After my token 2 hours of sleep, the alarm sounds and I get up to immediately go to the window to check out the day’s weather. It looks like a perf....no, wait, it’s not a perfect day to be an Ironman. In fact, it looks like shit out there: grey, windy, cold. I believe this is when the temperature peaks for the day, at a high of 50. Well, as the saying goes, you go to a race with the weather you have, not the weather you want. I have breakfast with Marit and D!, with Marit trying to choke down some vile-looking concoction of yogurt and bran flakes, D! having a waffle, and me trying to figure out what the hell to eat, since my usual pre-race breakfast of a cheese stick and a Pepsi seems a little....inadequate. Marit looks a bit haunted, and I’m quite sure I look the same.
Off to the race site, where we easily find parking on a side street, and D! helps me schlep my Special Needs bags to the transition area. After sending her off to find her other friends, I get my stuff together, realize I need to go to the bathroom (again!), so I stroll over to the porta-potties outside of the transition zone where the lines are shorter. I stand there chatting with the other people in line, and.....wait. Where are my goggles? Where the HELL are my goggles??!
Yes indeed, I have dropped and lost my goggles approximately 15 minutes before the swim start. However, dear reader, this is where being Schleprock comes in handy, because while I’m supremely annoyed, I’m not panic-stricken, due to the fact that.....I have an identical 2nd pair of goggles in my Morning Clothes Bag, just in case. Yep. Just because I'm so used to my typical bad luck that I wind up being prepared for the worst. So I go over there – do in fact have a moment of panic when they can’t find said bag – but then breathe a sigh of relief when I get my 2nd pair of goggles and go wait in the closest porta-potty line this time. Whew.
I get to the beach and start asking people around me what they anticipate their swim time to be so that I can seed myself properly. Apparently I’m in NewbieVille, however, since my question (“What’s your planned swim time?”) elicits the most random of responses (“7” - “What do you mean?” - “Under the cutoff?”). I wind up talking to a guy named Chuck, doing his first IM, and determine that this is the 1:30 crowd, so it should be fine. I reassure him that he’ll be fine on the swim, and then he gives me a big bearhug before going off to find a clear spot. Nice guy, that Chuck. And then....we’re off. I barely hear the cannon since I’m so far off to the right, but I head into the water along with everyone else, and.....holy shit, these waves are terrible. Worse than Friday’s. I discover much after the fact that I lined up at the worst possible spot, according to numerous bloggers, one of whom provides this handy-dandy illustration:
That’s exactly where I start, where it says “do not start here.” Why that was a bad idea, I don’t know exactly, except that it seems the chop was worse there, as was the current, and you lose all draft benefit. All I know is that it’s early in the swim when I think, shit, I don’t know if I can deal with this all day, this crap weather and the frustration of moving so slowly. To compound things, I keep stopping to look at my watch, to remind myself EVEN MORE how slowly I was going, thanks to the 4-foot waves. And then once I hit the part where you swim parallel to shore but at the far end of the rectangle, which is basically in the middle of the lake, well, all hell breaks loose. And even before that, as I’m sucking down water and trying to figure out how to breathe, I almost start hyperventilating, so I stop to tug at the neck of my wetsuit, and.....
Well, you know how things go. Once you realize that something might be taken away from you, you stop thinking about giving it up voluntarily and fight like hell to hang onto it. So it was with IronSpud, and especially the swim. When I do the math and realize that I’ll be close to not making the swim cutoff – something that had NEVER even remotely entered my mind – I take some deep breaths, tell myself to stop being a dumbass, and I begin to hustle for all I’m worth, thinking, I’ll be damned if I came all this way just to not make it through the fucking swim. This would be the theme of the day, in fact: chasing the clock. Thinking, fuck you. To what, I’m not exactly sure, though I’d say there was a lot of variation on a theme: fuck you clock, fuck you wind, fuck you waves, fuck you hills, and of course the classic, fuck you cancer. You get the idea.
Besides, I had given up a lot to even get to this damn race, and while just toeing the line was important, just as important was my need to make it to the run, so that I could wear the special running shirt I had had made up. I wasn’t about to give that up so easily. Not to mention that fact that I have no friends left since I’ve had to ignore them all for the last 2.5 months to train for this. That was a lot to give up for 2 hours of swimming.
So I finish loop 1 of the swim, and at that point you have to get out of the water, go over the timing mat, then get back in. Whereby I make the mistake of going back in immediately and swimming diagonally, instead of doing the smart thing, i.e. running along the shore and THEN getting back in. Oops. No matter – this was going to be my fast loop – no looking at my watch, just swimming. Great, except for one thing – the waves and chop have gotten worse, so it’s even slower going, if such a thing is possible. I know, hard to believe it is. Even I marvel at how slow I was swimming, but then I recall how every time I looked up to sight, I’d see no buoys, just a huge wall of water, which made just swimming straight a challenge. But finally, finally (!) I make it out the water.....14 minutes to spare. Sheesh. Not how I planned to start the day. And those clouds. Why the hell does it look like it’s going to snow??