This is my second post of what will be a four-part series. In case you missed it, I started the series yesterday with a post about my pre-race thoughts and activities:
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After setting up my bike gear, filling my water bottles, and making sure everything was set in transition, I had about an hour left until the race started. I decided to go for a little 10-minute shake-out run mostly just to calm my nerves. I had done this before my Ironman 70.3, and it really seemed to help me then. I finished jogging, hit up the port-a-potty one last time, got into my wet suit and headed down with the other athletes to do a warm-up swim. It was a pretty humid morning, so I decided to wear my sleeveless suit. This suit gives me more range of motion in my shoulders, which I thought might help prevent my sore shoulder from getting too tight. John and I always walk down to the swim start together, and I wanted to keep that the same for this race even though my family was there, too. I think they got the hint because they just followed along behind us. During this time, John reviewed my race plan and strategy with me. He also encouraged me to remember how prepared I was and told me not worry. This always calms me down, so by the time we got down to the water, I was feeling a little better.
THEN, I saw how foggy the sky was and realized I couldn’t even see the whole swim course. Clearly I looked worried because a friend who I had met the day before (Eddie) came up to me and immediately started encouraging me and trying to cheer me up. Somehow he knew just want I needed to hear. He calmed me down, told me to just relax on the swim and follow the swimmers ahead of me. He then walked down to the water with me, explained the layout of the course to me and then talked with me until we had to lineup for the start.
I felt very calm during my practice swim and was beginning to feel like maybe I could do this race! I got out of the water, lined up at the front of the girls (the guys started first). Since the race officials had moved the swim to a more enclosed area, we couldn’t do a mass start, so we went two at a time every 3 seconds. While I waited for my turn, I relaxed by talking with other girls and singing along with the music playing on the loudspeakers. Finally I got to the front of the line, and just like that, I was off!
As soon as I hit the water, I felt completely at ease. My stroke was relaxed and smooth, my breathing was easy, and the fog had lifted just enough to be able to see the first buoy. Initially there were a few people thrashing around me, but there was very minimal congestion. After we passed the first buoy, we headed into a canal area where we swam around an island. I LOVED this section! The water was so smooth, and we really didn’t have to site because it was narrow enough that you could estimate how straight you were going by looking at the shore on either side with each breath. Oddly, this was also the section where, I later found out, there were snakes swimming with us!!!!!! Let me tell you, I SURE am glad I didn’t find out that information until AFTER the race was over!
Once we made our way through the canal, we had to swim around the back side of the island. This area was much more open, and a little choppy from the wind. I handled it well though and never once swallowed any water or missed a breath. This section was also nice because there were 4 buoys all in a straight line, so it was easy to see where to go. At the last buoy, we turned left and headed back into the marina. This was a very wide open area and wasn’t clearly marked, so I struggled after turning the corner to figure out where I should head next. When I sighted, I could see swim caps spread ALL across the water. I wanted to make sure I went in a straight line, so I sighted again and finally spotted the canal area which would take me around the island again for the second lap.
As relaxed as I was on the first lap through, I was even MORE comfortable the second time through! I picked up my pace a little bit and tried to pull harder with my strokes. The wind had picked up, so the open area on the backside of the island was more challenging, but still not a big deal. I rounded the last bend and once again when I sighted, I could NOT find the arch we were supposed to swim toward for the finish. This was partly due to the poor visibility, but also partly an issue of the course layout–they didn’t have any buoys marking this area, so it was a challenge to spot the finish from 500+ meters away. I actually had to stop swimming for several seconds before I finally noticed the arch off in the distance. I wasn’t too bothered by this though because I saw several people swimming in the wrong direction while I stopped to figure things out. I got going again and began making my final push to the finish. It seemed to take forever, and I was fatigued at this point, but I finished the 2.4 miles in 1:14! My goal was 1:20, so I was quite pleased with myself, especially since I hadn’t seen the course at all before swimming it!
Since they had moved the swim a half mile from the transition site, they allowed us to bring shoes down to the water’s edge and wear those to run back up to transition. I quickly took my cap and goggles off, slipped on my shoes, unzipped the top half of my wet suit, and started off running to the transition area. Most people complained about this run since it added distance to our race. However, I saw it as an advantage. The run is my strong point, so I actually passed about 10 people on my way into transition! This run also gave me a chance to re-focus and begin to think about the bike ride.
Once inside transition, I had two volunteers helping me with my gear. One stripped off my wetsuit for me while the other dumped out my swim-to-bike transition bag and asked me what things I needed. They then sprayed me with sunscreen, dried off my feet and took all my swim stuff and put them back in my bag for me! They were so nice!! I quickly ran over to my bike while I shoved a Hammer bar down my throat. I took a gulp of my Perpetuem from my bike water bottle, put my bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses on, and started running my bike out of transition. “Here we go!” I thought, “I’m actually doing this!”
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Next Post: The Ride