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2009-11-23 10:07 PM


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Subject: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish

Here are the chronicles of a first-time Ironman finisher. Graced with the presence of Vietnamese royalty aboard my Wednesday evening flights to PNS, I knew good fortunes would come my way at IMFL 2009. After uneventful flights, I received my first taste of how royalty drive cars – as though they justifiably own the road, which is basically what royalty does. Our simple rental car – well below royal standards but still top of the line for sleepy panhandle towns – was immediately pushed to its limits as we reached speeds in excess of 100, only to slow to normal speeds as we passed other athletes with bikes on racks. This aggressive road driving would be a harbinger of my own 112 mile jaunt through backwoods Florida.

 

I made plans to link up with royalty on Thursday morning to do a practice 1.2 mile swim. Let me be the first to point out what a sandbagger our royalty is, since my swimming partner with his clavicle injury, seemed to slow his swim times from “not bad” to “satisfactory”. What I could not have practiced anywhere was the buoyancy of the Gulf saltwater combined with the legal advantage of a full wetsuit. My first 400 yards seemed as though I was kicking air, which required a slight modification. Nevertheless, this buoyancy seemed much different than the New England oceans where I trained for 3 practice swims in October.

 

After the swim, I picked up my bike from Tri Bike Transport, a great company that practices one of my mantras of “niche thyself”. They do one thing well – get your expensive bike at a pretty fair cost from your home shop to the site, then back again in reverse. The day’s only bad karma was encountered here by a stereotypical Long Island woman who was audibly upset at the world for what appeared to my trained eye as “the world’s smallest down tube scratch”. She had a horrible case of Tri-paranoia, a disorder that places ordinarily not-to-calm people in the horribly-uncalm category. Her nervousness made the other TBT customers paranoid, so as soon as my pedals were on, I left her, her gnawing accent, her paranoia, and her 99.95% normal bike to continue to argue over something meaningless. My first race-site goal was logged – beat this crazy bird.

 

Ironman Rule #1 – believe in your system – however unorthodox. Due to life commitments, my longest rides consisted of 5 Vietnamese Sunday morning rides ranging in distances of 60 to 100 miles. On my road bike. Days before the TBT pick-up, I was convinced to purchase a much faster and tricked out Felt B2 tri bike with Zipp 404s. I had a grand total of 2 road miles and 1 60-minute trainer session with this machine. I was also upsold real bike shoes that blew away the low-end shoes I used for the 14 months I owned the old bike / old show combo. This meant that the Thursday and Friday 13 mile run-course loops would be the longest I have ever biked on this new combo, but everything seemed fast. This is a risky strategy, but everyone knows, “safe is risky, and risky is safe.” For further proof on this mantra, check out a Cold Stone Creamery one day (risky to open, pricy) vs. a Baskin Robbins (common, cheaper, less of an experience). Who is more profitable? But I digress.

 

Checking in on Thursday afternoon seemed to be the common task everyone did, so the line was full of nervous-energy athletes. Ironman Rule #2 – it pays to be a winner. One way to avoid the 1-hour wait is to know Vietnamese royalty. If you do, then you rate head-of-line privileges, and if you don’t, then you wait in line with the donkeys. For obvious reasons, I cannot mention how I avoided the line, but now you know for future Ironman races that you need to be on the lookout for Vietnamese royals.

 

Once inside the check-in tent, I was instantly transported to the TV set of “Golden Girls”. You could not have found a nicer bunch of older women with the most syrupy-smooth Southern accents. They were adorable and helpful, and I could faintly hear Betty White checking in other participants. Once I received my bracelet, bag full of bags, and other requisite gear, the royal and I decided to create motivational posters that would be eventually placed on the run course at mile 5,8,18, and 21. I chose a simple theme of “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” that would transport any fan, or me, back to the 1980 USA v. CCCP hockey game or the equally-compelling movie - Miracle. I also chose this route since my residence for IMFL was the Summit. It was wonderful, and even better if you like to see foreign dudes in thongs and foreign ladies not in thongs. Since I have no desire to see any dude in a thong, and especially some Brazilian donkey, I used this as IMFL ad hoc goal #2 – beat any foreign male who is wearing a thong on the bike or run course. Goal met.

 

Instead of the (nervous) Thursday dinner, we chose to eat at the highest-end restaurant in town for a quiet meal. Eating good grouper in a party of 5 trumps eating over-rated pasta among a cast of thousands. Ironman rule #3 – avoid nervous people and race your own race.

 

Friday’s tasks were simple: load your morning, bike, run, and special needs bags, drop them off, drop your bike off, and eat a good meal. I was going to swim with the DCTri posse at 0900, but due to security concerns for the royal, I could not find any of them. I instead swam alone, then took my bike / shoe combo out for my 3rd road session on it ever. All seemed well. I then mixed my Perpetuem and froze 2 bottles. I knew there would be no chance of sleeping well, so I went to bed when the “Golden Girls” would be expected to bed down at 8pm. Not with any of these girls, but at a similar time.

 

Race day. This is why a real athlete gets up stupid early to run long distances in frigid DC winters. Or bikes with Vietnamese royals, et al, in humid summers wearing spandex that would be considered gay-ish even by 80s band icons like Flock of Seagulls or Pet Shop Boys. This is why I compete. I ate a banana and Clif bar, drank some water, and got into the zone listening to music that, combined with the race morning vibe, gave me goose bumps. I packed my frozen bottles, all of my bike nutrition, swim gear, and everything else I needed at left at 0520 to get marked. Ironman Rule #3 – there will always be a volunteer who can help you immediately, but she will not be the first girl you see. There was a line 5 deep for the first wave of markers – lined with those not-yet thonged Brazilians – so I found a wonderful volunteer who marked me.

 

Ironman Rule #4 – you can always get to your gear on race morning. I made the brilliant (meaning, risky) decision to purchase a new bike shirt at the IM store on Friday, so I secretly replaced my already-packed bike shirt, with the much newer and faster version. I then loaded up my bike with the bottles and food. I decided to bring the food on race day in the highly-unlikely event that some competitor would steal my gels and powder mixes. This is really a peace of mind maneuver. Waiting in line to pump my tires up, it dawned on my that I have no idea how to pump tires with valve extenders. See rule #1 above. Luckily, the volunteer tightened the valve and I was ready to go. Or not, which leads to Ironman Rule #5 – you will show up stupid early on race day, but you really do not need to do so. At 0540 I was body marked, bike readied, last-minute gear switched, and now I had 70 legitimate minutes to do nothing. Of course, there is no way one could sleep until 0620, eat, drink, do the 10 minutes of bike prep, change into your wetsuit, pack your morning bag, and practice swim for 5 minutes, but that should be a goal. I spent the rest of the early morning walking around alone and concentrating on how I would swim smoothly, bike on my new bike with new shoes and a new shirt, drink often, and plan for reactions.

 

Somewhere in this meandering, I found a set of goggles. I asked around the vicinity whether they belonged to anyone, and found Mike, the voice of Ironman. Just as I was telling him I found them, another competitor nervously approaches Mike that he cannot find his goggles. This leads to Ironman Rule #6 – either do a random act of good karma, or fabricate an act of good karma. Just as this cat is ready to cry, Mike witnesses my giving this donkey new (to him) goggles. I made sure Mike would remember my bib number, “keep it fair” for this random act of kindness, and requested a free pass on a drafting violation – like Rodney Dangerfield did in Caddyshack. I was kidding, unlike Rodney, but that would be a cool concept.

 

Race day sun rises and I put on my wetsuit, shady style, in the hotel’s stairwell. For some reason, there was no authorized place to change, so I changed where other males were. It was not full-on creepy, since I am not Brazilian. As I walked to the beach I linked up with royalty. I witnessed his interview with ESPN (note, not ESPN) as he discussed his swim strategy.

 

Finally, I am now with almost 3000 competitors, hundreds of volunteers, and perhaps thousands of fans on the beach. The atmosphere rivals a traditional sport -  with loud music, noisemakers, signs, and game-day vibes. In triathlon, this is really the only place where a large group of spectators can view every participant at once, especially with such a dramatic Cuisinart start.

 

I take a 5-second practice swim, and stand at attention during the National Anthem. Game-day players make game-day plays, and this is the time to shine. The pros go off, then we have 10 minutes of waiting, stretching, listening to loud music, and getting prepared. Some of the boys near also looked at the one (cute) girl who braved it in a swimsuit. Not a thong, but still. That is hardcore.

 

It is always a challenge to make generalizations, but it is not a stretch to claim that triathletes generally avoid contact. Long runs alone. Long rides alone. It is not as though the urbane triathlete set is the same crowd as aspiring MMA athletes. While I am sure there are others with my training at the starting line, I am very confident in large crowds, which leads to Ironman Rule #7 – enter the water, enter the food chain.

 

I could not be happier mixing it up in the swim – I have been drowned and harassed as part of training before, and this background surprisingly helps – especially around the first turn. For people uncomfortable swimming in crowds, I would find as many aspiring triathletes as possible and spend 10 minutes a week swimming en masse in a lane. If possible, attempt to do this in an open swim. If you are not very comfortable being harassed and getting kicked in the head or having your goggles knocked off, then you will needlessly spend a lot of energy in the water and possibly fail. As someone who has surfed since age 9 and sailed since age 6, I have legitimate credentials to make claims on wind, current, and swell, which leads us to Ironman Rule #8 – Just agree with everybody when they claim it was really choppy with big swells and winds. I read many race reports on how big the surf was during the swim, but the pictures and video of the event seem not to gibe with these claims. Was the surf glassy like Thursday or Friday? No, but if you have not practiced in an ocean, any ocean, then you may end up using more energy than you need. To those whom I kicked and punched, I apologize. It was unintentional. I did say sorry mostly. To that donkey who knocked my goggles off, good on ya. I entered the food chain.

 

As a volunteer last year, this year I vowed to thank everyone and have as much fun as possible. So when I got out on turn 1, all I could do was smile, sip some water, high 5 everyone within distance, and splash people who were just standing there in the water. A lot of controversy has erupted regarding whether one could cut the corner for lap 2, but it really does not matter, in the long run. My advice to future participants is run longer down the beach, so you can splash more people and give them high 5s, then turn in at 90 degrees to begin MMA lap 2. Note that if you really want to mix it up, lap 2 will not be for you as the crowd thins. My advice to future participants is to swim on the inside of every buoy (legal) and swim about 10 yards wide on each of the 2 far buoys (smart). Which leads us to Ironman Rule #9 – every donkey in the water wants to cut the outside buoy so closely that a judge in a kayak could walk on 100 heads, basically standing still. For the urbane set out there, imagine a martini glass where everyone wants that edge. Why? I have no idea, but it took me 5 seconds to realize that swimming at speed around everyone is better than treading water with 100 goons in the shadow of a buoy.

 

Once I got out of the water I was in the “zone”. This meant that I a) questioned aloud why a volunteer would want me to turn around and sit on the ground, and b) was running behind a chubby and hairy man who finished at the same time. Point A is relevant since you will have no idea what the actual mechanics are for getting your wetsuit stripped, and point B is relevant since the only photos of me exiting the water are mostly covered by this goon. Ironman Rule #10 - if possible, give yourself a few seconds of space behind the guy in front of you.

 

My goal for T1 was to set no speed record, but move briskly. My only advice would be that you should swim in your bike gear. The difference between your time naked under a wetsuit (or thonged out, if Brazilian) and in your bike shorts / shirt is negligible. Considerations are valid if you do not want to bike around 0820 – 0845 in wet clothes. Another tip is to use the Vaseline / lube here on your junk – you can never have enough. I opted to get lubed up by the sunscreen girls, since my supple skin would be subject to burning in the Floribama fall sun.

 

Next we get into the most over-hyped part of IMFL – the drafting rule. Were people drafting all over? Probably. Was it avoidable? Not really. Again, the martini glass principle reigns here – there are a lot of riders, and there is not a lot of spacing. Yes, you saw the video (legally?) taken by a competitor this year. Yes, you heard about that Latin girl who drafted every possible rider out there, including me. My advice, do the most legal thing you can do. Also, if you already found some goggles before the swim…

 

Getting back to Ironman Rule #8, just nod violently when people say how windy the race was. When you are on your bike, however, just look at the tips of the pine trees on the side of the road. If they are swaying like an 8th grader at a school dance, then the wind will only affect you mentally. If they are violently bending like you see on the weather channel during a storm, then switch to a less meaty gear and keep on the lookout for that Latin bird. You can check the historical NOAA reports for KPFN, and see the real wind, but here is a differential equation for you:

 

Actual documented wind speed X 3 = the wind you raced in.

 

You already know the tips here: put special chocolates you want as a treat in your special needs bag, complain about that Latin bird, and the other pelotons, eat every banana half you can, marvel at the heavy winds, thank the cops when you pass them on intersections, don’t drink anything you have not practiced drinking before, etc., and do something nice. To that old man who gave me a sip of his Gatorade when he saw mine fall off on the recently-blown apart stretch of road that suffered IED attacks around miles 85-95, thank you. As practice for next year, bike in winds ranging from 0-15 knots. Done.

 

Coming over Alp d’Huez (the bridge at mile 10 or 102), you may need to get off your seat, but this is why you are reading this report – the course is pretty flat. Not pancake flat, since there are some gentle hills, but it’s flat. The rest of the ride you will be anxious to get off. Yes, you will draft and be drafted off on this stretch. Martini glass style.

 

At T2, my goal was a complete clothing change to get into something baggy. I love spandex as much as the hair metal bands do, but running in new gear made a psychological advantage. I again loaded up on lube for my junk, and more sunscreen.

 

Off I go on the run, which leads us to Ironman Rule #11 – run as far as you can for as long as you can, since you will walk. Unless you are someone competing for a physically-large check, you will walk here and there. Whether that is 10 yards during stops, or 6 miles straight, you will walk. Deal with it. Practice this, since on a loop course faster people will be running by you as you walk. This may hurt your psyche. Also, practice speed walking. Remember passing those chubby ladies 1000 times on your runs last year? Good. On a long run next time, walk for 10 minutes. Not like an Olympic walker, but power walking like a Golden Girl would do at the mall.

 

Other run tips include bringing as much lighting as you can carry. Running in the State Park is dark, as this was the only bush league aspect of this race. On my second loop, there is no lighting, and your cheesy glow necklace does nothing. If you are good running on unlit pavement, then you are fine here. Otherwise, have a friend give you a light, or have one in your special needs bag. You would think that for $550, the race would have some cops on OT sitting in cruisers with their high-beam lights on, but perchance next year.

 

Ironman Rule #12 – when you are walking, think about something that will get you running again. This could be something happy, or something that gets you fired up (like that Latin drafter), or whatever. Unless you are injured, or have stopped eating and drinking, you can always jog. What helped me was the posse of 30-40- something housewives in costume at miles 5,8,18, and 21. Yes, I got “whipped” by that girl in a thong (note, female), and yes, that nurse was looking to grab junk. In a sea of pedestrian patrons, those birds stood out and got some boys running. When you jog out of hearing distance from them, refer to Rule #12 to keep you going. Your mind here is the most powerful organ in your body during the run. Your legs have the gas to keep moving, but your mind will make that speed go from 15/mile to 10/mile.

 

As I finished the last mile, I high-5’d everyone willing. The great Chinese philosopher Basho once wrote, “A marathon is 25 miles, the rest is all heart.” If you do not have goose bumps at this point in the race, with 139 miles down, countless head butts, goggle malfunctions, windy miles, that Alp, loops in stupid dark parks, and a whip or two from a still-clinging-on 40-something housewife, then you are wrong. This last mile is the money shot – make it fast. Which leads me to Ironman Rule #13 – if possible, borrow someone’s cell phone and call your loved one to get on the internet to watch/record your finish live. For some strange reason, the company that over-charges on every possible M-dot item known to man does not sell a DVD of you crossing the line. Have someone use a screen capture tool to save this moment, since it is gone. M-dot could sell these DVDs to donkeys like me for $50. Have someone on your inside ready to capture your finish.

 

If I were to do it over again, what would I change? Bricks, bricks, bricks. A minimum amount of rides would be at least 2 100s, with at least 3-10 rides of over 60. Half of those need at least 30-90 minutes of running immediately afterwards. I would also practice my nutrition as soon as you read this – whether you are old school (and free from the course) like salt, water, Gatorade endurance, bananas, and oranges. Or, you may be new school and use Infinit or Hammer Perpetuem, or the like. I dialed my nutrition 2 weeks before the race, and more practice would have helped.

 

Swim in a painfully-cramped setting for a while as noted above. Practice mall walks with the Golden Girls. Lube your junk. Watch the girl with the whips. Check out the kid in the sombrero. Use the stench of the portapottys as motivation to get you running again. Smile when you are out of the water. Thank every volunteer you see. High 5 people. If it is raining outside and you have an excuse not to bike or run, know that someone out there, your future competitor, is not going to blow it off. Stick to a plan. Know that if you do half of your planned sessions, you will beat some donkeys. Know that there are thousands of people out there who think they know you better than you. They do not. You know you. Race your own race. Find a plan and stick to it. On game day I guarantee you will have goose bumps under your wetsuit. This adrenaline sticks with you every time some random fan clangs a cow bell or cheers you on by your name on your bib or your number. Whatever cards you are dealt, deal with them. Flats can be fixed. Cramps can be walked off. Your mind is more powerful than you think. Before your next long run, write on your forearm, “I will finish my Ironman.” Stare at this poor-man’s tattoo often. You will finish your Ironman. Good luck and good on ya.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



2009-11-23 10:45 PM
in reply to: #2528349

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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
If there was a "best of" on this site for posts, I'd nominate this post. Highly entertaining and great advice. Thanks for sharing!!

2009-11-24 5:03 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Absolutely Brilliant!  Congrats on your race and thanks for the write-up.
2009-11-24 7:34 AM
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Master
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Well done, absolutely well done!!!
2009-11-24 8:06 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
why is everyone a "donkey"?
2009-11-24 8:12 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
I rrrrrrrrrrrruv it!

Congratulations, Ironman!!! And welcome to BT.


2009-11-24 9:17 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
That's the best written post I've seen yet. Someone should give you an award or a get-out-of-drafting-free card.

Can't wait to see sombrero kid at IMFL 2010.
2009-11-24 10:49 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Great post and good info.  While I won't be in FL, I'll be sure to look for the characters in KY.
2009-11-24 12:08 PM
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Champion
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Hilariously well written.

My favorite part is where you call everyone out about the wind and waves...I believe your wind equation is quite accurate.
2009-11-24 12:21 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish

Wonderful post.

2009-11-24 6:50 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Nice! If you can introduce me to any royalty doing Wisconsin next year let me know.


2009-11-24 8:06 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
I nominate this as post of the year for 2009!
2009-11-24 9:20 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
awesome post
2009-11-24 10:10 PM
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Master
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
That was AWESOME.

Love the Donkeys. And x2 on lube your junk.
2009-11-27 9:29 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Best.Post.Evar!

I bookmarked this to go back and read as I train for IMFL (my first!). It scared me (the swim) and made me motivated.

Thanks for sharing and I am off to lube my junk (TMI?)
2009-11-28 1:43 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Simply awesome!! I am stashing this gem away for when I am ready to go Iron........

WElcome to BT !
Keep the posts coming! I am sure I am not the only one who wants to continue to read............


2009-11-28 7:18 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish

ShawnFromNorfolk - 2009-11-24 8:06 AM why is everyone a "donkey"?

Well, I've got to ask - what's wrong with being a donkey, eh??

2009-11-28 10:35 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Great post. As a Lou IM volunteer, I can concur.
2009-12-04 10:05 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Wonderfully concise, funny, and accurate.  Fabulous! 
Thanks

Congratulations Iron Man.

Oh, if you don't know Vietnamese Royalty, just follow BT the week of the race, the experienced folks know when the lines are short.  And someone is always watching. 
2011-10-26 9:47 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish

IM Florida, you are on deck. Good luck to those who are competing, volunteering, cheering, and whipping. I can't hardly wait to hear about your Ironman rules to bliss.

My 14th rule? DO accept a shot of beer / whisky from the milfs cheering at mile 21. Why not? It makes them happy and those last 5 miles are when you shine. You have a long time to rest afterwards, and there is no RUI / RWI violations on a closed course.

2011-10-27 12:55 AM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
The forum needs a "like" button like on Facebook so the hundreds of people who enjoy a post like this can just click...
LIKE


2011-10-30 8:48 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
This was just awesome!
2011-10-30 9:33 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
This was a great post from 2009 and holds true now and will forever.
2011-10-31 9:48 PM
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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Headed to AZ not FLA but so glad to find this .was just what I needed tonight -3 wks out-Great post.
2021-09-30 9:34 AM
in reply to: isis


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Subject: RE: 13 Ironman Rules to your blissful finish
Greetings Ironpeople. I have been out of the game for a while, but for those who are going to IMFL soon, I wish you calm winds and lubed junk.
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