IMAZ race report: the swim

Monday, December 08, 2014

The day before the race, Coach Mark and I had a long conversation. He asked me for my exact plans for every leg -- what I'd be eating and when and how much (yes, hot dogs were part of this conversation), where I planned to position myself for the swim, what was in my special needs bags, what my time goals were, what my concerns were, if I had any last-minute questions, etc.

And then he said: "It's Ironman, it's a long day, it's not going to be perfect. Expect three things to go wrong. And remember you're going to have to problem-solve out there. You're going to have to get yourself through."

Race morning dawned. To call it emotional is an understatement. Imagine standing there at the start, saying good-bye and thank you to the people you love (I hugged Layla so tightly and cried) before plunging into a crowd of thousands of strangers in wetsuits, all of you feeling the same thing: This day is the culmination of something you've been waiting for and working toward for so very long. And dear god, you hope you can do it.

I wasn't the only teary-eyed person out there. You hug them, these strangers who know exactly everything in your mind and your heart because they are there too, and you squeeze their hands, and you promise to see each other at the finish line. And then the line of people in wetsuits snakes toward the water and suddenly you are jumping in.

Hitting the water in a group was the scariest part. It was colder than I thought it would be. There was splashing and kicking. And the way IMAZ is set up, you have to swim about 200 meters to the in-water start. But once I started swimming, I felt better, calmer. I stuck to my plan and didn't go all the way up to the starting buoy -- I hung back under one of the bridges and sat on a ledge with a few other athletes. We wanted to let the faster people go first and give ourselves room. We waited for the canon, chatting and encouraging each other.

And then the canon sounded, and the day began.

I waited about a minute to start swimming and stayed toward the back and to the right of the masses. I didn't get kicked in the face and lose my goggles (one of my biggest fears), although there was some leg-grabbing and contact. And at one point, there was a guy with a snorkel who repeatedly swam into me. But otherwise, all went as planned -- no surprises. Water conditions -- even with a bit of chop toward the end -- were easy compared to what I had experienced on my practice swims in Lake Washington.

Before I knew it, the swim was done. The volunteers helped me of the water ...

Wetsuits, always attractive. Not.

... and then they told me to lie down and put my legs in the air (this totally reminded me of a bikini wax, by the way) and then they stripped my wetsuit off, helped me to my feet, shoved the wetsuit into my arms and told me to go.

I'm on the ground next to the tent on the left. Awkward.

And I was off to T1. It was weird to have to find my transition bag and then go into a changing tent (where a bunch of women were totally nude) before I could get to my bike. And then I had to stop at a port-a-potty and pee for like 5 million years because I had issues and couldn't pee in my wetsuit during the swim no matter how hard I tried.

First leg done and so far, no dying or pooping myself.

Swim: 1:53:52 (about 10 minutes slower than I was hoping for)
T1: 11:29 (longest transition I've ever had, quite possibly slower than some airport security lines)

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