We rented a cottage here for the week and I write while looking out from our deck on Lake Hayden, a stunning lake framed by Mountain Hemlock and Lodgepole Pine. This place is amazing. There is a baby fawn who has been sleeping behind a tree just outside our door for the last few days, there is a gentle waterfall winding its way to the lake that lulls us to sleep at night, and there is a water trampoline to jump from into the icy lake. It’s so gorgeous here—words don’t really do it justice.
My instinct is to go way back and describe the trip here with three kids in a plane for eight hours, and then the days leading up the race during which I tried to relax but mostly just felt heavy from taper and totally stressed out. Such a description would likely be satisfying for me to write, but would definitely bore you to death. The short version is a big THANK GOD we had this lake cottage, and I was ab le to get away from the pre-race craziness in CDA. I played in the water with my kids, snuggled up to Andy to make me feel calm, took the bike out for a spin, read, and tried to absorb the beauty of this place without thinking too much of the 140.6 miles that stretched before me. Of course I registered and shopped in the IM tent and racked my bike and all that good stuff, but mostly I tried to stay away from the action.
I did sleep the night before the race, but I woke up at 3 am and that was it. I got up and had my coffee and tried to stay calm. It’s so hard to eat on race morning. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. The last thing I wanted was to eat, but I did get down most of a bagel with almond butter and a banana. It wasn’t all I had hoped to eat, but I wasn’t going to get down any more without getting sick—that was clear. I was that keyed up.
Andy and the kids drove me into town, and after hugs and kisses all around I hopped out of the car and got started with the pre-race peeing. I had decided not to use special needs (not for peeing, although that sort of help would have been useful later in the day) so that whole step of dropping off the bags was eliminated, which was nice. I just knew I wouldn’t use it. They have all you need on the course. What could I put in special needs that wasn’t already out there—available every 10 miles on the bike and every mile on the run? But I did the other pre-race necessities: pumped my tires with a borrowed pump, filled bottles, checked my transition bags, pissed a few billion times. The one thing I didn’t do was chat with others. Partially this is because I knew very few people (although this is generally not a problem since I have quite a developed extroverted gene), but mostly it was because I simply couldn’t deal with small talk. I was not freaking out, but I admit I was pretty damn close. I did note that Amy McGrath, who I thought would likely win our AG, was right next to me in transition. She was very little. I was able to look at her at eye level—which means she was my height or shorter, and she was definitely tinier than me. Anyway, she went on to do a 10:10 and she finished in the top 10 for women overall, including pros. I would be annoyed at that—why the hell is she not pro? BUT. This woman has four kids and she’s 40 and she’s a little person, just like me. I could be annoyed, but instead I’m just proud and in awe. There’s no way this woman can train all day and recover like a champ. She is my age and has four freaking kids! And look at her shit. 10-fucking-10. GO MIDDLE-AGED MOMS!
But I digress. The morning was cool, so I put on my wetsuit early just to get warm, and I headed to the waterfront to eat a gel and watch the pros go off. The water was not cool—it was cold. It was reported to be 61 degrees, which sounds about right to me. It was also quite rough for a lake. For those of you who live on the Atlantic, I will liken it to that. The waves were not overwhelming, but they were definitely a force to deal with, and the water was not kill-me-now cold, but it was absolutely on the uncomfortable side. I have spent so many summers swimming openwater in the ocean that I wasn’t worried that I couldn’t handle the temperature or the chop, but I knew that it wouldn’t be a fast swim. Lake Coeur d’Alene is no Mirror Lake, and unless a miracle happened I wouldn’t be swimming the same time I did at Lake Placid the year before, that was for sure.
I had spent a long time deciding where to position myself for the swim. CDA is a run start, which is, in a word, INSANE. I feared if I stood on the front line I would get pummeled by overly aggressive men trying to push their way to the front. The more I thought it through, though, I decided the front line might actually be the safest place to start. I would hammer for the first 500 yards, and hopefully get clear of a lot of the less competent male swimmers who would clobber me if I started three or four rows back. Yes, I would still have to deal with the men my speed or faster, but while those dudes are still aggressive, they are more agile and confident in the water and less likely to drown me in their panic to get out and ahead. It was a bold move, but it worked.
There were no females on the front line except for one. We chatted, and she confirmed that CDA is not a fast swim, and advised that I take the buoys wide. Other than Christine, I don’t think I saw more than one or two females in the whole swim. Where were they?? Plenty of men, though… plenty of men. Big men, little men, fighting and kicking and thrashing men. By the end of my swim I had had quite enough of them, I’ll say that. (An unusual statement coming from me, I know, but I can be temperamental that way. Just ask my husband.)
It’s funny what you think about when you’re racing. The thoughts are not necessarily coherent—but they are often repetitive. As I swam the song in my head was Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield, but instead of the word Love I was singing the SWIM is a battlefield because it really was. It was really less of a swim and more of a slug-fest. I also kept thinking how strange it was that I would be quite clear of people for a bit, and then suddenly there would be a giant blob of men surrounding me and I’d have to start dog paddling to keep from drowning. The worst was the turn buoys. I meant to go wide, and I thought I had, but I was still too close and I paid for it in punches. By the time we got to the turn buoys we were in the middle of the lake, and the swells were huge and rough. The pattern was I’d get pawed and pushed down from the back, hard, then clocked in the head by a beefy, rubberized arm, then I’d try to breathe and get a mouthful of water from a swell. I kicked and fought my way around those buoys, but you could hardly label what I was doing at that point as swimming. It was chaos. I just needed to survive.
For most of the swim I was next to a guy I called (very creatively) Mr. X-Terra (because of his wetsuit, of course). We were stroke for stroke the entire way. At first I was annoyed and wanted him to just get away from me, but then I got comfortable with him there, and when he left my side for a bit I’d get sort of worried, and I’d search for him again. We must have finished at exactly the same time, but I will never know who he was. Makes me a little sad. He was my swim buddy.
I finished the swim in 1:05, which is even slower than the slow estimate I had given myself. DAMN! It was what it was, though. No use thinking about it now, I reasoned. Later I found out I was actually third out of the water in my AG, and 199 out of roughly 2400 overall. Okay—that’s not so bad…I was clearly not the only one who had had a slow swim!
I was cold coming out of the water, and I had a hard time finding my bag, untying it and getting ready for the bike. The bags were lined up on the ground as opposed to resting on racks. Racks are much easier to deal with, I think. I realized while in T1 that the swim had taken quite a bit out of me. We rarely count the swim in IM as anything that will suck you of your energy. It’s usually the bike that’s the concern. But the swim had been so rough and cold that I could feel I was already fatigued. I had fought both waves and hyper-aggressive rubbermen, and I’d swum harder than I planned just to stay warm, and the cumulative result was a big energy suck. My swim at LP was hard too, but I was able to conserve much more energy there, and I had a faster time by three minutes.
Part II when I get home from Idaho!