Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 IMLP- The Swim

The day starts off pretty early. Nutrition needs for an Ironman are exorbitant. It's not really about how much you can eat as it is about how much you can absorb. For full breakfast absorption, you need about 3-4 hours of lead time for the food to make it through your stomach, into the intestine, and out into the blood. This means a wake up call at 3:00. I actually made it out of bed by 3:15.

With breakfast fermenting in my belly, the hopes of gastric emptying firmly on my shoulders, I did some pre-race couch sitting. I put in a movie and sucked on my water bottle as hydration is also important.

Upon making my way to the swim start, I stopped off at transition. Here I pumped up my tires, dumped some fluid in my bottle, and started up the Garmin. This year for swag, they handed out a transition backpack. I stuffed unpacked my morning clothes bag, consisting of my wetsuit, cap, goggles, and body glide, and stuffed in my transition bag. Standing mostly naked in the morning dew, I racked my bag and headed on down to special needs (a 0.25 mile walk).

On the way down, I found the Wife, who was on the wrong side of the path. Should she have been on the left side of the chute, we would have had the chance to walk together. Alas, the right side was crowded with no real way to make across. I walked alone amongst 2000 of my soon to be competitors.

The pros went off 10 minutes ahead. Their gun fired and I had not entered the water. I waited on the beach. Once you enter the water, you are stuck treading until your race starts. I had no intention of warming up that much. Another couple minutes standing in my wetsuit seemed better than exchanging elbows and heels with my closest neighbors. To remind you, here's what the swim course looks like.

When some undetermined switch flipped in my head, I entered the drink and made my way over to my usual starting position. I tend to hang out about 10 feet back of the start line and 5 feet off the dock. This is a very crowded area and quite aggressive. I don't mind. Plus, I am directly underneath of the IronVoice, Mike Reilly. That's the guy who typically does all of the announcing and talks for about 19 hours on IM day. He is beloved by many, including myself. He didn't even look in my direction.

The gun went off for us age groupers at 7:00 am. And by gun, I mean cannon (literally). There are about 10 people with immediate access to my body with my extended water family reaching into the triple digits. A split second after the boom, we all go from vertical treading to horizontal swimming. This takes up valuable liquid space, which Mirror Lake does not have. We are immediately in peril. The cage match lasts for another few minutes as athletes garner for position and try to find their pace.

Having been through the scrum in the past, I immediately make it past the dock and veer left. Technically, we are encouraged to stay to the right. I would estimate that 2000 out of the ~2800 athletes heed this advice. Others, like me, know that there is calmer water on the inside. The rules do not forbid swimming in this area, only encourage the other area. The rules specifically state that we must swim around the end buoys. I know this and I do this. At the end of the turn around, I merge back to the left hand side again and continue my tour through the waters.

Here's a short video showing what the swim looks like from this year's race. I think it captures the serenity of the morning, with the sun nestled comfortably behind some clouds. You can see the pointy end of the swimming arrow followed by the masses. If I had to guess, I'm somewhere between the pointy end and the main mass of swimmers.

video 

I came out of the water for the first lap in just under 29 minutes. From there we have to physically get out of the water, run across the beach, and get back in. Lap 2 is a little bit longer because now we have to swim the length of the dock and make a left hand turn before getting back onto the course. Meanwhile, the clock ticks on.

I expect to have contact on the first lap. I also expect that the contact lessens on the second lap. This is what happened with one exception. There was this woman swimming immediately to my right. Remember that I am swimming on the inside. Also to my right are the guide buoys. There are about 10 of these buoys on each length. Well, Miss Swimmer needed to avoid these buoys. She had 2 options: swim left or swim right. If she choose right, that meant getting involved into the main wrestling match, from which there is little hope of returning. If she choose left, she banged into me. She choose me every single time. I suppose I should be honored.

Once in a while, I would try to lose her. On one such occasion, I surged to try and get in front. She saw this move and surged with me. Another time, I slowed to maybe get behind her. Nope. She also slowed, plus there were other swimmers on my feet who were none too pleased with the new pace. I resigned to my fate of having this mystery woman brush against me every 50 yards.

My second lap was predictably a little bit slower by about two minutes and twenty seconds. Lap 2's official time was 31:04. My total swim time was 59:50, which is about average for a Banter swim time. I was in 143rd place at the time.

I got out of the water and headed over to the strippers. Strippers are volunteers that help you out of your wetsuit. Basically, they work in pairs. You peel yourself out of the suit to your butt. You find a couple of nice people, run up to them, and sit in front of their feet. They grab your suit and synchronously yank the suit off in one full heave. That's the theory anyway. On race day, my suit once again failed to make it over my right heel. I will definitely be cutting that little bugger before my race.

I also happened to notice that I exited the water with a couple of lady pros. This is the first of several professional encounters during the race. The pros look just like everybody else on the course. But, they are clearly distinguishable by the big letter "P" on their calf. In contrast, the rest of the riff raff (like me) have our age plastered in permanent marker. Mine said 38 (even though I am only 37).

Upon a further glance, I saw that the ladies were none other than Jessie Donovan (who would later on actually WIN the race) and Jennie Hansen. Jennie is from Rochester (here's a link to her blog), a link to her IMLP race report (still no mention of me) and she is the Awesome Chick that I have written about in the past. Not surprisingly, she has gone pro and would finish in 2nd place in her first IM attempt. Awesome chick indeed!

Here's a short video of me running from the water exit, down the path, to the transition area. I'm the ugly, simian looking bloke in a white shirt. You can see Jennie passing me about halfway through the video. She's a bit shorter than me and wearing a bluish shirt. She zoomed right by adding unnecessary credence to her professional status.

video

Up next, I'll show you the bike course and then tell the story.

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