Monday, November 16, 2009

IMFL – The Swim

I got a great night’s sleep the night before the race and woke up feeling rested and ready to race. I started the day with 2 packets of maple flavored Quaker instant oatmeal with cinnamon sugar and managed to eat two-thirds of it. Then it was off to body marking, dropping of my bike nutrition and my Special Needs bags before heading down to the beach for the swim start. I even volunteered to take someone else’s Special Needs bags (he was waiting in the long porta potty line) to the drop off area – nothing like starting the day off with some good karma!

At Body Marking
I ran into several people race morning, including IronBob, Raymund, Kimberly and Augie. It was great to see familiar faces and share in the pre-race excitement.

After getting everything situated, I put on my Body Glide and sunscreen before putting on my wetsuit. It was giving me a hard time, but I finally got comfortable with a little help from Douglas. Then it was down to the beach to prepare for the swim start. I was surprised at how calm I was as we took a couple of photos and as I made my way to the athlete corral. There was a lot of nervous energy on the beach and I kept waiting for it to hit me, but as I stood there all I felt was ready.

In Athlete Area
Waiting for the Swim Start
We listened to the National Anthem, I ate 3 cola flavored Clif Blocks and I got one more good luck kiss from Douglas before the cannon fired and the race clock started. I lined up on the far right of the beach and swam diagonally towards the last buoy. This definitely added to my swim time, but I was happy to not be fighting with other racers for space in the water. It was also nice that there were still enough other people who also took this path that I never felt alone (imagine that with 2500 other athletes in the water!).

National Anthem

Pro Swim Start

Age Group Swim Start
I'm on the far right
This is what 2500 people swimming in the Gulf looks like
The first lap of the swim felt awesome! I kept thinking to myself, “You are doing an Ironman today!” … and it was not in an oh crap! voice but in a giddy school girl, excited voice. I was shocked when I reached the first turn buoy and managed to avoid the cluster that invariably occurs there. Before I knew it I had made the turn to head back to the beach. I felt like a rock star in the water!

It is no secret that I am not the best swimmer out there and I was apprehensive about swimming in the Gulf, but I was actually really enjoying myself! The water was beautiful and clear and I even saw a school of fish before I hit the last sand bar. When I hit the beach I saw Douglas screaming for me and holding a sign that said, “Just Keep Swimming”, which of course made me smile from ear to ear. Unfortunately, the end of the first loop also marked the end of the feeling good in the water sensation.

Exiting the water after the 1st loop

Everything the first lap was, the second lap was NOT. It seemed to take forever to move down the beach to get back into the water to start the second lap and start swimming again. I was happy for the opportunity to have some water in between laps, but I had not swallowed much salt water at that point, so it was really just to rinse out my mouth. The racers in front of me seemed to be taking their sweet time to move along the beach and I felt like a sardine in a school of fish, stuck and not able to break away. I was frustrated because I felt like I was losing precious minutes. I took a more direct line along the buoys for the second loop, hoping that the fasties would be gone and that there would be fewer people in the water to wrestle with. There was more contact on the second loop, but nothing traumatic.

The big issue on the second loop was the surf and chop that had come in and I felt like I was swimming in a choppy Endless Pool. So, not only was I starting to swallow more salt water but I felt like I was making zero forward progress towards the buoys. I kept my spirits up though and tackled the buoys one at a time because it was very important to me to enjoy every moment of my day.

Sure enough, I slowly but surely passed each buoy and before I knew it I was on the beach. I started removing my wetsuit and running up the ramp to the transition area. The ramp was crowded with people on both sides and I was almost overwhelmed by the mass of people and the noise … so much so, that I nearly missed the wetsuit strippers. Thankfully, they found me and had me lie down to remove my suit. It was definitely organized chaos. They had my suit off in no time and I was off to T1.

Swim Lap 1: 42:19
Swim Lap 2: 44:51
Total Swim Time: 1:27:09

Our transition bags were laid out by number and I was told to scream my number out as I approached, but there were so many racers that the volunteers were too busy to help everyone. I finally made eye contact with a volunteer in the right area and got my bag. Then it was off to the super packed changing tents.

Volunteers searching for T1 Bags
The tents were standing room only and had it not been for a volunteer who saw my overwhelmed look as I was searching for a place to sit and asked what she could do to help, I probably would have gotten frustrated. Thankfully, Kathy from BT (although I didn’t know it at the time), helped me into my arm warmers and handed me the rest of my gear while also packing up my swim gear. I was so thankful for her help!

My T1 time was pretty long for me, considering I did not change clothes, but I am not sure what I could have done differently, given the crowding and the long run from the beach into transition.
After leaving the changing tents, I had to run all the way to the back of the transition area, only to turn around again, grab my bike from the waiting volunteer (that part was super cool!) before heading to the bike out exit.

My bike rack with volunteer at the ready ...T1: 8:46

And just like that, the swim was done and I was off for a little bike ride …


Joel said...

Anne - you weren't kidding when you wrote on my race report that your swim sounded like my swim! Almost carbon copies!

The "Just Keep Swimming" sign must have been great to see. It's funny, but for the 2nd lap, I kept doing my best Dory impression as I sung that song in my head. :-)

Trishie said...

I've heard from a lot of people that the second loop was ROUGH! looking forward to the bike report :)


12:40 on my T1. I KNEW I should have run into the Woman's change area!!!

Kristin said...

How great that Kathy was your volunteer in T1! Nice swim report.

Erin said...

Now you have no excuse but to swim in my lane all winter long.... *evil laugh* You really are faster than you think. Sounds like you stuck to plan and had a great swim. :)