Monday, 8 August 2011

Race Day - Swim

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! 2.45am, alarm blaring, time to get up (yes, 2.45 AM!).  Quick shower to wake me up, then I mentally walked through the transitions making sure I had all the necessary equipment that wasn't already racked, packed my bags and breakfast time.

Have you ever had one of those mornings where your brain isn't firing on all cylinders?  Right and left hand won't cooperate with each other and neither is listening to the brain?  Let's say getting dressed, putting on a timing chip and stuffing my wetsuit, goggles and cap into the bag wasn't as smooth as I'd hoped.

pure chaos between those ears!

3.30am - 900 calorie meal: 120g oats, 250g low-fat yogurt, banana and sports drink
3.50 - text Mahmoud, my workmate, who kindly agreed to give me a ride to Penn Flash
3.51 - no response, 'no big deal, he may not be able to respond immediately'
3.52 - no response, leg twitching, biting my lip, 'uh, ok, breath, still two hours until race start'
3.53 - check my phone, no response, other athletes head out the door, leg twitches faster
3.54 - "be there in 5mins", 'phew, he's awake, on his way'
4.00 - 'it's been 6mins, where is he, 2hrs to kickoff'
4.01 - 'what if he can't find the hotel, is there time to call a taxi?'
4.02 - my phone rings, he and his friend pull out front and we're en route

Mahmoud proves to be a good influence, his high energy and carefree dancing in the front seat calms me down.

30mins later and we're at Pennington Flash, walking from the road to T1, nearly pitch black before approaching the frenzy of transition.

Funny how fast 90mins can go: use the bathroom, queue to get numbered, prep the bike and drink bottles, wet suit, wish Mahmoud luck, wait on line for bathroom again, quick chat with Alan and wander up to the start ramp...

numbered, 480, ready to go

energy buzzing, take down a gel, cross the timing mat, 'uh, uh-oh, do I have to use the bathroom again?  yes, let's try',  "Sorry, too late, you've crossed the mat, better you just get in the water and wait," said the official.  'Ok, positivity, smile, thumbs up for the camera and let's go.'

1,300 people slowly fill the waters of the flash and swim out for a deep water start.  I used this to warm-up, something I've found really helps me calm down during the fury of the swim start.  Seems a waste of energy to some, but I got a good 7-8mins of easy warm-up before taking my spot in the front.  

There were two yellow buoys and one of the rafters told me that everyone had to start in between them,  'hmmm, 1300 people, I don't think so, I'll stick to the outside.'  I looked around, saw about 500 people and a shore full of wetsuits waiting to join.  I'm not sure if you've seen 500+ people treading in open water, but it looks much more populous than I would have thought confirming my idea to stay to the outside and swim in a straight line for the first buoy meeting the pack after the tension had settled.

BANG! 'what, oh, we're off!'  Just like that, no one knew it was happening (at least no one around me, maybe why starting between the buoys is recommended).

this pic shows less than 10% of the field

300m in, I was all alone, locked in on the first buoy with the main pack to my left.  Same as the last Thames swim, 'long, easy strokes, good catch, breath out the nose and in the mouth,' over and over again breathing right for a while, then switching to left.  700m, I linked up with the main pack and everyone seemed cordial, a few bumps, but none of the grabbing, punching or kicking that you hear about.

'This is going great,' stroke-after-stroke, I was feeling easy and strong, sighting well, no water in my goggles, about as good as it gets.  One turn, then another, two more and we were on lap two.  Still riding well, stroking with the pack and breathing to both sides. 'This could not be going any better,' kept running in my head interrupting thoughts of technique.  Around 2.5km, head started to ache from the goggles, but that soon subsided as my focus redirected to stroke.

Finally, I could see the swim exit about 500m away, what a feeling!  Energy shot through my body at the thought of running down the chute to transition.  Naturally, the pace picked up, 'wow, so this is what Jakub meant when he said not to get ahead of myself early on the bike, this is a true shot of adrenaline!'

Closer and closer and closer and finally reached the exit, pulled out by the volunteers and I'm down the chute, 'what a swim, no idea the time, but definitely around or under 60mins, great start!'

second from the left
the smile of a good swim

stripping the wetsuit begins


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