Sunday, 6 January 2013

05.01.13 Tauranga Half Ironman Swim

I am standing in the shallow water with the rest of the age group athletes pondering how I am going to complete this swim course.  I am quite nervous about it as I have panicked in the past during the swim.  There is nothing worse than people clambering over the top of you in deep water, your heart racing already as you are sprinting for position and you trying to suck in air as you feel like you are about to drown.  As I am standing there waiting to start swimming to the start line I see a guy standing in front of me with his wetsuit unzipped.  I go up to him and tap him on his shoulder and tell him that he is unzipped, would he like me to zip him up.  He feels his back, realises he is undone and I zip him up with a thank you.  A good deed done by myself that will hopefully be returned in some way later in the day.  We swim towards the swim start and as we are treading water all I hear is 30 seconds to go. Right, where is that first buoy.  20 seconds to go.  My goggles don't feel right as I adjust them.  10 seconds to go.  Here we go.  The hooter sounds and we are off.  It is a mad rush of arms, feet, legs, heads and whitewater.  I am heading to the first buoy and I have lost it already.  I have no idea where it is and am now following the athletes in front of me and the whitewater.  It is around 300m to the first buoy and before I know it I am around 3/4 of the way there when I start to see that I am heading towards an anchored boat.  I am trying to swim to the left of the boat and the anchor but I quickly realise there is a huge current that is pulling me towards the right and completely off course.  I brush past the anchor rope, see the buoy and a landmark, line them up and make a concerted effort to swim to the left of where I want to go.  It feels like I am swimming sideways but eventually I make it to the buoy before turning and heading back towards the beach for the next buoy.  I am swimming across the current now so it is a little easier and before I know it I am at the second buoy.  The third buoy is completely parallel to the beach and back at the start finish line before you have to head out of the water, run around a barrier and head back into the water.  Due to me being parallel to the beach, I find it easier to stay straight although I am now swimming against the current.  As I am so close to the shore,  it is not as bad and before I know it I am at the 3rd buoy.

It is a quick swim directly into the beach with some dolphin diving before I am standing and running up the beach and around the barrier before heading back into the water.  The fourth buoy is easy to spot and close to shore and I have already lined up the 5th buoy with a landmark behind it and am now conscious of the current.  As soon as I hit the 4th buoy the current hits me again and again I feel like I am swimming sideways.  The 5th buoy is 500m away and will take me around 8 minutes to get too although time disappears during the swim and you have no idea how you are going as you don't have time to stop and check it out.  I am staying on course and feel that I am around 250m away when my goggle around my left eye starts to leak in sea water.  I forget about it and keep swimming but another 50m goes by and it is filling up to the point where it is becoming an annoyance.  I quickly stop swimming, turn on my back and face the oncoming athletes as I adjust my goggles.  Something I have practiced many times when we have performed this exercise in the pool.  I start swimming again and around 20 metres later, the water again starts to seep in.  Again I turn on my back adjust my goggles, move my swim cap in case that is the cause and continue to swim.  The water leaks in again and I make the decision that something is wrong and no amount of adjusting is going to fix it so I am going to have to put up with it.

I can now see the 5th buoy but it is to the left of me.  Not where I want it to be when the current is dragging me to the right.  I quickly readjust and head for the buoy but the pull of the current is incredible.  I am literally 1 metre away from it and cannot get around it as I am getting pulled in the other direction as well as trying to avoid athletes who are heading directly for the buoy.  I kick with all my might and somehow get around and then am sling shotted around the other side.  I must admit at one point I did not think that I would make it around and that I may have to miss the buoy but there was no way I was going to get disqualified for that so I am glad I made it around.  Once I have hit that 5th buoy I begin my lineup for the 6th buoy however the only problem is that the sun is rising over the top of it and it is impossible to see.  My swim coach has always talked about the importance of knowing the course so that you can line up buoys in your mind rather than relying on being able to see them in the race and I wish that I had taken his advice.  As far as I am concerned I am swimming blind for the next 250m somewhere towards the beach.  I pick up tree on the shore line and line myself up with it.  If I can't see the buoy, at least I will be swimming straight.  I can see the whitewater of other swimmers and they are about 20 metres away from me.  I am a little pissed off as I know that I have lost time in this section of the swim.  Eventually I see the buoy and get around it before heading parallel along the beach to the final buoy.  Again I stay close to the beach as the current will not be as strong and swim the final 500m to the 6th buoy.

The legs are kicking hard now and I am sprinting, pushing my cadence of my arms as I know they will not be needed for the rest of the day. I round the 6th buoy, swimming a little before standing up and running up the beach out of the water.  I hear the cheers from my wife and mum "Go Frosty", they say as I run up some wooden stairs into the transition area.  As I am running I pull down the zip of my wetsuit, pull my arms out and have it hanging down halfway down my body.  As I take out my earplugs, I try to stuff them inside my swim cap and with my goggles.  I find out later that I missed my cap and they are now in a rubbish bin somewhere in Tauranga.  I round the start of transition and head towards my bike.  I have already unzipped my wetsuit most of the way, now it is a question of pulling it off my legs.  I pull my left leg partially out first and then my right.  My right will not come out and it is due to the timing band that is strapped to my right leg that is restricting the wetsuit from 'slipping' off.  I pull my right foot out and nearly cramp in my right quad before easily pulling out my left leg from the suit.  I quickly put on my bike shoes, put on my race belt, fill my back pockets up with gels and my chia gel mix and then put on my helmet.  I have brought my bike gloves with me and put them on also. These take a bit of time as my hands are wet and in hindsight I should not have worn them and probably won't wear them again for future races.  I quickly put on my helmet, take my bike of the rack and run past the mounting area before beginning my bike ride.  The swim has taken me 35 minutes and 39 seconds, transition has taken 2 minutes and 32 seconds and I am on the bike.

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