3:45am the alarm goes off. Pablo and I are just a few hours away from starting our Ironman. We get dressed, eat breakfast, grab our nutrition, special needs bags and head out the door. I think I’m still too sleepy to realize what is actually about to happen.
As we walk to transition (about 20 min away), we start seeing other athletes and it slowly starts to settle in, our Ironman race day is here!
There’s not a lot of time to think about it though. I’m not a slow swimmer, but I’m a slower cyclist, so I wanted to be in the Ohio River as quickly as possible, which meant getting to the swim start line as quickly as possible. We put air in our tires, load our nutrition onto our bikes, drop off the special needs bags, take some pictures and start the hike to the swim start, which is another 25 min away.
Before we get to the line we run into the body markers. I don’t know where they are getting the energy from, but every single one of them is smiling, waving their markers, cheering us on and making us feel like rockstars. This is how every volunteer continues to be for the rest of the race. If you volunteered on Sunday, thank you! Your smiles, your kind words and your support was priceless. YOU made my race amazing!
The line was already long, so we weren’t sure where we were, which worried me a little, until I saw the long line forming behind us. We hung around and waited for our sherpas to arrive. Since my parents had flown in late, we decided to let them sleep in a bit.
Our parents arrived to the line after we already started walking. It was happening! I felt a myriad of emotions, the biggest one being excitement. Our Ironman was HERE! We took what seemed like 500 pictures, skyped with Pablo’s sister Cecilia and before we knew it the pro cannons went off, then it was our turn.
Whoever told me about the line was not kidding. Once it starts moving, it’s moving! We gave our parents one last hug and moved steadily down the starting ramp. I have never started a race right next to Pablo, let alone an Ironman and the tears welled up as we held hands and walked down the ramp. I held them back, because I didn’t want to mess up my goggles.
I looked around and noticed that I was a few of pink in a sea of green (494 women out of 2076 official starters) and that inspired me.
Then it was time to jump in and tackle 2.4 miles! We were in the water by 7:13. For someone who used to have an intense fear of dark water, I was surprised at how at ease I felt in the water. I started swimming and didn’t look back!
I knew I had 1700m in the canal and that it would feel like a washing machine because I was going to be in a small strip of water with 2000 other people. Instead of freaking out, I took full advantage of it by drafting off people as much as I could. Any time I would get hit, I would look up and get on that person’s toes. Other than that I didn’t really sight, because seeing people around me when I was breathing was enough to ensure I was on track.
Once we hit the open river, the water had patches of icy cold water, which felt pretty good. I checked my watch 35 min and almost at the buoy, YES! I reached the turnaround buoy (1700 meters) and knew that with the current I could make a 1:15 swim. I again did minimal sighting because I had swimmers to my left and right so I knew I was on the right path. When I checked my watch again and it read 57 minutes I knew I’d be closer to 1:10. I got out of the water with a 1:11:13 swim time.
While the current definitely cut some time off our swims (14 min for Pablo, 19 min for me), I also just felt strong during the swim. My strokes were good, my body was rotating the way it should and my body felt calm and composed. While I am nowhere near podium material, I thought my top 40% overall swim and top 35% gender finish were pretty awesome.
I came out of the water, spotted my mom and Pablo’s parents waved, cheered, jumped and continued into transition spotting my dad right before I headed in.
The swim was done. Now it was time to focus on the next 112 miles.