It wasn't raining at 4:30 AM when I got up. This is kind of funny, because it was one of the few times in the day I'd be able to say that.
I ate a banana and started the coffee, then went and ran for 10 minutes. I ran down to where they body mark and they were just setting up the step stools for people to stand on, but were not ready to mark. I ran back to the room and waited for everyone else to get going.
We headed down to get marked and make the final adjustments in our swim to bike and bike to run bags. I'd packed everything in the bags in bags, because I'd been pretty sure it would be raining in the morning. When it wasn't, I removed all the inner bags to save time. In the end this wasn't a bad move per se. My gear would have been soaked after about 1 minute anyway, so the fact that I got this wrong was pretty much meaningless. I took the bags, which included a pristine apple bag, back to the room, grabbed my wetsuit and headed down to the start.
There was a long line at the porta-potties, so I finally just headed down the water and got in. I spent the pre-race floating on my back, talking to Margit, and staying afloat. I started middle-right, five or six rows deep. That's an aggressive start for me, but i decided a year or so ago that I need to start close to the line and try and survive because at the end, I might be competitive in my age-group.
The Ironman swim is never easy (well Arizona was easy, but that's the only one), and Lake Placid is hard, but I got off to my best IM start ever. I was swimming with my head down early and often. I was also trying to work my way to the inside, but slowly. My feeling is that in a counter-clockwise swim, the people on your left are on the inside and therefore have a right to their water, just as you have a right to the water you are in compared to those people on your right.
Those people on the outside ? Some of them think an over-your-back diagonal towards a buoy is the way to go. Oh well, there are no damn rules in the swim, and if I want to stop getting beaten up by people who can't swim but can flail and kick, I need to swim faster.
I still had a decent swim out to the turn-around. I got hammered in the turn-around, which is also usual. Then coming around, I had someone really trying to ride me inside. I put my foot on his hip to get a little nudge before he could hit me again. My right calf locked up, then cramped. This was like 2003 all over again. The cramp stole my breath and I did three lifeguard strokes. I dismissed the idea of stopping and started a regular swim stroke again but I knew I was in trouble. I swam steady to the end of the lap, but I couldn't really put my legs into it, so my right hip started to get sore- I was still rolling at the hip, but without any help from my legs.
I limped out of the water. I had trouble making it from the exit back to the entry, and I started swimming while most people were still walking.
The swim after that was uneventful. I came out of the water after one lap in 38 minutes, I think. I got on the line pretty good and swam to the turn-around, then got pushed wide again. I fought to get inside and did this time and avoid more pummeling. I was doing really well, keeping my head down, not looking up. But then I got close to shore and was a little wide right, so I lifted my head straight up to sight the finish of the swim, which was about 100 yards away.
My left calf exploded. Cramp is too mild a word. There was a lump I could feel in the calf, like baseball-sized. I gasped, really hurting now, but this time I didn't even pause. I just kept swimming. I had to get out of the water, and somehow I did. I could barely stand, but I found Eric, who stripped my suit and I started getting out of the area, stumbling, then limping, then running past people. Cramps or no cramps, I knew I could ride. I'd done this before. But would I run ?