Ironman Arizona Part 2: Learn to Fly
Molly slid off the dock first, and I jumped in after.
The chill filled my wetsuit, and for a quick moment, took my breath away.
Bobbing like a cork, I realized that this was the first of three moments I had been envisioning for more than a year. And the fact that I was so at peace with myself and this race, made it all the more beautiful. The soft glow of the sun was pouring over the horizon. Thousands of friends and family lined Tempe Town Lake and the surrounding bridges, saying silent prayers for everyone taking on this journey. And here I was. In the middle of it all. Soaking as much of it in as I could. Thinking of everyone who couldn't be in Arizona, but were cheering me on from afar. I could hear their positive thoughts in my mind. Willing me to the finish line. This moment from when I first entered the water and the emotion paired with it, will forever be painted vividly on my mind.
The plan, according to the Chief of Pain, was to start to the left since most of the melee would take place to the right.
A quick 200 yard swim up to the masses and I floated on my back for a few solitary moments remembering the clarity and calm that came with my recent floating experience in Chicago. Molly came swimming up behind me and we talked for what seemed like seconds, but in reality was probably closer to 10 minutes. You could hear the crowd...and Mike Reilly...and music. I remember hearing Mike Reilly proclaim "You WILL do this." I spotted woman with a "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" sign looming above me on the bridge.
A good omen.
He's right. I will do this. And I smiled.
I don't remember receiving a warning at all. The cannon simply fired. Glancing at Molly I had that look in my eyes of "Holy sh*t, we're doing an Ironman!!!" Foo Fighters "Learn to Fly" was blaring. I proclaimed that it was "time to fly" and surged forward excitedly.
Run and tell all of the angels
This could take all night
Think I need a devil to help me get things right
Learn to Fly - Foo Fighters
It was a smart decision to start to the left. But it wasn't without any damage. I was punched in the ear. Some dude's foot ended up in my mouth and I swore I thought he knocked a tooth out. I essentially took a bite out of his heel. I was bumped. jostled. grabbed. felt up. slapped. groped. swam over. and everything else in between. Limbs of neoprene went flying. You could barely see through the whitewash. Forget the buoys...just stay in forward motion.
I focused on staying calm. On counting strokes. On remembering good form. And not kicking too much.
And of course, I served the punches right back when they were deemed necessary. One guy in particular really had it coming. It was a day to be fearless, and ruthless, and aggressive. I was all that. And more.
Sighting into the sun was a challenge. I resolved that as long as I had people around me, I was headed in the right direction. I had a bit of open water. My pod of swimmers...pulled left and we were eventually steered back on course by a handful of kayakers.
Back into the washing machine we went. More of the same kicks to the gut. pulls at the feet. and bumping of bodies. I braced myself for the worst at the turn buoy.
And it wasn't a problem at all. I hugged the turn buoy, turned left...and continued on my way. A couple hundred more yards, another left turn, and I was on my return way home.
The swim was over halfway done. And if felt like I had just begun.
At one point during this stretch, I popped up in the water just to look around. At that exact same moment, another gal popped up too, and looked at me with the biggest smile on her face...to which I proclaimed "We're doing an effing IRONMAN!!!" And she replied (in her best Monica Gellar voice) "I KNOW!!" I continued to smile underwater, laughing at the exchange to myself. Maybe about 10 minutes later, I got kicked in the face and popped up to readjust my goggles. Lo and behold...she was there again and screamed "It's an IRONMAN!!!" I laughed again and kept moving forward with the masses.
Before I knew it, I was turning toward the ladders to pull myself out of the water. A volunteer yanked me up...and I stumbled to my feet.
I hit the timing mat and thought of everyone at home following my progress. Send a smile and a mental wave their direction.
Swim Time: 1:31:02
I was beyond excited to be right around 90 minutes for the swim. I figured the swim of my life would've been around 1:25. A normal swim was going to be around 1:35. And if I was having a bad day, I'd be in the 1:45 arena. My day was off to a brilliant start!
The wetsuit strippers had me down on the ground and in one swift yank, my wetsuit came flying off. And I suddenly became very aware of just how cold it was. For a moment, I wondered if my tri shorts had flown off with wetsuit...kind of like that bad dream you have where you're walking around the halls of your high school naked. A quick touch to my legs, and I realized that while I was indeed still clothed...the air was just ridiculously crisp.
I told myself Just get moving...and you'll be able to feel your legs again soon...
Coming into T1, I saw my Iron Crew, dished out some high-fives, proclaimed victory over the swim with a 1:31, and ran for my bags and into the change tent. Apparently Tempe Town Lake was so dirty, most of the athletes--myself included--were coming out of the water caked in black crap. Awesome.
Inside the tent was mass chaos. With naked ladies everywhere, I began to shiver uncontrollably. I sat down and a volunteer quickly wrapped me up like a burrito in a foil. She continued to help the girl sitting next to me and directed me to relax and try to warm up.
With shaky fingers, I pulled my T1 bag apart and emptied the contents. I smiled as I saw two photos that Mike had slipped in there...one of my cat wrigley, saying something about spandex being slimming...and a photo of me and the Chief of Pain, it simply said "Ride bitch, ride!"
After a few moments of collecting myself, the volunteer helped me get dressed and sent me on my way. A quick stop for some sunscreen, I ran off to retrieve Little Red Riding Hood and pumped myself up for 112 miles alone in the desert.
T1 Time: 11:59