Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ironman Florida Pre-Race and Swim

The nice thing about doing an Ironman repeatedly- and this was my third time in Florida- is knowing where to stay and what to do.

We were on the run course, barely half a mile from the start, so I was able to leave the condo at 530 and walk down to the start, wearing the pair of sneakers I would ultimately run in and socks I planned to run in (oops). I got body marked and went right into the transition area and got in line for the port-potties. I was listening to Evanescence and was getting either too amped up or two wrapped up in the enormity of it all, so I finally switched to Boston.

I only have one complaint about the 2011 Ironman Florida- not enough port-potties. I got into the port-pottie line after dropping some things of in my race bags, and then waited half an hour to go to the bathroom. When I finally did get into the port-let, I changed from bibs to standard tri-shorts.

There clearly has been a theft issue at the Ironman, and my guess is what has been stolen are iPhones. Security during bike check-in and race morning was extremely tight, and one effect was that it was very hard to get out of transition. They were not allowing us to leave with our morning clothes bag to hand them off to family or friends, and the only exit out of transition was a one-person wide opening in the fence guarded on each side by staff.

The result was a massive backup of stressed-out Ironpeople.

It didn't bother me, but I still ended to try and catch Margit and Ian before I entered the water and I had wanted to get in the water by 630. After the very rough water Thursday and Friday- Thursday's swim was a complete and stressful failure, and Friday was only slightly better. I was actually resigned to the swim on the way down and not that nervous about the race. And then I got there and the water was really rough. The swim on Thursday was a complete failure and the Friday swim was only marginally better and I had a few panicky moments on Friday where I had to fight the urge to get all wigged out about racing.

I got a good warmup in though, noted that the water was cold only very close to shore, and began moving around to find a place to start. Initially I moved far to the right but then determined that I should start right at the edge of what was meant to be the start corral, where the fence moved very close to the shore and therefore I would have fewer people behind me.

When the cannon went off- if you've never done the Ironman they start the swim with a cannon, which is epic the first few times- people started walking out. I started swimming as soon as I could. I had a pretty good line to the first buoy and it wasn't too bad. The opening stanza of the swim is always rough when you're someone like me that can't get clear and has to fight for water. But with lots of people inside the buoy line and lots of people outside it wasn't too bad.

Until I got to the buoy that is. Everyone seemed to actually want to go around the outside of the buoy or swim as close to it as humanly possible. Because I had a good line to the buoy that meant everyone came into towards me.

Grrr. This reoccurring theme was the most aggravating part of the swim. The first time we got to the turn buoy, a number of us actually had to tell people to relax and calm down. There were people- big people- kicking like mad at the turn and that is so not cool.

My other pet peeve on the swim was people who can't sight and swim at the same time. Look people, just tuck your head up, get a quick look, and get back to work. The water in the gulf at PCB is so damn crystal it's a little sick. You can actually watch other people swimming. You do not, in this water, need to stop swimming, 'sit-up' and look around like a freaking tourist.

The course was never clear, there were always people around you, so one rube stopping could easily create a traffic jam. Which it did.

I have never suffered so much contact in a swim. I was kicked in both eyes and the jaw, but I was able to shake off all three.

I think I swam the 1st loop, which is shorter, in 36 minutes. People were walking on the beach while I was trying to run and this too would be a recurring theme. I started to shout 'make a hole, make a hole' and 'y'all gotta keep moving'.

Unlike every other time I've done Florida or Lake Placid, I did not feel like shit getting back in the water, I just wanted to swim.

The compression effect at the buoys continued, providing for plenty of contact, but I really felt I dealt with it well until we got to the red turn buoy and one very large gentleman in front of me sat up and started kicking like a mule. After taking a couple of kicks I yelled 'Jesus, stop your ----ing kicking.' This is the longest speech I've ever delivered while swimming.

I actually really like the swim course. Probably because the water isn't black, the course is so open and easy to see that it makes it feel much shorter than Lake Placid. That salt water doesn't hurt either.

I got in finally- the last quarter of the swim always seems to take forever- and up on the beach. I missed the clock and then I was running up the walk, past the people who were flopping down to get there wetsuits off. There were a lot of us, and most of them were walking, and again I was yelling at them, not mean, but trying to take a commanding tone, make a hole or get moving. I picked my way past as many as I could and quickly got to transition and found my bag. I ignored the volunteers directing me to head to the transition building and ran back the way I came. There was a lot of empty tarmac and no one whose way I was in. I changed, dropped my bag and tried to head for my bike but was told I HAD to go through the transition building even though my bike was about 30 meters away.

The transition building was, as you'd expect, a clusterfrak. It took me about 90 seconds to get in, pick my way around people, wearing my bike shoes and helmet, and get out the back side.

I grabbed my bike and started running, again picking my way around people that were walking. Once out of transition I continued running, passed everyone else who had mounting, running faster than people on their bicycles, then I mounted and I was out on the bike course.

That'll will be part two...

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