Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Swimming with My Arms

Saturday was my second triathlon- the TriRock Lake Geneva sprint triathlon. Immediately after my Chicago Triathlon swim (and I use that term loosely) debacle, I signed up for my next tri. Get back on the horse and all that. In reality I was very concerned that if I started and ended my first ever triathlon season with a failed effort then my fear would have all fall, winter and spring to grow and grow and I'd be a complete mess before my next tri swim effort. So I wanted, needed, to do another tri and fast. So Lake Geneva was a perfect opportunity!

Originally my father was going to do the tri with me (he actually WON the Freeport Triathlon some years ago, but hasn't done one in many years) but he wounded himself in an unfortunate cat incident. And I didn't want Adam to have to get up so early for an event that is rather hard to spectate (plus he had to work). So I ended up going up to Lake Geneva solo, which was fine. Just me versus the swim. I stayed at the French Country Inn (seperate post to follow) on Lake Como which was lovely.

Making friends while waiting for the race to start.
The tempeature when I headed to transition at 5 am was not lovely. 41 degrees. 41 degrees! I had many low points pre-race where I questioned why on earth I do this myself. Getting up early in the cold and dark, dragging my gear from a cold dark parking lot down a cold dark 1/2 mile walk to transition, trying to set up my gear with frozen fingers. I wasn't feeling very optimistic. But plenty of people knew I was doing this race and my husband had spent all this money on the hotel for me so I just couldn't let the experience go to waste. But, boy, I thought about bailing on the race almost every minute from arriving in Lake Geneva the night before to the minute I put my face in the water in the lake. All this is to say that one can be full of dread and fear and still end up having a great experience. Things worth doing are usually hard to do. But I sure hope it is easier next time!

Race delayed due to fog. Here it's just about cleared.
After setting up in transition (which was very well organized, great job, TriRock!), I headed over the swim start and made some new friends who I chatted and shivered with for the next 1.5 hours. It was still so cold. I had on my wetsuit and two sweatshirts but my hands and feet were numb. The idea of getting into the water when I was already so cold was devastating. I really didn't know how I was going to do it. I knew the water with a temperature in the 70s might feel warm in comparison to the air but that thought wasn't all that comforting. The race start ended up being delayed by about an hour due to fog over the lake. The swimmers couldn't see the buoys and the lifeguards couldn't see the swimmers so all in all a bad combination. We were so relieved about the delay. An extra hour for the sun to come up! I just kept chatting with my little group, trying to be upbeat. No one likes and Eeyore (but internally I was a steady stream of negativity, I'm sorry to report).

A new wave of fog rolled over right as the first wave started.
The Olympic distance started first, giving the sun even more time to rise (hurrah!). Then, my first break of the day- once the Olympic athletes were done, they had some folks swim the spring course to show us the route. And it just didn't seem that far! Out to the green buoy and back? No big deal? Then I heard him announce it was 500m. Wait, I thought sprint tri's had a 1/2 mile swim? Not this one! (I now know the distance can be variable.) 500m is just over my usual practice warm up! That's nothing! So I began to think, okay, I can do this.

Feeling like an Eeyore but trying
to put up a brave front
My whole goal for this triathlon was to swim the swim. It may sound silly to do all this traveling not to mention a bike and a run for a 500 m swim, but a good 50% of racing and athleticism is psychological and I needed to show myself that I can swim in open water in a race situation. The only point of this whole operation was to swim the swim, freestyle, with my arms, without stopping. The bike and the run were just "for fun".

As my wave got closer and closer to the front, I became nauseated from the nerves. I was staying quiet, because again no one likes the person who is vocally nervous, but I was so nervous. I've never, ever been this nervous before a marathon. In fact, most of the morning I was wishing I was about to start a marathon! When we got in the water I saw a Chicago acquaintance, Anna- it was so good to see a friendly face. I admitted my terror to her and she smilingly said it would be fine. The conversation distracted me enough from my nerves that when the horn went off, my nausea was gone.

With Anna before the swim.
I started at the back of the pack to avoid being kicked, punched, etc. I still got jostled around a bit but it wasn't too bad. There is a HUGE difference between mixed gender waves and all female waves and I GREATLY prefer the latter. Some of the men in my Chicago Triathlon wave were aggressive, repeatedly pulling down my legs and punching (accidnetally I'm sure but still forcefully!), whereas the women just occassionaly nudged me or touched my toes. Much easier to handle. I just relaxed, pretended I was in the pool and kept my breathing consistent. I glanced up every few strokes to make sure I wasn't about to crash into anyone or anything. My goggles completely fogged up almost immediatey and it was to the point where I couldn't see the green buoy I was shooting for. So I had to stop to fix them. Maybe Micheal Phelps can swim blind (his coach routinely messes with his goggles so he'll be prepared for anything during competitions) but I can't. So I stopped and fixed them at a paddle boarder about 1/2 way through. But then I kept going and I didn't stop until I reached the end. I DID IT! I was grinning ear to ear as I ran to T1. I DID IT! I swam (basically) the whole way! Freestyle!! And I was fine!! FINE! Seaweed coming up from the lake floor all the way to my face? FINE! People grabbing my toes? FINE! I kept good breathing form the whole time. My stroke form probably sufferred near the end but who the heck cares? I SWAM THE WHOLE WAY! I wish the photographer had gotten a picture of my grin at the end:)

I am one of these SWIMMERS! Not back floaters, not
hanging on the edge of the boaters, but a SWIMMER!
T1 was okay. I have a heck of a time getting off my wetsuit, not sure how to shorten that time up. I didn't work too hard on the bike. I considered it more of a celebratory ride than anything else. I was just so happy about the swim! I ended up averaging 15.4 mph which was a little faster than in Chicago. And this with my Mom's bike that a) I've never ridden before, b) has a side mirror (yeah I'm that cool) and c) has a little post-it sticker shaped like a kitten that says 'laces?' to remind riders to tuck their laces into their shoes. Since the Olympic racers were already on the course and had 2 loops to our 1, I was riding amoungst some fancy bikes and helmets which was fun. During the Chicago tri, I passed mostly people I would "expect" to pass. Others on not-so-serious bikes like mine, for example. But yesterday, I actually passed a couple people with aero-helmets. I assume they were having absolutely awful days (aren't you supposed to be super fast if you go to all the trouble to buy disc wheels and aero helmets?), but still it was nice to pass folks.

I really enjoyed riding out in the country. Much more fun than on Lake Shore Drive. The running path in Chicago is so nice and convenient for running. But for biking I much prefer open spaces and new sights. I really had a good time.

Suffering right before the finish.

By the time the run started I really had to use the facilities. I had a cup of coffee while waiting for the swim start and it was weighing heavy on me since before the race started. (I know folks like to pee in the water, but I just don't find it civilized to pee amoungst a group of people who are about to breathe in that very water. It's gross. I refuse.)  So I had to waste 45 seconds (it was a lot of coffee, and believe me I counted out every second wishing I could pee faster) in a port a potty which was part of my run time. I would have had a kick-ass run time if it weren't for that! I ended up running 9:13 minute miles- would have been 8:30s if not for the peeing! Maybe I should have kept it in:( Or just learn how to run even faster! The run was quite hilly and I was breathing pretty heavy. I didn't love it. But I finished strong, breezing past someone who from behind appeared to be in my age group in the final 100m.

Overall, my bike and run times were pretty equivalent to Chicago. But the whole purpose of the Lake Geneva effort was to improve the swim and boy did I do that! I'm very happy with my perfomance. I'm looking forward to quality time in the pool over the next 6 months and jumping back into the triathlon circuit next summer, maybe starting in July once the mid-west waters warm up again!

At my hotel- this was the view from my balcony!

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