Ironman Boulder Swim: race report

I am a the biggest extrovert in the world (I hope everyone is ready to see this picture reposted at least a dozen times in the next six months to accompany whatever random thought I think it accentuates).
However, despite the fact that I love people and I'm all let's ride bikes and have drinks and go out to dinner do you want to go running with me let's be friends can we be friends, I cannot deal with huge crowds, lollygaggers and traffic and lots of humans, particularly sweaty and wearing too much compression, bunched up in one place.  So the ironman expo crowds always make me crazy.  The fortunate thing about living in Boulder is that I was able to hit packet pickup early on Thursday and then get the hell out of town before I stabbed someone.  Friday was a more relaxed day, I hung out with my beautiful speedo men and annoyed the shit out of everyone with my taper happiness, I had breakfast and a pedicure with my girl, I took a nap, and then headed out to one of the places that I go when I want nothing but quiet and sunshine and the wide sweet sky.
I read through my favorite passages from some of the many books I plowed through over the past spring.  I did some thinking about the race and what success looked like for me, I wrote it down so then I could let it go, release it into the universe to be whatever it would be.  I spent even more time laying on my back, watching clouds, letting my mind wander, blank and calm and inviting that which was meant for me.  When I finally rolled up my blanket to head home, I felt centered.  Light.  And very definitely, ready.

It was wonderful to cook dinner in my kitchen and sleep in my own bed the night before ironman; for that, this race gets a plus sign. The wake-up was no less early and I know a lot of people were upset about race morning logistics, but I had no complaints.  We found parking easily, dropped off our special needs bags (which I kissed and said see you in a few hours OSMO!), hopped on the bus and headed back up to the reservoir.  I plugged in headphones and burrowed into my bubble, set the steady rhythm for the day.  The song I listened to on race morning is the same song I had repeating just before I toed the line at Moab earlier this spring.  The lyrics and music aren't really that meaningful, it's simply something that I can turn on repeat and let flow, mellow in my blood, although there is one line that I quite like, when oblivion is calling out your name, you always take it further than I ever can.  And I don't quite want oblivion on race morning, I don't want to be unaware, but I do want to be on the other side of the glass, to separate myself, mind and body, as much as I can from my surroundings, to prepare.  For battle. 

Transition was easy, I met up with friends and family, I ate my snack, I convinced a security guard to look the other way and let me sneak through the barriers to sit on the ground.  I sat there alone, hidden from 2400 kickbutt ironman athletes and watched the sun rise over the reservoir and just breathed and emptied my thoughts.   (My mom took this phenomenal picture on race morning, worth the click for full-size).
After about twenty minutes, I climbed back through the gap in the fence and found my people and went through all the spraying and lubing and greasing and yanking that goes into getting ready to swim.  I plugged in my ear plugs and hugged everyone and then worked my way into the starting corral.  I had decided to seed myself right on the one hour line - back of the hour and under or front of the hour and up (they actually mushed together into one giant lump of wetsuits).  There weren't a lot of women up there, and that worried me, but there were plenty of men that looked more than capable of dragging me around, so I hung out a bit, and then I saw someone who I swim with at masters and we're pretty darn close so I felt good about where I was.  It was quiet, I remember being smashed like tiny smelly fish in a can at Lake Placid before the swim started, but at Boulder, there was plenty of room.  People weren't really talking, and it surprised me when the cannon went off and we splashed most eagerly into the water.
Drafting, in ironman, is not something I worry about.  Even being in the front-ish part of the field, there are still many faster swimmers out there (151 at Boulder, for example), so I don't stress about locking onto feet and stalking them throughout the course.  I figure that the enormous mass of people moving somewhat frantically in the same direction will give me enough of a draft without getting kicked in the face.  

Being a slightly faster swimmer this year made a huge difference in my experience in the water.  The physical contact I experienced was aggressive, I got thumped and whacked and had to yank my leg out of someone's hand grasping for my timing chip (why?  why do people do this?) at least a half-dozen times, but the swimmers around me were also moving straight and steady and in the right direction.  I sighted every so often, just to make sure that I wasn't barreling off towards Kansas, I counted buoys, and when I hit the first turn a mile out, I kicked a bit to make the left and realized that I hadn't been kicking at all (pink cap!).
There isn't a lot to say here - my day was all about the run, and lord knows I'll have enough to say when I finally get there.  I swam conservatively, steadily, I counted my strokes, I breathed, I spent at least a half mile trying to pee and then, I think, the entire next half mile peeing (thanks PreLoad!), and then went back to counting, watching buoys, and patiently waiting for the shore to come back to me.  
I don't wear a watch during the swim and somehow always manage to miss the clock, so I had no idea what I swam.  When I got back to Facebook about 24 hours later, I saw that my good buddy Emily posted this and, well, as she said, fucking legit.  Only one woman in my age group swam under an hour which gives me information about the conditions of the day.  While I am still going to continue to chase the appropriately-executed sub-60 ironman swim, my definition of success (written down Friday afternoon) had nothing to do with a time and everything to do with focus, concentration, and intent.  And when I climbed up onto the beach and ran across the timing mat, I thought to myself, whatever that was, was a success. 
Swim: 2.4 miles, 1:05:07, 10th AG/33rd F

Transition was awesome.  I knew a lot of people volunteering, and I felt like I heard my name a hundred times as I ran into the changing tent.  Someone I swim with at Rally was my volunteer, and she was calm and speedy and got me swiftly into my shorts and out the door.  I heard go Katie! from everywhere again as I ran across the grass towards my bike, I tried to smile and wave and sip my OSMO and chew down my bar all at once.  
I had the thought, this is why doing a race at home is amazing, because I will spend all day feeling like a superstar and that thought buoyed me up and out, I was happy to be rolling, ready to settle into the first part of the day that ever actually feels like work.  Onwards, upwards, and out we go.  
T1: 4:29


  1. Yep, all the benefits of a home race that you mention are exactly why I signed up for IMLP again despite that hellacious hillfest of a bike course. (Doing that second climb from Jay to Wilmington again? OH GOD HELP ME.)

    ...and I can't even fathom a 1:05 IM swim. FISHIE! (Or, as your friend said, FUCKING LEGIT. DAMN.)

  2. Fantastic! Can't wait to read more.

  3. awww, calf smiley! i always get one of those too. :)


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