7/4/18

Ironman Austria '18 Race Report - 2.4 mile swim


2.4 mile swim
With two previous great swim performance at Ironman Austria (my first 1-hour swim and first sub 1-hour swim of 57 minutes), a little part of me was looking forward to a fast swim but a big part of me was wondering - will my body know what to do for 2.4 miles? I tried to clear those thoughts and just focus on the present moment and to not jump ahead with any thoughts on the outcome. This is the reason why I don’t wear a watch when I swim in races as I don’t want a time to get into my head or dictate how my day will go or is going.

When I got to the first buoy, I settled into a good rhythm. Because of the rolling start, there were not clumps of athletes but I always found myself next to other swimmers. Thankfully it wasn’t sunny out (very overcast) so this helped with sighting. Plus, I always wear a fresh new pair of goggles for an Ironman which makes for fog-free swimming. The water felt a bit choppy at times but I found a good rhythm and really focused on my stroke and grabbing the water and moving myself forward. I was able to swim side by side by a few fast swimmers but I also found myself passing a lot of athletes. Even thought Karel and I started somewhat together in the water, I didn't focus on his race or try to swim with him.

Many times when I swim, I find myself by another swimmer who is veering of course and swimming into me but I don’t let these things suck the energy out of me. Most of the time I just laugh and think “dude – where are you going?” Whenever I found myself thinking how far I still had to swim, I just rerouted my thoughts to focusing on getting from one buoy to the next, imaging myself in the pool covering distance like I was swimming continuous 100 yards.

Once I made the first left hand turn (keeping buoys on my left), I found myself drifting away from the course. I felt like I was having to counteract this push by swimming at a diagonal just to get myself back on course. Finally I made my way back on the course by the buoys. I don’t like to swim too close to the buoys as it is usually more cluttered and harder to keep my swimming rhythm so I am ok to swim a little out from the buoys but this time I felt way too far. It only took a few minutes of swimming before I found myself back on course. Once I made the next/last turn, it was time to swim straight to the canal. The water was getting a lot more choppy but I felt myself getting stronger with each stroke as if my body was finally waking up. There were plenty of buoys on the course which made it easy to sight. I warmed up nicely in the water but oddly, I got a little cold on the way to the canal – it lasted only a few buoys and then I warmed up again.

I typically like to build my effort as the swim distance progresses in a half or full distance Ironman so once I entered the canal for the last 1000 meters, I really picked up the effort. I love swimming in this canal as it makes me feel like I am in a pool as I can see myself moving forward with lots of spectators cheering on both sides and on the bridges that we swim underneath. The canal is rather shallow but deep enough to take a full swim stroke (at least for me and my 5-foot frame). It’s quite the swimming experience!

I had plenty of room in the canal as it wasn’t too packed when I got there so I could really focus on my own rhythm. Once I saw the two big orange buoys to signal that we were at the end of the course, I started to make my way to the right to make a hard right turn to the swim exit. My immediate thought when I was pulled out of the water by the volunteers to get on the ramp to exit the swim was that my swim didn’t feel super fast- I was guessing I swam around 1:01-1:02 as it just felt like a slow swim because of the chop, me getting slightly off course and my body taking some time to wake-up in the water. Of course, I was just guessing as I had no way of knowing my swim time without a watch (and no clock at the swim exit) but that’s what it felt like. But once I started running to make my way to the transition area (it’s a loooong way to run), I felt the energy from the crowd and it felt good to be out of the water and on my way to my bike.

T1
At Ironman Austria, all athletes share the same "changing" tent so there is no men and women’s changing area (unless you do need to change/get naked and then you can go behind a curtain wall). Because of this, the tent is much busier than I am use to in the states - which it is nice to have so many athletes around as it reminds me that we are all in this journey together. I also saw several ladies around which reminded me how competitive the field is here in Austria. There were lots of volunteers and I had a nice lady helping me out as I transitioned from swim to bike. She put on my bib belt for me around my waist (required to be worn on the bike on your back) as I put on my compression socks and helmet. I opted to wear compression socks instead of socks + calf sleeves as I often get blisters from wearing the socks + sleeves combo while racing. This required me to take off my chip to put on my compression socks (I didn't want to put the socks over my chip as I was worried it would be too tight) but I put the chip in my mouth just to make sure I wouldn’t forget to put it back on (versus lying it on the bench).

Instead of putting on my cycling shoes in the tent, I carried them with me to my bike which was in the very last row before the bike exit. The transition area is really long! But first, before running to my bike, I made a quick trip to the bathroom. I’ve learned from many Ironmans that it’s much better to use the transition area to empty yourself versus needing to go when on the bike or run. Let’s just call it being proactive versus reactive. Once I got to my bike, I turned on my bike computer and put on my cycling shoes by my bike and ran my bike out to the mount line and started my ride. I was really looking forward to the bike as I wanted to showcase my improved cycling fitness and skills. I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed that Karel’s bag and bike (on the same rack as mine) was gone before I arrived which meant he once again beat me out of the swim. I'm ok with this so long as it's only by seconds and not minutes. 😁