As I walked across the sand towards the start line, I could hear them playing the national anthem. As I made it to the archway of the start they announced that everyone who was racing needed to get into the corral. I can't remember the song they were playing at that point. I adjusted my goggles and tried to keep my cool. I positioned myself along the left side of the crowd about halfway back. Although in certain circles I might be considered a fast swimmer, I felt like in this crowd I was probably about the same speed as most everyone else. No need to rush to the front as my plan was to swim this leg fairly easy.
The next song played was Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.
The horn went off in the middle of the song and all 800 of us started walking forward and under the starting arch. Although this was my first ocean swim and only the second time for a start that was not in the water, I honestly had not given much thought to getting from the beach to the water. Would I run until it got too deep, dolphin dive, or what? It had not even occurred to me to think about it. I just did what came naturally. I stayed to the left waded in until it was a little over knee deep, took a dive and I was off. The first few strokes felt so easy, at some point I think I was barely even kicking just kind of saving my legs and pulling along. I almost had to remind myself to kick once in a while.
This was my first experience with a mass start so I was a little nervous about it beforehand. I must have gotten extremely lucky because I had hardly any kicking, pulling, or people swimming over the top of me. I got caught up in a group of people 2 or 3 times but I was in and out of the group quickly. The women’s sprint triathlon I did in August was 100 times worse in terms of congestion than this mass swim start.
The course takes you out a short distance and then you turn right around a buoy and into the channel. Your only other turn is a left hand turn in front of a hotel then it is a straight shot to the ladders to get out. Race day was overcast, our swim caps were a dark gray and my goggles were fogged up which made it hard to sight. Every time I looked, all I could see was gray. Once or twice I stopped and cleared my goggles just so I could see where I was going. When I looked around as far as I could see were swimmers. It was a pretty cool sight. I just kept plugging away headed in the same basic direction as the other swimmers.
There was some chop, nothing too horrible. Every once in a while I would get a mouth full of salt water and I would try my best not to swallow it. I could occasionally feel a small wave as it moved forward and me with it. The race is known for its fast swim because of the current. Some years the current is stronger than others. This year was supposed to be one of the strongest yet. To give you an idea, the fastest swim time this year was 36:07. I am not complaining.
Right about the time I was wondering how far along I was, I came on the turn buoy at the hotel. I knew this was about 1.2 miles as this was where the half-iron swimmers start their race. On facebook prior the race, someone had posted a picture of the building that was behind the ladders so we would know what we were swimming towards. In the distance, not long after I made the turn I could see the building and knew I was close to the end. As I approached the ladders, I really began to feel the current. I knew I needed to aim for the first ladder so as not to overshoot the finish and have to fight the current back. I could feel the current pushing me to the left. I made it to the ladder and stepped up on the dock.
I made my way over to the wetsuit strippers. A quick yank and I had my wetsuit in hand. At some point, I remember passing a clock that read 51 minutes. I thought “no way…” even with the current that was faster than I had hoped. I made a pass through the freshwater showers and took off on the run to T1.
T1 was across the street from the dock and that was where all the cheering spectators were gathered. I ran across the timing mat and headed to get my changing bag. My bag was not where it was supposed to be so a volunteer helped me locate it and I dashed into the tent to change. I had ordered a special GPS tracking for the day because I wanted CR and other family to be able to track me along the way. I turned the GPS and my Garmin on and changed into my biking clothes. My original plan was a sleeveless jersey with arm warmers. I had stashed a jacket in the bag just in case. I decided to leave the arm warmers and take the jacket since it was overcast. This turned out to be a winning decision. All dressed I put everything in the changing bag and headed to my bike.
Swim Time: 51:34