Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ironman Lake Placid Swim: race report

I've heard from so many other athletes about how wonderful Mirror Lake it.  Calm, beautiful, cool, delicious, there's a magic cable and maybe unicorns live there too.  I did a practice swim on Friday with my girls, and we laughed and swam and did flip turns and backstroked and I felt at ease.  I wasn't worried about the swim, the swim is my happy place.
Sunday morning went just like race morning goes.  It was raining when we drove into Lake Placid from Wilmington but dry in transition, and other than an extra-long porta-potty line, the morning rolled right along.  Yasi and I had only a few minutes to squirm into our wetsuits, and I nibbled on one more bite of a bar, kissed my husband and waved to my parents goodbye, and then headed into the scrum to line up.
A couple of months ago, I had a dream that I swam a 1:08.  Just a dream, but when I talked through my race plan with Sonja, I told her about it and said, I'm going to swim a 1:08.  That made it easy to line up in the right spot - a little more than halfway back in the 60-70 minute corral.  I actually had no idea what pace a 1:08 is (I still don't know but I do know it's faster than the 1:12 I swam at CDA last year), but that's what my cranky little subconscious picked out of the air.
When Ironman announced the new swim initiative a few months back, I had a lot of loud and rude things to say about it.  Then I had several friends do Coeur d'Alene, and they all loved it, so I changed my tune and was ready to rock and roll.  After this weekend, I'm back in the first camp (I'm sure everyone at Ironman has been holding their breath waiting for my opinion).
The cannon went off and we all splashed into the water.  I started swimming right away, nice and relaxed and easy.  I got kicked and smacked a few times but I figured that it would settle down (cue the foreboding shark music).  I went wide of the cable line because I didn't want to fight with anyone about swimming on it, and the big numbered buoys made sighting awesome.  But the swim never cleared out.  In truth, I have never experienced such a violent, disorganized mess in my life.  And the hilarious fact is that I have several friends who also raced, and some of them had a great empty water experience and some of them had a day identical to mine.  So that goes to show how different your race can be in the water, even from 50 feet away.

I went far around the turn buoys but at the second turn on the first lap, I took a punch to the temple that rattled all of my teeth in their little tooth sockets.  I stopped to breaststroke for a minute and the thought that I might DNF the swim flashed by.  My vision cleared and I kept swimming, but went even wider as I did the "back" part of the course.  I was anxious to finish the first loop in hopes that things would be more clear on the second.
I wasn't wearing a watch, and it took me a few minutes after seeing the clock when I ran through to figure out that I roughly swam a 34 on the first loop, which I was pleasantly surprised to estimate.  And I'm not complaining about it because this is part of racing in open water, just trying to detail my experience, but the second loop was worse.  I had my ankle deliberately yanked on multiple times, I swam into packs of breaststrokers, I got kicked in the nose and punched in the calf so hard that I have bruises, men (green caps, I'm not being a sexist asshole) pushed me down underwater on my back and swam over me, the aggressive contact and blockages never stopped and at the second turn buoy one guy near me was so frustrated with the mess that I heard him sit up and yell if you can't swim get the fuck out of my way. I felt like I was surrounded with aggression and anger the entire time I was in the water. 
And that made me sad, because the swim is my favorite part of the day.  I stopped caring about time or effort or breathing or anything except getting the hell out of Mirror Lake.  I swam as hard as I could until I got boxed in, sat up and made my way around, swam hard, boxed in, and repeat until I finally pulled up to the dock and could run out.  Based on the clock and my rough math, I thought I swam a 36 on the second loop.  I filed that away in my brain and then let the swim go (everyone should hope to look this good ten seconds out of the water; TYR, call me!).  
And I laughed, sitting at the finish line hours later eating orange slices by the bushel, when the poet told me my time.  1:08:57, a 3+ minute PR but more importantly, the time I picked out of the air based on a stupid dream.  
Swim out to transition is long at Lake Placid, but the entire funnel is covered with screaming spectators so I felt like a baller running through.  It had started raining again while we were in the water, and the volunteers were great about pointing out slippery spots as we worked our way through the bags and into the changing tents.  I put on my shoes and helmet, opened the extra bag of chamois cream that I had packed in case it was raining and shoved the whole giant glob down the front of my shorts, then thanked my volunteer and ran out of the back of the tent.  Volunteers were calling numbers out but the poor girl working my row pulled out the wrong bike, so I ran down the aisle and then I couldn't find it either, but another volunteer came over, put my bike in my hands, looked me in the eye and steadied me for a second and said be safe out there.  I told him I would, squished back down the aisle, to the mount line, clicked in and rolled out.  5:37 in T1.  Here we go.  

19 comments:

  1. Wow! All that pushing and shoving and hitting sounds like no fun at all. I am wondering what the new swim initiative is and how it was different from previous years. I like my short swims in triathlons when I am in the back with all the other geriatrics. Not a lot of pushing and shoving.

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  2. Wow - that is an incredible time especially with all the pushing, kicking....
    I hope you are going to tell the rest of the story - can't wait to read it all!!!

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  3. great job...I did CDA this year and I have to tell you I wasn't really a fan of the start...initially I thought that a rolling seeded start would be great but really 10 or in CDA's case 15 minute increments is a pretty big time zone difference for swimming, I got beaten to a pulp the entire swim...but really I'd do it again!! ;) Congrats to you!

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  4. Congrats Katie. Sorry you got kicked in the face, though. At least there weren't jellyfish? Come teach me to swim, okay?

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  5. Sorry you got so abused in the swim - ugh! You are so right about experiences being so different. I was a minute behind you on the swim, and was pretty much fine the entire time. Having done the swim twice before in Mirror Lake, I can say I've had my fair share of abuse in that lake, so I know what you mean.

    I had the wrong bike brought to me too. Boo!

    Can't wait for the next installment. It was fun seeing you on the bike :)

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  6. Ugh... I feel you on the swim being a great part of the day for me (at least in warmer water). Calm, peaceful, centering... sorry you had such a rough swim but AWESOME job on picking out your swim time in a dream. :) Can't wait for more recaps!

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  7. Congrats on your awesome swim! Incredible to PR by 3+ minutes while getting the crap beat outta you.

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  8. NICE. I think swimming men are like zombies trying to eat my legs. I want to do more womens' races for that reason. For realz.
    YOU ARE A BALLER!! *starstruck*

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  9. What the hell on that swim? Ridic. Good think you drop bows on hoes. Yeah, I said that. I love your recaps. Keep em coming.

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  10. It really is amazing how totally and completely individual an open-water swim. Even when it's not about crowds and aggression, but the water (people who swam the GCBS faster than me in 2011 had no tides to contend with; people who swam slower than me got called out of the water prior to the finish because of thunderstorms). Congrats on the PR despite the violence (which is a crazy sentence to write about a race that isn't skier-cross)!

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  11. Nice swim time! That is really unfortunate that it was so rough though and so crazy what a different experience everyone had with the new swim start! That picture of everyone lining up looks like madness!

    Looking forward to part 2 :)

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  12. Loving the report so far!!! Congrats on tackling the beast out there! And love the SOAS kit :)

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  13. See, this is what worries me about Ironman or any tri - the swim. Sounds like pure hell to me.

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  14. Dreams come true! (Sorry I'm late to the party, catching up now)

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  15. You're scaring me. I don't want to get punched in the face next year when I attempt my first IM! But it will probably happen. So I should probably just get used to the idea now.

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  16. Yeah, that's exactly how I think of a triathlon -- angry athletes yelling get the fuck outta my way. If I wanted to replicate my DC driving commute I could do that for free!

    Sometimes I think back to when you and I first met, and biked while dreaming of healing our injuries and getting back to running ... And how our paths diverged. We both love endurance challenges, but in very different ways.

    Love your spirit, and drive, and haven't given up on the hope that one day you and I will have a lovely trail run together.

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  17. I had basically the same exact experiance on the swim!! It was horrible!!! I did IMLP in 2011 and had an amazing swim with a mass start. This was a mosh pit! Anyway, great job! Wish I saw you out there!

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  18. I can't believe the swim was so terrible!!! I mean, I've never had any crazy dreams of actually doing an ironman, but that description would have talked me out of it for sure. Glad that you survived it.

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