THE SWIM – 1:10:55 // 1:40/100 yards
Making my way down to the water I wasn’t as nervous as I sometimes am for the swim portion of the day. Things that I think helped contribute to that: I had a solid plan, I had quite a few solid swims in Alta Lake prior to race day, and 2 days before the race I found out that the start was deep and in water. One of my biggest fears had been a shallow water start and having to navigate the first 90 degree turn only a couple hundred yards from shore, so learning that we wouldn’t have to turn for nearly 1/2 mi made me feel much better.
So, as I mentioned, the swim was a deep water start with the start line running about 200 yards, from the first buoy all the way to shore. It was angled a bit as well, so that no matter where on that line you positioned yourself it would be the same distance to the first orange (turn) buoy. The course was 2-loop, but what made it different from a lot of other 2-loop swims is that swimmers stayed in the water for both loops and only made their way back to shore to finish the leg. Usually 2-loop IM swims have a mid-way check point on the beach where swimmers have to exit, run across a timing mat, then enter the water again for the second lap.
I walked through T1 and was sure to cross the timing mat to turn my chip on. On the beach there were hundreds of athletes milling about nervously, but I got straight into the water. The more time I could just float around and acclimate the better, especially knowing that the water was the perfect temperature and there was no risk of getting cold. I got in a solid warm up with a few short hard strokes and treaded water while Oh Canada played, the pros went off, and AGers started getting into the water. I was surprised how many hung back and stayed on the beach, it was almost like athletes weren’t sure how the start was supposed to work.
My plan was to start a bit off of the buoy line to try to avoid the chaos but also to not get in faster swimmers’ way. Randomly I saw 2 of my teammates that I hadn’t yet spotted that day floating within 10 feet of me. We laughed and joked about how skilled we were at following our race plans; since we all have the same coach we figured she had given us similar instructions on where to start. It was great to have some familiar faces nearby though, and since both teammates are stronger swimmers than I am I felt safe positioning myself right behind them and knowing that I’d have space.
The first loop of the swim wasn’t too eventful. It felt very crowded, but there were only a couple of times that I felt held up by the traffic around me. Generally I was able to work hard and keep pushing my effort and pace. The turns were pretty rough and congested, but for how many people were within arms reach (A WHOLE LOT) I feel like the experience was pretty calm.
The second loop of the swim got a little more dicey. Swimmers were much more spread out by that point so there weren’t so many people to be conscious of, but it felt like swimmers began to flail a lot more. The water got more rough and even though there was plenty of open water I got hit quite a few times trying to pass groups or when people wanted to fight over the feet I had found to draft off of. I wonder if the same thing happens in a 2-loop swim when a beach exit midway is required.
The 2nd to last stretch before the turn back to shore I started feeling tightening in my left calf, and then in my right. Cramping doesn’t usually plague me during exercise, but I’ve gotten cramps in my sleep enough to know exactly what was happening. I immediately stopped kicking and tried to keep moving forward using only my upper body in hope that my calves would chill. That did it for a couple hundred yards or so, but as soon as I started working hard again my right calf cramped up as bad as I’ve ever felt it. I tried to swim through but I couldn’t keep my lower half from sinking with how paralyzed I felt. I stopped, sat up for a second, and manually flexed my foot with my hands. The cramps came and went a few times during the rest of the swim but I was able to swim through them and before I knew it I was at the last turn buoy.
The last stretch back to shore was the worst part of the swim, in my opinion. I don’t know if people lost their form because they were tired, or if seeing the beach makes people more competitive with each other, but it was a pretty brutal fight to the finish. I tried not to shy away from faster feet and the advantage of swimming in the pack, but with plenty of space around there were too many errant arms and legs for my liking. It felt chaotic and like there was a lot of panic in peoples’ movements. But finally the water got so dark I couldn’t see a thing, which meant it was shallow enough that sand was getting kicked up. I stood up about 2 strokes too early but quickly made my way out of the water and across the timing mat on the beach.
T1 – 3:21
I got to the wetsuit strippers and felt like there were 1000 of them and 1 of me! I scurried up to 2 guys and they had a hard time but after a few tugs successfully stripped my suit off.
The inside of the tent was extremely dark, and I felt like there was no one there – athletes or volunteers – so I got to work by myself. I threw my suit, cap, and goggles on the ground, dumped my bag and started putting my shoes on when a volunteer asked if I needed help. I told her I only needed help packing up and a couple of moments later I had grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, and was off to find my bike.
The transition area was a little bit clunky in terms of the set up; no fault of IMC but the park was strangely shaped so it was hard to make the best of it. I found my bike with no difficulty though (tip: always walk your race day path through transition a few times before the race!) and made my way out of transition, across train tracks, up a path, and to the main parking lot to mount. As I got on my bike I was so so so glad I had remembered to put it in the small ring, as climbing up the hill to get out of the lot was more of a b*tch than I remembered.