Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2013 Race Report: The Swim


As part of the swim-smart initiative, they grouped us in corrals, in groups from sub-60, 1:00-1:15, 1:15-1:30 etc.  I was shooting for somewhere sub-1:15 so I put myself in the 1:00-1:15 group and then put myself somewhere in the center of that pack.  I have no idea if this was a smart idea, but it's what I did.
I was only able to find myself in this picture because I was standing next to
my friend Dimity.  And Dimity is crazy-tall. Just trust me, we're both in there.
They were anticipating that 100 swimmers per minute would enter the water.  And we'd have 17 hrs from the time we stepped over the timing mat to complete the 140.6 miles.  The problem with this (as opposed to traditional mass starts) is that you have NO IDEA when your 17 hrs starts.  I know the first swimmers started at 6:35 AM, but I don't know exactly when my 17 hrs starts.  My work-around was that I would wear my timex digital watch the entire race (so I'd have my Garmin 910 AND my timex for the run - fun!) and I'd hit start on the timer when I crossed over the mat.  *Fingers crossed that no one hit a button on the watch during the swim*

Compared to the IMTX mass start in 2011, this was very anti-climatic.  The cannon went off and people started moving forward, like cattle.  I think I crossed the timing mat somewhere around 6:37(?), I hit my watch and then went into the water, which was a balmy (for CDA) 62 degrees.

The good thing (and I was doubtful this swim start would have anything good about it) was that everyone in my vicinity was roughly the same swim speed.  There wasn't much wrestling.  Sure, a few people (*cough* men *cough*) were assholes and just HAD to swim on top of me or through me or whatever.  But for the most part, it was pretty smooth.  I just focused on keeping my head down and finding feet.  swim, feet, swim, feet, swim.  Do not look up, just swim. 

At the athlete meeting, they said that the yellow and orange buoys were numbered 1 through 9.  Not so much for us as for rescue operations ("rescue at yellow buoy 8").  I thought I would manage to look at the buoys and see the numbers, to tell where I was, but I didn't really manage to do that.  Instead I just kept looking for feet and swimming.

swim start, ala "swim safe initiative"
I've heard horror stories about the turn buoys, how the water gets really choppy (I guess its a windy point with some waves) and how it is just a mass of people.  Maybe I've just swam in worse stuff, but I didn't have any issues and the turn was pretty clean.  I even took the turn pretty narrow and close to the buoys. 

On the way back, I found some feet and just kept looking down and swimming.  Then I realized I was inside the orange buoys.  Oops.  Well, I decided to keep my feet and hang just inside them.  Besides, the water was cleaner here with less people.  And I had good feet! 

We were nearing the shore and things were getting more crowded, but still ok.  My hand hit sand and I stood up, got out of the water, and ran over the timing mat.  I glanced at my watch.  Loop #1 (1.2 miles) was ~35 minutes.  A potental PR.  Sweet!  And on target for a fast swim.

People were taking their sweet time on the beach, rounding the curve and getting back in the water.  I decided to jog (it was a race) and my left foot decided to smack right into some guy's heel.  Or that's what I'm assuming happened.

I got back into the water, knee-deep and I dolphin dove in and went to work finding feet again.  I had a bit of a harder time finding good feet this time around.  They kept disappearing on me (too fast) or people would cut me off and I'd loose the feet.  And my left foot was a bit sore.  I remember thinking "hmm, I think I did something back there on the beach... good thing this water is cold....  oh hey, my foot is numb, sweet!". 

The sun also decided to come out (it was foggy and cloudy at the start), so I had to be selective with what side I breathed on so I didn't get too blinded.  Again, the second loop was no big deal.  I found feet, I lost feet, I sped up to try and keep feet, and I just swam.  I don't think my effort was high - I was on cruise - but I did play with speed a bit out of boredom or to keep my feet.  The turn was again a breeze for me, and then it was time to head home.  
not very crowded at all at the start
The last leg back was a bit more congested.  I kept to the inside of the orange buoys again.  I figured it worked well the first time, why not do it again.  The bad part about this plan is that I was pretty much by myself, so I had no feet.  I eventually worked my way back outside the buoys and near people.  It wasn't until the end of that last stretch that I got any sort of true abuse that resembled an Ironman swim.

I could hear announcers and music, I could see the big red Swim Exit arch and I just focused on heading that way.  Pretty soon, my hand hit sand, and I was on my feet.  I looked at my watch and saw 1:13.  Holy wow, I just cut 7 min off my Ironman swim time.  And I was really close to my "awesome" time goal of 1:12.  This whole thing of finding feet and swimming must really work for me, I swim much faster when I do that.

Then it was a quick run up the beach, where I saw my friend Cristin and crew, where I think I suprised them with my speed.  I yelled I was happy with my time as I passed her.  Funny sidenote, Will and Jose (my sherpas) were really confused over my fast swim time and were trying hard to figure out how I did that.  I'm not sure to be upset in their lack of faith in my swimming or happy that I gave them something to ponder.

After the beach, I grabbed my blue bike bag from the long rows of transitions and trotted to the change tent (again, people were walking.  ugh).  I was lucky and I got a whole human to myself in the change tent.  She emptied my bag and offered me my options.  Sort of like a buffet, but with my stuff.  I opted to wear only my Cool Wings (which SUCK to put on when you're wet).  And I wanted sunscreen on my face.  My human was so awesome, she dried my face with a towel before I applied the sunscreen, to ensure that the sunscreen would stick.  How awesome is that?  Then I was ready to go.  She had me leave my stuff for her to pack and stow away.  I love the change tent volunteers.  So. Much.

Then it was time to find Merlin and go on a little 112 hilly ride.


1.2 mi - 35:41, 1:50/100 m pace
2.4 mi - 37:53, 1:57/100 m pace

Swim overall time - 1:13:34, 1:54/100 m pace
AG: 25 / 112 (SWEET)
OA: 1605 / 2318
T1: 6:42


Anonymous said...

That's such a great swim time! I really hope they opt to do the wave start at more IM events. It sounds nice to not have to deal with everyone all at once!

Change tent volunteers are seriously the BEST.

Erin said...

If/when I volunteer for an IM, I am choosing the change tent option. Its not glamorous but I think its one of the most appreciated (and undervalued) jobs. You really have a chance to impact someone's day.