Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy IronDay

The alarm went off. I jolted up.

Is this it?

I gotta move...

Went to the bathroom where all my clothes were laid out...and saw the card from one of my students on the mirror.

Okay. I can do this.

My next instinct was to call Wil. I told her, "Happy IronDay!" She laughed, and we agreed to meet up down at Monona Terrace.

I had my bagel with peanut butter and a banana in solitude in my bathroom. Seriously--who eats in the bathroom? But Matt was sleeping, and it would be a long day for him, too. I took a quick shower at the advice of my coach just to get the blood pumping and wake up.

At 4:45, I went into the hallway to meet Manitoba Guy. He was ready to go, and we headed to Chewie (the Chevy) to drive to the Alliant Energy Center to get on the shuttle to Monona Terrace. It was so dark out, but I could still feel a buzz in the air as athletes and volunteers headed to the buses.

I saw that you weren't supposed to bring your whole tri bag to the Terrace, and that everyone was just putting stuff in their morning dry clothes bag to then drop off at the race. I still needed to load up my Bento Box with 2 Clif Bars (broken into pieces) and an M&M mini case (thanks TriEric!), as well as haul my goggles, wetsuit, etc. So, in the dark, I put everything into my morning dry clothes bag and headed to the bus.

Or so I thought. More on that later.

On the bus, Manitoba and I were chit chatting when I looked 2 seats in front of me and thought--"HOLD UP. That guy looks familiar."

Is it....could it be....he's wearing volunteer clothes...I think it is.....!

"Um, excuse me...."

Guy turns around

"Are you Mike?"


Talk about CRAZY. What are the odds--the same freaking 4:50am bus?! It was the Silent Fury himself. We were laughing at the craziness!

We all got off the shuttle and made our way was only 5am, but the buzz was whirring all around me. I dropped off my special needs bags for the bike and run, and ran into Rob, too! I knew he was going to kick butt today. Then I saw Stu and he helped me find Wil.

And we didn't leave each other's side for the rest of the morning until the cannon went off.

It was so good to have her there. You guys don't even know...she is amazing and has been such a great support for me as I've gone through this whole journey. We got our bodies marked, and I saw Trina and Cassie and wished them good luck. I really wanted to see TriAl one more time, but I was running around trying to get everything done that I didn't. I headed to my bike to drop off my fuel and bottles.

Except for one thing. No fuel. No ClifBars and only one little M&M canister of E-caps. Not two.

Oh no. It's in my tri bag, in the trunk of Chewie.


Don't panic, don't panic...I still have peanut butter crackers, and Clif Bloks, and some will get me to special needs on the bike. I'll be fine. Really. I will.....won't I?

Ugh. How could I have been so stupid! I filled my Jetstream with water, put my two bottles of endurance gatorade with carbo pro on my bike, and lifted up my bento box to put the lack of fuel in...

And I saw a blue post-it note. From TriAl. Just to say good luck.

What a guy he is, people. He took the time out to wish a bunch of us good luck with post-its. Class act friend, he is. It really made me feel better--I might be missing fuel, but I am not alone. I'll be fine.

Then, before I knew it, it was time to head to the water.

Oh no. Now the panic started.

I yawned--the first sign I was panicking. It means I'm not breathing. I used to always look so cool, calm, and collected at cheerleading tryouts and before pitching a tough game, because I yawned... a lot...little did people know I was terrified.

Wil was with me as we headed down the helix, and I saw RobbyB directing swimmers..."Swimmers to the left, spectators to the right..." I think she could sense the panic in me. She kept talking to me, making little jokes...trying to keep it light...we heard the star spangled banner and I looked at her but couldn't really say any words.

She grabbed my hand and smiled. I said, "No matter what happens today, we're iron, you know?"

She agreed.

OMG--less than 5 minutes, and I'm still on the concrete. "Hurry up, swimmers, 3 minutes to start!"

Panic. Panic.


I'm a strong swimmer. I'll be fine.

I think.

At the last second, I saw TriMama and TriDaddy...who I want to be half as cool as someday. These two are amazing. I hugged them both, and then got in the water.

I knew I had to say bye to Wil. I knew we had different swim goals. But I felt like I really wanted her there. I didn't know what to say as I dove into the water. She was behind me about 10 feet. I turned around and yelled, "Tracy!"

She looked up.

I just blew her a kiss--how dumb is that? I didn't know what else to do. "I'll see you at the end!"

She smiled and said, "Good luck!"


OMG. OMG. Where do I go? Stay to the side, coach said...I think this is the side...isn't it?

(side note: it wasn't. I was DIRECTLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN SWIM. Dumb.)

I saw TriThomps and wished him luck. And I looked around me. Everyone had glassy eyes...everyone was floating and trying to breathe. Everyone had a story.

And the last thing I remembered was hearing on the loudspeaker, "HAVE A HELL OF A DAY!"


Jump! I felt like a horse that just jumped up, startled at a shotgun.

Go, Sara! Go....

So I started.

Have you ever swam with 2450 people? In the same spot? Yeah, I haven't either. It was everything like I imagined and nothing like I imagined at the same time.

I am used to swimming in choppy water, but I am not used to getting my ass kicked by other people around me. I think I must have had a sign on my wetsuit that said, "A-HOLES...FOLLOW THIS CHICK!" It was unbelievable.

About 6 or 7 times, people grabbed my ankles and pulled. HARD. For 5-10 seconds.

5 times, I was elbowed in the face so hard my students asked yesterday why I had black eyes.

At one point, some guy next to me took both arms and PUSHED me hard to the side. There's no way it was an accident. For the first length, I just tried to remain calm.

Don't get mad...don't worry, just glide...glide...reach...ignore...OW...ignore....DAMN!...ignore it....

I never, NEVER got into a groove. I got in exactly the WRONG spot. I got stuck in bottlenecks that I couldn't get out of. I was trying not to get mad, but felt my time goal slipping away...

No numbers. NO NUMBERS.

I felt OK the second lap for about 10 minutes and was able to glide a bit...and then heading back to make the last turn was brutal. The wind must have picked up and the chop was really bad. I just thought, " your is a long day and it's not won or lost here...."

I made the last turn and got to shore. I got out and saw the clock.


My heart and head sank. I was hoping to come in between 1:10 and 1:15, like I had done all summer in the pool and when I practiced the distance in the Lake.

I felt the disappointment in my heart, and then,

"Go, swimmers! Go, Sara!"

It was Kris, RobbyB's wife! It was time to get to the strippers. Not those strippers...:) The wetsuit peelers.

And I smiled again.

No numbers. I said it before and I have to let this go NOW if I'm going to finish.

Because you know what? In the scheme of things, it wasn't going to matter. My swim time, I realized, would matter about as much as my SAT score does right now. Which is, like, not at all. What would matter is if I made it to that finish line.

I thought, it's still OK....I still have plenty of extra time for the bike...and it was starting to drizzle. Good thing I have my vest--I'll just ditch it at the first aid station when I feel warm.

(famous last words)

So I ran to T1, and left my swim time behind. There was a lot of work to do, and I needed to get going.


Bob said...

Awesome recounting of the day so far...I hope to do this race in 2008, so I will be like a sponge learning from the brave ones who went before me!

Congrats on a great race.


21st Century Mom said...

Whoa! All that kicking and shoving - how awful. You did really well to just keep cool and keep moving.

Can't wait for the bike installment!

Chris said...

"When I feel warm..."

HAH! I'm still trying to unthaw. :) Sorry to hear about your disappointing swim, but it definitely was vicious out there! I'm glad that you were able to let it go so easily.

Can't wait to hear about the bike and the run. You guys and your little mini reports! Aaaarrggghh! WANT. TO. READ. REPORT... NOW! :)

Triteacher said...

Oh do I hear you on that swim. UGH... but we survived!

KBGee said...

Great Post! I can't for your next entry. I wonder how people can justify that type of behavior on the swim.

Afternoon Tea With Oranges said...

They grabbed your ankles??!! And shoved you??!! OMG!

Note to self: Incorporate anger management classes into your training plan if you ever try to take on an Ironman.

That would be the end of me....I'd probably come up swinging.

Pharmie said...

Yup. I'm not so sure that they should have announced that this was the biggest swim field in IM history right before the gun. I think the combo of that and the waves made people extra crazy. I'm so glad you made it out alive! ...and if I ever post a 1:28 in a swim, I will do a jig when I get out of the water.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Great job staying calm in all that! I've never been in a mass start, but it sounds like martial arts classes would be at least as helpful as swim practice!

tri-mama said...

Wow, just finished backtracking and reading your reports-crying now. Thanks for sharing all that was going on and how your days unfolded! Especially the thing about the numbers-numbers are driving me nuts. But I will hold your smile in my head and use it as a way to fight the numbers down, so thank you. You are one amazing woman, and now an Ironman! Congratulations.

Janet Edwards said...

Just catching up on your amazing story! Wow, just reading this I can only imagine the feelings you must have been going through!!

Those are some black eyes I would say you can wear with pride!

jbmmommy said...

Great recount of a tough swim. I almost feel like it's cheating to know that you finished, but I can't wait to hear about the rest.

Rae said...

Man, the swim sounds brutal!! I don't get why people have to push and hit so much!!

Can't wait for the next part!!

Michele said...

I have only done one mass start lake swim and I freaked. I can't imagine what yours was like.
Can't wait to hear about the bike and run.
Congrats again, you are awesome!!!!!

a.maria said...

thats just scary. its impressive you finished at ALL, my gosh... i commend you for not retaliating, youre a much better woman than i!

Tracy said...

I can't believe how crazy it was out there... YOU are totally amazing for keeping your cool. If I'd have gotten shoved as much as you I wouldn't have been as cool I bet.

Chad said...

I agree with Chris..."Aaaarrggghh! WANT. TO. READ. REPORT... NOW!"

Seriously, great recap - keep 'em coming.

greyhound said...

I've done some open water swims that felt crowded, but we were all using our tea party manners. IM swimming sounds awful. I'll either freak out and drown or else I'll get road rage (er, lake rage) and then get my ass kicked because I'm not big enough to back it up.

greyhound said...

Dear friends and fellow competitors:

Anybody grabs my ankles and tugs while I'm fearing for my life gets a mouthfull of foot.

Yours truly,
Panic Dog

Wes said...


Sara, Sara, Sara! You are making me cry! Hope you got a few shots in yourself. Entirely accidental, of course :-) You are the bomb! Of course 10-15 minutes meant NOTHING in the grand scheme of things. To focus on that thought in the middle of the race is indeed a sign of IRON. Beautiful.

E-Speed said...

It looked like everyones swim times were slow, even our speedster Rob wa s afew minutes off his regular under 1 hour swim. You did great girl!

Fe-lady said...

I can't believe the grabbing of ankles and arms and people actually pulling you under! I had that happen once in a small tri and I really wanted to find out who the guy was and DQ him for misconduct or something. If that ever happens to me in an IM I will take the time to try and find out who the hell it was. Not all triathletes are Mr. or Ms. Nice Person....unfortunately.
I think your swim time was very good despite all what you had to put up with! Can't wait for the rest of the story!

tryathlete said...

Um, when is that TriSaraTops IM book going to be published? Because I would so like to get a copy of that.

Battman said...

Wow, sounds like it was a war out there, but you made it through. Great post!

Scott said...

Unfreaking believable how we let weight issues cause us such misery...

Anyway, another post, more crying...

Great stuff Sara. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Though I haven't been commenting much lately, I spent Sunday jumping on and off the computer between other tasks so I could keep track of you. So thrilled for you and impressed by you. Can't wait to read about the rest of the culmination of your adventure!

jeanne said...

Fantastic story and great writing! I feel like I'm there! And I LOVE the "no numbers" mantra. That is brilliant. Can't wait for the next part.

John said...

Another great report IronSara! Looking forward to the next one... Amazing!

xt4 said...

That was friggin' awesome. You write a lot of posts that make me respond simply, "that was awesome." I could feel it as you were experiencing it again. What a ride. I'm glad you let go of the numbers, and glad you got over the "where's my stuff?" panic, too. We were all jazz artists out there that day - just improvise, baby! CANNOT WAIT for the rest. (I'm getting NOTHING done waiting for you and Pharmie and Wil and your pausing for dramatic effect...)