Race morning, August 25, started out like any other: 4a alarm, gluten-free PB+honey toast, double shot espresso and last minute gear check. Thirty minutes later, friend Sonia arrived and we were out the door to drop off our T2 bags near Olympic Plaza and hop the bus to Rainbow Park.
The swim start and T1 had just started hopping when we arrived… triathletes everywhere pumping bike tires, checking T1 bags, making last minute bike adjustments. Sonia and I were just a couple spots away from each other in transition, so after checking our T1 bags (so glad we were able to do this race morning!), we headed to our bikes, borrowed a pump and stocked our bento boxes with nutrition. Nick joined us after doing the same on the other end of T1, and we all wetsuited + body glided up. I was also two spots away from twitter friend, Arielle… small world… so fun to finally meet her in person! (She had a great race, finishing 11th in our AG. Congrats, lady!)
Before I knew it, the sky was a gorgeous glowing pink and we were walking to steaming Alta Lake for the start. I was definitely nervous, but nothing like past races, thank goodness. After inhaling a chocolate outrage GU when the pro women started, Nick and I dove in for a quick warm-up. The water was glass, and at 68 degrees, it was the perfect temp.
I positioned near the inside buoy of the starting line about midway back. Surprisingly – and to my relief – there weren’t a lot of athletes in the water five minutes from the start; many were still standing on the beach (why?!).
In a flash, the cannon sounded, and we were off. From the second I started swimming, everything clicked. My nerves calmed, and it felt almost effortless. Where did that come from (especially considering my last race where I sidestroked nearly all of the swim!)?! And, other than the cluster at each buoy turn, I had clean open water the entire 2.4 miles. Not sure how I lucked out, as most everyone I talked to after the race was kicked, swam over, punched or had their goggles ripped off (Nick included).
Honestly, I don’t remember much from the swim (other than the dude whose stroke was as splashy as a cannon ball over and over and over again… I swear he swam next to me the entire time). I settled into a steady rhythm and just kept swimming to the left of the buoys. I sighted occasionally, but thanks to other swimmers around me and the numbered orange and yellow buoys, it was pretty easy to keep a straight line.
In a blink, the first lap was done, and I was rounding the corner to start the second, which went just as quickly. (After some pre-race debate, race officials decided to let us stay in the water between laps… so much better than getting out and running on the beach in between.)
I swam sans watch, so when I exited the water, I had absolutely no idea what my time was (when my sister told me later during the run, I was shocked… I would have been happy with a 1:20!). After being wetsuit stripped (the ROKA is super easy to take off), I ran as fast as I could to find my T1 bag and then into the changing tent. I threw on my SOAS Racing tri top and arm warmers, cycling shoes, Giro Air Attack helmet, Oakley Miss Conduct Square sunnies and was off and running to find my bike near bike out (a great spot!).
All in all, the swim was awesome, and I’m pretty excited to work on it further during the off season!
A few final thoughts on the swim and gear:
- Alta Lake. Surrounded by mountains, it’s pretty much the most spectacular swim venue. Plus, it’s crystal clear (no weeds!) and is the most brilliant dark greenish-blue. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place to swim! I was actually pretty bummed I sent my wetsuit back with Nick’s mom after the race… would have loved to swim a couple more times.
- Goggles under your swim cap. Although I didn’t have an issue with my goggles being pulled off, it’s not a bad idea to put them one under your swim cap… just in case.
- Body glide. Put it everywhere… your neck, armpits, wrists, ankles, calves.
- Get in the water before the swim start. This was huge for me and kept my nerves in check. Silly folks who waited on the beach for the cannon to fire.
- In-water swim start. Initially, this made me super anxious, and I was bummed Ironman didn’t implement the new swim start here, too, because I thought it would be wall-to-wall triathletes and completely chaos when the cannon sounded. Thank goodness they didn’t because the in-water swim start is the ticket. Treading water instead of running down the beach into the water helped immensely with my open water anxiety. It was so much easier to navigate through people and find clean water!
- Find a rhythm. So this is what open water swimming is supposed to feel like! It was peaceful and beautiful gliding through the water. Must have been channeling my inner Lynne Cox from Swimming to Antarctica!
- Mark your T1 bag. There’s a sea of identical bags in transition, and being a bit disoriented coming out of the water makes it a bit harder to think clearly to locate yours. Next IM I’ll definitely be sticking on some neon duct tape on mine.
- ROKA Sports Maverick Elite wetsuit. This wetsuit rocks. It’s a cinch to get on and a cinch to get off. It’s buoyant in all the right places. It’s comfortable; if it wasn’t for the extra buoyancy, I would barely know I’m wearing it. For someone who occasionally has claustrophobia issues, that last one is key. If you’re in the market for a new wetsuit, definitely give ROKA a try.
- TYR Nest Pro goggles. The only goggles I use. They didn’t leak once nor did they fog (thanks to some Johnson’s baby shampoo and spit).
Nutrition // two pieces and a heel of gluten-free Food for Life brown rice toast with PB+honey, double shot espresso with a splash of full-fat coconut milk, Osmo Hydration pre-load (the night before and the morning of), and about 10 minutes before race start, a chocolate outrage GU.
Swim gear // ROKA Sports Maverick Elite wetsuit (so fast and so comfortable!), SOAS Racing tri shorts, lululemon Deep V Athletic bra (I’ve had it for years), TYR Nest Pro goggles, IM swim cap, body glide.
Official swim time // 1:13:02, 19th AG, 145th female.
T1 // 5:40.
Next up: Bike recap!