Saturday, June 7, 2008

Pre-race and the swim

Race night

I was fairly calm on Saturday night before the race (on the outside anyways). Inside I had a pretty good case of the butterflies. I knew I was not supposed to load up on food the night before because you do not really have the time to get it through your system before race day, which did not really matter because I did not have much of an appetite anyway. I did not sleep much that night, nerves mostly. An hour here and hour there, I would wake up and drink some Gatorade, fall back asleep, and soon as I felt like I was starting to get some good sleep my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Even if I had another hour to sleep I probably just would have just rolled around the bed for sixty minutes. I had a pretty good feeling I was not the only triathlete that did not sleep well that night ha ha.

Race day

Most of the hotel was already up and ready by the time I rolled out of the room. I think my girlfriend was more awake than I was. I did not eat much at the hotel breakfast; a piece of peanut butter toast, a banana, a slice fresh pineapple, a Gatorade, and a cup of Brazilian coffee (more like motor oil). I did not feel hungry, but I felt like I should try and stomach something. I noticed the pros at the table across from me dabbling with their food too so I knew I was not the only one a little nervous.

When I got the expo it was already teaming with athletes roaming in and out of the bike and transition area. When you check in for Ironman you are given six bags, one for your dry clothes that you wear before and after the race, one swim bag to put your wetsuit in after you get out of the water, one bike bag which has your cycling gear, one run bag which has your shoes, hat, etc., one ‘bike special needs’ which you can get at the 56-mile mark (you can put anything in this bag, from food to new socks, pretty much anything you think you may need), and one ‘run special needs’ bag which you can get on the 13.1 mile mark, which is again, just another bag to put stuff you may think you want or need to get you through the rest of the race. So when you get there on race day there are racks with your race number on it that you hung all your bags up so when you come in to transition to the next event you just pick out the bag you need, change, and put your current stuff you are wearing into the same bag (volunteers put the bags away for you). So anyways, I put my bags up, and then went out to fill up my bike tires. At this point I was getting even more nervous. Over the loud speaker I heard “1 hour!” Oh crap this is really happening I thought ha ha. I went back in to the expo, went to the bathroom, put on the wetsuit and headed out to the beach.

The swim

The sun was just starting to come up when I got to the water. I did a short warm up swim just to get loose. I noticed there was a pretty good set of rolling waves till about two hundred meters past the start. I knew that was going to be some trouble. After my little swim all of us athletes were corralled into a starting pin about the size of a football end zone. Talk a barrage to the senses, here I was surrounded by hundreds of foreigners speaking god knows how many languages, waves were lapping on the beach, people were whistling and cheering, there were two helicopters circling, and the announcer was giving instructions in three different languages. It was a tad bit crazy. Once the gun went off everybody started screaming and running towards the water. I placed myself somewhere near the middle of the pack close to the front. I figured it is much easier to get swam over than try to slalom through people trying in order to get position. The swim course was shaped like a big ‘M’, so you go out to the first buoy, turn around come back to the beach, run around a big inflatable power bar and the bottom of the ‘M’, then head out again to another big buoy, turn around and swim back to the beach and head into transition. The gun went off at exactly 7:00 a.m. Once we started paddling it turned into pure chaos. My stroke turned into a doggy paddle pretty much. I would poke my head out of water and look for an open space, swim to it, then do that pretty much all the way to the first buoy (about 900 meters). It seemed like everybody got the buoy at the same time. Basically people were spread out about fifty yards across and once we all got to the buoy everyone collapses into a space that is about ten yards, so again it was chaos. On the way back in I noticed to my right were a few female yellow cap swimmers, this means they were professionals (if you were not a pro you wore white swim caps). So I figured I was doing pretty good. When I got back to the beach I eagerly grabbed water from the aid station because my mouth was numb because of all the seawater I just drank. Heading back out I saw that I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. Here is where things went screwy. Midway out to the second buoy I was having a trouble sighting the big buoy because there were rolling waves that were not huge, but big enough to block your vision. So I would head in one direct poke my head out of the water and see the wave, swim some more, then realize I was off course. At one time I was tapped on the back by one of the guys on a paddleboard because I was heading off course. Because the field was pretty spread out at this point I could not find the safety in numbers like I did on the first loop. I pretty much swam in a huge ‘S’ on the last leg of the swim. I assume I swam about 500 meters extra. I just could not figure out where I was going. When I got out of the water my watch read 1:19. I was shocked! I wanted to be around a 1:05, and that meant I was fourteen minutes slower than I was in the pool just two weeks ago. Not a good way to start out the race. When I got out of the water I slowly jogged into transition, there were volunteers waiting to help take off my wetsuit. Thank was pretty nice, because I do not think I was capable of doing it myself at that point in time. When I ran into transition the volunteers saw my race number on my arm and grabbed my bags for me and one volunteer ran me over to a seat to start changing. This guy was great, he helped put my socks on, my shoes, my race belt, helmet, everything. It was great. I was rather demoralized coming out of the water, but when I got to the bike station I realized I was not the only one who had a terrible swim, because there were plenty of bikes left in the racks. I felt good heading out on the bike course, well as good as I could, I knew I still had 138.2 miles left to get through before I could call myself an Ironman.

I will get to the bike and run portion tomorrow sometime.


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