IMLT had a rolling start. This is different from the mass start they have had in most IM races in the past. It's all part of WTC's effort to make for a more "user friendly" race start. I'll be honest, I don't like it... At the same time, I'm sure it helped me have a MUCH better swim experience (and time) than I would have had otherwise. Basically volunteers had signs with expected swim finish times (i.e. 1:45-2:00) and everyone put themselves in line where they expected to finish. The idea is that all the faster people get in the water and go so they don't have to swim over all the people doing breast and back stroke. I had NO IDEA what to expect for a swim time. In the pool my times were pretty consistently about 1:50-2:00/100y depending on the workout, but: this would be my longest continuous swim, my shoulder had been bothering me pretty bad leading up to this day (consequently I had not had a long swim in quite a while), and I had never swam in water this cold (it was colder on race day because of the storms the day before--I heard figures from 59* to 62*). Not to mention it was so darn foggy you couldn't see the buoys!! However I was also wearing my wetsuit (which usually makes for a faster swim), and I felt like the cold water was going to help my shoulder feel better than usual. Plus, I generally swim faster in races than in training. At the same time, I knew I wanted to take it nice and easy since it was going to be a long day and I didn't know how the altitude was going to impact my bike.
I lined myself up with the 2 hour swimmers and found a gal I had met the day before who was staying in the condo just above us who was also doing her first IM. We were talking about how EPIC this race was going to be when a guy grabbed my by the shoulders and told me to stop shaking!! I don't know if it was adrenaline or the fact that we were standing on frozen sand in sub freezing weather in bare feet, but I could NOT stop no matter what I did. I started to worry I might already be experiencing the effects of hypothermia. About that time I was about 10' from the start and Mike Riley was getting us pumped up telling us, "YOU are going to be an IRONMAN today!!" With party music blaring, I "ran" into the shallow water and all the nerves of the day melted.
Well...not quite. With the first dip of my head in the water, I started a 16 hour prayer vigil. I'll do another post to answer the question, "what on earth did you think about all day long"...but I can assure you, first and foremost in my mind all day was the request to God to see me through the day!
I couldn't sight buoys for a couple of reasons...the fog was really bad, but another reason was due to toothpaste. See, I had bought new goggles for the race--my favorite brand and style and they were even **rose-colored**!! After swimming in them a few times, and trying the anti-fog spray, they were still fogging up. A couple of guys told me to use a bit of toothpaste to clean them out. Well...apparently vigorously scouring them with baking soda and peroxide was the absolute WRONG thing to do as that scratched the inside so that fog was the least of my worries. I don't think it mattered that bad because if they had been clear, they'd have fogged, and if they hadn't fogged, it was foggy! Sighting became a matter of trying to make sure I was in the middle of all the fish moving in the same direction. I knew I was getting off course when I found myself swimming in clear water (which happened a couple of times, but not much).
I was VERY surprised to see so many people doing breast and back stroke. But, I was even more surprised when I found myself passing a lot of people. I felt like I was going much faster than usual so I took a quick glance at my watch-and realized I had not started it!! I started it then and told myself it really didn't matter much...just keep swimming. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the (much bigger) turn buoy!! I was told it was 900m out. I tried to do the math...900 back, 1800 out, 2700 back, plus the distance between turn 1 and 2, then between 3 and 4...maybe 3100 to go? (I didn't know how the length of the top and bottom of the trapezoid we were swimming, only that the far side was bigger....I also couldn't remember how many yards in 2.4 miles...it didn't matter, I was going to swim it no matter what it was, I just wanted something to think about!)
I concentrated on "catching feet" and then passing when it became obvious I was faster than the feet I was on. Before I knew it, the water started getting really cold, which meant I was getting close to the bottom of the trapezoid!! As I made the turn, I could hear the swim finish music and the cheering for all the ones who were finishing that part of the race. Several guys started running along the beach side of the course but I knew it was a bad idea for me to stand up in the water. Water running would bump up my HR and I really thought I could swim faster than that. --I never passed those guys, but at least I knew I was going straight!
Loop one done and the sun was coming up making for some beautiful views (what I could make out of them anyway!). I tried to stay left as much as I could and anytime someone faster went by me I grabbed onto their feet for a little (or a long) draft. ((By the way, "grabbed onto their feet" isn't literal...it just means I drafted off of them in the water!)) Loop two was fairly uneventful except that I saw some white rubber gloves floating down into the water which made me think a rescuer had to help someone, but I don't know if that's the case. When I felt the water getting colder again I knew I was close! People around me started standing up to run, but I swam as long as I could. When I stood up I was in water just above my knees. As I ran under the swim arch I heard Mike Riley say, "DANA--YOU WILL BE AN IRONMAN TODAY!!!" When I saw the time was 1:3?? I screamed out, "YES I WILL!!!!"
Holy Cow was it COLD!! I considered running into the warming tent, but I knew I needed to get out on the bike. I grabbed my bag (thankfully I marked it with a big duct tape X because I had to find the bag myself....and ran over to the wetsuit strippers. I had already pulled off my goggles and both caps, had unzipped the wetsuit and stripped the top part off...but I had not pulled it down passed my butt. No matter, when I flung myself on the ground like a dead bug, a man and a woman each grabbed a leg and yanked that thing off like it was catching fire! They threw it over my shoulder and I ran into the changing tent.
Now, I don't mean any disrespect for what I'm about to say...I'm not TRYING to be overly dramatic. I just want to try to describe the scene as best I can. It looked like a scene from a holocaust documentary. Naked shivering women everywhere with piles of clothing around their feet. There were certainly no chairs available and really no room to stand. I maneuvered my way over to the exit door and found a 1' square space to start shucking clothes. I think it's important to say, I have NEVER gotten naked in a dressing room before. I've actually tried to do it because other women seem to strip down to their birthday suit with ease and comfort. Not me. Today however I didn't have a choice, so off the wet tri suit came without so much as a blink of an eye. I was able to get my bike clothes on with just a little help with my bra from someone standing nearby. (Bike shorts, leg warmers*, bra, bike jersey with food in the pockets, arm armers, jacket, balaclava, beanie, helmet, sunglasses in my pocket, Athlete Tracker belt on over my jacket, socks in shoes, shoes in one hand, gloves in the other.) I stuffed all the wet things back in the bag and headed out of the tent only to discover I had only one leg warmer on! I dug through the bag, found the other one and put it on.
I knew I wouldn't be able to run well with my shoes on so I elected to run barefooted to my bike. My feet were FREEZING and were getting covered with sand. I had a choice at that point-sand or freezing water. I squirted water on my feet and shoved them into my socks and then into my shoes, struggled to get my gloves on, grabbed my bike and off I went to the mount line.
Total time 19:21
Stay tuned for the rest of the story...to be posted tomorrow. :D