Race Start – The Swim and T1
My teammate and I headed down the hill to the water’s edge. Our feet hurt with each step. In the athlete guide, it was stated that the run from the swim exit to T1 would be carpeted, well that didn’t happen. They carpeted the boat ramp, which happened to be cement and doesn’t really hurt too much to walk on, but left the asphalt that had a ton of gravel on it uncarpeted. This was VERY painful to walk on. Tiny gentle steps had to be taken. I immediately regretted leaving my beloved Croc flip flops in my morning bag. Many athletes were smarter than I and had lined theirs up along the side of the road. I wished I had. If you are going to do the full or this half next year, for the love of your poor feet, bring flip flops!
We grimaced our way down to the start and seeded ourselves in our respective times. This swim was a rolling start, meaning athletes needed to seed themselves based on their prospective times. I chose 40 minutes. I thought I might be a bit faster than that, but 40 seemed a safe number. I didn’t know how the cold water would affect me. I found another teammate starting in the same timing section as myself, so we waited together.
The pros were already out in the water and headed back in. I saw the men come running up the ramp and off to T1. In a few minutes the cannon went off. My second 70.3 had started! It took about 15 minutes to get to the water, before we started. I stepped in and it wasn’t too bad. The race director had said the water temp was 64 degrees, which isn’t terrible. I’m not used to swimming in the cold, but it wasn’t bad on my feet. A few more steps and I was swimming, my body felt warm, that Roka suit is awesome and then I plunged my head into the water, heading out.
This is where things got bad. I was not used to submerging my face in that cold of water, especially when it was barely 50 degrees outside. My face was cold, it was a shock to my body and I struggled to breathe. I forged ahead thinking it’d subside in a few minutes, but it didn’t. It got worse. All of the anxiety I had dealt with over the past few hours, the no sleep, the crazy motel neighbors, general pre-race jitters, had left my nerves frayed. I had nothing left to fight off this swim issue. I flipped on my back and gasped for air, supremely irritated at myself for letting this happen.
I’m not a super fast swimmer, but I am a strong swimmer. I can swim for a very long time and don’t tire easily. I’ve never been afraid to go out in the water, especially a lake! I had been excited for the swim portion of this race. It’s the only discipline, I’m halfway decent at. I was making gains in the pool and my new Roka suit gave me a 10 second advantage over my pool times. I was excited to see what kind of time I would get.
Well, I continued to struggle and finally allowed myself to hold onto a SUP board for what felt like forever, even though it was probably less than a minute. The volunteer asked if I was okay, and I said I just needed to catch my breath. I was so mad at myself, but I pushed it aside gathered myself back up, slowed my breathing and moved on. I continued to struggle but was able to make forward progress and keep my head, mostly in the water. I swam freestyle with a bit of breaststroke moving buoy to buoy for the first 500 yards.
Finally at the first turn, I had calmed enough to get into sort of a rhythm. I normally breathe every forth stroke. I know I should breathe bilaterally and I can, but 4 is just more efficient for me. Well I was breathing every 2 strokes, I couldn’t get it down. Finally about halfway through I got myself to do a 4, 2, 2 sight rhythm. Speaking of sighting, I was constantly away from the crowd of swimmers, out to the right. I struggled to get in line and swim with everyone else, because I kept or at least I thought I kept veering off course. I’ve since taken a look at my Garmin Data and I actually only swam about 95 extra yards (So not bad for me!) and my swim lines weren’t too jagged, so maybe I wasn’t as off course as I thought I was.
I truly didn’t warm up and begin to pick speed back up until over halfway through the swim. Finally I was comfortable and in a rhythm. I rounded another red buoy and headed back in, 800 yards to go. The swim was smooth from here on, aside from dealing with the sun in my eyes. I wore slightly tinted goggles, but wished I had brought my mirrored ones. Definitely bring mirrored goggles if you plan on doing this race.
I closed in on the ramp and was finally able to stand up. I quickly moved out of the water and headed up the ramp to T1. Last year I was very jumbled and disoriented coming out of the water, this year I felt totally fine. Well as fine as you can feel, coming out of a cold 1.2 mile swim. I think the new wetsuit made a huge difference. My official swim time was 43:20 at a 1:58 pace, 4 minutes faster than my previous HIM swim.
Up the ramp I headed to T1. The carpet ended and I was on the asphalt. Every step was painful and I was trying to be careful. I didn’t want to cut my foot or give myself a huge blister before my ride or half marathon. I finally figured out that walking on the white lines gave some relief. They were smooth and had very few rocks on them. I got to the top of the hill and wanted to scream! The asphalt run continued for at least another couple hundred yards winding all of the way around transition, way past my lane. It took FOREVER for me to get to my bike, but finally I made it, cut/blister free to boot!
I wrangled myself out of my wetsuit and jammed my arms into my fleece arm warmers. It was 50 degrees and I was so worried I’d get cold on the bike. The first 4 miles is all downhill. I was wearing a tank tri top, but added my aero top over it for extra warmth. I almost shoved plastic bags down my shirt to block the wind, worrying I’d get too cold, but changed my mind at the last minute. T1 took me 15 minutes! I took probably 5 minutes or less at my bike, but the “run” up to T1 was truly something awful. If you do this race in the future or the full in July bring Flip Flops, get a pair you don’t care about. You WILL regret it if you don’t.
After changing, I sucked down an applesauce pouch, tossed all of my extra gear into my bike bag, grabbed my bike and headed to the mount line, ready to begin the bike portion.