Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012 IM Syracuse 70.3- The Swim

This was the last official race on my 2011 calendar. Then, for some reason, the WTC decided to bump it up in the year, making it my 2nd official triathlon of the season.

Not only did they change the date, they also changed the run course... But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me go all the way back to the beginning.

As normal with these long distance, high quality field events, they don't let you just show up race day with your stuff and do the race. "But, I paid my money" you tell them. "Too bad," they answer, "Your bike must be in transition by 5:00 pm the night before or no race for you."

IM Syracuse 70.3 is held inside of my 2 hour window of triathlon. Last year, I drove out the day before, paid for a hotel room, and twiddled my thumbs in an otherwise smelly, uncomfortable setting. This year, I decided to commute.

When I got on site, I wanted to do a short workout to lossen up the old muscles. My plan was to swim the swim course, bike the run course, and run the ____ (okay, I hadn't actually figured where I was going to run yet).

I was thwarted by this sign.
Well, I haven't been swimming in a week. No real reason to start now. I went back to get my bike.

My plan was to bike the run course. The run was new this year. In fact, the run has been new every year. Since it's inception, IM Syracuse 70.3 has not been able to repeat their run course. They are 3 for 3. It hadn't dawned on me that I had no idea where the new run course was. I decided to check the map via my phone. No service. I've never been one to have a great plan succeed. Off to try plan B.

Plan B was simple. Start biking in a direction that I think is the correct way and hopefully fall in with other, more intelligent, triathletes with a similar plan. Well, it turns out that the couple I fell in with also had no idea where the new course was. On the bright side, I was getting some nice miles during my blindness. I eventually solved the problem by chasing a race official who was driving a support truck down to set up a couple of aid stations. I did an up and down of the run course and headed in to transition.

I seriously don't really know why I have to get my bike there early. Nothing else is required to be there. I have to rack my bike. That's it. Having done so, I walked back to the car and drove home.

Up at 3:30 am the following morning, I was cursing myself for my triathlon addiction. I wouldn't have this problem if I were a bowler. A race of this distance deserves my respect, which apparently also means no sleeping in. I was eating and hydrating before any intelligent person would awaken. I got in the car at 4:15 to make the trek back out to Syracuse, a 1h 40 min drive from my house.

The Swim
Just for the record, when given the option, I'll pick a mass start over a wave start any day of the week. However, the race director did not ask my input. I was in the 9th wave, or 3rd to last. The pros started at 7:00 for the men and 7:02 for the women. The Banter? 7:35. I find it most unfair that the pros get a 35 minute head start. They are awesome and I am a schlup. I should get the head start.

So, how did I pass the time? By taking pictures with my phone of the awesome people. Here's the pro ladies start. They are all lined up. If you look carefully, you can see the men in a nice pack out near the white thingy in the water.
Here's the first guy coming out of the water. That's right, they went all the way around and I had time to take pictures.


Just for the record, these guys were wicked fast. They came out of the water in under 25 minutes and literally zipped through the swim finish.
I really need to learn how to do that.

After watching these guys come out of the water, whom I later learned were Marko Alberto (in the first pic), and Pete Jacobs with Graham O'Grady (in the second pic), I had to put my camera away for the day. It was dangerously close to my time to swim.

I got in the water and it was clear that no one knew where to start. There was no line. No official.  No buoy. We waded out roughly waist deep. Someone stopped. I have no idea why we picked that spot to line up. I'm sure that I could have gone out a couple more feet and the line would have moved with me. Lacking confidence, I stayed put.

They fired the cannon and blew an air horn at the same time, signalling our launch. I surged for a short while, found some feet, and settled in. We were cruising northbound through the reservoir at a pretty good pace. After about 300 yards, we caught the trailers in the earlier wave. The added distraction broke up the pack some. I was able to hold my line without swimming over anyone.

The swim course was roughly rhombus shaped. Yeah, that's right. One of those stupid shapes that they taught you in middle school math class finally has some real life application. We swam out with the buoys on our right, which is my breathing side and awesome. When we hit the turn buoy we made a right hand turn. Last year, I made the mistake of turning 90º. Due to the rhomboidal configuration, that was a mistake that cost me about 50 yards. Not this year. Experience taught me that the turn was closer to 110º. I felt like I was pulling right. But, every time I spotted, I was dead-solid-perfect.

The second turn buoy was about 200 yards out. That turn was a true 90º. Did I take it at that angle? Nope. See, I had scouted the course earlier and I learned something special. The buoys did not actually lead you to the swim finish. They lead you roughly 20 yards west of the finish. This fact turned out to be advantageous. I watched as the guy that I was following stayed near the buoys. I kept getting further and further away from them. He had to meander through a plethora of bodies piling up from earlier waves. I had open water. Not only did I have no obstacles, but I also had a straight line.

I calculate that my line saved me about 45 seconds over the guy that had pulled me along in the first half. This big white arch proved a better sighting tool than the buoys.
I came out of the water in just over 31 minutes or about the same pace as a year ago. In 2011, I was in much better swim shape than my current form. It goes to show you how much experience and a good race plan that was well executed can actually help during a race.

I ran through the arc. Shortly thereafter, there were some nice people in pink shirts that were strippers. I spotted a pair, ran up, and sat down in front of them. They grabbed hold of my suit and simultaneously pulled. The damn thing still didn't come off over my left ankle. They kept pulling until I was dangling upside down and hitting my head on the sand due to the elasticity of my neoprene suit and the more than significant strength of the volunteers. They finally wrangled my jamb out of the sleeve, I thanked them and headed towards my bike.

More on that trek to follow.


  1. In triathlon, stippers strip you! (*mixing chuck norris and trialthon isn't pretty*)

  2. I hate it when they call strippers "peelers". It's not as cool. As for CN, I told you he wasn't a triathlete.