Monday, October 25, 2010

Kona Race Report: The Swim

Photo credit: Scary Gary

The tone of the swim was set Thursday night at the race meeting. The race director was telling us how important it was to position ourselves correctly for the start: "Some of you who are slower swimmers, around an hour or so, are going to want to seed yourselves toward the back."

One Hour is a "slow" swimmer.

At that rate, I figured I should position myself in the tub in my hotel room for the start.

I was surprised how much dilly-dallying there was getting into the water. It's a water start with a very narrow, slippery staircase bringing people into the water and at 6:55 I was still stuck in the mob very much on dry land. Once I did get in the ocean, I had planned on staying way in the back but there LOTS of cowards just standing in 6 inches of water. So I swam up to the back of the main pack and waited for the start.

I really think I was more excited than nervous. There were helicopters overhead, a hula dancer on the dock, and the race announcer kept yelling that this was the "2010 Ironman World Championship!" There was lots of excitement in the air. But then I remember when I got a chill: after all the hype of the announcer screaming about what an exciting day it was going to be, he suddenly very calmly said "have a great race everybody." His calmness made it personal. Wow. I was actually HERE! I was racing in the biggest, most famous triathlon in the world. Holy Crap! Then the cannon went off.

This was not the typical washing machine Ironman for me. Oh, I still got grabbed and kicked, and still did grabbing and kicking of my own, but I had a fair amount of room because of my position near the back at the start.

I don't know how deep the water got, I've heard around 50-75 feet, but I could always see the bottom. Crystal clear. For the first half mile or so I saw plenty of fish, surprised that they weren't frightened away by all the churning of the water. I was briefly freaked out when I looked down and saw this black six-foot-long creature swim underneath me. Turns out it was just scuba diver with a video camera, but it sure got my heartbeat going.

This was my first time doing a single-loop Ironman swim, so it was a long 1.2 miles out from shore. I tried to keep my eyes on the boat where we did the turn-around waaaaaayyyyyy out there, but there were just enough swells in the ocean to make it difficult. The boat slowly got closer, and I remember thinking that I've seen the boat a dozen times on the Ironman DVDs and it looked much smaller in person. Of course, once I got to the boat I saw the REAL turn-around boat several hundred yards behind it. Great.

I often speak about how much I love my swim goggles. The only problem is that I have to trim my eyelashes before the race so they don't brush up against the lenses. (I spared Stupid Dutch this time and had my barber do it.) Unfortunately, my goggles were showing their age and were pretty scratched up. So about a month ago, I bought a new pair. Same make, same model. And they felt great, except that for some reason they tend to slip. I tried loosening them, tightening them, everything but wearing them upside down. They slip.

I brought both my old and new goggles to Kona, and for some inexplicable reason I decided to stick with my new ones. The water was going to be clean and I wanted to experience it clearly. Besides, if I could get the goggles positioned properly at the start, what are the chances that they would slip in the middle of an Ironman in choppy seas?

Well I'm a moron. They were sliding all over the place. Really badly. I am not exaggerating here: for extended parts of the swim my EYELIDS were pressed against the lenses. I could hear Steve's voice in my head: "Point your toes! Watch your head position!" And I was thinking "I can't open my right eye because it's jammed against my goggles. My toes are the least of my worries." But mostly I just sucked it up. I think I stopped about 4 times to adjust them, which may sound like 4 times too many but truthfully I don't think it really affected my overall swim that much.

The currents were a little strong when we got back close to shore which was frustrating. I was so close to finishing yet it felt like I wasn't moving at all. But it felt SOOOO good getting out of the water. I forgot how dizzy I get after long swims and I kind of tripped up the stairs a bit and a volunteer kind of caught me, but I was fine.

Swim time 1:34:22. A couple minutes slower than Wisconsin, but in a non-wetsuit, riptide-spewing shark-infested ocean. I was very happy with my swim. And yes, Steve's classes helped.


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