Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ironman Race Report - Race Day (Swim)

Race day has finally arrived. My race journal I am writing in Word is 14 pages long so far. Boy am I getting wordy...but hey, this is my journal and my journey and I like what I'm writing. I hope you do also.


I slept well before the race and woke up around 3:00AM to pee. I also went downstairs and grabbed my first Boost of the morning. I went back to bed for one more hour before my alarm went off. I ate an orange, small bagel with peanut butter and 2 more Boost. I had a good amount of calories in me, probably around 1000. I showered to wake myself up and put on my racing clothes. I walked into Andrew’s room and told him I would see him later then I gave Amanda a kiss on the forehead. Aimee and I grabbed the rest of my stuff (tire pump, backpack with wetsuit, goggles and cap, special needs bags and fuel for T1 and T2 bags. We then walked to the Olympic Oval with her mountain bike since she would be out on the bike and run course for the day.

In transition I pumped up my tires and pulled the swim caps/garbage bag from my bike. I placed all of my nutrition on the bike and put my frozen fuel belt bottles on my fuel belt. As I was working on my transition bags the guy next to me stepped up to his bags. I was staring at his blue toenails. I commented on his toes and he said his daughter painted them last night, awesome. It takes an Ironman to allow his toenails to be painted blue. I was done in transition and went back out to rejoin Aimee. I got my body markings then we went to drop off my special needs bags.

We saw Matt Luck and his wife Sue one more time and they were returning from the special needs area. One more good luck and the girls exchanged cell phone numbers. As we walked back towards the swim start we stopped near Aimee’s mountain bike and I put on my wetsuit making sure I put body glide on my arms, neck and calves.

I gave Aimee a huge hug and kiss while she tried to keep herself under control. She was excited to finally witness the beginning of a race that I had trained 6 ½ months for. She wasn’t nervous because she knew I had the training under my belt and was well prepared for the long day. I made my was to the start area and saw Mark, Linda and Rocky near the bathrooms and we wished each other luck again.

There were a lot of people standing at the waters edge. I wasn’t going to dick around so I immediately got in the water to get some kind of warm-up in. I wanted to start near the middle of the start line to avoid the masses that would try to follow the cable under the wire. In case you haven’t heard about the swim cable at Lake Placid it’s pretty cool. They run a cable straight out and back along the swim course. The markers are attached to this line and it provides the athletes to swim without having to worry about sighting. The cable is only 3 – 4 feet under the water, but then again everyone wants to swim close the line and not sight.

I took my position in the water and continued to swim back and forth. I went along the waters edge to see if I could spot Aimee and anyone else. When I wasn’t swimming I floated on my back to stay calm and not waste any energy. These wetsuits are great for just that type of thing, treading water was not even necessary. The National Anthem was sung beautifully by a friend of my mom and dad, Kim Dodd. Kim’s husband is the son of my parents friends who grew up in Cleveland. Kim has a great voice and has done the National Anthem for Ironman for quite a few years, not exactly sure. Soon after that the starting canon went off.

National Anthem



Swim Start



My race plan called for me to start in the middle of the start line and go towards the first turn buoy at an angle. It would keep me from getting pummeled and in open water. I started out fine trying to draft off a woman in front of me. I was feeling great for the first 400 yards. Then all of a sudden I don’t know what exactly happened. I was surrounded by a maelstrom of people. Close quarters, sandwiched in between two guys. I lost my focus, confidence and stroke. My breathing was erratic and I’m sure my pulse/HR was through the roof. I couldn’t get back into my grove. I started to swim heads up, then breast stroke, then side kick. When I started to swim side kick I looked behind me to see more people barreling down on me. I knew I had to act fast but staying where I was definitely was not the answer. I had to get out of the mess I was in. I made a bee line to open water at a 45 degree angle across the path of the swimmers. I tried to pick my way around people but when I had to I swam over peoples legs. I had practiced this in the pool before with some friends, so at least I had that skill working for me. Once I made my way to more open water I was fine. I immediately got back into my stroke and rhythm with no problem, like nothing happened. I haven’t had an “attack” like that since early ’05 when I was swimming Olympic races. I stayed wide through the turn markers and swam on the outer fringes the rest of the way back to shore. It was during this time that I felt the urge to pee. I’ve never peed while actually swimming. Usually it’s been done in Lake Erie while treading water, but I wasn’t going to stop, tread water, pee, and then start swimming again. I don’t think anyone was behind me so I just went right there while swimming. First time I’ve peed like that during a swim. Something about being surrounded by water, oh well.

I exited the water for the first loop and got a big shock. The race clock said 32 minutes. Now my best Half IM swim to date was 36 minutes. How did I manage to pull of a 32 minute swim lap? I didn’t dwell on the time and wondered if I could negative or even split the second lap. That thought was soon out of my mind and I hit the water for lap two. I wasn’t going to push the swim so I could negative split. You never waste yourself on the swim, especially when you have 10-16 hours to go.

The crowds on the second loop had thinned out and I found myself swimming closer to the underwater cable. This was cool because I didn’t need to worry about sighting as much. I still sighted so I could gauge how far I had to go for the turn marker. I was concentrating on finding a person to draft off of……..

Swim drafting. Well there is a topic of discussion. Perfectly legal in the world of triathlon, swim drafting is simply the act of following the person in front of you. The lead person is breaking through the water and the follower can swim with less effort in the smooth water behind the lead person. Now I have done this on occasion when there are enough people to swim with. I simply find someone going the same pace and slip in behind them. The water in Mirror Lake was clear enough to see the people around me, especially the person in front of me. I found that this would help keep my swim form on track by keeping my hands wide of the feet I was following and keep my head up so the water was hitting my forehead and not dropping under the water, bad form. So anyways I’m trying to draft off some people and I keep touching their feet. Just a light scrape of my fingers on the bottoms. It seemed like I could never anticipate where the feet were going to wind up at. These people didn’t kick much with their feet so the feet kind of drifted back and forth. Of course on the other hand there are the people that kick a lot and you are stuck following a cloud of bubbles.

So I’m having fun, yes fun, on the second loop drafting behind people, keeping my stroke long and powerful. I tried to conserve as much energy as possible for the rest of the day. On the way back to shore I felt the urge to pee again. WTF? Is my bladder that small? Was my wetsuit compressing my bladder? So I let it loose again. Hell if I was going to stop at the bathrooms after coming out of a big lake. I swam until I touched the sand at the beach. I stood up and started to undo my wetsuit immediately because the wetsuit peelers are right there. I glanced at the race clock and hit the split button on my watch.

Official swim time 1:04:59. I was 99 of 418 in the swim and 440 overall. How awesome is that. I was expecting somewhere between 1:10 – 1:15. First withdrawal from the Bank of IM training account, first deposit into the Bank of IM time account.

I spotted and made eye contact with an open peeler but someone else got to him first. Fortunately there were two open right next to him. I dropped onto my back and before I knew it my wetsuit was off. I grabbed my wetsuit and started the run towards T1.


I now know how cattle feel when being herded into the barn. The fencing holding the crowds back was five feet wide with grass carpet to run on. I heard and spotted Aimee along the fencing as I ran to T1. My transition bag was in a great spot due to the low number secured through JCC. All I had to do was follow the fencing around to the first row of bags. I didn’t have to squeeze between the other racks to get my bag. I grabbed my bag and headed into the changing tent to get dressed.

With the cooler morning temperatures I decided to wear arm warmers, leg warmers, wind vest and long finger gloves. I know it may sound like a lot but that huge downhill I mentioned from Friday was only 9 miles away. I didn’t want to get chilled flying down at 46MPH. Others were wearing arm warmers and jackets but I didn’t see any other leg warmers. The guy next to me was sneezing so I did the polite thing in saying “Bless You”, each time he sneezed. Come on, we have to show come decorum in the tent. Support your fellow athletes. The changing tent volunteer was great as he made sure I had everything I needed before stuffing my wetsuit into the T1 bag and took it away for me.

Out of the changing tent I had to run past a majority of bike racks before getting to my primo spot in the first row. I didn’t have to run far with my bike before I passed the mount line. I ran past several people to find clear space and did my running mount onto the bike. Including the run from the lake to T1 my changing time was 7:19.

6 comments:

E-Speed said...

wow. Sounds great so far! Wetsuit strippers must have been nice!

Bolder said...

outstanding swim. i've been practicing "getting feet". you executed your swim plan well. and, went into evasive maneouvers when you needed to!

but, it's all about the bike.

so, let's get to it!!

TriSaraTops said...

Amazing time...send me some of those swim vibes, OK? ha ha

And I'm just going to pretend I don't know that people are going to be peeing all over Lake Monona. :)

Joseph Vinciquerra said...

Awesome! But you've got to stop breaking up your race reports like this - the suspense is killing me! I feel like I'm watching an episode of "24"!

Cliff said...

Joseph is right..this is like '24' for triathletes..

peeing while swimming..i will never thought of that.

Whenever I draft off someone, I feel like i am like I am a leecher. I will be so close to them, often, my stroke will be scraping their feet....i hope the swimmer i am drafting off of ain't ticklish.

greyhound said...

Dang, you're a fish. What a great swim. Bring on the next installment.