Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 Race Report - Swim

So here I am, in the water, surrounded by 2200 other athletes with Black Sabbath's Ironman playing over the loud speakers.  No nerves - I'm just PUMPED.  No matter what, by midnight, I WILL be an Ironman.  The gun goes off and its just chaos. 
Craziness up close
With ~75% of the field comprised of men, it was hard to be a girl.  The men had green caps and the women had purple ones.  As much as I liked the purple and appreciated not having the typical hot pink, purple was kind of a dumb color - it did not stand out at all in the water. I'm swimming, trying not to get swept up in the adrenaline, trying not to get swam over by the men, and trying to keep my spirits high.  The swim was a ~1400 meter swim south, then a ~100 meter turn east, then ~1400 min swim back north to the canal, which was ~0.5 miles to the finish.  My plan was to start wide to the right as the buoys snaked around a bit, with the idea to swim to the ~4th buoy and save myself some yardage.

Craziness from far away
The first 1400 meters was sheer insanity.  As I was swimming along, I thought that I could either be really freaked out/angry about all the contact or just laugh about how insane this all was.  I chose to laugh - I mean, who does this sort of crazy thing?  It was also really cool to be one of the purple caps sneaking her way through all the (slow) men .  So yeah, the first part of the swim was brutal but fun.  Tons of people grabbing my ankles - if I didn't safety pin my chip together, I would have lost it with all the grabbing.  Tons of people kept putting their hands in the center of my back and pushing down - ON ME  - to take a stroke.  As a result, without my wetsuit to keep me buoyant, I felt like a fishing bobber.  It took a lot of presence of mind to remain calm with the pushing, but somehow, I did it.  I got 4 elbows to the head - only one really hurt.  And my "worst" contact was a solid kick in the breastbone.  Before the race, I looked at my fingernails, thinking they were a bit long but decided they could make good weapons if needed.  Well, after being kicked, I found that guy's ankle and latched on with those nails.  Who knows if he felt anything but it made me feel MUCH better.  During the whole "out" portion of the swim and the turn, I never found clear water.  Instead of getting frustrated, I just tried to find some feet to draft off of.

The second 1400 meter swim back up to the canal was actually really nice.  I had tons of open water and I felt like I could actually get a good rhythm and focus on form.  I felt GOOD.  I enjoyed being able to swim in my own space because I knew once I hit the canal, things would get tight.  Sighting was never a problem as there were crowds or landmarks that made it pretty easy.  Still, I probably sighted too much (just to avoid people).  I forgot to body glide the back of my neck, and my torque was having a fun little snack back there.  Oh well - hopefully it won't be too bad.

Is this a salmon run or a race?
I made the turn into the canal and immediately it got crowded.  People were swimming all sorts of speeds, some were standing up (even though they warned us that the canal was only 4 ft deep and could have rebar and glass at the bottom!).  I just did the best I could and tried to keep my cool.  As I got closer in, the spectators were out in larger numbers and you could hear them cheering.  I must say, as much as swimming in the muddy, crowded canal sucked, swimming with masses of people on either side of the canal was the COOLEST thing.  Then, our salmon run was done, I saw the last turn buoy and made turn to the ladder and climbed out.  I had no idea what my swim time was  (I didn't find out until after the race) but I felt GOOD. 

unflattering but at least I'm smiling
and don't resemble a swamp
I saw some friends spectating as I ran to get my bike bag and then into the changing tent.  I had heard about volunteers helping you in the tent, but when I got there, they were all busy with other athletes.  No problem, I've done this before and can do it again without help.  The nice part about the Torque was that I had my bike kit on underneath it - so I didn't have to change.  I got my Torque off with only a bit of issue clearing my hips.  Then I must have sat there in a stupor because my T1 time was ridiculous. 

I then made sure to get some sunscreen on, lube up, and put on my Cool Wings (which took a bit of effort since I was wet).  I put on my helmet, grabbed my shoes and looked for my socks.  WHERE ARE MY SOCKS.  I dug through my bag some more.  Then emptied everything on the ground.  No socks.  Crap - I bet I packed them with my running shoes.  I grabbed my nutrition and crammed it in my bike shorts back pocket, then grabbed my bike shoes and headed out of the tent.  Very fortunately for me, a IM staff member let me into the run gear bag area to get my socks.  Thank goodness!  I probably could have biked 112 miles sockless, but I wasn't looking forward to it!  Hooray - my socks were packed in my running shoes so all was well.  I sprayed my (now grassy) feet very thoroughly with TriGlide, put on my socks, put on my shoes and trotted out of the run area.  Nearly twisted an ankle on a crack in the pavement - that would have sucked. 

Where's my bike?

Trotted down the grassy path to my bike.  Again,  was hoping for a volunteer to fetch my bike, but it was so crowded that just wasn't going to happen.  I found my row, found my bike.  Will was there waiting for me, cheering and taking pictures.  He asked how the swim went - according to him I said it sucked.  I remember saying that it went well.  I like my version better. 

Hi Will!  Feeling good!

I started up my garmin grabbed my bike and headed out to the bike start to get rolling along on my favorite bike course.....

ready to ride!

Swim time: 1:21:04  My goal was ~1:20 and with the craziness, I'm SUPER happy with my time.
T1 time: 9:56.  Something tells me having to go to a different transition area to find my socks may have something to do with this ridiculously slow time.

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