Saturday started early. REALLY early. 4:30am. First order of business: start grazing. Knowing that I was going to burn close to 15,000 calories during the race, I planned to eat as close to 1000 calories for breakfast as possible. On the menu: banana, raisin bread (4 slices), an Ensure (yuck), a peanut butter bagel, a bottle of Gu Brew (essentially Gatorade) and a bottle of water. I was greeted by Carter – who heard me come downstairs. He was as excited and nervous about the race as I was. I got a big hug, a kiss, and then went to change. By the time I was changed, almost everyone was up – all three of my kids, our friends and their kids! We hung around the condo for a while, and then left for the race site at 5:30.
I had been to the transition area on Friday and turned in my bike and clothes bags, so all I had to take to the course on race morning was my wetsuit, swim cap and goggles. Carter got to do my body-marking…which was a treat for both of us. He got my age wrong – he wrote 40 instead of 41…but at the end of the day it didn’t matter. Then he drew a huge smiley face on my right calf. After body marking, we hung out in the host hotel until about 6:15 when it was time to head to the beach.
What a scene on the beach! Nothing like seeing 2500 athletes all in wetsuits crammed into a holding corral. We all looked like penguins. The water was relatively calm – not glass smooth, but it could have been worse. The breakers were a couple of feet high, and there was a decent chop. I positioned myself to the far right of the starting pen, and towards the back of the group. In Ironman races, the start is one gigantic free-for-all. All 2500 folks head to the water at one time. The by-product of this can be lots of punching, kicking, getting swum over, getting pushed under, etc. I wanted to avoid as much of this as I could – so I hung back and started wide.
The swim at IMFL is a 2 lap swim. 1.2 miles each lap. The layout is essentially a long rectangle. The first lap was pretty good. I had clean water most of the way – and didn’t get mixed up too much in the melee that you usually see in mass-starts. As I was heading back in to the beach, I got passed by the lead pro. He was finishing his 2nd lap, and I was finishing my 1st. Wow. Those guys are fast!
I finished the first lap in just over 41 minutes, and felt really strong. I had only swallowed a small amount of salt water, and had a good rhythm in my stroke. As I made the turn to head back into the water, I saw Carter and got a big hug from him. He was grinning from ear to ear!
As easy as the first lap was, the 2nd lap was difficult. The chop was significantly higher. In fact, if I wasn’t cresting a wave, I couldn’t see the buoys in front of me. To make matters worse, the washing machine effect was in full force. I got kicked and punched several times during the first 500 yards or so. I took a foot to the mouth and got punched a couple of times in the back. I learned that a good swift breast-stroke kick tends to make the “puncher” go away. J
I came out of the water in 1:24 – 11 minutes faster than my swim in Louisville! I’m sure that the salt water and the wetsuit helped out a ton. Nevertheless, I felt really good about my swim. I ran up the beach and found the wetsuit strippers. Having three people extract you from your wetsuit in less than 5 seconds is really cool! The only downside…I was really sandy at this point.
I ran into transition, and was suddenly faced by a changing room full of dudes. Not just lots of dudes, but lots of naked dudes. Wow. Some people have absolutely no shame. Did my deal – ran out of transition, grabbed my bike and headed for the mount line…