Where to begin! I had some big goals for this race, and in order to make these goals happen, I needed to have a good swim. Races are not won on the swim, but they sure can be lost there. I have been swimming well and I was ready for whatever the ocean was going to throw at me. I knew I was most likely going to have to battle some currents, but it couldn’t possibly be any worse than swimming in a pool, with a belt around my waist, tied to the blocks pulling me backwards as I attempted to make forward progress or shall I say as I really tried to NOT get pulled backwards, right, riiiiiiiiiiiiiight?
The swim to nowhere ... except this guy is doing a much better job than me
As you already know the weather leading up to the race wasn’t exactly cooperating and the ocean looked more like a very fast moving river! Wednesday before the race, I watched couple of people swim about 25 yards in 10 minutes, and found my way to the hotel pool. On Friday the water looked a bit calmer, but the red flag was still up and the official swim practice at the swim venue was cancelled. So much for me trying to figure out the currents and where to seed myself for the beginning of the swim. The pool looked like a great choice again, but this time around Tyler made me battle the elements. I guess if I can’t handle an angry ocean for 15 minutes, I will be in sh&it load of trouble come race morning. And so we got in at the hotel beach that looked NOTHING like this (this pic was taken of course the day after the race)
Beautiful beach that makes you forget about the world when it's not angry
The practice swim went like this: Swim 5 minutes with current, followed by 10+ minutes against the current to try to get back to where we started. It actually didn’t feel bad at all (maybe thanks to the backwards swim I was able to pull off in the pool on that belt I talked about earlier), but reality hit when we both looked at our watch and realized it took us over twice the time to get back to our starting point. In the process I also experienced my very first jelly fish encounter(s)! Not only did I only swim for 15 minutes, but I was being “electrocuted” head to toe what felt like every minute. Good thing I couldn’t see the little buggers because otherwise, I may have never gotten back into the ocean ever again.
This is what they look like as seen during my post race fun:
Get away from me
So I survived the practice swim, and I was ready for anything. I actually felt really good despite the conditions. Saturday’s practice swim was also cancelled and come Saturday night we found out the swim was changed to a 1.95 mile swim instead of 2.4, and would be a straight shot swim all with the current due to safety reasons. That definitely meant a much faster swim, but how fast I didn’t really know. This alternation didn’t really change my strategy at all. I wasn’t particularly nervous about the swim whether it was with or without the current. The conditions were going to be the same for everyone, and so hey – bring it! I trained for the current, and I was ready for it.
I woke up race morning, ate or I should say forced most of my breakfast down, chased it with couple of “Beet It” shots, and FINALLY took care of business so I didn’t have to race with extra 20lbs of carbs in my belly. I know this may be little too much information but this was going to make or break my day. To really be sure I didn’t spend all day searching for porta potties, I took couple of immodium tablets and set on my way. Post breakfast, we took the bus to Chankanaab park, double checked on Fireball, and due to the changed start got back on the bus that drove us to the new start at the El Presidente hotel couple miles up the street. Spectators weren’t allowed at the new swim start, so next time I would see anyone would be once the swim was over.
Brett, Tyler and I pre-race, pre bus to new swim start
Sharing the swim start with Tyler and Brett definitely helped to calm the nerves, and before I knew it we found our way into the water where we positioned ourselves to the right of that red buoy. (See in the pic below)
Crowds trying to get in
See the red buoy at the top center of the pic? I ended up hanging out there. Many more folks floated way past the start line but whatever - let the cheaters be cheaters!
The current was pushing lots of people forward of the start line but we definitely played fair. There were lots of people that also stayed on the beach and waited till the race started to get in. I don’t remember any horn going off, and I have no idea how people knew the race started, but all of a sudden the washing machine had turned on, and it was time to go.
I must say that this was the easiest swim ever – duh! I probably should have swam harder, I don’t even really know, but I stayed way off and far right off the buoy line (maybe too far since I didn’t see one diver the entire way, NOT even one and they were apparently located at every buoy, which were placed every 100 meters)
Really not sure how I didn't even see one of these guys
The swim was pretty uneventful and not that crowded, which may be because I swam so far outside of the buoy line. I had some feet to draft off for a little bit but other than that I just kept swimming up on people, and going right around them. I could really feel the current in spots just carrying me forward and helping me keep the momentum. Then there were times where I didn’t feel it much at all, but I just tried to find it again and get back on it. I would lie if I said there was no contact, but it really was minimal and much better than any other 70.3 swim. I did find one very unhappy dude along the way that clearly wanted the whole ocean all to himself because his choice of clearing his surrounding areas was a forceful breast stroke kick! Thanks to the super clear and beautiful water, I was able to dodge said angry individual and put in a little surge to get away from him! Phew – my day could have ended right there! I almost sound like a swimmer, don’t I?? ;) I didn’t find any floaters, any backstrokers or just onlookers taking a break or surviving. As a result I was able to #1 swim a straight line, and #2 keep my momentum throughout the race, which for me is huge. Before I knew it, I saw the dock and was climbing up the stairs to get to T1. Race day bonus – no jellyfish stings at all and only one mouth full of salt water!
Last turn around the dock
These stairs although covered by carpet come race day turned out pretty tricky! I was on all 4s just trying to get up them - oops!
I looked at my watch, saw 48 min and it honestly meant nothing to me! You throw a current into the swim, I didn’t know if my swim was good or bad, but what I knew was I felt GREAT! You know as in, did I really just swim 2 miles? With retrospect I got out of the water 12th/75 in my AG (Top 16%) which I am very happy with. I was 81st female overall including pro’s out of 568 (Top 15%) , and 488th out of 2,484 competitors which is top 20% of the field so I will take it. Analyze much? Yes, yes - lots of room to grow here and have no fear I am on it. Well as soon as I am allowed to move again :)
I ran through T1 scanning the crowed for familiar faces but no luck.
I am behind that woman in the front - you can see my right leg - great picture, isn't it? ;)
I grabbed my bag (I had a great spot on the racks so it was very easy to find), and ran into the women’s changing tent which was of course behind the men’s tent. Not fair but whatever ;). The tent was pretty empty of competitors but full of volunteers that were just staring at me, which is a complete of 360 from what I experienced in Kona. I dumped the content of my bag on the floor and continued to be stared at. No need for vinegar, shove my gels and papas (potatoes) wherever I could, some in my shirt pockets and some in my bra (classy I know), quick application of chamois butter, which is even classier ;) (maybe that’s why they were all staring at me?), and although I did say “yes” when asked if I wanted sunscreen, by the time the volunteer was ready to apply sunscreen I was out of there! Thank you for the offer, but this is not a beauty salon rather T1 tent and for me that means in and out as fast as I can.
Once I made it to my bike, I still saw many bikes around Fireball which was a great sign, and I was ready to fly - little did I know that I would pretty much fly through some sections of the bike course!
Next up: THE BIKE