The cannon blasted and there is always this split-second where your brain asks: Is this it? Is this the start to the race? Yup, it was and I went off strong and found open water for quite some time. I went out stronger than I expected without my heart rate really spiking too much, which often leads to hyperventilation and panic attacks. So far so good, a good start and did not have the feeling that I got passed within the first 100 yards. I actually felt I pulled ahead with the stronger swimmers and found quite some open water with very little contact. I watched the seafloor for a little bit and enjoyed having plenty space around me, still felt I am somewhat in the front pack of the race, at least as far as I could tell when I looked up for sighting. At least the little I could see when looking forward at water level. The water however was definitely calmer than it has been earlier this week. We were not even at the first turnbuoy when we encountered the first male swimmer that we had to pass. The pack got markedly more hectic with tempo surges and direction changes as well as much more contact between swimmers, but shortly after that we also rounded the first buoy which is usually also accompanied by plenty of contact and you have to be careful not to get kicked.
The far turn is traditionally lined by 2 boats with a somewhat weird buoy line, due to the current, so more sighting was needed. I tried to round the second buoy wide as we encountered more male age groupers and I wanted to swim on the outside.
I suddenly found a pair of feet to follow and hitched up a ride behind those feet until I lost them again due to another passing of a male with the mentioned increase of hectic and nervousness of the pack. I did pass quite a bit of pink caps but then noticed that since the turn buoy my swim cap was slowly creeping up on top of my head (think rooster). Worried about additional drag, I stopped and frantically tried to pull it down. My cap was indeed just held back by my google straps. 2 years ago, I had placed the cap over the google strap and promptly lost my cap at approximately the same location that I was in now. I was annoyed. It required another stop and a forceful tuck to somewhat attach my cap to my head again. I reminded myself on the exit stairs to take the cap off early to not get one of those funny looking pictures…haha not that my swim exit picture ever look anything close to good.
After that second stop, my cap stuck to my head for the rest of the swim and again I found feet to follow. Even though I followed feet I did sight regularly and saw all those blue swim caps of the male age groupers, but my leadswimmer was pretty good about squeezing by. I only had a bit of a rougher contact with 2 guys, but after each pass I sped up to defend the feet I was following and I also noticed that someone was following me. I am ok with someone tapping my feet constantly, as I also tapped my front quite a bit, even though I tried to avoid it. I only had one person, pull my feet down, which I answered with a violent kick, however I do have to be careful not to get a foot or calf cramp after such an action.
When I was pretty close to the pier, I read the number of the pink cap next to me and I recognized super swimmer Mary, who rides the same bike as me and when she turned her head for a breath I was confirmed it was her. I was super stoked to be right next to her, as she usually outswims me by up to 10 minutes. She has many fastest AGE swim splits to her name. So the swim must have been pretty good and I also felt pretty good. Shortly after there was another male to pass and I did not see her again (she did come out of the water faster than me though and left the changing tent right in front of me). As I had sand under my hands I stood up and tried to find my balance going up the stairs. I have yet to master to get out of the water and walking straight, it usually feels like being drunk as I cannot walk in a straight line… haha. Some people say the swim was about 200m short. I don’t know, as I don’t wear a watch during the swim portion of the race but I did during the practice race a week earlier on the same course with different finish area where my watch clocked 4151 yards. Close enough. I take it. :D
I quickly glanced at the race clock, but was not sure what it meant. I knew that I have been way faster than what was on there. This might have been the men's time as my final swim time was 1:01.
On top of the stairs, is the tent with the water hoses, and I did take my time to rinse my head and also take a big gulp of it to dilute the salt water that I had ingested at least twice during the swim. A volunteer led me to a free chair inside the tent, it was way less crowded than when I got out of the water 2 years ago! Success, fastest swim ever 1:01! I did swim with the new ROKA swim skin and loved it. Did not dig the huge chafe of the size of my hand between my ear and the base of my neck, but that is really my fault (not applying Vaseline and my swim style). Should have taken a picture of my neck the day after the race, it looked pretty crazy.
A fellow Dimond rider (same kit) right behind me. I am always in awe how people can get up from the water and up the stairs and already have their swim skin half way down, while I am still trying to find my equilibrium. BTW LOVE THE ROKA SWIM SKIN.
Usually, T1 is pretty straightforward, get out of the swim skin and into bike shoes. I also had a can of beet juice in the bag from which I had a few big gulps before I left the tent.
After running through a canopy with freshwater hoses to rinse off the salt, you run through another canopy to collect your Swim-to-Bike-bag and then head into the somewhat dim changing tent.
I also asked the volunteer to spray me down with sunscreen, however I was wet like a rat and I doubted that anything would stick. I do applaud Ironman to ask everyone to not use personal sunscreens before the swim but their reef-friendly sunscreen. Looking at the reef, climate change and coral bleaching are very real. The damage in compare to 2 years ago was massive! As always a few people totally ignored WTCs request and sprayed themselves with regular sunscreen before the swim. Argh, so much about paying attention at the athletes briefing pre-race.
My glamorous hickey from the swim and the arm tan lines (only burnt areas of this race) two days after the race.
Heading out of the tent and running to my bike with bike shoes is awkward enough, but suddenly my Achilles tendonitis started to hurt. It would hurt throughout that ride, which usually never happened as I was able to ride pain-free most of the summer. I was a bit worried at that point and gingerly walk/ran the stretch to the mount line just outside of transition. It made a long transition even slower: 3:55 min.