Part 4: Race morning and the swim

3:15am comes awfully early, no matter how much sleep one gets the night before. That time of morning is exceptionally early when one had very little sleep!

But I was up before the alarm, got dressed, got my water bottles together, made sure I had everything I needed and was ready to go before 4am. I gave Rob a hug (again, started to cry), gave air kisses to the girls so I didn’t wake them, and off I went.

Amy and her husband were picking me up just down the street from the cabin and they were right on time, just after 4am. It was so nice to meet them and have someone to talk with as we drove into town. It was quiet, not much traffic at all and we zipped into town without issue.

Jamie dropped us off right at transition at 4:25am and we were ready to go in right when it opened at 4:30am. Amy spotted her dad, which was a welcome sight for her and was so nice to meet him.

I got body marked with my race number and then we headed into transition. It wasn’t terribly busy yet which was nice. Amy’s bike was in the same row as me (since we’re in the same age group) which was awesome. We were able to go through our pre-race check together, talk to some of the other ladies near by, get bike tires pumped up, put water bottles on the bike, etc.

84I grabbed a water, my banana and my peanut butter bagel and we were off to drop off our special needs bag up near the swim start. We got the lay of the land for how we would run from the lake into the bike transition. It’s a fairly long ways (probably 1/4 mile if not more?) but they had mats down for us to run on in our bare feet which helped. I couldn’t believe the crowds this early in the morning – people lined up on both sides, already cheering, music playing and just an overall bustle of excitement.

I was so thankful to have Amy with me this whole time – we chatted about our kids, our families, our training, life in general, and it was such a great distraction!

We dropped our bags off and went back to transition to bag up our morning clothes and grab our wetsuits and swim stuff. It was definitely chilly and foggy as we got back up to the lake so we opted to put our wetsuits on to keep us warm as we waited for the pro women to start, and to go into the start chute.

86
a perfect morning, although foggy enough that some of the buoys were hard to see!

The swim is a self-seeded start, so you basically stand in a group like you would for a running race according to what you think your finish time will be. I stood with Amy for a bit longer and then decided to work my way up a little closer to the front, as I was fairly confident seeding myself in the 1 hour – 1:10 group. Amy wanted to stay a little further back, so I gave her a hug, wished her well and I was on my way.

I found a decent spot towards the left and before I knew it, it was go time. We walked towards the start to the voice of Mike Reilly wishing us all well for the day. I high fived him as I got to the start and just like that, I was in the water.

Holy crap. I was off on my second Ironman! Luckily I didn’t panic or cry and I was somehow quite calm.

I started the swim way to the left, as I always do, to get away from the fracas and chaos of the start. This is by far my best race strategy and it has never failed me. I got into clear water almost right away and really had no issues with people around me. I avoided a few folks swimming diagonally and just eased up to let them go, and I went around. I kept a steady stroke, sighted each time I breathed and slowly worked my way towards the lighted cable (which I couldn’t really see) and the buoys (which were difficult to see in the fog).

Before I knew it, I was at the turn-around point and was right on the course with absolutely no issues. I heard a lot of people got kicked or punched during the swim and I thankfully never even came close to that happening. I know my swim is my strength and I definitely took advantage of that and just felt awesome.

As I got closer to the beach, I could hear Mike Reilly’s voice and the music and sped up a bit. We swam into shore, got out of the water to cross over the timing mat to go back for lap 2. I high-fived the volunteers, adjusted my goggles and dove back in. I again stayed left but not quite as far since it was not nearly as crowded on the 2nd lap. The fog was lifting, the buoys were easily seen and I felt like a million bucks.

I turned for home and knew I was right where I wanted to be, and didn’t feel tired at all. I kicked it into gear again as we got to the beach, and just like that I was done. I glanced at my watch and knew I was around 1:04 or 1:05 which was about perfect for me. And the fact that I really didn’t feel tired helped my confidence immensely.

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The guy behind me looks like he wants to kill me! 

The volunteers were awesome and helped me get my wetsuit off in about 2 seconds flat, helped me up and sent me on my way. I tried to take everything in as I ran out of the park and onto the road towards transition. I just remember looking around at the thousands of people screaming and cheering and I was smiling the entire time. What a rush and I honestly felt on top of the world!

I got into transition, grabbed by bike bag and into the changing tent I went, where I was promptly greeted by a wonderful volunteer who helped me get all of my stuff situated. She helped me dry my feet off, get my tri top on (which is no easy task when wet!), helped me with my shoes, helmet, glasses and food. I continued to just thank her for everything and before I knew it I was on my way out to get my bike.

We exited the text at the far side of transition, and ran through the grass as volunteers yelled out your bike number. Another volunteer grabs your bike and brings it to you as you run by (amazing!) and out to the mount line. I calmly got my bike, again saying thank you to everyone I could and off I went!

The first part of the bike is downhill to get out of town, and the crowds were awesome. I couldn’t stop smiling and loved every minute of it. I felt great, the bike was perfect and I was off to tackle my 112 miles in the saddle.

 

Stay tuned!

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