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Ironman Lake Placid: The Swim

Ironman Lake Placid: The Swim

It seems like it has been forever since I have written a truly personal post on my blog! As I look back, it has been a long time…almost a year! In fact, the last post I wrote was about having to drop out of Ironman Lake Placed in 2017 due to injury and personal reasons. My family and I ended up volunteering at the 2017 event, which you can read about <HERE>. After volunteering, I was given a link for early entry to this year’s race. I was very reluctant to sign up as I was unsure of what the year in front of me would look like. I was going through some very hard times in my personal life, but I decided to go ahead and register with the worst case scenario being that I was out $700 (again).

By mid winter, I began to seriously regret the decision to sign up for the race. I had very little desire to train and I struggled every week to get the workouts done. Often times, I missed more than one or two training days in a week. Early on, I did not feel bad about this, but as the snow began to melt and my motivation stayed low I began to worry. When I trained for Ironman Mont Tremblant, I think I missed 2 workouts the entire training cycle up until I was in the horrendous bike accident.  During this training cycle, I was happy when I had 2 solid weeks of not missing workouts!

However, the one thing I had on my training plan that was staring at me was Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 at the end of May. I had signed up for the race the previous Fall and I was going to do it with my friend and coach. It was a “girl’s weekend” where just the two of us were going.  I had already bought my plane ticket and paid for the hotel, so I did not want to back out or let my friend down.  Having this race in front of me was what kept me training, even if it was half-heartedly. I ended up having a blast doing the race, even though it was like 110 degrees out and I thought I was going to die on the run course! Finishing this event reignited my love for triathlons and it was just the push I needed to get through the next 2 months of hard training for Lake Placid.

The Swim

As I mentioned above, my training was rather lackluster until the final 2 months. The thing I neglected the most in training was swimming. I have done a fair amount of open water swimming and I am very comfortable with it. I felt like no matter what, I could make it through the swim in a reasonable time. This being said, I was by no means cavalier with this thought, I made sure I got in open water with a group several times before the event.  I also swam the 2.4 miles a few times during training to make sure I was comfortable with the distance.

Race Morning

I woke up at 4:30 am on race morning and had a cup of coffee as I mentally went through the day ahead of me. I headed to transition around 5:15 to pump up my tires and put my nutrition on my bike. Despite all my lists and prep, I managed to have left my fluids in the hotel room! Fortunately, we were just a block away and my husband brought them right over to me. As I waited for him, nervousness and self-doubt started to creep in and I did some deep breathing to keep calm.

Loved being surprised with this sign from our hotel room balcony!

After I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked my bike (140.6 miles and 9 months of training brings out the OCD in just about everyone), I headed to the swim start. There was a mob of people waiting there and all I could see was a sea of swim caps ( way more greens than pink…). Amongst the caps were signs raised high with estimated swim finish times. I spotted mine (1:21-1:30) way ahead the crowd and tried to get to it, but there was a bottle neck of people jammed trying to get onto the beach. I tried to remain calm as the pro swimmers took off in the water. I was hoping that once they started there would be a little movement and I could make it to my spot. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, the swimmers had rolled in and now I was in the 1:31-1:40 group.  Ok, no big deal I thought to myself, I’ve got a few extra seconds to take some deep breaths before hitting the water. Just as I was about to get in, an official stopped me as the pro women were just finishing their first loop. I saw Heather Jackson get out of the water first and sprint back in for her second loop!

After this, I made sure my goggles were tight and I entered the water, pressing the start button on my watch as I crossed over the timing mat. I had decided to swim on the outside to avoid getting caught in the mass of arms grabbing and feet kicking in the water. Quickly, I realized that this was not a great plan as I was getting hit and grabbed repeatedly. I swam in toward the buoy line, keeping calm and I started to focus on counting the buoys on the way out. I knew there were 8 before I would hit the big red turn buoy. I continued to get kicked, swam over, and my ankles were tugged on. I was weaving in and out of people just trying to find “my spot”.  There were a few times that I actually just stopped swimming and laid with arms and legs straight out in the water and let the mass of people pull me through the lake. At one point, I glimpsed at my watch and saw my pace was 2:00 minutes/100 yards.  I was totally fine with that and relieved that it wasn’t slower.

As I got through the turn buoys, the crowd seemed to finally spread out a bit. This is when I noticed that my timing chip felt like it was bobbing up and down, so I reached back and felt it. It seemed secure. I typically put it under my wetsuit to protect it, but it must have come out a bit. Just as I was finishing the first loop, I got kicked in the right eye by someone doing a serious breast stroke. It was so hard that my goggles loosened and I had to stop to reseal them. When I restarted my swim, I got a horrendous cramp in my right calf. I tried to shake it out, then pointed and flexed my foot to see if I could get it to go away. I have had this happen in the pool several times, but never in open water. I was trying to keep cool as when I get these cramps, I often times have to stop for 5-10 minutes until they go away. Then I remembered a story my coach had told me about someone getting a calf cramp on their bike and the person pinched their arm to redistribute the nerve impulse (or something like that…I’m a nurse, but not entirely sure how this works). Anyway, I could not pinch myself because my arms and hands were the only thing keeping me moving. So, I decided to bite the inside of my cheek (yes…we triathletes are a crazy, determined breed…). Voila!!! It worked! The cramp went away and I was now on my way to the second loop of the swim.

I hopped out of the water, cleared my goggles again and entered the water quickly. Much to my chagrin, I was caught up again in a mass of people. I became frustrated as this was shaping up to be the worst open water swim I had ever experienced. I kept trying to find a space in the water to just swim, but struggled. Someone grabbed my ankle and I felt my timing chip loosen again. I stopped checked it, yelled “What the F*@! is going on ( to myself)?” and continued onward. Finally, I made it to the buoy line and I swam directly on top of it for the remainder of the swim. I actually wrapped my arm around one of the small crew buoys twice on the way back into the beach because of how close I was to the line.

This was exactly how I felt about the swim!

Finally, I made it out of the water and looked at my watch… 1 hour 34 minutes, I was a little confused because I thought my pace was faster. I took a quick second look at my watch and realized I had swam 4,629 yards. Oh well, there was nothing I could do about it, I was just relieved the swim was over. Off to the wetsuit strippers!

I saw 2 of the amazing volunteers waving their arms for me and I pulled my wetsuit down to my waist. Then, I laid down on the mat and they swiftly yanked it off. I was back up and running toward T1. I realized my back was completely covered with sand and made a mental note to make sure to wipe it off before putting on my aero shirt. I saw my family as I was running on the red carpet to transition! They were cheering me on loudly and it was just the boost I needed. I yelled to my husband that the swim was brutal, then smiled and said “Off for the real fun now!”

Next Up: The Bike!

 

 

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Jenny Shea Rawn

Friday 3rd of August 2018

Amazing feat! A huge congrats. And that swim sounded brutal.

Jessica Levinson

Friday 3rd of August 2018

Wow, SO many swimmers!! Congratulations on finishing! So cool your family was there cheering you on! I would definitely need that inspiration!

Esther

Friday 3rd of August 2018

Oh my gosh I was feeling my own anxiety creep in while I read this! Girl, I would have been crying a river if that had happened to me! Way to persevere through terrible swim conditions! Glad you were able to get over your cramp with biting your cheek! Can't wait to read about the bike portion! So in awe already!

(ps, your link to post about volunteering in 2017 isn't linked right)

rebecca

Thursday 2nd of August 2018

congrats! bet it feels so good to be done!

Nicole @ Fitful Focus

Thursday 2nd of August 2018

I'm so impressed with triathletes! I can't imagine swimming for 1:34! Looking forward to the rest of your recap!