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IMWI: Pre race + swim + T1

It was Sat evening before I knew it. My transition bags were packed and my bike was sitting in the transition area. All that was left on my itinerary was OUTBACK and a hopeful good night of sleep.
After an excellent dinner from 5:20pm til 6:15pm we went back to the hotel and it was time to enjoy my last evening of being a 3x Ironman finisher. I was very calm and not too nervous on the days leading up to the race. However, every now and then I would get a feeling of "OMG the race is tomorrow!" In all honesty, my body has never felt so good before, prior to a race, and it was more of excitement, rather than worry, and I knew the feeling was that I was ready to go.

I had a very good night of rest after laying down for bed around 8:45pm. With 3 alarms set for the morning, it was no surprise that I woke up 5 min prior to my first series of alarms. 3:40am and I was up and at 'em!

Breakfast consisted of 1/2 raisin bagel w/ PB and regular jelly, a small banana, 1 packet walnut/raisin oatmeal (with skim milk) and an egg. I also had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. For supplements I had 2 endurance amino's, 2 anit fatigues and 4 tissue rejuvinators (all from Hammer) about 1 hr prior to the race start (w/ water).
I took my time eating and ate until I felt satisfied. Because I typically eat very early the night before a race, and don't eat until I am stuffed, I was very satisfied after finishing my typical pre-IM breakfast around 4:30am.
Around 4:55am I grabbed my pre-packed IM bag (wetsuit, clean clothes for after the race, goggles, swim cap, body glide, water bottle w/ 1/2 scoop hammer, 1 hammer gel, bottle of plain water, timing chip, sandals) and put on some warm clothes for the 15 min drive to the race venue.

Of course my stomach was in knots and Karel kept reassuring me that it was nerves. My parents, who are so supportive and wouldn't miss an IM for the world, and Karel joined me for body marking. After being body marked I went to my bike to check my tires, brakes and gears and to put on my sport bottles and power tap.
I prepared three bottles for my bike which consisted of 1 1/2 scoops Hammer Sustained Energy (160ish calories) + 1 scoop (heaping) Hammer Heed (110ish calories). The rest of my nutrition for the bike was in the form of gels, which was in my T1 bag in the transition room (inside the Monona Terrace).

Around 5:40am we all headed inside the Terrace and I relaxed for a little until it was time to head to the swim start.
Between my pre-race meal and race start I didn't consume any solid food. I sipped on my Hammer Heed (1/2 scoop), took my supplements and sipped on a little plain water. I also made a few stops at the restroom to help settle my stomach.

We made our way through the massive amount of people down by the swim and after Karel zipped me up in my wetsuit, I said see ya later to my parents and Karel and made my way into the water. It was about 6:45am when I took about 3/4ths of a Hammer gel (vanilla), entered the water and I managed to see the pro's start as I was warming up.
This was my first time wearing a full wet suit and I couldn't imagine being happier with my selection. I wore the Xterra Vector Pro X2 wetsuit (small) and it fit perfectly! It was really easy to get on and I literally floated in the water for 15 min. The water was a bit cold when I entered (65 degrees) but I felt really comfortable. I knew it was going to be a warm day for Madison (high 76-77) so I welcomed the chill in the air.

I noticed that I was amidst a group of red caps which made me wonder if I was making the right decision to start at the very front of a massive group of males. I did see a few other females with white caps but I just wondered if we were all making a big mistake.
With a 5 minute countdown I noticed that everyone was getting closer and closer to one another and that the line of people in the front row (which included me) spread from the buoy's to the shore. Considering that I haven't done a group swim start since Kona 2007, I could feel myself getting anxious for the gun to go off. You could hear the techno music from the terrace/shore and looking afar at the amount of people watching the race, I was really excited to be an Ironman participant for the day.
With a 1 minute countdown, I was at ease. I was ready to go and I was ready to get this day started. So much time, effort and money went into this race and I had no negative thoughts or fears that I wouldn't finish this race. To devote so much time for an event is just amazing to me and as much as I wanted to visualize myself crossing the finish line, I had to be in the moment and take this race mile by mile.

Off we went!!! Kick, hit, slap, kick, push.....
I wondered if it would ever get any better? The first part of the swim was brutal but that's expected. Every person trying to get in front of another person, only to find someone else trying to do the same. I tried to focus on my breathing and not choking or swallowing water but of course, I had a few gasps for air as I was being pushed down or being clobbered over. Although this may sound terrifying, I was being very brave (and perhaps a bit naive) that I could keep the same pace as the other males around me and behind me. Eventually, 10-15 min went by and I found myself swimming with a group of swimmers, without getting too beat up. I tried to draft as much as I could but often I would find myself swimming away from people in order to avoid getting too beat up on. As we made our way around the two corner buoys (the swim is a 2 loop, counter clockwise rectangle-ish loop) I noticed that it was much more difficult to swim in the opposite direction. I figured the current was pushing us away so I tried to find a group to draft off of. As soon as I caught up to a group, I found myself getting hit so off I went, again, to the outside, in an effort to save myself from this rough swim. I suppose I was doing a lot of weaving in an out as I was swimming in an effort to avoid getting hit during the end of my first loop.
I made my way around the next two buoys and started the second loop (no out of the water exit between loops). Because the sun was in our eyes on the way back from the 2nd loop, it wasn't until I made the corner before my 2nd loop that I looked at my watch in the water. I saw 29 min and I figured that I might have a chance to PR in my swim.
Once again I tried to draft as much as I could but I never felt as if I could stay with a strong group of swimmers. I stuck to my own effort and tried to stay focused.
I was very happy that I felt strong during the swim, although I was getting bits and pieces of exhaustion throughout the swim. This is nothing new, I'm sure, for any athlete, so without telling myself that I am going to be too tired to bike, I gave the last part of my swim everything I had to try to beat my IMKY time of 1 hour and 4 minutes.
I briefly looked at my watch at 1 hour, looked up, and sprinted to the shore. Semi-exhausted, I pulled myself out of the water and happily saw 1 hour and 2 minutes on the Swim Exit clock. YEAH!!!! 2 minute PR!

I pulled down the top part of my wetsuit, went down on the ground with my feet up and my wetsuit was stripped off by the wetsuit peelers.
Knowing that IMWI has a really long transition, I hurried my way to the helix and was greeted by hundreds of roaring fans all the way up the helix. Although I felt as if I was running in circles and the circles were never ending, I couldn't believe the crowd! If the swim start was any indication of spectator support for IMWI, I knew I was in for an exciting race.

I made my way to the top of helix, ran through the glass doors and went inside the T1 bag room (inside the Terrace). A volunteer handed me my bag (I always put bright colored ribbons on my bag so I can see it if a volunteer can't find it) and I ran into the female changing room.

I kept on my Zoot sports bar and took off my bathing suit bottoms and put on my cycling shorts. As usual, my volunteer was so helpful and kept asking me what she could do for me. I had her open my glasses and get out my nutrition from a big baggie. She asked if she could dump out everything from my bag and I said of course. I didn't have a lot in there so it was really easy for me to get myself ready to leave transition.
My volunteer helped me put on my Hammer tri top (with 3 pockets in the back) after I put on my Hammer cycling (w/ padding) shorts.
I put on my Pink Oakley glasses and GIRO pink aero helmet, as well as my Pink zoot race belt w/ number (number goes on the back of you during the IM bike) and black Trek socks. I had a 5 ounce Hammer flask filled with vanilla gel, as well as a few loose vanilla hammer gels. I had 2 coin purses, one with Endurance Amino's (hammer) as well as Anti Fatigue caps (hammer). I also had a baggie of race caps supreme and I took 1 race cap as soon as I got on the bike. I brought along a hammer bar (which I kept in the open package but cut up into 3 small pieces with a butter knife) as well as Twizzler bites (they are with me for every IM) just in case I needed something solid (although I never used anything solid during training). I ended up using a hair rubber band to keep all of my nutrition together so that when I dumped it all out of my transition bag I could quickly put my nutrition into 3 separate pockets.

Knowing that I had a long run from the inside of the changing room to my bike, I grabbed my cycling shoes and ran to my bike. As I ran to my bike I put on my cycling gloves. This was the first time that I used cycling gloves during a race and with all of the climbing of the course, I am really glad I had cycling shorts and cycling gloves.

As I made my way to my rack, a volunteer handed me my bike and I made my way to the other end of the transition area. I was careful to hold my nutrition in my back pockets as I was running with my bike so that I didn't loose anything.
I looked up and saw Karel on a walkway above the transition area. What a great surprise! I gave him a big wave and smile and finally made it to the top of the helix. I was feeling really good and I had a nice 2 minute PR to start off my IMWI journey.

I quickly mounted my bike, started my power tap and carefully made my way down the for the 112 mile bike ride!
*since Karel stayed on top of the transition area during my swim, he saw a lot going on while we were all swimming. Volunteers were going around to every bike rack during the race to check for flat tires. Karel said that a few bikes had flat tires and the bike mechanic volunteers changed the tires while we were swimming! Talk about service! Way to go Ironman corporation and volunteers!!