The morning of the swim it was announced that our swim would not be wetsuit legal. The recent warm weather brought the temperature of Lake Mirror above 76.1 (I think that's it...) and according to WTC rules, any swim over that specific temperature would not count toward earning a podium spot or a Kona slot.
Because Lake Placid is known to be wetsuit legal, this decision did not sit well with many competitors. The wetsuit buoys you up and makes swimming less tiring. Without it, many feared a challenging and slow swim at best, and a near-drowning at worst. The directors gave us a choice: wear a wetsuit and have your race "not count" according to WTC standards, or race without and remain in contention for awards and the possibility of earning a spot to Kona.
Obviously Ange and I chose not to wear a wetsuit. We are both strong swimmers (ahem... with Ange being considerably stronger than me! ha!), and though we knew our respective swims would be slower, we also knew we'd be fine. Still, there were many things that pissed me off about this decision by the directors. First, we would have no idea when racing who had worn a wetsuit and who hadn't. For those of us trying to get podium and Kona, this was an annoyance. Second, the actual swim would be conducted with a billion people safely in their wetsuits, while the rest of us swam practically nude beside them. Anyone who has completed an IM swim knows the intensity of the swim in terms of body contact. Being without a wetsuit when so many around us had them on was not fair, or safe. Third, the decision completely changed the allocation of Kona spots to each AG. The 40-44 AG for both men and women are the largest groups, and are allotted the most spots to Kona as a result. However, only the people who chose not to wear suits would count, so that changed--and it changed the MORNING of the race! Our group, 160 strong, was reduced to like 50, and we lost a slot. The 30-34 AG, with only about 80 competitors, were now awarded 5 slots. Why? Because WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG you make decisions differently than when you ARE OLDER. As my 40-44 year old friend Bob said, I based my decision to wear my suit on the basis that I was there to perform my best in the Ironman competition. Going without would have cost me 10 minutes minimum. Bob is an extremely strong athlete, and in my opinion had a shot at earning a Kona slot. Still, his maturity led him to put aside his pride and race so that he could have the strongest race possible--which is what he had set out to do. Younger athletes clearly viewed the race differently, as evidenced by their decision to race without suits. It wasn't so much about their own race as it was how they stacked up against others. This is most definitely an age thing... as you age you are more apt to race within yourself and for yourself--not for the glory of how you compare with Frank down the street. When you are in your 40s you simply have less to prove.
Okay. I'm done with my diatribe!
Here is the story of my swim.
I got in the water with Ange. She went to the front line, straight to where the melee would be. I went to the right and the front, where it would also be insanely combative, but less so. We got in the water with about 15 minutes to go time. The water was cool, and I was nervous, and the cold water and my nervousness combined, and I became chilled. Then I became very cold. Then I became very very cold. I was shaking and chattering and blue. I looked around for anyone I knew. Who could keep me warm? I needed a body--I was desperate. I could feel the hypothermia coming on--having had it so recently I know what it is and how it feels. I was about ready to ask a stranger if I could snuggle up next to him (there were no women anywhere to be found) when I saw Peter.
Peter is a new friend. We attended training camp together a few weeks earlier. So I knew him, but not very well. I think he might have been slightly taken aback when I asked him if I could please spoon him and put my head under his armpit. But he was generous... Thank you, Peter! I hugged him from behind and kept hugging harder. I wanted to crawl INTO his wetsuit--and under his skin. I WAS SO COLD. A man next to me asked, Do you know him? I said between chatters.... Ummmm, sort of?
A few minutes before the canon went off I left Peter and headed to the front. Swimmers closed in around me and they all had wetsuits on... grrrr.... When the canon went off I got clonked on the head and body several times, but then I began to swim and I was okay! I stayed to the far right, and I swear I had relatively clean water for a very long time. Every once in awhile I would move closer to the bouy line, and then, suddenly, I would find myself being pawed and kicked and I would panic... and I would drift out to the side again. But mostly I felt even and steady and calm. I was having a good swim.
I went through the first loop in 31:45. Without a wetsuit... this was an AWESOME split for me. Wahoo! But at the start of the second loop my stomach started to feel just a bit queasy. I slowed a little to let it settle, but it got worse. I actually felt seasick, but there were no swells, so I figured it must not be the water that was causing me to feel so ill. I rounded the buoys to head back to shore, and it was just about then that I knew I was going to be sick. I stopped, but before I could get my head above the water the vomit rose through my throat, out my mouth and slowly mixed with the water around me.Without meaning to I breathed in the vomity water mix and began choking. Right then I thought I might drown. I couldn't breathe as I choked, I didn't have a wetsuit to help me stay up in the water, and my stomach was making another play at pushing out all I had had for breakfast. Somehow I kept the vomit in my throat though, and after a moment I felt it trickle back down into my belly. I stayed treading water for a few moments and tried to breathe deeply. I took a mouthful of lake water and swished to get rid of the taste of barf. Bodies hit me and swam around me. The slightly barfy water around me settled and floated away.
And then I started swimming again.
On the way into shore I decided that just because I had been sick did not mean my day was over. I would take it easy until then end of the swim, and then I would take a few Tums when I first got into transition. It would be okay. It had to be. I was feeling better. I had just needed to get rid of a little breakfast.
But I was really shaken. It was not an auspicious start to the race.
I got out of the water and saw the clock: 1:07 something. Well, that had been a pretty slow second loop, huh! But I wasn't disappointed; I thought it would be worse. My stomach felt pretty good now, and I was going to be fine.