Ironman Report Part 3 – relaxation
The Ironman is an event with three stages relaxation, concentration and mindfulness – all happen to be linked to a swim, cycle and run.
After a good sleep I woke up at 4:00am and had my normal breakfast of three weetbix, OJ, and psyllium husk. After putting on my ankle chip – would not want to leave that behind- and a peek out the window to see the flags still blowing in the wind, I was relaxed enough to have another 20 minute sleep. This also allowed time to check that the bowels had settled for the morning.
Not wanting to wake the family I struggled by myself with getting all the gear to the start. There was the swim gear; a very large special needs backpack and smaller bag for the bike special needs and the pump needed to be carted the 15 minute walk to the transition area. After lugging and sweating, due to all the layers I had on, the gear to the transition, the goal was to keep warm while the waited for the race start. I mistakenly left my water for the next hour in my special needs bag and had nothing to drink.
Just a comment on my special needs bags. There was a lot of time reflecting on the cold weather, possible rain and hitting the wall on the run. So the run special needs bag had more clothes than I needed and plenty of food for all eventualities. The last thing I wanted was to have to pull out of the race because of poor nutrition and/or hypothermia. The planning was over the top and in the end the best thing I did given what was coming.
Having pumped up my tyres, packing my peanut butter sandwich, Cadel Bars, dates, salt tablets in a contact case and two containers of Gatorade, I was finally ready stay warm and to kill about 80 minutes before my swim start at 6:50 am. I walked the 10 minutes back to the race start against a sea of people heading to the transition – yes I was early again.
The swim this year was a rolling start instead of a mass start. I sat down on the concrete car park on the lee side of a green bin to keep out of the wind and a few other people followed the lead. As I was reflecting on when to put on the wetsuit and place the street gear in the truck I was interested that I was still very relaxed. In my mind it was just a swim another long ride which I had done for weeks on a Saturday and then the run. I have done over twenty marathons and longer races though there was an unknown after almost 9 hours of exercise. As long as I was patient and relaxed burning fat I was confident, provided the wheels did not fall off and I had time in the bank, I would finish the run.
Once snapped out of my reflection it was time to put the wetsuit and I left my jumpers on for another 15 minutes. The rolling start required us to enter a chute based on the time we thought we would finish the swim: less than an 1 hour, 1 hour to 1:12 hours, 1:12 to 1:23 hours and 1:23- 2:20. I honestly felt I could go at the back on the second last chute as I my swims for 3.8 km were between 1:20-1:25 hours. People started filing into the chutes and for a moment I felt like I was in an Apple Store as people started clapping as the swimmers walked down the ramp to enter the water. I just stood there watching all the swimmers snaked between the white boats on the river. At one stage I needed to ask a spectator for a drink of their water.
It was my turn. Once thorough the chute on the way done the ramp we had to pass through the single chute to ensure our timing ship engaged. After a handshake with the announcer and turning off my 6:50 am alarm that went off on my watch, I guided into the water and just floated a bit in my wetsuit before I started swimming.
Having spent the last six months bilaterally breathing and improving my swimming immensely, as soon as I started I went back to breathing on the right hand side for several strokes and then looking up to see where I was going. I still felt I was stroking well through the water without the bilateral breathing. On passing the first lot of boats I realised I had not turned on my watch and I was kinda relieved. I did not want to be constrained by time. Since my alarm went off I knew I had started at 6:50 am; so my race would unfold in real time.
This year the course was one loop with a weir climb which in the end felt a bit like a boot camp. The tide was low so the swim upstream was quite easy and seemed fast. The only hitch was when the course bent to the right around an island and the too few lifesavers were trying to push us to the right in the right direction. I am increasingly focally challenged and did have issues working which were the race buoys I had to follow.
When I am not focusing on times I have always found the swim relaxing though at times you need to be careful not to be kicked by someone and be wary of swimmers who seem to be swimming at an angle and pushing yourself off course or towards the bank. It is also the stage of the race where you need to be relaxed and exercise patience as it is a long day.
Soon I could see a weir in the distance and hundreds of swimmers converging on a narrower section where the race organisers had built a ramp so we could climb up and over the weir. I was concerned about not being pushed too much to either side as I did not want to have to stand on any rocks and risk being cut by oyster shells. I managed to position myself in the middle of the stepped ramp and was most please to be greeted by local triathlete and cool runner Andrew Lister. I went to stand up and my feet gave way. All my blood was in my upper body. I gracefully used my hands and feet to scramble up the steps blindly as my googles had fogged up. I got to the top and had a quick glance forward and back to see how many were behind me – not many- and what lay ahead – two turnaround buoys
It did not take long to circle the buoys and climb back over the weir. As I approached the weir I guy was in scuba gear checking that the carpet laid into the water over the rocks was still intact. I made a note to check my footing as I climbed the weir. Now with much more experiences from 5 minutes earlier I clinged to the side rails went over the top, turned off the stop watch and noted I was at 46 minutes, less to time I missed turning on the watch at the start, and reentered the water safely. I say safely because Orange Triathlete Brett stubbed and broke his toe on the weir.
On the way back I did feel I had to work harder against the current. At one stage I could see swimmers standing up on a bank walking. Though illegal I did stand up to walk a few steps to see how strong the current was and the lady next to me was said that I was going faster than I was swimming. We both had a good laugh. I welcomed the little standing break as the wetsuit was constricting my chest. I felt I was making no progress and saw a buoy in the distance. When I reached the buoy I was pleasantly surprised to see I was at the finish. I was expecting another section. As I rounded the buoy I asked some girls on the surf ski how cold it was out of the water and they said freezing.
I exited the water in 1:19 hours – clearly the best time I have swam 3.8 km. The swim cut off was 2:30 so I had 1:10 hours up my sleeve. I was onto a good start. As I was walking up the ramp I was met by Pam and started reflecting on the ride. It was 8:10 am and if I could be on the bike before 8:30am from T1 I might be back for the run by 3:30 pm – it was not to be the case. The race is not over till the race is over.