Ironman Boulder – Race Report pt 1 of 5 (Swim Thru T1)   4 comments

I hope y’all are prepared for a novel, because a journey like Ironman doesn’t easily get condensed. And it was a journey, with epic highs and epic lows. So, here you go for the good, the bad, and the very ugly.

The morning started early: 3:15 AM. Yup, you read that right. 3:15. In case you’re wondering, that’s really fucking early. I did what I do for all races and had everything laid out the night before. It helps to not have to think too much that early in the morning, because thinking just hurts at 3:15. The apartment that I was staying in was about a 15 minute walk to the high school where I needed to pick up the shuttle that would take me out to the Boulder Reservoir (the Rez), so I wanted to be out the door no later than 4. Walking to the high school, I had my first real jitters about the race. The funny thing was that my jitters were related to the wisdom of walking to the race site. Maybe I should call an Uber for the 0.9 mile walk… I mean, I really should save my legs, right? I did not Uber it… I didn’t have my phone with me, or I might have. OH! Speaking of not having my phone, let me tell you. It’s super surreal to be walking down the street, middle of the night, getting ready to embark on the longest race of my life, without anyone with me or no phone or anything. I had arranged for my Sherpa to take care of everything at the end of the race, and without my phone, I just had to have faith that this was all going to happen. But I had a glimmer of a thought that this was probably the stupidest thing a person could ever embark on.

I get to the high school, hop on a bus, and head to the Rez. On the way, people are chattering a little, but I was kinda out of it. I just realized that I forgot my coffee (WAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!) Sitting there, bumping along, I hear the two women who are sitting right next to me saying something about “I think I met her at the Real Ale Ride” which is a charity ride just outside of Austin. So, being the shy wallflower that I am, I lean over and say, “OH! You must be from Central Texas!” Turns out, they were from Austin, and they were looking at MY Facebook page because a mutual friend had tagged us wishing us luck. Did I mention that this day was really surreal? How fucked up is it that I’m sitting on a bus, almost 1000 miles away from home, and I just *happen* to be sitting next to 2 ladies from Austin who were Facebook stalking me. Fucking weird. Anyway, I had met one of the ladies, Vegas, at the Red Poppy Ride (not Real Ale). So strange! Getting to the Rez takes about 15 minutes, and then *poof* you’re dropped off in the hullabaloo of Race Day. I bid the other Austinites adieu, fill my water bottles on the bike, make sure that all of my nutrition is there, fill my morning water bottle, check on my transition bag, and just kind of mill about. The electricity in the air is palpable. Athletes are a little dazed, support teams were chattering, people were putting their wetsuits on… I just kind of walked around like, “well shit. I don’t know what to do with myself right now.” I begged a cup of coffee off the woman at the volunteer tent (precious, precious coffee, even though it was sludge) and went and sat down under the lights in the grass. I ran into someone that I know through a Facebook group for Athena triathletes and chatted with her and her husband (who was doing the race) a bit. Then, all of a sudden, it was time to get the wetsuit on and head to the beginning of the race. Wait, what?? HOW THE FUCK IS IT ALREADY TIME TO GO???? Didn’t I still have 6 months before doing my Ironman or something? I swear, time ROCKETED forward to that point. And at that point, my heart practically stopped. What the FUCK was I doing?

I get to the start chute, and am standing there freaking the fuck out because this shit is just CRAZY, when I catch a glimpse of the mountains. It had been foggy and misty all morning, but the fog was breaking and the sun was rising, and the mountains rose from the horizon in pure majesty. It was like a dream, and reinforced the feeling that this was not really happening, but that I was – in all actuality – in a dream and just imagining that I was about to do an Ironman. The mountains were purple and peach, and rose from the bottom fog then jutted up into the clouds. you couldn’t see the top or the bottom, just this strange middle stripe that was illuminated by a sun that we couldn’t see because the clouds over us were still too thick. Just another image of the morning that made it all so damned surreal. I chatted with a woman next to me from Panama, and ran into another woman I know from social media. She was kind enough to remind me that I needed to pull up my wetsuit before getting into the water (thanks, Amy!! That would have SUCKED). The national anthem was sung by a lovely tenor, and the starting horn went off. And that’s how it started. The longest day of my life just… Surreally started.

THE SWIM

Many of you who will read this already know the immediate back story to this race. But a quick synopsis for anyone who doesn’t know me. I had shoulder surgery in November and have spent MONTHS rehabbing that bitchy thing so that I could successfully complete this swim. Shockingly, my shoulder was NOT my biggest physical concern about this race this morning. It was my calf that had been acting up recently (more on that later), and I didn’t even really THINK about my shoulder that morning. If that’s not a testament to the surgeon and physical therapist that I spent all winter and spring working with, I don’t know what is. Anyway, Ironman has changed its starting format from a mass start to a rolling time trial start. Instead of 2500 of your closest friends all jumping into the water at the same time and then attempting to occupy the same water space while flailing and kicking, you go in a few at a time in more of a trickle of athletes. It’s still a washing machine, but it’s on delicate cycle instead of super mega wash. Other than that, the water was magnificently calm. It was like swimming in a giant, murky pool that had some water grass in it. I had expected to take about 1:45 for the 2.4-mile swim, so I seeded myself toward the back of the 1:30-1:45 wave. As soon as I got into the water, I found my rhythm and realized that I might have seeded myself poorly. I was passing people! Right and left! Passing passing passing! I started slow, let myself warm up, and just swam. For a long time. Every time I passed a buoy, I’d spot the next one and just swim for that. The thing about 2.4 mile swim is that it’s like eating an elephant: one bite at a time. I’d pass someone. Someone else would pass me, and we all just swam. I swam by one dude who was wearing a stars and stripes speedo. I swam through some weird water grass that made me so thankful that I have swum through miles and miles and miles of hydrilla (look it up. It’s sooooooooooo scary to swim through!) I turned past the first turn marker, and kept going. The buoys changed from yellow to orange, which marks the halfway point, and I kept going. I just swam. And it was oddly comfortable. I started feeling a little chafing on the back of my neck, and my shoulder got a little sore, but I kept going. Turning the second turn, I felt pretty strong. Then, some jerk face decided that he was going to try to take up the same space I was and started swimming over me. I tried to get away from him, I swung out from the main path, I swung inside the buoy, but I couldn’t shake him. It’s like it had become his personal goal to frustrate the shit out of me by not passing me or letting me pass him. (I’m sure this was all accidental, we were all already pretty stupid by this point in the race.) I finally get a surge of energy and break away from him and find my own little pocket of open water again. As I start to get closer to shore, I can hear the loudspeaker announcing… Something. I didn’t know what (I’d figure out later that it was just names of people coming out of the water). But it sounded a lot like the Peanuts teacher, and made me laugh. Don’t ever try to laugh when you are about 2 miles into a swim and you’re still IN THE FUCKING WATER. It doesn’t work, and kinda makes you feel like you’re drowning for a second. But just for a second. The shore gets closer, and I realize that I just did a really strong swim portion of this race! At that point, I was like, “HELL YES< I AM TOTALLY DOING THIS AGAIN! I FUCKING LOVE THIS!!!!” I come out of the water and check my watch. 1:32. Holy shit. ONE THIRTY FUCKING TWO! That’s a solid 13 minutes FASTER than I had expected.

T1

Coming out of the water, I unzip the wetsuit, and head up to where the wetsuit strippers are. The stripper peeled me out of my suit, another volunteer hands me my transition bag, and I run into the changing tent. I have done MANY MANY races, but never have I seen a changing tent. It’s like a giant circus tent filled with chairs, and as soon as you walk in, a volunteer grabs your bag and starts handing you stuff. For me, T1 was pretty simple. I wasn’t going to change clothes so that saved me lots of time. I wanted to dry off enough to get sunscreen on, I needed to grab my shoes, sunglasses, and helmet, shove some stuff into pockets, and go. The volunteer (love the volunteers! AMAZING) hands me things as I call for them, and it’s like we are a well-oiled machine getting me all dolled up and ready to go. Many of the other athletes put on their cycling shoes, but I HATE running in my cycling shoes, so I grabbed them and ran toward my bike. Ironman has sunscreen stations where you stop, and a volunteer SLATHERS you all over with sunscreen. Just one more tick in the SURREAL experience of this race. For some reason, I thought it was spray sunscreen… Nope. You run up, and all of a sudden, some stranger has their hands all greased up and is rubbing you all over your arms and back and neck. Good thing I don’t have any weirdness about being touched… But yeah, it was pretty weird. Still dripping with sunscreen, I got to my bike, slap on my shoes, and run to the bike exit. Glancing at my watch, I see that I fucking NAILED t1.. 6:20! Saaaa-weet!

swimexit

I’m half pink sausage, half seal. Swim Exit photos are never flattering.

 

 

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Posted August 20, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

4 responses to “Ironman Boulder – Race Report pt 1 of 5 (Swim Thru T1)

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  1. You say “fuck” a lot. 🙂

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