Start with the good news, or the bad? The good:
*I finished my swim lessons, and joined U.S. Master's Swimming, which will allow me access to coached group swims as many days per week as I can get myself up in the morning to get to them.
*I got my bike fit and bought aerobars for my bike.
*I made hotel reservations.
*I ordered the rental wetsuit.
*I've done the full Ironman distance swim once and well over the full distance another time, and would have made the time cutoff in both. (That second one was on accident -- I was swimming in a 25-meter pool and didn't realize it was meters, not yards, so I swam an extra 400 yards. Oops. But good to know I could do it without stopping.)
*My running off the bike is pretty good. Even after a very long ride, I can still do around 9:00 pace. I don't know for how long, but I know I can finish the marathon if I make the swim and bike cutoffs.
Now the bad news:
*I still have at best a 50/50 chance of making the cutoff in the swim. The swim cutoff is 2:20, and when I swam the full distance I did it in a pool and didn't stop for anything and finished in 1:54 after my first swim lesson. I should be faster after a month of swim lessons and master's swimming; I should be faster because I'm always faster in the ocean than in the pool; I should be faster because I will be wearing a wetsuit which gives a lot of extra buoyancy. But there are any number of things that could slow me down in the swim. I could panic in the mass start. Unlikely because the swim is self-seeding and I will start in the back, but it's my first open water swim race, so there is an element of the unknown. I could panic in the ocean just because of nerves and because I've never swam that far in the ocean before. Again, unlikely, because I have never even felt close to panicking in the ocean -- I've always felt amazingly at home in the ocean, but there's that unknown factor. I would not do well in a rough ocean if that's the kind of weather we get on race day. I've swam in light chop once and was fine and even kind of enjoyed the "washing machine" feeling, but it threw my pace way off. I could end up swimming a few hundred extra yards due to poor sighting -- totally possible. I'm not good at sighting and haven't been able to practice because of the nasty red tide. All in all, there's a decent chance my race could be over before it's hardly even started.
*I HAVE aerobars; that doesn't mean I can USE aerobars. I tried them for the first time on my almost-100-mile ride last weekend. The best I could do was one arm in one aerobar and the other hand in a drop. Even then, I wobbled all over the place and was very erratic. I have a month to get used to them, and if I can't get used to them, they're not going to help me at all.
*I'm not fast on the bike at all. It's hard to know what my real speed is because everywhere I ride I have to slow or stop for so many street crossings that I always average out to 14-15 mph. On the few rides I've done at 3:00 a.m. with no vehicle traffic and thus no need to slow or stop, I've been comfortably around 17 mph. The bike and the swim (and the transition between the two) have to be completed in under ten hours. Say the swim takes two hours and the transition takes ten minutes. That leaves me 7:50 to do the bike. If I ride at 15 mph, that leaves me with a bike time of about 7:30. Is it doable? Maybe, maybe not. I will probably have to stop to pee at some point. (Some people pee on the bike. I seriously think I would be physically unable to. I may or may not have tried this on some of my long rides.) I will have to stop at aid stations. I'm not good at math, so this trying to predict time is starting to make me insane. Also, if I have any type of mechanical issue, my race is over. There is support for mechanical problems on the bike course, but my margin is going to be so slim that by the time they come up and help me, I would be missing the cutoff. I will not learn to repair my bike myself, so I have accepted that mechanical = out of the race.
*The black demon of Ironman training visited me over the last couple weeks, and I skipped several workouts after not skipping any at all for the first two months. It's the demon I remember from previous attempts at Ironman training. It comes when I realize how much fun I'm NOT having training for this stupid thing, and how many fun things I'm not doing because I'm doing this instead. It was also at least partly due to my new job. I love the new job, but there are so many things I want to do in it that I'm spending a lot more time on work than I used to. Let me be clear that I'm not complaining about the new job! I love it, and wish I could spend even more time on it.
A few days ago I was very seriously contemplating dropping the whole thing. I thought, I'm not ready for this, why not practice swimming for another year, do the 70.3 in Chattanooga in May then the full in Chattanooga in September (down-current river swim!), focus on my job now, do NaNoWriMo in November because I know I won't be able to do it if I miss the first three days of November due to traveling to and starting the race, study Spanish and sit out on the lanai with coffee and read in the mornings instead of doing pre-work workouts? Yeah I know I spent the money, but that money is gone no matter what. I seriously had that conversation with myself and with Will. In the end I decided to try anyway, forget about my skipped workouts (probably not that big a deal considering how overall consistent I've been with my training), and do the best I can. Hey, maybe the stars will align and I will have smooth ocean and no mechanical problems on the bike, and then I won't have to spend the money and subject myself to this torture again next year. And even if I don't make the swim or bike cutoff, I will still have a good story! And next year the story would be "I failed the first time so I came back and tried harder!" And that's always a good story to tell.
So for now I'm going to do it, unless nature saves me by way of causing a red tide bloom at Panama City Beach that causes the swim to be called off. I will remain silent on whether or not I'm hoping that happens.