Barbara and I had set up about 30 seconds back from the start, near the buoy line. For me, this worked out beautifully as I had virtually none of the heavy body contact that I’d heard reported in an Ironman mass start. 2500 bodies all starting to swim in the same space and other than a few hands slapping my legs I always had my own space to swim.
Heading off into the sunrise
I will not mince words here. Despite all my training in much colder ocean waters, THE SWIM WAS COLD. The unusually cool weather the last couple weeks really let Tempe Town Lake chill and the water was about 62-63 degrees at the start. I was shivering early on in the swim and in the later parts of the swim – you know how my scientist brain works – pondering what the symptoms of hypothermia were.
I was quite surprised to find the farther out half of the swim to be very choppy. Tempe Town Lake is essentially a dammed up body of water (surrounded by dry riverbed on both ends) and I suppose all the boats zipping around for the swim race had the same effect as one would imagine in a bathtub. As a result, I felt like I was riding the waves out by the swim turnaround and especially on the return trip. Boise this past June proved how easily I can get tossed around in chop and the same appeared to be true at Arizona. Despite decent sighting and a fairly straight line from buoy to buoy, I was slowed down significantly over my expected time. I was shaking non-stop and my left shoulder was sore so I wasn’t pulling as hard on that side. I just tried to focus on that fact that I needed to be using the swim as a warmup (ha!) for the rest of the day.
I know I made my people a little nervous but I had no doubt I’d make the cutoff, even if I had expected to be in much sooner. When I hit the last turn buoy and aimed for the exit stairs, I picked up the pace and swam hard to get some blood back in my extremities. I could hear the crowd, the announcer, the music and it helped a lot!
The volunteer lifted me out of the water and onto the steps and I sprinted the rest of the way up to the mats and wetsuit strippers.
And then I was off on the long sprint to transition running as fast as possible. There were a lot of jokes from spectators wondering how I could move that well after the long swim. HELLO? I clearly move better on land than sea, people!
1 leg behind me and it was the one I’d been most nervous about! Next up, 112 miles of biking!