Wednesday, June 27, 2012

IM CDA - The Swim

Finally, race morning!!!  Oh, thank goodness.....let's do this thing!!

The Swim (i.e. the ugly)
OK, how do I best describe the swim start in CDA?  Well, it's a beach start.  But in a very limited amount of beach.  It is so limited in fact that the "lines" of athletes waiting to get in must be 30 deep.  I had mentally prepared for the start.  And my goal was to get on the front line, sprint at the cannon, and settle in for a strong swim.  What I didn't do is get to the start line early enough to get in the water and splash around a bit.  My bad.

Front line  - check
Sprint at the cannon - check
Settle in for a strong swim - yeah this is where it all fell apart.

The start at the cannon
For the first time in my triathlon swim career, something unexpected happened.  I dove into the water and sprinted fairly fast trying to get in front of all the athletes around me.  I took about 10 strokes and then realized I couldn't breathe.  Seriously couldn't breathe.  I was having a panic attack.  I am NOT prone to these but looking back and analyzing the start i know exactly what happened.  The water was maybe 57 degrees and that my friends, is freaking cold.  Too cold for me.  I had done a swim on Friday and thought I could deal with the first 5 minutes.  But with the craziness around me at the swim start and somewhat getting knocked around, I was unable to get over the cold shock. I rolled onto my back and tried to catch my breath.  But it wasn't happening.  I was pulling at the neck of my wetsuit thinking that if I released some of the pressure my chest would be OK to breathe.  Didn't happen.  In addition, waves kept coming over my head with the cold water and I inhaled lots of water.  But the cold left me gasping for breath.  I looked towards the beach, all I could see was a sea of green and pink caps....hundreds and hundreds.  I felt trapped.  I couldn't see a kayak.  I was in trouble.

OK Michelle.  Deal here, we have to deal.  You are a swimmer OK?  You can swim.  Relax. Keep kicking your legs so no one will pull you under, do a bit of backstroke to keep you moving.  I stared up into the clouds and tried to get into an almost meditative state.  Breathe, breathe, breathe.  OK, I was breathing but still having problems swallowing water and gasping for breath.  Oh, this was ugly.  I am NEVER doing another one of these.....So I tried rolling onto my stomach and actually swimming.  NOPE.  We are having NONE of that.   My chest immediately tightened up and I couldn't get a breath in.  What a nightmare.  I am a swimmer and I am unable to swim.  Am i really doing this first lap backstroke?  I started talking nice though....sure do backstroke.  You were a pretty decent backstroker back in the day and that's kind of all you can do right now.  So I backstroked.  Finally, about 500-600 meters in, I tried swimming again.  And I was able to get some strokes in.  Phew.  But I had to go way wide with no one around me.  The red turn buoy seemed really far to my left and I started swimming towards it.  I was now in the masses of swimmer I have never had the "privilege" to swim with.  Lord, I hope to never swim with them again.  They are an aggressive violent bunch:)  And, I still had to rollover onto my back a couple more times during that first lap.

I finally finished the first lap and headed back for the second.  I was able to get into somewhat of a normal stroke for me even though I could only breathe on one side.  Smooth sailing from there right?  Nope.  The chop started.  The wind had picked up (forecast did not call for this!!!) and now we had big chop to deal with.  OK, not ideal but I can do this.  I didn't have to roll over again on lap 2 which was a success and I finished the swim knowing that I had conquered a pretty severe panic attack.  I expected a time of 1:10ish but I missed looking at the clock on the way in and just got to T1.  So I was pretty happy when I learned after the race that my split was 1:02 and I was first out of the water in my age group.

I'm the "freaky" one looking relieved don't you think?

Wetsuit strippers are my heroes.  Really.  They had my Freak off in a mater of seconds and I was off to the change tent.  It wasn't nearly as empty as I'm used to but I found some empty seats and got to the business of getting ready for my ride.  As always, the volunteers in the tent were amazing - very helpful especially when dealing with a wet, cold athlete with numb hands.  We got my arm warmers on along with everything else and I was on my way!


Colleen said...

Holy Cow Michelle! You must do a pretty dang fast backstroke! Well done! Especially having to get over a panic attack. First out of the water! :)

Ange said...

Oh wow Michelle. Unreal. You are one tough woman to overcome that and go on to Win! Can't wait to read more. Congrats!!!!

Beth said...

Oh yikes Michelle! I didn't realize you had such a tough swim -- but still swam 1:02 and first in your AG!! HA!! Way to get through it. I know that panic - that water was cold and I drank SOOO much of it!

Ransick said...

Wow, that swim sounds cold and crazy! Awesome swim time even without having the backstroke!

GoBigGreen said...

Oh Dear God, and that, my friend is why i cant see ever doing CDA, no matter what my warm up i freeze sub 60. Who am I kidding. sub 62! Congrats and getting thru that.

Chad Holderbaum said...

What a tough swim Michelle but you pulled through and still had the fastest swim in your AG! Awesome!!!

Libby said...

wow, you pulled off a GREAT swim given the circumstances. for what its worth, I had the same thing happen to me at CDA and it was my first ironman. I thought I was either going to drop out or die. that swim start is the worst!