Madison is a gorgeous city, and I am so lucky to be doing my first Ironman here. I've worked hard, I've put in the training, now it was time to see how well I did mentally conditioning. I stood by the edge of the water and watched the pros take off at 6:50am. After that it was all me! A few last minute 'Good-Luck' texts from friends and I put my phone and sweatshirt away. Making my way down to the entrance of the lake I felt like a celebrity! People were already filling in the spaces to watch us take off, all up the round-about and along the edges of the lake....people EVERYWHERE! There were even police officials blocking in the entrance, so that if you weren't an athlete competing they directed you out. I made one more pit stop to the porta-potty before I took my first steps into the water. The water was SO WARM! It felt amazing to go into. Madison is a mass start, where everyone is in the water treading before the cannon goes. I got in a few minutes early to warm up and get situation.
Before the race there was a lot of talk about "where do you situate yourself?" Many people will start in the middle, if they are average swimmers, and then eventually try to push in to the right by the bouys. And not so confident swimmers were in the back or all the way to the left. Now I feel like I am a good swimmer but I decided that today was my day, and I was maybe a bit audacious, and swam myself all the way to the right. I made friends with some of the people around me who were telling me their expected times, roughly around 1:15, which was my hope, so I was in the right spot. Only a few minutes to go and all that was going through my head was "please let my goggles be fine the entire time!" They hadn't snapped yet but just as I went to adjust them, the side piece used to adjust them popped out and sank below me. I felt a surge of adrenaline because the announcer was now getting louder, even though he was still just barely understandable. I quickly tied the ends in a knot and put the goggles back on my head. The guy next to me did a quick check in with me, I think because he saw me go under, I was checking to make sure the goggles were tight enough that they wouldn't leak, but it was nice enough of him.
There I sat, or swam, just treading water, checking my watch, I was SO READY to start. not to mention I could feel people kicking me under the water so I knew the tension levels were rising and I was going to have to book it as soon as that cannon went off or I was going to be trampled. Saved by the cannon, 7am hit and we were OFF!
My coach gave me the heads up during training and the first bit of the race, about .2 was rough, because everyone is trying to push ahead and get to the right. And me trying to get a leg, or arm, ahead, was already there. Within the first 5 minutes I was hit and kicked like I had never been before! And on top of all that my goggles started to leak. I didn't have the room or the time to stop and fix them, I would literally get dragged under, so in between my stroke I did a quick pull on the lens and a push back on to release the water and then suction it tighter to my face. LUCKILY this got me through the rest of the swim just fine. But I will never forget the sense of fear that come over me when we hit the first turning point, everyone pushed in towards the bouy and I literally swam with my head up out of the water for a few strokes because of all the people on top of me, it was almost like I had forgotten how to breathe (with my head even out of the water!) but I didn't let loose, I kept with the pack.
The pack never actually calmed down, we were all hauling ass, and the people around me were really good pacers, I stuck with them for the majority of the swim. The water was choppy, not as choppy as Racine I think, but still enough that a ton of people on top of you with harsh water conditions meant I swallowed A LOT of water! haha My non-triathlete friends make fun of me because I tell them I have no problem swallowing lake water if my stroke goes funny, I just pee it out in the wetsuit anyways. You can only imagine the looks I get for that :) There was only one other time during the swim that was difficult for me to overcome, one of the guys swimming next to me was also an aggressive swimmer and as he was bringing his hand forward in his stroke he brought it down on my head right as I was about to breathe and submerged me back down. Now this would be no issue because I'm comfortable with my stroke and can go 6 pulls without a breathe most times, but when I wasn't expecting it, and I came up gasping for air. More so because I was scared than anything else.
But I was nearing the finish after recovering from that. I could hear the crowd on the shore and I could even see the 'Swim In' sign. I had done it, there wasn't much doubt that I couldn't but one leg of the race was done. As soon as I could put my foot down I ran up out of the water. I had THE BIGGEST smile on my face! I had just swam 2.4 miles and I put up a hell of a fight. All of my pictures coming out of the water made it look like a piece of cake, but I was ECSTATIC! I started to unzip my wetsuit and as much as I didn't want anyone to touch me, I started to feel a little tired but even more so I was anxious to get into T1 (and maybe a little time hungry) so I let the wetsuit strippers pull my wetsuit off of me. I felt like a fish out of water, laying down on the ground, but the suit came off a whole heck of a lot faster than if I would have done it myself......and lets be honest, I probably would have fell over trying! Up the round-about I went, I did my best to job but still hadn't quite grasped my land legs yet. There were people all the way up the spiral, cheering and yelling. it gave me so much energy that I ran into transition ready to take on the bike!