Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant – the swim

On the Tuesday before my first half ironman event, Dave told me that he volunteered to kayak with the swimmers on race day.

“You what?”

“It will be great.  I don’t know if I’ll be with the full or the half, but it will give me something to do.  It will be fun.”

“And what about me?  I need you with me.”

“You’ll be fine.  Be independent.”

“You’ve done everything to support me in this from the start and now you’re dropping the ball?”

I had five nights to wrap my head around the fact that I was going to the startline of the 1900 metre swim on my own.

On Sunday morning, Dave was out the door at 4:15 a.m. to meet the other 59 kayakers who were supporting the swimmers.  The Ironman swim (3.8K) started at 6:00 while the rest of us started at 8:00.  I left the hotel at 6:00, got my bike and run gear organized in the transition zone, then headed to the lake.  There, I suited up, warmed up on land and, then, realized that none of later waves would be able to warm up in the lake.  That left me with an unexpected worry: my goggles.

Since I have a narrow face, I have a hard time finding googles that fit properly or stick to me and create a seal around my eyes.  I’ve tried many brands and the Speedo Vanquisher is the only one that works.  But, to get them to stay on, I have to wet my face first, and then put on wet goggles.  On Sunday, I had no way of creating that seal; leaky goggles over 1900 metres would just not work.

While the panic was going on in my mind, I was chatting with another swimmer (we were together in the corral for 30 minutes so had lots of time to talk) and told her about my dilemna.  That’s when the light bulb went on.  “Wait!  Don’t look!  I’m going to use my spit!” i beamed.  I licked my fingers and rubbed the skin around my eyes with them and, then, the band around the goggles.  I put them on and they stuck!  Nope, they came off.  Minutes later, another lightbulb lit.  “Okay, I’ve got it,” I giggled.  “Don’t look.  I’m going to lick my goggles and see if that works any better.”  Surrounded by strangers, I brought out my inner two year old and licked my goggles, then put them on again.  It worked!  Of course, I had to do it once more when we got closer to the start but, at that point, I didn’t care.  I had the solution.  Besides, what happens on the beach stays on the beach (until now).

By the time I got into the water, there were only about 10 people behind me.  My start was good – really good, thanks to the simulated practices that I have had with LOST swimming – but, 200 metres into the swim, the lake seemed to get blacker below.  I realized how deep the water was and panicked a bit but was able to calm myself down quickly and carry on.  My sighting was good – a bit of a surprise – and I was happy to see the red buoy that marked the turn: almost half-way.

The swim to the finish was tough, though, not because I was tired (I was actually feeling quite strong) but because I couldn’t see all of the orange buoys that directed us to the finish line. At that point in the race, all of the kayakers were in that section of the course and some were inadvertently blocking the buoys.  To create more of a challenge, the kayakers were wearing bright yellow shirts and life jackets so all I could see was a blur of red, orange and yellow; I could not tell where the buoys were at all.  And while I could hear the announcer at the finish line, I could not see that either.  So there was quite a bit of stop and go, lifting my goggles so that I could see better (so much for my amazing sticky work on the beach) and questionning “Am I going the right way?”  As I got closer to the shore, I sensed that I was going to finish before the time cut-off, but I had no idea how much extra time, if I actually did have some, was left.

I rushed out of the water, climbed the steps, was helped out of my wetsuit by the strippers and glanced at my watch: 57 minutes, a 2:58/100m pace.  That was better than my A-goal!  I was so happy!

As I ran to transition, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet it was.  Dave wasn’t there and, as I was one of the last out of the water, almost all of the spectators had left.  But I didn’t care.  For me, the hardest part was done and I had the rest of the day to look forward to.

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