Well. After thinking about it for years, talking about it for months, and preparing for it forever, it feels great to finally be here! Today Ironman Village officially opened, and I officially went and became official.
Parking was a hassle, as the Monona Terrace was full and so was all of the other public parking ramps downtown. I finally found a spot and filled the meter (note to any athletes - bring quarters!) and headed down to the Terrace from the downtown side of things. As soon as I came onto Martin Luther King Blvd, where on Sunday the finish chute will somewhere reside, I had entered, at long last, The Kingdom of Ironman.
I walked towards the Terrace to pick up my registration stuff, and doing so took me through pretty much the whole village. Many sponsors were setting up their tents, or getting organized, or whatever, but it was still full of vendors, information, and athletes. More than just a carnival, though, this is the brain center of Ironman, and the M-Dot logo pervades everything, and I meandered around for 15 minutes with solid goosebumps on my arms. This is it! It's finally here! I strolled around a few minutes, checking out Ironman TV, where analysts and guests cover myriad of Ironman topics all day (and which is also broadcast via jumboscreens), and a few of the other tents. I wasn't really doing anything - just taking it all in. Enjoying the experience. The feeling, the sensation. It was awesome. Finally, I headed in to get registered.
Registration is kind of a...Complete Fiasco, which is code for another, less publicly presentable phrase that also begins with the letters C and F that means "crazy mess of things". They don't, of course, mean for it to be, and in its way the logic makes whatever sense it can, but because of the way the Monona Terrace is organized, registration requires several stops, 3 floors, and one really long line. Not as bad as I thought it would be - I was in and out in just over an hour.
Anyway, first I stood at the end of a line that went downstairs - so I had no idea what this line was doing or how long it really was or what. All around me athletes are discussing their strategies and the weather and the water and whatever, and the logic in avoiding being around that kind of talk immediately presents itself. So I tried to tune them out and just be patient. In just a few minutes a voice downstairs called "Anybody with a number under 600 to the front of the line!" Sweet! So I went down, where now I could see that there were several lines set up, according to number, but that's impossible to know from the one big line that ends an entire floor up. Anyway, at this station I just picked up a sheet with some vital stats on it - make sure my info is correct, provide some info, sign a waiver. Then I take that signed form through a hallway and another expo room where I again find myself at the end of the line. This one winds over the scales - they weigh us for race day (fully clothed - 185, officially) - so that they can compare weights on race day in case of emergency - and so once I was checked out of the scales I again headed down another flight of stairs to finally pick up my race packet. There are 2 stations, one for number under 1200 and one for numbers over - and at each station are several Iron Crew (that's what their shirts say) members who actually sit down with each athlete and walk you through the race day packet, what number goes on what, what do to here and there, etc. The line that had seemed really daunting actually went pretty quickly, but I'm here on the first day, early on...I imagine Friday, when most athletes show up, might be crazier (I'd suggest getting there before 10:00am, so you're ready and first in line). My very friendly Crew member gave me all the details, we joked and laughed, and then she placed around my wrist the coveted Ironman bracelet - my ticket into the Kingdom for the week. I don't mind telling you I actually choked up at this point (I am right now recalling it...), and am glad she didn't want to talk just then so I could recover without seeming like a complete tool. All parcels in hand, then, I was officially registered for Ironman Wisconsin. Friggin' awesome, baby.
I took the escalator back up the two floors I'd come down, and (credit the World Triathlon Corporation's marketing savvy) landed smack in the middle of the Ironman marketplace. Are you kidding me? I want everything! One of each, please! Ironman stuff as far as you can see. Fleece, t-shirts, hats, uniforms, gear, magnets, shot glasses, whatever. It's like Disneyland for triathletes, and I'm a total sucker for it all. So I walked around the store for awhile, coveting everything. I picked up a t-shirt for me and one for Amy, a baseball hat for my Grandpa, some arm warmers for the bike on Saturday (I'll use the other set I brought for the run), and some goggles (mine apparently broke a seal on my last swim, so I brought a backup pair but hoped they'd have my brand - and they did). I also picked up a little Triathlon beaded keychain thing to put on Jackie's collar, which he looks very handsome in, thanks very much. Anyway. I have lots more to buy, I think, mostly for my family, so I'll plan to head over again tomorrow after my swim.
Otherwise, a relaxing time so far. Jackson and I took a boat ride with my aunt, I sat and chatted in the yard with my grandparents, and now the house is quiet while I consider a nap. I have a day off from workouts today, but tomorrow I'll be on the bike course for a bit after a morning swim on-course.
I feel like a college kid who's finally moving into his dorm or something - it feels so cool to be here, the energy downtown is so cool. This is it guys. This really is it.