Pre-Race and Swim portions…

 

Pre-race

This was about to be Ironman #3 (Ironman Florida 2020 and Ironman Flordia 2021 were numbers 1 and 2 respectively). I felt prepared and calm in the days leading up to the race but hadn’t been looking forward to it. I was racing simply because I’d paid for it 2 yrs ago and it kept getting deferred due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Trying to defer to a different venue was unsuccessful.  So, I was going to show up and race, but the only thing I was getting excited about was being on the course with people that I actually knew. My triathlon clubs had more than 20 participants!

One week prior, during my last long ride, I was involved in my first road cycling crash. Four of us went down and some were injured badly. The lead cyclist broke her collar bone and ankle. Fortunately, I wasn’t injured, but parts of my bike needed to be repaired and replaced. The owner of a local bike shop (Pearland Bicycles) offered to meet me on a Sunday to check the bike. He made the necessary repairs and I was ready to go!

Pre-race activities

As we drove to the hotel on Thursday morning I felt the butterflies! To my surprise, I was getting excited about the race. My mind switched to visualization mode because I was going to take the race seriously. Regardless of my feelings, if I’m going to participate then I will give my best effort and focus on excellence in execution. No matter what happens, I’ll have an opportunity to learn and grow. After checking into the hotel I bumped into several familiar faces. They too were excited to race.  My first task was to complete the athlete check-in and do some obligatory shopping in the Ironman Village. I like to purchase the race t-shirts that have all of the participants’ names on the back. Reading my name makes me feel “official”.  After shopping, Robin, Kai, and I walked around to explore the course.  Knowing how far the transition area is from the swim start and finish is always helpful.

That evening I had dinner with several members of the black triathlete association. Spending time getting to know them was special. I learned that most were multi-Ironman finishers and some have even been to the world championships in Kona, HI! The typical conversation was one member challenging the group to join him in a 100-mile running race next year. Then, another woman threw out the idea of doing a 6 or 8-mile swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Because…..why not?  It all felt normal and I absolutely loved it. This is definitely my tribe.

The plan for Friday was to stay off my feet and relax for most of the day.  In the morning, I put my bike in the transition area. While there, I ran into several athletes who were returning from the practice swim. I chose not to do that because I didn’t want to get my wetsuit wet. After eating lunch, we returned to the hotel, I packed up my morning clothes bag and chilled out.

Race Day!

I got up at 4 am Saturday morning intending to warm up my body with a short yoga session. However, after eating and taking care of the essentials, I didn’t have sufficient time, so I skipped it. I left the hotel at 4:45 to be in transition when it opened at 5 am. The swim start was almost a mile away and I wanted sufficient time to have a leisurely walk there. 

The race was scheduled to begin at 6:45 am – I and about 3,000 other determined souls were going to push ourselves to achieve an amazing physical and mental feat. One hour and 10 minutes was my planned swim time so I lined up towards the front of the massive crowd. Today, I was committed to beginning with that group even if fear and doubt surfaced. I would resist any urges to move back to a slower section. Fear would not be making my decisions!

Once in the water, I focused on breathing, body position, and keeping my effort easy enough to prevent my calves from cramping. I have an old pattern of flexing my feet too intensely when I swim hard which causes cramps. The water was very choppy and the number of bodies in it made for a very physical swim. Actually, it was the most physical contact in a race I’ve experienced. There was a lot of smacking and bumping or getting kicked. The advantage goes to bigger people ๐Ÿ˜€.

As the pack of swimmers thinned about halfway through the course, I began speeding up but my calves began showing signs of cramping so I slowed back down to try and prevent that. It was too late, they began cramping repeatedly one leg at a time. I had to stop three times to tread water and pull on my feet to release the muscles. By the time we entered the canal (the last 25-30%) I was feeling good  (aside from the calf problem) and I remember thinking that I could swim twice this length without issue. I felt happy. The race had begun well for me.

Planned finish time 1h 10 min.

Actual finish time 1h 27 min.