Wednesday, September 27, 2006

IMC 2006 -- The Swim

The alarm went off around 4:00, not that I needed an alarm. I had slept fitfully most of the night. First off, I was afraid I’d miss the alarm and second, it wasn’t my bed. Nerves weren’t as big an issue this year as they were last year. Last year, I couldn’t eat for several days prior to the event and I darn sure didn’t sleep. This year, eating and sleeping weren’t really a problem.

After making some coffee and eating some toast, I realized I’d forgotten my Boost Plus at home. That was something I was going to ingest 30 minutes or so before race start. I would be starting the race out at a calorie deficit. That wasn’t good, but there was nothing I could do about it now.

I quickly ate my breakfast and got dressed, putting my special needs bags into a backpack. I remember all too well what it was like trying to carry the special needs bags by their skinny little plastic handles. They stretch out by the weight of their contents and those skinny little handles bite into your fingers causing pain before they cause numbness. I didn’t want whoever was going to transport my bags this year to experience that.

Feeling ready, I headed out the door. I reminded myself to take it easy getting to the race start. I wasn’t racing yet, I wasn’t late, so I didn’t need to hurry the mile or so to the race site.

Almost on automatic, I dropped off my special needs, got body marked and headed to the transition area. I checked my bike tires and they seemed to be fully inflated. I added my water bottles to my bike and filled my front aerobar water system. Before I realized it, the time had come to put on my wetsuit and head for the start.

On my way, I ran into Kelly Heizenger, an incredibly gifted over-40 athlete, who I am really glad will never catch up to my age group. Finally, after the Canadian national anthem was sung (the refrains of which I would hear in my head THE REST OF THE DAY – and I’m not Canadian!), we moved en masse to the swim start.

As I headed out to the beach, I saw Darcy on the sidelines. She waved excitedly and I smiled back, but in my haste to get in the water, I didn’t stop. I regret that now as she could have taken a picture that may have been only slightly more flattering than the one she did get of my swim exit (I’m astonished she was able to do that much).

I entered the lake and prepared to flood my wetsuit with the cool morning water. This first part is always one of the hardest for me. As soon as I get over the shock of the chill, I’m usually okay, but if I don’t do this first, I’m prone to panic in the first part of the swim. After a few strokes, I felt relatively comfortable and I continued to marvel at how calm I felt. Gone were the butterflies that plagued me last year. While some niggling doubt remained regarding my ability to finish the bike, I was feeling mostly confident.

Back on the beach waiting for the cannon to go off, I saw Seujan. We hugged and chatted briefly, then moved off to find our respective positions in the water. Seujan is a bit of a fish, so she moved closer to the front. I’m not as confident as that, but more confident than I’ve been in years prior, so while I didn’t move to the front of the line, I did manage to position myself somewhat in the middle of the pack. No longer did I feel the need to position myself way off to the side and in the back. I only hoped I wouldn’t get clobbered by anyone as a result of my decision.

Before I knew it, the cannon sounded and everyone surged forwards. It was hard to want to swim right away for three reasons. First, I hadn’t yet reached the official start line (a row of flags hung up over the water, second, I was still only knee deep in water, and last, because no one else started swimming until the water got a little deeper.

As I began swimming, I did my best to find the path of least resistance. That meant I did what I could to not run into other athletes. I don’t know anything about drafting and have yet to practice that particular art form. I wasn’t going to start it now.

One of the first things I noticed, though, was how loose my timing chip strap seemed to feel. Mind you, I have opted for one of those extremely comfortable neoprene straps. If you've never used one, I highly recommend you get one. They are so comfortable you don't even realize it's there, they don’t cut into your ankle like those damned plastic straps can, and they are just nicer looking than the plain velcro straps.

Anyway, during the swim, I was absolutely convinced the damn thing was going to come off and find it’s way to the bottom of the lake, then I’d be on the hook to cough up the dollars for its replacement. As such, I found myself doing very little kicking. Instead, I tried to pretend I had a pull buoy between my knees and I'd lift my hips in an effort to take advantage of the natural buoyancy of the wetsuit.

I managed to stay relatively contact free during the swim except a few times. This can be extemely difficult to do. Ironman Canada is a mass swim start (as are most Ironmans) and not the more civilized wave start of smaller (and usually shorter) triathlons. There was one time, though, when someone was touching my feet so repeatedly that I resorted to kicking very quickly and strongly just to lose them. Geez, but that was annoying. To be honest, though, I was worried that my chip strap was loose and I was afraid they would inadvertantly grab it and I would end up S.O.L.!

I remember NOT looking at my watch. I didn't want to be distracted by how much time had passed, how far I had gone, how much further I had to go, how fast I might or might not be, so through supreme effort on my part, I refrained from looking until I climbed out of the water. When I did, I was both surprised and thrilled. It read 1:33 and change. OMG! When did I get that fast? Of course, the official time was 1:34:44, but that was definitely faster than the 1:42 I did last year. Wooohooo!

I did make one mistake during my swim and that was at the swim exit. I learned early on to swim until my hands touched the bottom. I didn't do that this year and I should have. Since I didn't, I ended up losing some time just because I was fighting water that was hip deep when it should have been no deeper than my knees.

Well, lesson learned, and I headed in to T1...


At 8:38 AM, Blogger Steven uttered...

Nice job on the swim time improvement. I hope to do the same thing at IMC next year.

At 3:45 PM, Blogger backofpack uttered...

Yay! A new post, a new chapter! You rock Susan! I'm so proud of you and your huge, awesome, stupendous,wonderful, amazing accomplishment. You so deserve it after that year of training you put in. You earned it, Ironman!

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Nicole uttered...

I almost gave up watching for the continued report- thanks! It feels like a big movie series and I can't wait for the ending...

At 4:58 PM, Blogger KLN uttered...

More, more, more!

And hey, isn't it time to change your description and some of the intro stuff. No longer the dreamer, but the IRONMAN!

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Jenny Appel uttered...

I love reading about your experience and envisioning it! You rock. The swim portion is rough and I understand about the loose strap feeling! Although shorter races, I try to tuck it under the ankle of my wetsuit just to be sure! Can't wait to read about the bike!


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