Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ironman New Zealand 2014: The Swim

Facebook post on race morning:

OK, ready to do this - really windy overnight but it's died off now and shaping up to be a good day. If you've got nothing else to do, live coverage of the race will be on at and, if nothing else, it's shaping up to be an exciting race between Cam Brown and Bevan Docherty. And I'm hoping Terenzo can give them both a fright as well! On the girls' side Gina Ferguson should give Meredith Kessler a run for her money.

Oh, and 1700 of us age group athletes will also be out there, having the time of our lives and being looked after by 2000 volunteers - those guys rock!

Have a great day people - I think St Pete is going to hack my account during the day. See you on the other side! xx

So I was a happy camper, calm and ready to have a great day (so different to Ironman #1 in 2011!)

Me taking a photo of you taking a photo...
The wind had been huge overnight.  I'm generally a good sleeper but the noise woke me several times and had me wondering about contingency plans and also mentally double-checking that I had in fact clipped the helmet onto the bike properly and hoping the security guys in transition were looking after our bikes OK.

But nothing to worry about - by the time the alarm went off at 4.00am the wind had gone and when we got to transition the bikes didn't even look like they had been touched.

A quick phone call to St Pete (no sleeping in for him in Sydney!) and we were all down at race site checking in.  Coach Dave and dad found Leigh, Paul and I down there and I headed into transition to check the bike, load it with food and drink and then let one of the friendly bike mechanics pump up the tyres.

Wetsuits on and then we headed down to the swim start.

The lake was looking great for the start and the air was electric with the anticipation of almost 1600 (there were 1586 official starters) ironman athletes ready for a good day out.  After many photos and hugs all around Paul and I headed through the swim gate and down to the water to await the start.

Paul was excited to get going and he was amazed to get out by the start, turn around, and see the hundreds of bodies still up on the beach and coming into the water.  It really was a sight to see.  Before we knew it, though, the grand prix lights onshore were counting down the last 3 minutes and then the cannon went off and we were into it.

And into it in a big way!

It was absolute bedlam to the first buoy and still chaotic to the second buoy.  People trying to swim into you, over you, push you aside, gobfuls of water, it was a complete thrashfest.  And I definitely felt it for the first few buoys, really having to talk myself through it.  I stayed on Paul's feet for about 50m and then he disappeared and would eventually come out of the water about 10 minutes ahead of me.

Pretty soon, though, I found another pair of feet that were great to follow - barely kicking at all but still going at a good pace and these feet took me to the first turnaround.  I didn't do a lot of sighting on that first half but did notice that we had ended up just on the inside of the buoys.  Not to worry, we were only around 5m inside and we worked our way back to the outside in time to round the first turn buoy at the far end of the course. 

Rounding the bottom two buoys I lost that pair of feet and looked for some more to latch onto but for some reason this seemed a much more difficult task.  One pair I got onto were doing what I can only describe as a fugly kick.  Thrashing around and feet splaying apart sideways - it was a wonder there was any forward motion and it definitely wasn't something you wanted to follow.  I therefore spent most of the return leg either in clear water or trying to move onto a new pair of feet.

All through the leg, though there was almost constant contact with other people and it wasn't exactly fun or friendly contact.  More than a couple of times I'd have someone trying to swim up my legs and I'd suddenly find myself at a 45 degree angle with ankles sunk down.  Thankfully for me, unlucky for them, I have a strong kick when I need to and so they all received a pretty violent response from my legs kicking the cr*p out of them in return, which soon got rid of them.

I also found myself defending my position on my friendly pair of feet on that first half of the swim leg.  Quite often I'd find someone trying to move in on them and so I'd have to hold my position until they finally gave up and moved off somewhere else.

This irongirl may not be the strongest speed-wise in the water, but don't mess with her - I don't get intimidated easily!

I don't know if it was because I was slightly further up in the field or whether it was down to the fact that there were around 400 extra people in the water compared to previous years, but virtually everyone I spoke to afterwards commented about how rough they found the swim (in terms of body contact).

Finally we were turning around the final buoy and heading for shore.  Always my favourite part of the swim (!) I was pretty pleased to stand up and see the clock reading 1 hour 23mins as I ran out of the water.

It was around 3 minutes off last year's swim so I was really happy considering the shaky start.

Onto the bike and the real fun would begin!

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