Ironman North Carolina: Athlete Check-In and Expo

And so it begins: my series of Ironman North Carolina race recaps. I will go ahead and tell you now that there is an embarrassingly high number of five recap posts coming over the next week. I was going to start with the pre-race stuff but considering there were two days of prep and I just don't want to forget any details (as mundane and snooze-inducing as I'm sure they are for others), the pre-race post quickly turned into two posts, one for each pre-race day. And then there are the posts for the race itself (one for each event). And to think, I originally thought I could fit this entire experience into one post!

Athlete Check-In and Expo
I'm not going to lie: I was a sad panda the couple of days leading up to the race. I found out about the shortened course on Tuesday, and when I woke up on Wednesday and Thursday morning it felt like it had been a bad dream, and then it hurt all over again when I remembered it wasn't.

Ben and I got into Wilmington late Wednesday night after our expected 6-hour drive turned into 7.5 hours. The others were already there, so we hung out for a bit before going to bed. We had a slow morning the next morning and headed to Athlete Check-In around 12:30pm. Our coach had come into town en route to IM 70.3 Miami, so he joined us as well.

Packet pickup was super easy and efficient, just like I had experienced at IM 70.3 Atlantic City. Ironman definitely has that process down pat! We received a really nice IMNC backpack as our registration swag. I think the whole pickup + expo experience would have been a lot more exciting for me if I hadn't already seen the M dot bonanza at AC, or if I were actually going to be doing a full race, but given both of those things I just couldn't get super excited.

But first...let my dad make me take a selfie
I really wanted to check out the official IMNC merchandise area - before the short course debacle I was planning on dropping serious money there, then I decided I didn't want to spend a penny, then I came to terms with it and decided that technically I was still going to complete Ironman North Carolina, and therefore I could buy some race gear. I walked into the Ironman store and as I was looking around at everything I suddenly got very sad and teary and I had to hug Ben for a few seconds and cry. I bought a mug and a tshirt at Atlantic City but before that I purposely never bought anything Ironman brand because...well I don't know why, just because. And I felt like I could buy stuff at AC because hey, I did that race and it all said IM 70.3 on it because that's what it was, but I was really looking forward to being able to finally have earned (or have almost earned) a bunch of Ironman stuff. It was something I wanted for a long time and I just felt like oh that's right, I worked so hard to be able to do this thing and even if it's stupid, I feel bad that it's not right or the way it's supposed to be.

After I cried it out I looked around some more and found some tri shorts, a tri top, and a cycling jersey I wanted, but I needed to try it on first and the athlete briefing was about to start and I still wasn't sold on whether or not I should buy it, so I put it back and went to the briefing. The briefing was long but one good thing came out of it: they found 6 more miles for the bike course! Of course, the people doing the half were ecstatic because that meant that they had a full race, and I was honestly a bit bitter and jealous over that (but I really did try to be happy for them and I kind of was). For us it wasn't that great of news, but it was 6 more miles than the 50 we'd been told the day before, so it was something. Oh and another good thing! Ironman will be giving the full participants $150 off a 2017 race. I was already pretty sure I was going to do one next year, but that definitely gave me a little more motivation.

After the athlete briefing I decided to go back to the Ironman store and make my purchases. It still felt weird, but I made sure not to buy anything with the full distance on it because I really didn't want clothes with a distance I didn't actually do. Fortunately, Ironman only really uses distance to distinguish the half from the full (so the half is called Ironman 70.3 and the full is just called Ironman), so all the half merchandise says 70.3 but they rarely use 140.6 or the individual distances in the merch for the full. So, all the full merch said "Ironman North Carolina" and like I said...technically I was competing in Ironman North Carolina so I tried to tell myself it would be fine to buy it. I ended up getting the tri shorts, top, and cycling jersey that all match, an IMNC visor, and a coffee mug (I bought one at AC and Shamrock earlier this year so I'm pretty sure that's going to be my new thing). I also bought 2 tank tops from the Base Salt tent. The great irony is that previously I had wanted to buy a bunch of stuff just for the merchandising but didn't know if I should because I honestly wasn't sure I would need more tri/cycling gear in the I felt iffy about buying it because of the incompleteness of the race but at least I know I'll get good use out of it during future training!

By the time we finished at the expo it was getting close to 4pm and I was getting really hangry. We hadn't eaten since breakfast at around 9 that morning so I'm not sure why everyone gave me such a hard time about that! We decided to go back to Front Street Brewery in downtown Wilmington, which is where we also ate pre-B2B lunch last year. I felt better once I got some food...and beer...and dessert (coach-approved!). By the time we finished eating and were getting ready to head back to the house, it was time for the opening ceremony out on the pier so we went out to watch it for a bit.

Mike Reilly was one of the first speakers and it was awesome listening to him, but it definitely made me (and my dad) emotional! He immediately brought up the shorter course and his advice on how to deal with that was this: "Don't cheat yourself." And he told us he'd still call us all in and call us Ironmen which, as you know by now if you are reading this, I was still having conflicted feelings about. We hadn't originally planned on going to the opening ceremony, but I'm glad we did. I was still feeling pretty emotional and raw about the whole thing, but I was starting to accept the reality of the race I was being given.

On the way back to the house we stopped at Wal-mart for some last-minute race supplies, including a $10 lightweight top for Leah and for me that we could put into our run special needs bags for throwaways (this seemingly insignificant detail will end up playing a bigger role later). When we got back to the house we made dinner and spent the rest of the night decorating and packing our gear and special needs bags to drop them off the next day!


  1. I was so bummed to hear that this race was shortened :( Looking forward to your recaps!

  2. so cool that you got a backpack as the swag! and yay for $150 off a 2017 race!! that is so awesome that they are doing that. i'm glad you ended up buying stuff, like you said, you still did that race and it will so come in handy in training for your next one! i am also so glad you went to the opening ceremony and that Mike Reilly addressed it and i hope it made you feel good about it. i love that you decorate your bags.

  3. I am really loving reading about you embracing the race you got, going to the welcome ceremony and buying some gear. I think you would regret not doing those things later on. And so awesome with Mike Reilly said! I'm glad they found 6 more miles for you and for the half participants!

  4. Yep - a discount for the next year? You gotta do it!

  5. I am so, SO happy that they found a few more miles for you and are giving you a credit to apply to a future race. I was hoping you'd get some good news like that. (So which is it gonna be?!?!)

    You totally earned any merch you wanted since you trained for a 140.6, but I do totally get feeling like anything you wore with 140.6 would have to come with a disclaimer. Luckily IMNC gear was to be found! Because no matter what, you DID do that race!

    Loving those photos of you and your dad. Love that you guys got to have this experience together, for better or for worse, and that you had such an awesome support system there from start to finish.

  6. Oh Trace, I feel your emotion and disappointment. Still so proud of you.

    Also - Love the backpack!! and you EARNED EVERY SINGLE PIECE YOU BOUGHT! Many, many, many people cant do a tri of this level, even with the shortened distance. Said it once, and ill say it again, you are an ironman.