Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ironman Arizona Race Report: The Swim

The Swim...the discipline that scares me the least, the distance I was least concerned about, my strength.  All that being said, I was still pretty nervous about the mass start.  My Dad kept reminding me that I played water polo (both in HS and college) and it was likely I had already been through far worse conditions.  While that did ease my mind a little, it was still scary to think about starting a very long day in a mad house of people where just fighting to swim might be exhausting. 
Getting ready at the rental house, gotta keep my feet warm

As I donned my wetsuit in the early morning hours, the only thing going through my head was the bike cutoff times, I wasn’t at all worried the swim cutoff time, my worst case scenario swim was 1:45, which still would have left me plenty of time to meet the 2:20 cutoff.

Hug from my sister in law

transition area

Rocking the R getting my wetsuit on

I said goodbye to my family and headed toward the water with tears stinging my eyes as my nerves got the best of me.  Once at the edge of the water, I told myself to suck it up and that no matter how hard the swim start was, swimming is what I love to do and that I would be totally fine. 

Mike Reilly counted us down and the cannon blew.  In my head I was reciting a water polo cheer that my Dad had reminded me of which ended, “let’s get ugly.”  It was time to get ugly and fight for my spot in the masses.  The first 5 minutes were pretty terrifying but for the most part people weren’t actually that horrible.  

 video of the swim start with some commentary from the fam

Mass start headed away from Mill Ave Bridge

I definitely got trampled and I think I probably started too far back but after about 5 minutes I was able to put my face in the water and swam.  In doing so, I moved closer to the center line and found that a much more pleasant place to be.  I tried to find a big dude swimming my pace to draft off of but it turns out, most people really suck at swimming in straight lines.  I spent most of the time to the turnaround weaving in and around people, constantly passing and being passed.

At the turnaround, it turned again into a giant washing machine but nothing like the start had been but through the two left turns I was basically head up swimming.  I glanced at my watch and saw 36 minutes, well within my swimming ability and on pace to finish under my 1:30 goal. 

On the way back, it seemed almost more crowded which was annoying.  But as I settled into my pace I just focused on swimming steady.  I definitely did not push the swim, knowing that it was going to be a very long day.  The Mill Avenue bridge got closer and closer and I knew I was going to finish the swim.

Sleeveless swimmer sighting

Face in the water

As I made the final turn toward the stairs, I started thinking about the bike.  Of course that made me nervous but I tried to ease my mind and focus on taking long strokes through the water and to soak up what was left of the swim.  As I approached the stairs, I think Jen already said it best, it was kinda like plinko, everyone funneling trying to find an open spot.  I found my spot and put my butt up on the first step and a volunteer helped me get on my feet.  As I made my way up the stairs I heard Mike Reilly call my name for the first time as I exited toward the wetsuit strippers.

I was a little disoriented coming out of the water, which is normal for me, and as I jogged through to the strippers, one volunteered pointed to me and I laid down and off my wetsuit came and up on my feet I was and on my way to the change tents.

Running through the chute to bags

Rockin the R proudly!

I knew exactly where my bag was so I grabbed it, luckily a great location close to the change tents.  I plopped my stuff outside a porto and took the opportunity to pee before getting on the bike course—definitely a good move.  No lines at the portos by the change tents and probably saved a stop on the bike course. As I got into the change tent, it was a mad house.  I found a chair and dumped out my bag, no volunteers to be found.  Totally fine as I wasn’t changing and all I had to do was put on my HR strap, socks, shoes, gloves, helmet, sunglasses.  The girl next me was struggling to get her tri top on as it was all crinkled and stuck so I helped her wished her luck and left the tent.  A volunteer lathered sunscreen on me and took my bag at the exit.  I made my way down the racks of bikes and found Luc.  At this point I stopped jogging and made my way to the mount line full of nerves about the bike course. I saw my family as I exited the chute and was on my way out to the roads.

Getting Luc from his rack


Nervous smile for the family

I suppose I should mention the water conditions for those that may be reading this considering doing this race.  For me the water was ideal.  It was 64 on race morning which made it chilly getting in but perfect temp for swimming.  I wore my sleeveless wetsuit and was never cold.  There were plenty of people in full sleeved wetsuits and booties…I would have been way too warm.  Also, folks with booties, those things are super scratchy and really aren’t pleasant to be kicked with, FYI.  No current to speak of though I do think the in-water mass start lent itself to a bit of a self propelled current which was nice.

Overall the swim went great.  I think I’m capable of a faster swim time, I did the 2.4 in the pool several times all around 1:13- 1:15, BUT I am very happy with my time.

Swim time: 1:20:39

T1: 9:23

My awesome support crew