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Ironman ISO Swim Dominatrix

Posted Jan 11 2009 5:40pm
How do you go about doing the “impossible” a second time? Is it truly impossible or even worth doing after you have already discovered that “anything is possible?” That was kind of the quandry for this race.

At a first Ironman, you find out whether you can do it. But what about a second? If you’re not a Kona study, why exactly are you out there? Why are you racing? You know you can complete it. But do you? Really? If you get cocky or the weather is bad or if you have a mechanical problem or if your nutrition fails or if you just don’t keep your head in the game, that second one can be just out of reach. I knew I was confident, but I also knew that if I took it for granted, I was just asking for trouble. He whom the gods would humble, they first raise up.

So, in the days leading up to the event, I tried to be practical. No need in getting all manic or fearful about things out of my control. Change or fix what you can, roll with what you cannot. I tried to be confident in the preparation behind me, and yet realistically appraise and solve the challenges yet to come.

For me, this primarily meant coming to terms with the water. On Wednesday when I arrived, the water temperature was in the mid-50s, which by Texas standards is unswimmably cold. Standing on the beach, I knew that if I wanted get from my current position to the finish line on Sherman Street, I had to go through the water. It doesn’t matter how cold or how rough it is, and it doesn’t matter that swimming is still a new discipline for me. That is where the race course starts, and that is the first challenge of the long day.

So, I planned. I knew the first few minutes of the swim would be unpleasant, no matter if the water was 52 degrees or 62 degrees. The solution? To experience that first few minutes over and over so it was no big deal. I would swim at least once every day, going straight from the beach into the water with no thinking, no second guessing, and no warmup. The first time, I made a bargain with myself that I only needed to swim for 15 minutes, 7:30 out and 7:30 back. Easy as pie. Second time, 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back. No sweat. Day before the race, just get wet with a brief hard swim. Day of the race, no fear.

And it worked . . . . to a point.

On race morning, I was most of the way down the beach, and unlike Wisconsin, it was impossible to hear Mike Reilly and the music. I was all dressed out and ready to go--new long sleeve wetsuit, polar cap, booties, swim cap, goggles up on my forehead. Looking at my watch, I knew it was about go time, but my watch was apparently two minutes slower than Mike’s watch, because the cannon suddenly boomed and we all started shuffling toward the waterline.
Here was the first occasion of the day that I was reminded to get my head on straight. I hit my watch, waded up to my waist and went to “duck dive” for my first strokes, at which time the water hitting my eyes reminded me that my goggles were still on top of my head, not on my eyes.

Brilliant. So, are you going to swim today, Einstein?

With that little snafu corrected, I commenced the first leg of the race without even feeling the cold water or getting breathless. I call it a race, but I never really feel like I’m racing in the swim, mostly because it is a very long day, and the swim is my weakest link. I was completely unsure how my swim split would compare with Wisconsin, and as it turned out, I swam slower. A comparatively wretched 1:40.

But let me e’splain.

No, let me sum up.

The first 1000 meters of the swim was unbelievably crowded as a wide beach of swimmers all converged on a single buoy 1000 meters away. (The place to be is right on the edge at the left or right. Everyone in the middle gets pinched off). I had to doggy paddle and dodge and breast stroke as the water became obstructed, because I’m just not willing to swim over the top of someone.

In addition, I think I suffered from a lack of goals for the swim. I am a stronger and faster swimmer than last year, but the water temperature and the comparative insignificance of the swim demotivated me to doing some of the last detail work that is the difference between swimming well and just finishing. This was the first really extended swim in my long sleeve suit--such things being unnecessary and painfully hot in Texas. I had also bagged some long OW swims in favor of the pool, because the water at Twin Lakes was too low, too muddy, too hot, and too far away. It’s just dang hard to get motivated to swim hard. I probably need a Serbian Swim Dominatrix (SSD)TM to give me the tolerance for pain and fear of failure to become a really strong swimmer.

But that is next season.

As for this season, I did make it through the swim. There were times, especially on the inward bound legs, when the swim exit did not look like it was getting any closer. I choked down water on several occasions when I lifted my head to sight over the boat wakes and some developing chop. And I just could not feel the water or seem to swim a straight line with those sleeves on. Part of the whole swimming straight thing is muscular endurance deficit holding over from my ruptured disc and me loathing strength training. This I will fix too. Wait until next year.

I was down only a little bit when I saw the time on my watch coming out of the water. 5 minutes slower than Wisconsin, which was a much easier swim. But as so often happens, the people in our lives don’t let us stay down long. Kathleen was right there at the swim exit with her platinum smile, screaming my name and whooping it up. Trimama and Mrs. Greyhound were there with Superpounce and the Tribe, yelling like I was the second coming of Mark Allen as I exited T1 and sprinted for the bike.

Is this sport great or what?
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