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 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.