My swim wave was at 9:03AM. I woke up at 6:30AM, made my protein shake, forced down an English muffin with peanut butter and drank some coconut water along with my ginger tea. I did a few warm up yoga stretches, and lined the back of my neck, armpit line and inner thighs with Body Glide before pulling on my trisuit. My boyfriend helped stick on my race tattoos, taped my shoulder, and I was ready to go by 7:20AM.
I was in T1 by 7:30AM and took my time setting up my area. I hung my helmet on my handle bars where I placed my sunglasses and bike gloves, and laid everything else out below on an old towel. By 8AM I was all set up and felt relaxed. I dropped off my bike-to-run and post race bags, drank some more Gatorade and headed to the bathroom line for my last break. At 8:30AM I ate a gel and pulled on my wetsuit. I was in the water for my practice swim by 8:40AM and before I knew it – 9:00AM was here. All the weeks of training, stress, worry, happiness, highs and lows came down to this one moment.
My biggest concern about the swim, like most triathletes, was the start. I had read terrible stories about chaotic starts where people would swim over you, or your goggles were smacked off by another swimmer’s out of control elbow. As I bobbed around with the other pink caps, I tried to position myself near the edge of the pack but we seemed to be well spaced out. Everyone, including, surprisingly myself, seemed very calm. The whistle rang through the air at 9:03AM and we were off!
I found my groove, breathing every three strokes and sighting every 9 strokes. My guard went down after the calm start and I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. About five minutes into the swim, I suddenly felt very crowded. There were swimmers very close to me on both sides and there were feet bubbling in front of my face. While I had done a practice swim with the local triathlon club the group was only about 15 people and was a significantly different feeling compared to racing with hundreds of swimmers.
A wave of anxiety swept over me and the neckline on my wetsuit suddenly felt very tight. I was surprised by what was happening, I had never panicked in water before. This wasn’t supposed to happen, I thought to myself, swimming is my favourite sport! The idea of swimming in this claustrophobic situation for another 40 minutes seemed overwhelming. The feeling was awful.
I had two choices, either bail or stick it out. So I kept going, one stroke after the next. I calmed myself down, focused on my breathing and started to get used to moving among the other swimmers. When I felt someone was too close I either slowed down or sped up until I found my space again. After a few minutes the anxiety passed, and I felt like my old self again! Sighting was a bit harder than I had anticipated but wasn’t that necessary on such a straightforward course. As I passed the halfway point I was delight to spot the yellow buoy string under water and I followed it all the way back, I was flying!
I finished the swim in 42 minutes (estimated time 50 minutes). Once I got over my spout of anxiety I really enjoyed the swim. I felt strong and had a great rhythm going. I was puzzled by my anxiety attack but can only attribute it to inexperience in an open water race. Regardless, on to the bike!
Posed for my boyfriend as I ran to the canal exit.
I had practiced transitioning at home many times, and estimated approximately 3-4 minutes. Not even close! I spent nearly 10 minutes in transition. While I took a moment to give my boyfriend a quick kiss, the bigger issue was that I tried to dry myself off to apply sunscreen, but due to my wet skin and sweat my sunscreen was dripping everywhere so I had to dry off and re-apply a few times. Note for next time: get better waterproof sunscreen!
Other than my soggy sunscreen situation, everything else went according to plan. I gulped down some more Gatorade, and peed on my old towel as I put on my compression socks and shoes. I clipped on my race belt with my bib, slipped on my sunglasses, gloves and helmet and was ready to go. But 10 minutes though! Ugh. Now I understand why the pros just slip on their helmet and run off with their shoes strapped to their bike. Don’t get too comfortable!