So much to say...too much to write...but here's a recap:
The day started by getting up at 4:30 AM and strangely enough, I wasn't that nervous. The practice swim the day before had bolstered my confidence in the swim (at least in terms of not getting hypothermia!) and the DVD that Scott had given me re the "4 keys to success in the IM" had convinced me to pace myself the whole way. I knew that I wasn't going to set any speed records but wanted to stay focused on coming in under 14 hrs.
I tried eating my usual bowl of oatmeal but I had carbo-loaded so much the night before that I was simply not hungry. I kept trying to force it down but gave up. Instead, I ate some yogurt and drank some juice and coffee and called it good.
At 4:50, I get a text from Dan saying "here we go!". That made me smile. Dan came down to watch all of us (esp Brenda) do this race. He's been a great friend and wonderful source of support.
I replied with "Lets get this party started!" Yeah, baby, it's GAME ON!
Kurt drove me to the race. The closer we got to the race venue, however, the faster my confidence faded. Crap, what if I freeze in the water? What if I lose my goggles? What if I get a flat? What if I can't find my bike or run bag? What if I didn't pack enough nutrition? What if, what if, what if?????
Kurt walked me to the race starting area. There were hundreds, if not thousands of people there - athletes and their families - and all the Ironman tents, etc. The air was buzzing with excitement. Here's a picture Kurt took of the race venue:
I had wanted to find the others (Brenda, Kevin, and Sarah) but it was a total madhouse - way too crowded to find anyone. So I focused on getting my stuff done and just hoped that I would run into them.
First thing was to fill up my water bottle on my bike - the big one on my handlebars. I had left it empty so that I could put in fresh sports drink the morning of the race. I double-checked my tool kit and the air pressure in my tires. I had filled them to 125 on Friday and they still felt tight so I decided to not fill them anymore.
Next, I needed to drop off the bike and run "special needs" bags - these are bags that IM takes to the halfway point (or close to the halfway point) on the bike and run course. I couldn't remember where we were supposed to do that (and was mad at myself for that!) and went scurrying around to ask a race official. I finally just asked another athlete who kindly pointed me in the right direction.
But there were so many people it was hard to get around. I started getting nervous because I needed to drop off the bags and get in line for the port-a-pot before putting on my wetsuit. The transition area closed at 6:30 and it was now 5:50 - yikes!
On my way to the special needs drop off area, a tall, lean woman brushed past me going in the opposite direction, who looked familiar. She was smiling and chatting to the person next to her. It was Chrissie Wellington! Wow!
I gave my bags to the volunteers and quickly dashed over to the port-a-potty area and got in line. It was a very long line! I frantically looked at my watch over and over again. It was 6:05...then 6:15...then 6:20 and I still wasn't first in line. A race official announced to all of us in line that the transition area would close in 5 mins and that we needed to be out of there. Uh oh...I really have to go!
I had all my swimming gear with me so I started putting on Body-Glide while I waited and the athletes around me started doing the same thing. I took off my morning clothes and put on my wetsuit halfway, all the while praying that one of those port-a-potties would open up quickly. One did and I dashed in as fast as I could!
The announcer told us to move into the swim start area. My heart started to pound quickly...omg, we are actually going to start this thing! And do I really have to jump into that cold lake???
The announcer said the water was 61 degrees and again, I felt relieved that i had done the practice swim the day before. Little did I know that the water was actually 58 degrees now! I found this out later and it's a good thing!
People started lining up on the "dock" (not really a dock but a cement ledge) and some started to jump in. It was about a 4 ft drop into the water and you literally had to step off and jump in. It was fascinating to watch - hundreds of athletes all standing there apparently frozen...and one by one jumping in. Most of us were putting it off as long as we could!
I finally made the jump. The water was so cold, it took my breath away. I slowly made my way over to the starting line and tried to relax as I treaded water (mainly to stay warm, the wetsuit keeps you afloat). My neoprene cap made it hard to hear the announcer, which was frustrating. So I just hung in the water, trying to relax and waiting for the cannon.
It was total mayhem. Arms and legs flailing everywhere. I tried to swim but there was no way - I was pushed under several times as a sea of red caps swam over and around me (men had red caps, women had purple). I was pushed and hit several times. I started to panic, even though I had gone over this in my mind a million times. I knew it would be this way so why was I panicking?!
Just keep moving, I told myself. I felt the panicky feeling getting worse. I wanted out and I wanted out right now. Crap! For an instant, I pictured myself aborting the race and seeing the disappointed looks on my kids' faces...I can't do that! Just go, damn it!
Somehow, I started swimming or at least trying to swim. I knew that if I could get into a rhythm, I would be fine. The hard part was finding space in the water to actually swim. I was pushed under again but this time I came up fighting. I will do this race if it kills me!
I put my head in the water and started swimming. I didn't look up or over or anywhere but in the water. I swam and swam and swam. A calmness fell over me as I listened to myself breath in and out, in and out, in and out. Yes, I can do this!
The swim seemed to take forever. But I wasn't too cold and my arms were feeling ok so I kept going. I could tell that I was not swimming fast; I could've pushed harder but for some reason I was holding back a little. I thought about work, family, life, post-IM life (will it ever get here?) and before I knew it, I was back to the start and someone was pulling me out of the water - YAY!
Total swim time: 1:19 (22nd in my age division - not bad!)
My swim time in Florida was 1:18 and although I was hoping to improve this year, given the rough start and cold water, I'm ok with it.
Now for the bike...to be continued!