August 2, 2011

Day after IM race report (Kona slot)

So, I've heard that each Ironman has it's story and there was another good tale that came out of last weekend up in the Adirondacks. 
I went to bed on Sunday night, not knowing if I had qualified for Kona or not.  See the way roll down is calculated, they take the percentage of your age group vs. the # of starters at the race and that's the percentage of the 65 slots that are divvy'ed up per age group.  Per my "rough" calculations the M25-29 age group would get between 3-4 slots.  (I think the actual # was 3.68 or something like that) Now I had no idea if they would round up or down, or what the procedure was.  So I went to bed on Sunday, knowing that I was going to hit one of my goals (get on the podium again in a more competitive age group) and not really knowing if I was going to auto-qualify or have to go to roll down. 

Rumor around the casa was that #3 in my age group had already taken a Kona slot at a previous race this year, so was going to pass it down anyway.  As with anything with Ironman, I wasn't ready to believe that until I had that slip of paper in my hand... Call me a doubting Thomas, but I wanted to be sure before I got excited.

So, I wake up from the Ironman insomnia at about 4:30am in my hotel.  Maybe the Advil had worn off, or dad was snoring too loudly, I don't know.  Either way I went over the roll down procedure in the Athlete Guide to make sure I wasn't missing anything one more time.  Dad and I woke up around 8:30am or so and I knew that auto-qualifiers had from 9am until 11am to sign up at the high school gym.  We were at breakfast (attached to our hotel) at 9am and sat with Jochen and a few other folks that morning.  As we finished up at around 9:50am or so, I said, "Dad, we gotta get going!" as I knew it was a good 20 minute drive MAX to get to the high school.  I wanted some time to spare.

We hopped in the car and had a few things with us like a wheel to return to and all and started driving West on Route 86.  It was about 10am now and we had a good hour to drive 20 minutes, no big deal, right? 

5-10 minutes down the road we are stopped in a line of cars.  It looks like there's construction up ahead, but I'm thinking maybe it will be a one way road and our side is stopped.  We sit for a few minutes and then the cyclists who are in the road start turning around.  I roll down the window and asked one and he said, "roads closed, take the detour..."

Internally, I immediately start to panic...

I know that there are 3 main roads in Lake Placid: 73, 9N, and 86...If 86 is closed, we would have to do the bike course in reverse to get to the high school.  That was close to 40 miles of driving in about as many minutes now....

I turned the car around and Dad looked at me and said, "whatever you have to do, just get to the High School!"  I began to drive, and we switched on the GPS just to give us an was not pretty.  ETA said 10:56am and we were on some windy roads with lots of no passing zones.  I'm not going to say I've never broken any laws in my time, but I'm REALLY REALLY thankful that no police were out on the detour that morning.  I was driving approximately 70-80mph and passing people on the double yellows to get there (Dad was being an excellent spotter as well) but other than that no words were really said. 

The only thing I could think about was a message I got from a buddy, Pat Wheeler that morning that read, "You better get your ass to the high school and get your slot!"  I have never been more nervous in my years on this earth.  It was a challenge to race an Ironman finally and now IM was throwing this monkey wrench in my plans to get to Hawaii!  NOTHING is ever easy with Ironman....NOTHING.

We screamed up to the high school with 9 minutes to spare.  I threw the car in neutral, slammed on the emergency brake and hobbled as fast as I could into the high school as the parking guy said, "You can't park here" and my dad got out of the passenger seat and proceeded to move my car (thank you dad!) I ran into the high school and had to weave thru throngs of people to get to the table, but as I looked down, I saw a red line right under my name and my name was highlighted.  Along with 3 others....

And I lost it, I cried, I collapsed on the table and I smiled to myself. 

The woman at the table told me congratulations, asked to see my wristband and I obliged.  She gave me a sheet of paper that I've been waiting for YEARS to get.  It read, "Aloha, and congratulations on qualifying for the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championships in beautiful Kailua-Kona....". 
I don't think I have ever held onto a sheet of paper so tightly.  I had it with me all day too.  I went over and they swiped my credit card in the machine, I sloppily signed my name and it was the easiest $675 I have ever spent.  The rest of the time in the gym was a whirlwind.  Ryan Barnett (fellow qualifier and 2x finisher in Kona) came over and talked with Kim and I about the coolest things about Hawaii.  He gave us some great information and some websites to try and find a condo.  He also regaled us with stories from his visits and congratulated me immensely. 
We got ushered out by the volunteer coordinator, Derek Spain, who we met last year and I had to return a wheel to the bus, and high tail it to get to the awards by noon-thirty and buy a ticket for my dad.  (see how unprepared I was for this?)  The awards were great, I got up on stage and it was just me and the first place guy (who was 3rd overall amateur and is going to take his pro card by the way!) We each held our slabs of rock above our heads and it was another uber proud moment in my triathlon life. 
Looking back this story still gives me chills.  I feel like I won the lottery a week ago and I don't really know what to do.  I'm overwhelmed by the amount of congratulations I've received and pats on the back. (It's kind of awesome to open up Facebook and see "46 of your friends like your status".  I know I got really really REALLY REALLY REALLY lucky this year because a 10:10 probably shouldn't have qualified me.  In 2009 a 10:00 was the last one to go and I think last year was a 9:43 to take the last slot.  I'm humbled that I was able to auto qualify and just haven't really stopped smiling since I was given this chance.  You best bet, I'm going to go as hard as I can on the Big Island and make you all proud!
My whole goal a few years ago was to attempt to try and qualify without the assistance of a coach (my thought process was that I was the one that knew my body the best) and to say that I did it alone would be COMPLETE and utter falsification of the facts.  I just didn't have someone writing my workouts each week. I know it is incredibly cliche to talk about how no one succeeds in anything without the help and support of friends, family and everyone else around, but it is totally true.  Thank you all for putting up with my triathlon ramblings and all over the last few years (I know I can go on and on and on...) Thank you to everyone that has lent ideas, taken me under their wing, told me I was crazy for doing too much in a given season, let me fall flat on my face, lended assistance, kept me focused and believed in me.   
This is just like a freaking dream come true and I can't really put what I'm feeling into words.  It's an incredible feeling to chase a goal for 6 long years and then finally get a chance to reach it and I couldn't have done it without the overwhelming amount of support.  Mahalo, I'll be sure to make you proud at the World Championships.  Cheers.


Anonymous said...

Two years ago we brought you home broken. And at the time I think you knew that there was a reason what happened..... happened. Curt and I firmly believe that experience helped shape who you are right now.

This year we bring home a champion..... a grateful and appreciative one at that!

Mary and Curt!

Tim said...

Wow, there's a lot of feelings flying around that post. Wasn't going to reply until I realized you cry all the time so it really isn't a big deal. In fact, like 1,799 other people also qualified. I mean Kim might tell you you're one in a million (still not sure that's a compliment) but really you're more like 1 in 1,800. Not so impressive sounding anymore huh? And math doesn't lie.
I am really glad you made the Kona Qualifiers meeting and got your slot. But with your previous driving record I cringe at the death defying antics that must've occured behind that wheel.
Congrats Travis! I simply consider it my goal in life to make sure your head still fits in your swim cap.

Alexa said...

I am so excited for you Travis! next time.. LEAVE REALLY EARLY to get to rolldown!!