Ironman Florida Race Report 2011: Part 1: the swim

I had a great race 🙂

12:33:54…new PR by 24 minutes, at age 57, in my 5th Ironman…what’s not to like 🙂

I’m going to break out my race report into a number of sections to keep them into palatable reading sizes, summarizing my ‘thinking’ during the swim, bike and run…so therefore minimum on the ‘numbers’ side…and then add some of the analysis posts, including the ‘numbers’ and then looking at each sport and commenting on my training during the year, and subsequent performance…and a summary of ‘what got me there’ … my key elements to a 24 minute PR.

As it turns out there were no weather ‘surprises’…as forecast, including almost calm conditions in the swim…bit of current from right to left, but not a big factor…nice

…there was wind…from the North-east at 10-15 MPH…on the nose for most of the first half of the bike…and pushing going back…with temperatures that began in the high 50’s F as I started out on the bike, and rising into the low 70’s by late afternoon…if you were creating  you could probably build a more perfect day…but this is about as good as it gets for great conditions for an Ironman race.

So my day started at 4am…short blog post before I headed out the door with IronDaughter at 5:15am

Cool morning, short walk, drop off the special needs bags on the way…bathroom break…body marking…into transition, and the loooong bathroom line to get ahead of the curve…glad that I did…there was still a loooong line as we headed to the beach for the swim start by 6:30…always wonders what happens to those hundreds of people…

Bike tires pumped up, wetsuit on in transition…nice and warm now…walk to the swim start…there’s always that nervous first moment, shuffling along in the crowd of rubber-clad penguins, when you first see the ocean conditions…this morning…smooth…not glass…but smooth…gentle undulations…very nice…soooo happy… 🙂

On the beach, IronDaughter and I gave our last hugs/I love you’s, and went to find our respective positions on the beach of over 2,500 shuffling, bumping, rubbery souls

…the pro’s started at 6:50…the sun just starting to rise as the gun went off at 7:00am…let the games begin!

Pre-race goal: Swim – 1:30-1:40 (by 08:30-40 local time)
– this is just a stay relaxed, and keep moving and wait for the finish

My race plan on the swim was to go easy, be easy…swim ‘pretty’…and take the fewest number of strokes to complete 2.4 miles…with a minor adjustment…for pleasure and experience, I decided this year to line up in/with the crowd, and duke it out for the first lap, just to see what happens…not swim hard…just stay smooth in the BIG crowd…I usually line up 100 yards to the right…and wait until just about everyone is gone…and then get going, essentially swimming in clear water…so this year I decided to see how I would do swimming with the big dogs

…it was an interesting experiment…bumping, drafting, running into feet, feeling arms and legs kicking at you…thrashing over you…against you…trying to find a swimming lane…watching those around you…trying to get clear a bit…following the bubbles in front of you…watching the guy beside me with the swim snorkel…always bumping…rubber on rubber…wetsuits are good…keeping a relaxed stroke…feeling confident…fun…watching thrashing arms swimming with way too much effort…going past people…sighting for buoys…figuring for the current…dragging fingertips to keep my arm shape…always crowded…jellyfish going by…staying relaxed, making the turns…cramped with bodies…feeling good…nice and relaxed…coming to the beach…still in a crowd…people walking early….swimming until I felt sand…standing…coming out of the water…44 minutes…dang…cool! …that first lap really went by quickly 🙂

Run up on the beach, quick swig of water, then back into the water for lap 2.

The 2nd lap begins with a diagonal swim back out to the course, and then repeats the first lap…in theory…come to find out that I was one of only a handful of athlete’s in the ‘swarm’ to actually swim out on the diagonal…the vast majority cut well inside of that first turn, and just swam straight up to the far red turn marker…nobody (race officials) seemed to be bothered by that, so away they went…and I found myself for the first time in the race back in familiar waters…essentially in clear water…a few swimmers around, but the pack had ‘vanished’ inside the course.

…it felt good though…relaxed, comfortable, compared to the buffeting of that first lap, so I settled into a comfortable stroke, watched the jellyfish go by, and the sun rise in the sky, and headed up the course to the far turn buoy…ah there they were….the swimming horde…the closer that I got to the swim buoy, the more crowded it became, and at the turn, back into the shoving, rubbery arms and legs, all looking for space…a bit thinner than the first lap though, so going out a bit wide, I found relatively clear water, and finished the second lap with a crowd around me, but not as obnoxiously close as it had been.

…out of the water, and crossing the mat at 1:36:32… nice 🙂

That 2nd lap had taken me longer than the first by 8 minutes…I did see later that even the pro’s and top age groupers were 2-5 minutes ‘slower’ on the second lap, so I think a combination of the 2nd lap including the run on the beach section, and that longer diagonal distance out to the first marker to get back to the course…for those that took it…and for me, probably an easier, less hurried stroke as well…all good…

Wet suit strippers…ended up being a bit fumbly, but did get the wetsuit off finally…overhead showers to get rid of the saltwater…since I was going to be in the same shorts all day, I wanted to be ‘sure’ that I wasn’t caked in salt

…and then saw IronDaughter’s two friends that had come down to see us, so stopped to have a quick chat…I was ahead of IronDaughter they said…’oh oh’ I thought…hope that she was ok…they said that I was a bit ahead of her on the first lap, so probably pretty close behind…ok good…and then a couple of other friends supporting their athletes along the fence so stopped to say hello, and see how everyone was doing

…maybe throughout the day, I spent an extra 5-10 minutes having a chat along the way with other friends on course, or standing along the ‘fence’ in support at the transition points…wouldn’t trade it 🙂

Jogging into the transition area of the convention center, I was surprised to see that it was total bedlam…bodies in various stages of undress…including a few naked guys wandering around…why would you just be walking around naked I thought…or laid, sprawled out on a couple of chairs…but no time for pondering as the hordes behind me surged forward to find some space…packed into what felt like a total zoo, with volunteers standing aside so that they didn’t get run over, and directing arriving athlete’s to keep moving along to the far side of the area to find empty chairs…

…after seeing what was actually sitting in all those chairs, I decided to change standing up…ewww

You see, with my _very_ slow swim in the past, I’ve never been in the transition area when there are more than a few other people, so it’s been like concierge service…cleaning off a chair for me, a couple of volunteers handing me my stuff, taking it out of the bag for me, packing my swimming stuff, handing me my towel, straightening out my bike jersey…a little shine on the helmet before handing it to me…ongoing words of encouragement…very nice

…here it was all that they could do to keep up with clearing the transition bags as athlete’s left to make way for the next, stuffed with wetsuits and swimming ‘stuff’ and sling it up onto a growing pile of bags against one wall, that was over a 1,000 bags tall by the time I got there, and growing every minute

Transition was smooth, bike gear on, decided on just arm-warmers, leaving my vest in the bag, and jogged out the door to retrieve my bike…it was just getting pulled out as I came up to my row, a quick thank-you to the volunteer, light jog to the start line, ‘beep’ over the timing mat, leg over, clip in…and away we go

My eyes always well up a bit when the swim is finished, I’m through transition, and on my bike…so happy…so glad to be past the swim…so much fun now

…this year no exception 🙂

…ah that bike ride…next up…

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