Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ironman World Championships 70.3: Part 1

I worked through lunch today, so I thought I'd get chapter 1 of 'Joel goes to Florida' out of the way. Before the reality of race day hit, I was able to exist in that utopian dream of a World Championship. If there were any doubts about whether or not this would be an event worthy of such a title, they were put to rest almost immediately. The venue (devoid of people), was the perfect setting. Warm Gulf of Mexico waters, clear skies, mid-70s to 80 degree temperatures were the norm. Despite being only 3 weeks removed from Hawaii, the top pros managed to make it out. As a wanna-be athlete all my life, I finally felt like I had made it. The town’s people (for the most part), kept the fantasy intact as well. I was a member of this swarm of really thin, really fit people who had descended on Clearwater Beach. Helped by the fact that most people couldn't pick a professional triathlete out of a lineup, and by the words "World Championship", and by the fact that the ability to race for 4 1/2 hours straight is well beyond the comprehension of the wait staff at IHOP, I gladly imparted my "wisdom" about life and the event to the delight of awestruck locals. If only they knew the truth!

After getting situated in my 70s era sea side motel, The Sea Stone Resort, (~3/4 of a mile from the race course), complete with a dead cucaracha on the 3rd floor stairwell landing, I made my way to the athlete event registration. It was now mid-afternoon on Thursday, and yet I was still one of the first people to arrive, so I got first dibs on all the free stuff. Let me tell you, because of the cost of these events, you go after all the free stuff you can get. I think whole eBay stores exist for the reselling of promotional giveaway items from races (Gatorade water bottle anyone?). One of the more interesting demonstrations (to me anyway), was the physiological work up. Egos are hungry beasts, and mine needs to be fed early and often. Tanita, the digital scale company, was demo'ing their latest product which not only did the usual body fat percentage, but percent of water, weight of lean muscle, "Basal Metabolic Rate" (how many calories you burn in a day just breathing), and metabolic age. I used to obsess on the fact that as a rower in college I was ~9% body fat, and that I was now no longer quite as lean.

Well here's my report card:

Body weight (clothed): 165.8
Body Fat: 7.9%
% of Water: 60% (which is fully hydrated)
Weight of Lean Muscle: 145.2 (that would be hydrated lean muscle, not desiccated)
Basal Metabolic Rate (my personal favorite): 1976 calories a day just breathing (Bring on the Chocolate Cake!!!)
Metabolic age: 12

Okay, now Leanna insists that I heard the last one incorrectly, and that they meant my emotional age was 12. Well, she might have a point. I was after all playing professional athlete in Clearwater Florida. No matter, as meaningless as that "free profile" really was, I left feeling a lot better about myself. I now really felt like I belonged.

That night I went trolling around looking for a place to eat. Clearwater Beach is divided into the older, 70s era section, and the newer more upscale areas. Despite money concerns, I went over to the nice section. I was playing professional athlete after all. I now even had my powder blue competitor's bracelet to prove it. So I made it over to the newer section across from the Marriot. After trying hard to find something worth my new found sense of self(!), I came across an Italian place, Forlini's. The prices were a little steep, but actually about what I pay at home (Newport is not cheap). A Steve Martin movie came to mind when the host asked how many would be dining tonight, "Uh, I'm alone." It was a slow night in the restaurant and he must have noticed all my Ironman gear, so I was placed at a booth in the window like some human billboard saying, hey everybody, triathletes eat here and you should too! The food was really good, and two glasses of Chianti always make a meal more pleasant, even when you are alone. An yes I entertained more questions about what the training for this event was like, how long had I been doing this, and did I think he (my waiter) could ever finish one. Good food, wine, and ego stroking beyond compare. Yes this was the dream. Then another group of athlete's entered and low and behold, not only were they in town for the championships, they were people I knew from New England! Buoyed by the wine I went over and said hello, and they invited me to join them. Despite being done eating I did so and spent the rest of the evening with them. After dinner we hit the local CVS for all those items we had forgotten and then made plans to do our pre-race workouts together the next morning, but that's a story for another time.

Coming soon: Part 2, Pre-race