Ironman Arizona 2010 – The Swim
I hemmed and hawed the last few days about whether I would tell you guys ALL the truth. I’m always pretty honest on this blog but since I write to help process my own races and experiences there are things that I filter. One thing I loath is excuses. I hate excuses. I want nothing to do with them, and I see them a lot. I’m big on accountability and if you are close to me you might say I’m sort of a black and white person. You do or you don’t. You did or you didn’t. So with that in mind, I want to tell the whole story, even though I told Troy, and my dad, that there is no way I would. But know that it’s only because it’s part of the day.
So here it is, what I didn’t really want to say. I woke up Sunday morning coughing up green chunks. I was sick. Coughing, runny nose. It wasn’t “Chrissie Welllington in Kona” sick, as in “I asked myself if it was a normal day, would I train? …and I wouldn’t” kind of sick. No, on a normal day I would have talked to Chuckie and then I probably would have swam, and then done an easy spin. I sat down with Troy that morning and asked him if he thought I should race. He said “yeah, you’ll be ok”.
Race morning for me is always the worst part of the whole experience. I try to settle my nerves but I can feel myself on edge, with equal parts dread and anticipation. The one bonus was that instead of being all by my lonesome I had Michelle with me. This was a huge plus. I asked her what she thought about the whole sickness thing and she reminded me that I was on the verge of being pretty sick before Clearwater. She thought I would be ok too.
We did everything together that morning and I’m always reminded just how well we mesh in race and travel settings. We were both nervous and we both knew it. We can read each other pretty well. After dropping special needs bags, pumping tires, waiting in port-a-potty lines, we were finally putting on our wetsuits and splitting a coke to help with the high bacteria levels in the lake (Chuckie tip). I downed some Gu Chomps and we headed to the start. Michelle hopped in right away so she could get a front row spot (duh…8th out of the water amateur woman) while I lollygagged on the waters edge. Finally I hesitantly jumped in and in the process managed to hit the bottom with my foot, scraping the top. I pulled my foot out of the water and watched the blood stream down my leg.
That Tempe town lake is downright scary. At 12 feet deep and 61 degrees it was quite the rude awakening from the clear Kona waters of 6 weeks ago. I toddled on over to the start line, about 8 back from the front, and tried to get used to the frigid water, my wetsuit, and my nerves.
The gun goes off, and up starts the brutality. Right away I’m getting a lot of body thumps, a few hits to the head and I get dunked once. I’m having a little trouble breathing and my throat is raspy. Several coughs well up and I entertain myself by coughing underwater between breaths. My wetsuit (I have a two piece) rode up my neck and I can feel that it’s not helping me in the streamlined goal, but there is the added bonus that it is pressing on my neck, making it even harder to breath deeply. The suit is just too big for me now. But onwards I go.
There was more contact in this IM that any other I’ve dealt with. I got really banged around. Several times I thought to myself “I need to learn to swim faster so I don’t have to put up with this crap”. I think it was partially Hawaii withdrawl, but I was not enjoying myself. I wasn’t ever at a point that I even thought of not going on, I just was struggling. It was harder than usual, the coughs were bothering me and I wasn’t really “on my game”.
Onwards I swam. I peed, while swimming…twice in my suit! That was the definite highlight of my swim, which should tell you how bad I felt, if peeing all over myself was the highlight. The turn buoys weren’t too bad, but on the way back I got pretty beat up. People were swimming off course a lot and they all seemed to run over me on their way to the sidewall of the swim. Again, it dawned on me that if I just was a faster swimmer I wouldn’t have to deal with this stuff. I think I was a bit irritable.
It was the first time I started thinking that this swim was going to be a 1:15 effort. The swimmers around me were all over the place and half way back I just wanted to be done. Finally I found myself at the stairs. The volunteer helped pull me up on them and I managed to stumble my way up them, tripping not once but twice. I seem to remember thinking “Today is going to be a long day”. Already I wasn’t feeling smooth, or efficient.
I glanced at my watch and saw it turn to 1:09 right as I crossed the timing mat. Okay, well, I guess that’s one minute down from Kona, so we’ll take it. I was actually relieved that the carnage wasn’t worse. I bypassed the wetsuit strippers (I’m sorry, Ironman calls them “peelers” but I’m calling them “strippers” because that’s just funny). I wanted nothing to do with the crazyness that was going on with them. The wetsuit stripping area is pretty tight and congested.
I ran down the bags and there was a mix up. They got the wrong bag, I handed it back to them because it didn’t have polkadots and mine had polkadots. There was some confusion while we hunted for the right one together. It was not in the spot that I left it that morning (maybe they grabbed it on accident earlier and put it back in a different spot). Thank goodness for the polkadots all over it. Once we found it I was off. I got in the tent and was lucky to score a seat right away. As usual the crew in the tent is top notch times 100. They are the most helpful volunteers on the course, true saints in that tent. It wasn’t raining so I opted out of the rain coat and went for the arm warmers. I had pre rolled them which was a good thing so they went on quick, like little bracelets that I could unroll once I got on the bike.
I ran through the bikes, picked mine up and got out of there. At the mount line was none other than my good friend Tyler Walton. He was right on the other side of the fence. He was screaming so bloody loudly that it got me laughing and I couldn’t concentrate or clip into my pedal. I gave him a “seriously?” look and he screamed “Focus”. Again the “seriously?”. I clipped in and got out of there, laughing the whole way through. I love you Tyler, and boy are you one loud cheering man.
Swim: 1:09:00, 22nd in my age group out of the water.