Monday, April 23, 2007

Ironman Arizona '07--The SWIM

TriDiva recounts IMAZ, one event at a time. Time to get your feet wet!

I suited up and headed toward the staging area. As soon as they let us get in the water, I jumped in. I was hell bent on starting in the front of everyone else, and didn’t care if I had to float for half an hour to do so.

Snippets of conversation from the water:

“If this starting buoy is black, is the buoy at the other end black, too? How the hell are we supposed to see that!?”

“I’m not counting on being first to the other buoy. Just follow these people and we’ll get there.”

Honestly, I couldn’t even see the end of the lake, so what did I care about the buoy color? What I did care about: the color of the female caps. They were dark blue. Whose brizilliant idea was that!? Our heads blended right in with the strange murkyness that is Tempe Town Lake. Not that I was planning on drowning, but if I went under, nobody would ever know.

The pros left 15 minutes ahead of us ordinary folk, then we all swam up to the imaginary line across the lake. I could see my coachancé's sign all the way on to the side—it was bright pink and said “Go Triathlete Diva!” on it, with a cartoon of a sexy triathlete, and a white board attached so he could change what it said along the way.

I felt great knowing coachancé and the rest of my cheer squad (my parents and 2 of coachancé and my friends) were all over there for me, and would be out there for me all day long. My dad, I found out later, was somehow able to pick me out in the washing machine that is an Ironman start, and walked along side me the entire swim.

The Start

Then it came. 10 seconds. The gun fired and I sprinted to try to get out ahead a little bit so I wouldn’t be trampled. That didn’t work so well. Everyone else sprinted too, and everyone else who had positioned themselves toward the front certainly did so because they were good swimmers. I freaked out. People were swimming on me. I knew this would happen, but the feeling of being dragged under combined with the knowledge that my little blue head wouldn’t be seen popping below the waves made me freak.

Then three most wonderful things happened:

1. I saw the camera crew filming me. Somebody was watching. Horray!

2. I remembered my Ironman friend’s only words of advice for the day: Just Chill. Very helpful indeed.

3. We passed a buoy and I was so close to it—whoever I was unintentionally following had dead-on sighting and that made me very excited.

Not until the first buoy (about a mile into it) at the end of the lake did the mass attempt at drowning fellow competitors die down. Now we could do all that stuff coaches tell you to do, like settle into a rhythm, pay attention to your stroke, monitor your breathing, etc…

I got all excited because even without the masses in front of me to follow, I still was dead-on in sighting the buoys. I don’t believe that has ever happened to me before. Ever. The last time I swam in this lake, a dude in a kayak bopped me on the head and told me I was going the wrong way. Embarrassing much? But today was my day. I was kicking butt, just as I had intended. (And by kicking butt, I mean trying to meet my goal of doing the swim in an hour. Not racing people.)

As I neared the last turn to head toward the giant “steps of aquatic accomplishment”, I couldn’t believe that that part of my Ironman was already over. I almost wanted to go slower so it wouldn’t be over so quickly. Almost. All those months in the pool. All of those crazy freezing 5 am workouts. All of those (well, ok, only 2) freaky death-defying ocean swims. All of that boiled down to this, and it was over! I almost wanted to cry. Heck, I almost wanted to cry before we all even got in the water because I was just so overwhelmed by the crowd and the positive energy and the support and love that my friends and family gave me through my journey-and all of that was about this day. It made me an emotional nutcase.

I reached the steps and very friendly volunteers were there to drag me out of the water. Then came quite possibly my favorite invention ever: the wetsuit stripper. I pulled my top off, sat my bum down on the ground and watched it fly! I have always stunk at taking my wetsuit off, so that was quite gratifying to watch it peel so nicely from my Tempe Town Lake- green body.

Running down the chute and into transition was awesome. There were so many people cheering everywhere. I felt like a rock star. Until I got to the transition, and my screaming out my number fell on deaf ears. WHERE THE HECK WAS MY BAG!!! Will nobody find it for me! I panicked as I looked at a sea of white bags. Which one had my helmet and new glasses and bike shoes in it? Heck if I knew.

Finally, a very nice man shoved it in my arms, and a bunch of other volunteers made sure I didn’t accidentally veer into the men’s change tent. Then somebody ripped my bag open, dumped the contents on the ground, put my number belt on me and helped me get everything else and I was off.

Then again. I shouted my number. Where was my bike! I knew where it was, and I almost got to it in my cleats before a very nice gentleman noticed me looking around and ran to get it for me.

Although those periods of waiting seemed like an eternity, but I only spent 4 minutes in transition, so all of that Tempe Town Lake water in my ears must’ve jacked up my perception of time…or something. It was a blast to have all of those awesome volunteers helping us do everything, though.

And now, for the bike!

Stay tuned...

Happy Training! (Or Resting!)

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