Saturday, June 15, 2013

What to Expect When You're Syracusing- The Swim

My intent is to pass along knowledge based on experience for any and all those who are planning on doing IM Syracuse 70.3 (even if you have no intention of ever doing this race, maybe you'll find it interesting). If, at any point along the way, please feel free to raise your hand and ask questions. (I suppose you could also leave a comment.)

Links to other posts in this series
The Swim (viewing)
The Bike
The Run

If you've done everything efficiently, you have made it to the race site before transition closes. According to published information, transition actually opens around 4:30 am (I, typically haven't even awoken by this time). It closes near 6:45 am (if you're lucky, you can bribe a volunteer to let you stay in a little longer- I know this from experience).

While in transition, make sure your gear is taken care off. Get your fluids and nutrition on your bike. They will have some of those large, orange coolers filled with water and with a sports drink (supplies by whoever is this year's sponsor). There will be lots of pumps in transition, either from fellow athletes or from the race support sponsor.

Borrowing a pump is as simple as asking, "Can I use your pump?" which is 100% of the time responded in the affirmative. The race mechanics, just like Hans and Franz, might pump you up without any work of your own. If you are too shy to ask the question, of course you can bring your own.

The race "starts" at 7:00 am. Don't worry, you won't actually be starting at that time. That is, of course, unless you are a male professional triathlete (then one would have to wonder why you are reading anything posted here...). Syracuse 70.3 is a wave start. In 2013, there will be 13 total waves, separated by about 5 minutes. The older and more feminine people will start earlier than the younger, virile males. I, for example, will be hitting the drink at 7:50. As if the pros need a 50 minute head start against the likes of me.

One aspect that I think is well done at Syracuse is that they have a morning bag check. This means that you don't have to stand around in your wetsuit, shivering in the cold (should the morning temps be cold enough to cause shivering). You can wear shoes to walk around. You can have your favorite hoodie. You can jam the tunes on your music player.

As your time nears, you can dump all of this in your official Morning Clothes bag, which was given to you when you checked-in yesterday, and hand it to the nice volunteers manning the tent. "You don't need to worry about your morning stuff during the race. We'll take care of it for you."

There is a warm up area, should you be the kind of person that likes to waste his/ her energy splashing around in the water before your race. There is a 97% chance that the swim will be wetsuit legal during any given year. In fact, the swim hasn't even been close to the temperature cut-off. In case you didn't know, the WTC is a little odd in their wetsuit temperature policy. The rules say that wetsuits are fully legal up to 76.1º. They are fully illegal above 83.8º. There is a gray area between those numbers. If the water happens to be in the midst, you may decide to wear a wetsuit but will forfeit your eligibility to win anything. No age group awards. No slots for the World Championships. You only get a finisher's medal, hat, t-shirt, and post-race dinner (all of which is probably what you would have gotten anyway).

The Swim

Congratulations, you have been patient enough to make it to your wave start. Everybody in your wave will have similar colored caps, which were given to you yesterday. Sadly, there is no official start line. You enter the water until it's about waist deep. Someone in the group will stop. Current scientific research has failed to identify the exact reason why that person stops where they do or while the rest of us idiots accept that decision. We all form a line in the vicinity of the stopper but are careful not to venture out further then that person.

Eventually, someone will yell go. If you're lucky, there may be something more official, such as an air horn. If you miss it, that's okay. You'll recognize the commencement of your race because everyone else has gone horizontal and started flapping their arms.

The swim is a clockwise swim with the buoys on your right (perfect for right-side breathers like myself). Since the swim is in a reservoir and protected on 3 sides, there will be minimal chop. The first leg is roughly 800 yards. You'll know when you've reached the turn buoy as it will be a different color. Turn right.

In my experience, the first turn is greater than 90º. It's closer to 110º. Should you only turn at a right angle, you'll start to add yardage onto your swim (again, it's been my experience). This leg of the race is about 200 yards and you are swimming directly into the sun, which is not as reliable a marker for spotting as you would expect.

Again, the turn buoy will be seen as a different color than the ones you've just been seeing. You turn right and head for the beach. Pay attention here. The buoys on the 3rd leg of the swim do not lead you directly towards the swim exit (at least they haven't in the past). The buoys make a 90º turn but the exit is directly at about 70º. If you choose to swim near the buoys, you will go out of your way by about 25 yards. Spot the swim exit arch. It'll be big and white. From a 1000 yards away, you would be able to read the words "Swim Exit" but it will be the only white archy-shaped thing against a green background. Swimming straight for the swim exit arch has a second benefit as the masses will be following the buoys where as you, and really I mean me, will be in clean water. Sure, there may be people to draft off of but there will also be slower swimmers from earlier waves to slalom through.

The Strippers
Exit the water onto a sandy beach. After a short 50 yard jog, you'll come across a slew of strippers. No, not the sexy, Gentleman's Club kind, but the kind that will remove your wetsuit for you. What's the difference? You are not expected to hand out dollars for services rendered. These people will give you attention for free.

Should you wish to take advantage of their talent, run up to a couple of volunteers. Make sure you have peeled your suit to the waist. You must do this part yourself (sorry). It's best to communicate your intention to the strippers. I tend to spot a likely victim who is available and point at them. They will acknowledge your presence. Run up to the couple and sit down in front of them. They will grab to top of your suit and yank it quickly. Just like a magician ripping a table cloth out from under the dishes, your suit will magically disappear from your body. Sometimes, they will help you off of your butt and onto your feet. They will always hand you your suit and send you on your way.

Transition is still quite a distance away. I haven't actually put the Garmin on the task, but I believe that the transition area is about 300-400 yards away. Remember that the clock doesn't stop because you are between the water and the bike. Also remember that it's a long day and you are only 10% or so of the way finished with the race. Plan your energy expenditures wisely.

Now that you've successfully made it to your bike, I'll tell you how to tackle the bike course. Stay tuned.

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