(Continued from IMLP: The Beginning)
Ironman tried something new with Lake Placid this year – the rolling swim start. Instead of everyone sprinting into the water at the same time, they provided signs with pace groups and had everyone start over a span of about 15 minutes. I tried to get closer to the front of the 1 hour 30 minute corral, but because there were so many people, I ended up more toward the 1 hour 45 minute group.
As I finally got to the water’s edge, I walked into Mirror Lake; suddenly super aware that this was happening. I was officially competing in an Ironman.
Swimming has never been my favorite sport. I can get on board with a leisurely swim that involves being on a boat with friends and cocktails, but I wasn’t particularly excited to start swim training last year. I just didn’t know what I was doing. In my first sprint triathlon, my pace was about 3:05/100m…for a 400m race. Not only could I not sight well, but I was too nervous to breathe correctly and spent more time doggy-paddling and trying to navigate than actually swimming. At that point, I wondered how I would ever make a 2 hour and 20 minute Ironman swim cutoff.
A year later, I found myself actually excited about the swim portion of the race. I’ve come to love swimming…(I know…WHAT?!?!) Well, let me rephrase that. I love open water swimming. Okay, open water swimming in races. It’s so much more fun. The pool is okay, just a little monotonous and time-consuming.
When I got in the water, I immediately bee-lined for “the line”…the underwater buoy line that all IMLP participants dream of finding, because it follows the exact course. If you find the line , you’re golden. You don’t really have to sight at all. Being someone who goes off course in approximately 30 seconds, I NEEDED the line. At first I wasn’t sure if it would be worth battling for, but my swim coach said it definitely would be. Her other words of advice? “Hold your line. Don’t lose it.”
And I did just that. I went straight to the first buoy, found the line immediately, and fought like hell to stay on it. I definitely got kicked a little but nothing too terrible. I threw my forearm out to block any incoming punches from crazy kickers. (I don’t use my legs at all during the swim – not until the last 100 meters or so – but some people are ALL leg. The pattern tends to be unpredictable, not just little kicks, and drives me crazy. SIGH. The perils of raceday!) I found that I kept swimming up on people and having to go around them, which I thought was strange and frustrating. I figured I must have just gotten in the totally wrong swim wave.
Since I held my spot on the line, I was able to swim on a perfectly straight course. The buoys were numbered 1 through 9 on the way out and the way back, so I focused on getting to the next buoy; sighting only occasionally to go around people. When I reached the turnaround point of the first loop, I looked at my watch for the first time. I did a double-take…20 minutes? Was I really going that much faster than my expected pace? I got a huge boost of confidence seeing that time, especially since I felt totally energized. For a second I wondered whether I should pull back the reins (I did have another loop, then a little bike ride and run, after all) but pushed those thoughts aside. Maybe not the best idea, but ohhhh well!
I finished the first loop, got out of water, and ran back around the dock and started my second loop in about 10 seconds.
Again, I found the line and dodged some kicking and punching. I kept repeating a quote Abby gave me on Saturday: “head down, wings out, throw elbows.” Perfect for this situation. I swear, I tried really hard not to hit anyone; it was never purposeful. But at one point, when I was trying to propel myself around someone else, I accidentally kicked the person behind me so hard I thought I had broken my pinky toe. I felt SO. BAD. And it seriously hurt. I was imagining it getting so swollen that I couldn’t run and had a minor freak-out moment, but eventually the pain subsided and I forgot all about it. I was still focused on swimming around people and hey, I had a bike to get to!
Time passed so quickly because I focused solely on each loop independently. Not once did I think…”OMG I HAVE SO MUCH FURTHER TO GO.” On the first loop, I only thought…”Only X buoys to go until I’m back on shore for a second and can hear the crowds again!” And then, on the next loop, “Only x buoys to go until I’m done with the first event and on to the bike!”
I felt so strong and was pleasantly surprised with my swim time. I completed loop one in 41:50, translating to about a 2:09/100m pace. Loop two took me 42:49. HUGE improvement from my first tri!
A Goal: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Actual Time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
I ran out of the water with a pep in my step, sat down in front of two wetsuit strippers who pulled my wetsuit off in 5 seconds (oh, sorry, PEELER is the new name for them) and ran smiling into transition, waving excitedly to my Dad, a friend who was volunteering, and some of my coaches. I grabbed my bike gear bag and went into the craziness that was the change tent. SO MANY PEOPLE! A volunteer helped me get organized, put sunscreen on my back, and put everything else away for me. I buckled my helmet, ran back outside to grab my bike from a volunteer who had it waiting for me, and crossed the bike mount line; suddenly zooming down the first short and steep hill out of transition. The day was only just beginning, but already it was off to a fantastic start.
And just like that…Penelope and I were off to ride 112 miles through the Adirondacks.
Click here for IMLP: The Bike