Friday, June 19, 2009

Ironman Coeur d'Alene: T- 1 Day

Today, I really only had one goal...... get in the water and swim. As you know, cold water and I do NOT get along well..especially in race conditions. Last year's water temps barely squeeked up to 59 degrees before the race start. Yes, that's what I said....Fifty-nine degrees.

HELLO!! I am not designed for that type of water activity. No way, no how. Yet somehow, I agreed to do this thing this year....but I knew that the cold water temps (coupled with 2,500 people starting swimming at the same time!) was going to be my biggest challenge of the race.

Throughout the 6 months of training, I've been tackling this challenge head on. I started swimming in the Quarry back in February when it was a blistering 60 degrees (has steadily been warming all spring) and then when the water got too warm (read greater than 68 degrees), I switched my long swims to Barton Springs, where the water is always 68.

I even braved a swim (albeit brief) at the endless river/low water crossing at Mansfied Dam!! Thank you very much. All preparing me for Sunday's swim in good ol' Lake Coeur d'Alene.

FORTUNATELY, there wasn't a crazy late snowfall this year like they had last year and the water temps have been reasonable (by here standards) and generally rising the closer we get to race day!

Today was to be the first moment of truth...we had a team swim schedule for 0730. Early recon had the water at 64. "64?" I thought. "I can do 64. Hell, I've done 60! I can do this, I CAN do this."

We donned our wetsuits and headed down the beach to the swim start.

I waded in an hung about where the water was waist deep, just letting my feet get acclimated and have some water seep in through the zipper to get the body adjusted as well. Part of my usual cold water routine.

The fast and veteran Ironmen of the group simply waded in and took off swimming! I was like, wow! impressive! Then there was another smaller group of a little more cautious folks getting ready to go in. This was to be my group. They look around at each other, discussed how much of the course to swim this morning...and then before I knew it, they were taking off!

Shit! Go, D, GO. I pushed off, submerged into the water, took one stroke and came up panicky!! Yikes...64 degrees or not, that's still cold!!! I could feel my heart rate spiking with fear..panic.

Calm down, D. But my group is swimming away!! I put my face in the water again, took another stroke..came up panicky again! SHIT!

Bang, bang, bang! My heart was thumping against the wetsuit that was trying to keep it warm. SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!!!

Ok, D. You can do this. Don't worry about them. Take your time. Go when you are ready. Just relax.

I treaded water for a brief moment. Took some calming breaths. Held my breath and submerged my face a little. See...not so bad. Just take your time. Do YOUR thing. This will be YOUR race...not theirs. DO. YOUR. THING.

So, I waited another moment. Did a breakstroke and got my whole face under. Came back up. Heart rate still a little high. Another stroke. Came back up. Heart rate was slowing. Ok. Good. Another...just like that. Did another breast stroke. Came back up. Heart rate back to normal. Ok. Good.

Now you're ready, D. Right. Ok. Let's swim.

And with that, I took off at a nice, easy pace...breathing every two strokes to make sure I was exchanging plenty of oxygen and remaining calm. The water was a little choppy, but I soon settled into a gentle rhythm and timed my strokes with the ebb and flow of the water.

HEY! I'm swimming! What do you know!!! A HUGE wave of relief went through me and I just started focusing on swimming. Touch, Pull, Roll. Touch, Pull, Roll. Grab some water, push it down the leg. Glide. Glide.

I only swam about a half a mile in total, but today wasn't about the distance. It was about getting in and swimming. And even though I had a little panic session, I was able to right the ship and get sailing. And for THAT I feel really pumped!!!

But a big lesson I reminded myself of is that, this is MY Ironman. Not someone else's. I need to stick to MY race plan, MY race strategy and MY race paces. I can't get caught up in what other people are doing. Even though I'm planning to start with a small group of similarly-paced swimmers....if they dive in and start going before I'm ready...I'm going to let them go. I know I'll miss out on the benefits of drafting, but speed is NOT in my swim plan. Calm, cool, collected, relaxed swimming is. And if that means I give everyone else a 2 (or more!) minute head start in the water...then so be it.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to have another practice swim. Many folks are opting out. I'm not. This is MY plan to prepare myself for MY race. I'm gonna do it MY way. Wish me luck!!


MikeWinAustin said...


Jess said... have the exact right need to do what you need to do for YOUR race...

keep getting used to the water...and don't worry about anyone else...

you are going to have a great day no matter what...

Shorey said...

Yay! Maggie C told me that last year, amidst all the chaos of the swim start, she was having trouble finding HER swim. So, she rolled on her back, caught her breath, moved over to the side, and then when she was ready she just swam. Do what you need to do to have a GREAT day out there! You've worked really hard for this!