The trip down and drive to Tuscaloosa went fine. Then begins a hilarious exchange:
Upon driving into the hotel parking lot, I found myself next to a woman who was obviously here for the race (tending to a Cervelo, wearing race gear and knee-high compression socks) and was building up her bike. The hotel wasn't ready for people to check in, so I figured I'd do the same. Thus begins the conversation.
A: So are you here to do well, or is this just another race?
Knowing she's from NJ, I had to work not to show my disbelief at the question. I felt like saying, "You must be joking. Why would you spend all of the time and money getting down here if it wasn't a big deal?"
A: I'm here because a bunch of friends are also. I'd also like to qualify for worlds because I've been to every other world championship that the sport offers.
S: When did you do Kona?
A: 1999 and 2002. I've qualified every year since, but don't want to go back because I'm too light for the winds.
S: Yeah I'd love to do Kona, but the training just takes too much time at this point.
A: Time isn't a problem for me.
I didn't dare go any further. She went inside, discovered they had a room for her, and came back out to get her stuff.
A: Are you here alone?
A: If you want, come out to dinner with the group. I'll leave my card on your windshield later.
S: OK, thanks.
A while later, I went out to the car to go to the grocery store. There's the card. Under the name- you can't make this stuff up- is:
"All-American Ironman Triathlete"
Wow. This sport is an important part of what I (and many of you) do, but it doesn't define me. I get the feeling that if she permanently blew out a knee she whither up and disappear.
Anyway.....I drove the bike and run courses. The run is 90% flat with two meaningful hills. The first one will be a real kick in the gut. We're done with both after about 2 1/2 miles. The bike is a mix of flat and really long rolling hills. Nothing too steep. I'm not sure if they will call for the small chain ring or not.
Bit over 36 hours to go......