Ironman Texas: The Swim

So there I was at the swim start. The water temperature was 71 degrees, so for the first time in history, IMTX was wetsuit legal.  I had been prepared and was actually looking forward to swimming in my new Roka speedsuit, but at the same time I was fine with the extra buoyancy of my sleeveless wetsuit that I was very comfortable in.  I had said bye to David and my family, and Kevin and I were lined up near the front.  I checked and tightened my goggles nervously as we heard the pro start then were ushered into the water. Kevin had forgotten his water to sip through transition so when he saw someone’s bottle of water on the ground, he chugged some and said “that is probably the least disgusting thing I’ll do all day” and we laughed – it was going to be an interesting day!

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{ Nice calm water }

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{ Lining up – helped to stand around near the start early }

I was still a bit nervous from the choppy practice swim the day before, but despite the 9-10 mph wind that morning, the water seemed to be pretty calm. I lightly spit in my goggles which I had used anti-fog on the day before, then rinsed them with lake water then put them on. We were some of the first athletes in, so we were able to grab on to a nearby kayak that was to the right of the start near the shore. The kayaker was pretty nice and said she’d done this before and was used to the craziness, and we also chatted with the other athletes hanging on. One from South Africa that had done 15+ ironmen (he said Germany was even better than Kona) and some other newbies. The water was actually really cold, enough to make me chatter.

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At some point a bunch of people came and grabbed on the kayak and it started rocking, so the kayaker called “everybody off!” and we all floated off to tread water for a few more minutes. I stayed right and a few rows back. I spotted David in his bright pink shirt with his camera and tried to wave but of course he couldn’t pick me out. The National Anthem was played, and then I talked nervously to some girl from Montana who did the race last year and seemed to be super smiley, then suddenly there was an announcement and the cannon went off! I was pretty surprised but thought “ok this is happening!!” and stuck my head down and went. (David later told me they announced “kayakers move!” and then only 5-10 seconds later the cannon blasted and most kayakers/paddle boarders did not even have time to get out of the way, like the guy in the photo below. There were also a lot of athletes that had not even had time to get in the water).

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{ Watch out Paddle-boarder! }

For the first few minutes I didn’t have too much contact. There was a huge mass of people in front me, so there wasn’t much need to sight. Things were going pretty well, but after a bit it seemed to get really crowded. I wondered if people from the shore cut across. It was never that bad, but there were swimmers everywhere. Marni had suggested the first 20 minutes should be like a regular swim warm up, and then just swim steady, but just don’t go out too fast. I knew I’d get some contact, but just needed to keep swimming. Throughout the swim I was scratched, hit, and everything on me (my ankle strap, garmin, wrist band) seemed to be grabbed at, but it didn’t bug me, I just kept going. And at one point I wanted to laugh out loud swimming behind guy that produced splash like a motorboat with his kick. I was actually really, really enjoying the swim – I had decided mentally that I could either hate it or take in every sensation and enjoy it, so I chose the latter. I liked watching the big [huge] mansions on the lakeshore and how cool and great the water felt, and I didn’t feel overwhelmed at all (my goggles were nice and clear which was awesome). There was definitely a couple times I had to look up to get around two people that converged or that random guy that likes to swim diagonally, but overall I kept my cool and was able to protect my head with my arms as needed. The first buoy didn’t take too long to get to and I took the right turn and remember sighting for the second buoy (to check I had turned 90 degrees) and photographed a picture in my head of the beautiful lake, swimmers, and sunrise – another “I’m doing an ironman” moment. This was pretty cool.

Mentally, I had split this race into three sections, and somehow I knew after I hit the first buoy it seemed downhill from there.  It was kind of like doing my 3 x 1000yd key training session, but way more interesting since there were obstacles! I continued on after the first turn and the water seemed to be a little choppier, but I wasn’t taking too much water in and really happy with that. I was able to take breaths or skip them if I sensed a wave coming to my face (if this makes sense). I was really happy for bilateral breathing since I could sense everything that was going on around me and breath on either side as needed – i.e. if there was a person too close to my left, I’d breath right a few times, or if I was using a point like the shore for sighting I could look that way a couple times.

I was a little confused since I was looking for orange buoys on the way back, but didn’t see many of them, but following the crowd was easy enough. In my race strategy, Marni suggested drafting in small packs after the turn buoy, and I’d often get sucked into drafts, but I never found anyone to draft off that was just above my level, I’d always draft a few strokes then have to pass to their side since they were a bit slower than I needed. There were definitely mainly green caps around me; I did get kicked lightly in the face once, but I figured if that was the worst that happened I was okay. Having the wetsuit was great though, and at one point on this section I was able to pee WHILE I WAS SWIMMING. I was like “Now THIS is going to be a GOOD day!” and smiled in the water. Haha, the things triathletes think. If I was relaxed enough to go pee, it was a good sign. I did feel one hip flexor getting a bit tight (it’s only done this when I wear a wetsuit in races and I don’t know why), but it wasn’t bad and I forgot about it soon enough. I thought about looking at my watch, but didn’t want to disappoint myself (in case) so just kept swimming and staying steady. I was thinking about keeping my head down, high elbows and lengthening my reach, but making sure I wasn’t getting exhausted and it felt good.  Anytime I thought about the upcoming bike/run, I redirected myself to the segment of the swim I was on.

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{ the canal }

Before I knew it, I noticed swimmers making a diagonal line for the canal opening. Here is where there was quite a cluster of bodies. There was one big dude that was just hard to get around, but once I was around him it was smooth sailing. I read online that the canal is great since there are spectators, but you think you’re done when you get there and it is still 1500yds left and is terribly long. So I was mentally prepared for it to feel super long. I stayed towards the north part of the canal and sometimes in the middle and honestly thought it wasn’t that crowded. Maybe I timed it just right? Marni said I could pick it up in the canal, so I did just a tad – plus there was some chop that was easier to swim stronger against. It was fun to watch people on the banks and it felt like there was a little draft going on in the canal. Before I knew it the red buoy signifying the end of the swim was there and I thought “No way! That’s it?! That must be a turn or something”, but sure enough, I could see the white fences where people run out to transition, so I knew it was it. I jumped out and was helped up the stairs and almost took a huge trip, then looked at my watch and saw 1:12 I was ECSTATIC. I can’t even describe how happy I was.

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{ Can you tell how happy I am?! }

I ran down the walkway to get my bag and saw my mother-in-law in her pink shirt and waved and said “holy sh*t, I just swam a 1:12!!” You can see I was beaming. The swim was probably my favorite part of the day – it was just spectacular and I felt great! It all clicked why I had done so much work in the pool this winter – I swam more efficiently and gaining strength in the pool swims translated so well to the OWS. Marni was setting me up for a good race. It sounds crazy, but this seemed like one of the shorter swims I’d done – I’ve done Olys and Half IMs with a lot less people that seemed WAY longer and harder. I had just gotten a lot of comfort in the water and learned to enjoy swimming.

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Transition was pretty quick; I grabbed my bag, then I made a brief stop at the port a potty for good measure (I guess I was a peeing machine), since I didn’t want any lake water sloshing around in my tummy on the bike, even though I didn’t take that much water in. Then I sat down in a chair in a tent and a volunteer came to help me. The volunteers are just awesome. She asked what she could do, so I had her spray my shoulders and arms with sunscreen while I dried off my feet, and put on my socks and shoes. She placed my Hammer endurance aminos tab pill case in my back pocket and put my sunglasses on while I got on some ride glide on and sunscreen on my face, then I was out! I ran out of transition and the guy running beside me said “I told you so” and it was Kevin! It was SO weird that we exited to get our bikes at exactly the same time. He said I told you so since he thought I would swim faster than I thought I would (I was guessing 1:20, maybe 1:15 max). I think I said “have a good ride!”, then I grabbed my bike and saw my father-in-law at the fence cheering – I couldn’t stop smiling. I was doing what once didn’t seem possible!

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Swim Stats:  1:12:05, 1:51/100m, Rank: 19 AG, 101 Gender, 591 Overall

T1: 5:20

Swim Gear: Xterra Volt Sleevless wetsuit, Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles, Garmin 910xt watch & HR monitor, CEP compression socks, Betty Designs Team kit

Nutrition: 1 water bottle with 1 scoop custom Infinit pre-race and ½ Vanilla GU 15-20 mins. before swim

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9 thoughts on “Ironman Texas: The Swim

  1. LOVE this! I smiled the entire time reading it! Well done, lady! My IM Canada swim experience was so similar… I was beyond nervous, but once I was in the water (so happy for the in-water start!), embraced it and loved every single second of it. There was even a guy at Canada who splashed like crazy, and I swear he swam next to me for half of it 🙂 And, it went by so fast! Anyway, awesome job! Can’t wait to read about your bike + run (I’m really behind my blog reading)!

    1. Thank you!! Having a good swim was the BEST feeling, I’m sure you felt the same way. Yeah, it is really amazing how much splashing some people can create! Not very efficient 🙂

  2. Awesome swim!!! Sounds like you positioned yourself in the perfect spot. Really paced out your swim. Knew what was coming and executed perfectly!!
    That first picture of the start with the paddle boarder fells was great!!

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