Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Part 2 - 3.8km swim

My plan for the Ironman was not to race it, the distances are just too huge for me to even contemplate racing, but to make the cut-offs and do it comfortably, if that's possible. There's a 2 hour cut-off for the swim, 10 hour cut-off from the start of the swim for the bike and an overall cut-off of 15 and 1/2 hours for the finish. I thought I could probably finish in 14 to 14 and 1/2 hours.

Back to Sunday, April 4 2004, transition area at Forster Keys - the start of my first Ironman triathlon. My husband Steve had found my goggles - in the boot of our car. They had fallen out when I had pulled my wetsuit out of my gear bag. Crisis over I could now concentrate on the 3.8km swim ahead of me - in the lake in front of me - with 1500 other competitors. I had seen video footage of the swim start and for a very average swimmer it doesn't inspire confidence, particularly when one is not wearing a wetsuit. While during the cycle and run everyone supports each other, in the swim it is usually everyone for themselves. My plan, if you could call it one (survival was probably a more apt description) was to stay out of everyone's way and if that meant swimming way out on the fringes adding an extra kilometre, then so be it. There were five large groups of coloured caps in the lake - you had to give an estimated swim time on the entry form and at the time I thought 1 hour 20 minutes sounded quite reasonable..........in a wetsuit.

Now I was thinking one and a half hours might actually be more realistic. My estimated time had me in a yellow cap and we were the last group. As far as I could see ahead of me in the water were people. Relax, I kept telling myself, just treat it as a training swim. Before I knew it we had started and I didn't have time to think about anything but avoiding arms, bodies, legs. There were times when I was swimming along by myself and thinking that it wasn't so bad and then there were other times when it felt as though fifty people were trying to swim over me. Relax, I kept telling myself, take it easy, breathe, find an empty space, avoid that person, breathe.......... There was only the one time when someone either kicked or hit my foot, I'm not sure what happened but oh did it hurt. I had to keep wiggling my toes to reassure myself nothing was broken.

I could hear the helicopter above me, could smell and taste the diesel fumes from jetskis and boats which were nearby, could vaguely hear the announcer on the loudspeaker when I swam past the crowds. The last 400m back into shore was probably the roughest part of the swim as people sensed they were almost finished and pulled out all stops to get there - there were arms flying and legs kicking everywhere. I had done it - I had swum 3.8km without a wetsuit and emerged unscathed from the experience in 1 hour 23 minutes.

Then I was in the tent changing into my cycling gear. A volunteer filled my back pockets with fruit bars, gels, and fruit sticks. I had earlier that morning packed a couple of sandwiches into the bento box on my bike. Shoes on, sunnies on, helmet on and done up and I was out the door heading for my bike.......stop..... have a drink, get my bearings, find my bike. Team Cathy supporters decked out in bright yellow t-shirts and caps ensured that everyone knew I was on my way!

...to be continued!


iliketoast said...

Go CJ go!

Ewen said...

Glad you decided to swim in the lake in front of you.