2.4 mile swim
Back in Feb 2013, I traveled to Utah with Oakley Women for a product testing trip on the beautiful snowy mountains at Snowbird resort.
As a swimmer all my life, I would consider myself more of a fish than a snow bunny but I am all about trying new things. I have had the opportunity to snowboard several times in my life and I always love the challenge of strapping in my feet and gliding down a mountain. But if I were to race in snowboarding, I wouldn't do very well and probably would be too scared to start. I could probably improve my skills if I snowboarded more often, worked with an experienced instructor and developed a passion for snow more than water, but I will be honest and say that I am not a great snowboarder and I am just happy with my ability to have fun and get down a mountain in one piece (although sometimes with a sore butt afterwards).
In life, we have many opportunities to step outside of our comfort zone but like most people, we often get really comfortable in our comfort zone. Sometimes we have no choice but to step outside of our normal but I am sure that most would agree that doing something that you don't normally do is not the best feeling in the world....at least when you do it for the first time and aren't very good at it.
As most people know, my husband Karel decided to move from Cat 1 cyclist to triathlete this past June (2012).
Karel loves to push like most competitive athletes and for him, running came naturally. Suffering in cycling races transferred really well to running....push hard and suffer and run faster.
But for Karel, he was often very frustrated by swimming. He found it so discouraging that he couldn't just push in the water. He could push on the bike, push on the run but in the water, pushing meant gasping for air, feeling like he was getting no where in the water and experiencing extreme fatigue.
Even if something is hard, uncomfortable, scary or new, the most important thing is that you recognize that everything that you are feeling is normal. For if you only did things in life that were easy, simple and effortless, you likely wouldn't get anywhere in life. You have likely achieved things in life because you were willing to step beyond what is comfortable and embrace something that is not easy. But the defining point is knowing that you are not going to give up until you get to where you want to be. Perhaps you can't define where it is that you want to be and when but the most important thing is making sure that you are having fun along the way and seeing yourself grow. You are moving forward for you and for no one else. If you don't like something at first, don't give up. But you have to have the right motivation, passion and commitment ensure that you are doing things for the right reason.
Every athlete has a a weakness. You can't be good at everything if you want to get better at what you do. There is always a way and reason to be better than you were yesterday but you have to really want it and the work that comes when you get there.
I don't think I'm ever going to race in a snowboarding event but I know that I will never stop the opportunity to snowboard. I will always be a little scared but I will figure out a way to get to the bottom and get back up again when I fall. For now, I will continue to work hard for my triathlon goals and enjoy every journey that my body and mind gives to me during training and racing. I am willing to be patient as I better understand endurance triathlons and the skills required to race strong and consistent and I will always be sure to have fun along the way.
Once I entered the water, I felt good. I felt comfortable, smooth and confident. This was my comfort zone and I knew what I wanted......
1:07, 1:06, 1:04, 1:02, 1:08....I've been chasing that 1 hour swim time for 2.4 miles for the past 8 years. It's something that drives me to push in the pool, even though I have been pushing in the water since I started swimming around the age of 11. I love dreaming big and having goals helps me jump out of bed, get out the door and see what I am capable of achieving for the day.
As I neared buoy #4, I felt good. My plan for the two loop swim was to swim the first loop feeling "good". I never wanted to feel exhausted in the first loop and depending on my perceived effort in relation to my time after 1.2 miles, I would decide if I could take a risk or two in loop two. Realizing that swimming is a strength of mine, I always give myself the opportunity to deviate from my race day plan just a tiny bit if I am feeling good in the water. There's something about chasing a time that excites me and at the end of the day, I am 100% responsible for my actions when I race. I can blame nobody but myself and I am willing for the consequences if I let my ego + dreams get the best to me. But then again, how do I ever know if my thoughts will fail me if I don't give things a risky try.
I was very tempted to look at my Garmin 910XT (outside of my wetsuit) before the right hand turn at buoy #9 but I didn't. I saved that surprise for when I made a slight turn to the right on this very narrow out and back rectangle loop. I took a look at my watch as I started heading back to the start/finish and it said something around 14 minutes. I am pretty sure I smiled in the water not only because I was really excited about my 6th Ironman in Lake Placid (especially since I went from extremely nervous to very calm and relaxed) but I felt like this was the day I could release my inner nemo.
As I swam back to shore I was careful to not go too hard. The water was smooth and I continued to stay to the outside of the buoys to get cleaner water. I still wanted to draft off other swimmers but I was careful to not get too close to the cable under water as I knew that battling flying arms would only get me out of my rhythm with my stroke.
The buoys were going by really quickly and all I could remember was the breakthrough big swim set I did in prep for the IM, alongside putting all those individual workouts together for this one very special day. #4, #5, #6....the first loop was almost complete and as I spotted ahead of me, I could see spectators and the dock. #7, #8....I was so tempted to look at my watch and I gave myself permission after #9.....
But I resisted. Just stay steady, I kept thinking to myself.
I made my way out of the water and ran onto the shore as I cleared my goggles with my fingers. It felt really great to stand up and get some air into my lungs and when I saw 29 minutes on my watch, I got super excited. So excited that I sprinted through the start banner and dove into the water for my 2nd loop.
Did I really just swim 1.2 miles in 29 minutes and I made it feel easy?
The 2nd loop was a bit more congested compared to the first due to the seeded start but I didn't let it get to me because I knew I could still have a good swim to start my journey of 140.6 miles. As much as I wanted to pick up the pace, I kept reminding myself that this was a very long day and I can't win anything in the swim.
I found several pink caps around me which was comforting knowing that I was swimming strong and around similar fitness abilities. As I neared buoy #9, I couldn't believe that I was making my last two right hand turns to finish my 6th IM swim!
I looked at my watch again and I think it was around 46 minutes. I was starting to battle swimmers who were on their first lap but I didn't get frustrated. I coach newbie triathletes, my hubby is competing in his first tri and I know I was not always a great cyclist when I started. We must always respect those who are learning new skills for we have all been there, done that in some way or another.
As I found a few open patches, I looked at my watch one last time. I can't remember what buoy I was at but my watch said 56 minutes. I didn't get frustrated but instead, I gave myself permission to go for it. I picked up the pace, careful to not waste any energy in my legs that I needed for 112 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running but I found myself catching the water a little stronger and really focusing on getting to where I wanted to be...as fast as possible.
I started swimming toward the shore and I tried to stand up when I saw others standing....ok, 5 feet tall Marni has a ways to go. I kept on swimming and looked at my watch as I tried to stand again.
YIPPEE!! But of course, there was a few steps to the arch to stop my timing chip and my final time read 1:01:02.
Oh well. I'll take it as I felt amazing and I was super excited to get on my bike and anxiously await Karel zooming past me somewhere on the bike to tell him about my swim and to hear about his swim.
As I ran toward the strippers, I took my arm sleeve over my Garmin and then unzipped my wetsuit and removed the sleeves and pulled it down to my waist. I had my Trimarni kit (cycling shorts and zipper jersey), HR monitor and CEP calf sleeves under my wetsuit and slathered in body glide spray and my timer chip on my ankle (with a safety pin to secure), my body marked body was revealed as I laid on the ground with my feet up for the strippers to pull off my wetsuit.
I said thank you to the volunteers and ran down a long carpeted chute to the transition area.....it didn't seem very long because the spectators were lined along the chute and cheering loudly for all of us swimmers.
I noticed that many people had rain coats on and all of a sudden it occurred to me that it was raining! Oh boy, this is going to be an interesting start to the race....just stay calm and focused.
I ran toward the transition bags and grabbed my T1 bag w/ my cycling gear.
-helmet (not aero helmet but my regular training helmet which I love)
-Oakley Commit sunglasses-Pill container (back up pills, electrolytes, endurance aminos, tums)
-Pill packets (electrolytes and aminos) in a baggie
-Gel flask (300 calories of Hammer heed espresso)
As I ran to the transition area, there were a few women in the tent (age groupers and pros) and two volunteers dumped out my bag which included separate large zip lock bags for my gear items. As usual, the volunteers were amazing and as I put on my socks and shoes, one volunteer put my nutrition in my pockets (gel flask in right pocket and pills in left - I asked her to do this and she did it perfectly) and the other put my helmet on my head. Done! What a quick transition and it was exactly as I had visualized.
I said thank you and ran out of the tent to the end of the transition area and to my bike.
Transition time: 4:36
A volunteer handed me my bike, I said thank you and powered my Garmin 500 (turned it on) and ran toward the mount line.
I couldn't believe that I was mounting my bike with two professional women around me but I bottled in those thoughts as I felt like this day was going so great....I hadn't even raced more than 2.4 miles and with 112+ 26.2 miles to go, I really didn't want the day to end. As I always say, all that training just for a one day event.
My bike was wet but that was fine. Karel put great bar tape on my bike which made me feel good considering the technical descends and turns heading out of transition.
And before I knew it, I was on my bike and excited to see if all that bike training, sitting on Karel's wheel, had paid off......
112 miles...here I come!
A little about Karel's race, he felt really good and had no major issues in the first loop. He found the 2nd loop to be a bit busy for him but he stayed calm. Karel said his biggest mistake was having trouble getting off his wetsuit, especially the arms over his Garmin. He said he was really frustrated by the wetsuit but he was able to move on quickly and remind himself that his major goal during the swim was to just swim efficient so he could get on the bike and have 5+ hours to be in his comfort zone. Karel's transition was 6:59 due to the added time from the strippers and him struggling with his wetsuit so although a rookie mistake, Karel still had a great swim considering that he just learned to train for swimming just 13 months ago.Karel ended up swimming 1:10.20 which I find so funny considering that I swam 1:01.02!! Crazy to just move around the numbers and we swam the same time!!
Here is a great video of the swim start that I found on the internet: