Sunday, November 8, 2009

Virtual Spectating for Ironman Florida

My IronFriends Kim, Ingrid and Cassie just before the start. Photo by Nicki DuBose. Nicki posted this picture and "Houston girls are ready for their big day" about 10 minutes before the race started. I loved seeing it!!!

On Saturday 7 of my close friends and a few other acquaintances did IronMan Florida. For anyone who doesn't know an Ironman Triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run!

It was the first Ironman for all 7 friends. I felt terrible because I couldn't go to Florida and spectate in person, but I knew I could at least watch online and follow everyone's progress. I got up at 6:00am and started getting the computer set up. I opened the Ironman live video site and set it up to show up on our TV. Then I opened an Ironman checkpoint athlete tracker window for each of my friends and acquaintances. Carolyn, Vickie, Cindy, and Kenneth all also had GPS tracking systems, so I opened a window to track each of them. I also opened Facebook, the Tri Zones forum, and the Kickrunners tri forum. Yeah, all that stuff was open on my computer all day, 17 hours!, but after just a little while I knew exactly where everything was and I could see how anyone was doing at any time.

I watched the swim start and tried and tried to look for my friends but didn't see any of them. I could see when each person finished the first half of the swim on my checkpoint trackers. And Jeff and I cheered out loud each time someone came out of the water to start loop two. Jeff had to go to work so I was alone to see everyone finish the swim and start the bike. Everyone did so well on the swim, I was especially impressed with Cassie's swim, I couldn't believe how much she's improved since last year! I actually got to see Carolyn come out of transition on the live video- very cool! The bike is where the GPS tracking systems really helped. I didn't get any updates for Cassie, and Kim for the entire 112 mile bike. Nicki posted a picture to facebook of Ingrid on the bike and she looked great! Photo by Nicki DuBose

Because Carolyn, Vickie, Cindy, and Kenneth had the GPS trackers I could see where they were for most of the bike course, they didn't work perfectly but it was SO much better than nothing! Kendra came over shortly after everyone started the bike. We caught Vickie and Kenneth on the live video at one point on the bike. We were constantly switching between all the windows to see updates on everyone. Tracy got a few updates from Tom and we saw those on the Tri Zones forum and Nicki posted more updates on Facebook. I posted updates on facebook for friends who wanted to know how everyone was doing, but didn't have time to dedicate their day to virtual spectating.

Kenneth was off the bike, in a blazing fast time and onto the run first. Ingrid was next also with a blazing fast bike split! Then Cindy came in, Vickie wasn't far behind her and Cassie wasn't far behind her and then came Kim. Carolyn's GPS tracker stopped working so we got a little worried about her, but Tom and crew drove out on the course to look for her and then updated us that she was fine, he fixed the GPS and soon Carolyn was finished too!Carolyn on the bike, photo by Nicki DuBose

It was so fun to know that everyone was finished with 114.4 of their 140.6 miles! Jeff came home from work while everyone was biking. We tried and tried to see our friends running on the live video, but we never did and after just 8 hours they cut to the finish line and never went back out to the run course. We watched Carolyn, Vickie, Cindy, and Kenneth's GPS trackers and watched for checkpoint updates for Ingrid, Cassie, and Kim.

Kenneth was first across the finish line and Jeff decided he was going to take a picture of Kenneth crossing the finish line on our TV, but he just missed him! We saw him on the video/TV but Jeff just didn't have the camera ready yet. We expected him at just over 11:30 and he came in at 11:25! WOW!

So when we knew Ingrid should be coming soon Jeff got the camera ready and I think he sat ready to take the picture for about 30 minutes! but he got a great picture! Ingrid's time was also just amazing at 12:37! We all know she's a machine, but I didn't think she'd do her first Ironman in just over 12 and a half hours! We were all screaming and cheering and I called Ingrid to leave a message to tell her how excited we were for her!!
Next was Cassie and again I was amazed at how much she has sped up since last year! Last year she finished the Longhorn half iron in 8:04 and this year she finished Ironman Florida in 13:56, that's just crazy improvement! Or as David Lynch would say "horrible sickness" We got her name in the picture but missed her face, so sad since she had the biggest smile crossing the finish line!Cassie just after finishing, photo by Nicki DuBose

Kim was next and considering she was finishing law school, studying for and taking the bar exam and training for an ironman this summer, I'm impressed she even made it to the starting line, let alone finished in just over 14 hours! Wow!
Cindy came in just a few minutes later looking great! and wearing her Tri Zones gear!
Vickie came in a few minutes later, it was so much fun to see her finish after training with her and seeing in person how hard she has worked this summer!
Carolyn was expecting to have a long day and there were at least 10 Tri Zoners following her progress when she was on her last loop of the run. When she had less than 1 mile to go our live video feed went out!! The Tri Zones forum and facebook lit up with posts like "OMG the live video just went out!!! Carolyn SLOW DOWN so they can get it fixed before you finish!!" Unfortunately the video never came back but at least Carolyn had the GPS tracker so we knew exactly when she finished and with 30 minutes to spare!

It was so much fun to virtual spectate! The only thing that would have been better was actually being in Florida for everyone. It was so much fun to hear Mike Reilly say "You are an IRONMAN" to my friends!


Richard said...

Wow, Heather, you have set the standard for Ironman spectating! You are a true IronFan!

I caught a good bit of the coverage throughout the day and evening. It was just so inspiring watching all those people go out there and DO IT!

For all those athletes that completed Ironman Florida, all I can say to you is "Wow!" about a dozen times--if not more!

Ingrid said...

I totally agree with Richard about you and Jeff setting a high bar for virtual spectating. I am so grateful to you guys and the Tri Zones crew for the support! Thanks so much!

Cass said...

I JUST read this! Heather, you are awesome! Thank you so much for being there all day. You and Jeff are amazing! I'm so lucky to have you as a friend.