start the crowd collectively gasps knowing that their athlete is about to start an experience of a lifetime! At this race, the pros were entering and young 20 somethings were walking around me in their pre-race nervousness and it just felt weird, and I'm assuming, even more so, frustrating for them.
I was able to see Kenrick exit the swim and also one portion of the bike before he left the Lake Las Vegas complex. He looked strong and happy as he headed out to fight and conquer the heat. I got some ok photos of the swim exit and bike portion and then headed to the car to travel over to Henderson Pavilion/T2. The exit from Lake Las Vegas went much more smoothly than I envisioned. They had the roads very well marked and I made my way to Henderson Pavilion in really good time. I headed to Whole Foods, got a chai latte to perk up and some food and knew right where to stand from our experience last year.
I was able to see him about 5 times on the run and I never missed him once! I was getting better at the camera timing too so the pictures were coming out good. He was staying strong and looked fluid in the run, he never looks labored ever, I always marvel at that. It was awesome to see the pros mixed in with the age groupers. It was hard as a spectator, though, to get a sense of who was in first, what lap your athlete was on, etc. Another part of this race that I think is amazing is the overhead helicopter that is recording the race from the air. It just adds an element to the race that kicks it up a notch! I was praying I had counted my laps right and convinced myself that his last lap was upon us, so I headed to the finish line. I was a bit surprised that there wasn't much of a spectator presence at the finish line (but then I thought well this means he's out in front because most spectators are watching their athletes on other laps so that must be a good sign!). I stood next to a very friendly Canadian dad at the finish line who was waiting for his son to come through. He was in mid-sentence telling me that he thought his son was on his way and then he yelled "there he is!". I love that moment, watching a fellow spectator get a glimpse of their loved one, their face beaming with pride, he cheered and snapped photos as his son went past. He looked back to me and said "that was my son!". And I said "congratulations!". And off he went to give his son a big hug. As a spectator, I love watching other spectators have those gushing with pride moments. These athletes work so hard and their families see that hard work all year and I know first hand how much Kenrick works and sacrifices for these races - it is a huge accomplishment and commitment. Kenrick went past me soon after and with a huge smile on his face he crossed and finished his second consecutive Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
I hustled myself to the finish corral to meet my hubby. After a few minutes in the food tent/cool down area he came out to meet me. I'm always amazed how "okay" he is after these races, I would be unable to speak, walk, or hold my head up. He's always got a "I"m doin' alright" look on his face. We remained at the finish for a little while, stayed in the shade, and attempted to find where the results were going to be posted. They had a technical glitch all day with the online tracking so we had no idea exactly where he finished at, due to the wave starts. Almost every race we have been at this year has had some kind of technical glitch with the online athlete tracking. I really wish a company would develop a fool proof system for this, at the Burlington race we worried Kenrick's chip wasn't working and that his results wouldn't be counted. At that race, there was a volunteer manually entering finishers and their numbers at the finish line so that gave us some comfort. In addition to online tracking, Ironman also needs to drastically improve their website. I have not heard one person, athlete and non-athlete, say they like the Ironman website, or can even navigate it for that matter. It's way too dark and they have too many things going on.
To sum up the day, I was extremely proud of Kenrick. His dedication, mental toughness, and athleticism impress me each and every time he sets foot on the race course. I don't know how he does it. Way to go honey!
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!