Sep 15

Ironman Wisconsin: The Swim

The plan for race morning was to be up 4:00AM.  However, at 3:00AM exactly, Jennie and I both awoke to the sound of a crash and then drip, drip, drip.  What the heck? My first thought was that something mechanical went wrong with the room.  Once we finally got a light on, we discovered that the flowers Jennie bought at the farmers market just tipped over. My heart was racing, but somehow I managed to fall back asleep because at 4:00 my alarm went off.

We made breakfast in the hotel room.  We didn’t have a kitchen in our hotel, but we brought an electric skillet so that we could make eggs and toast.  It worked great!

2011-09-11 05.22.17

After that I hopped in the shower and got ready. Does anyone else shower before a race? It always seems sort of weird to me, but it helps me wake up.  Once out of the shower, Jennie helped me apply my TriTats for the first time.  My coworker, David, got this for me earlier this season, but this was my first change to use them.  They are supper cool and easy to use.  I hope more races start to use them.


By 5:30, we were out the door. 

First stop was special needs bags drop off.  That morning, I realized that I forgot to put my chamois cream in my T1 bag.  I wasn’t sure if I would still have access to the T1 bag or not so I decided to put it in my bike special needs bag if I couldn’t get in the T1 bag.  I asked the volunteer at special needs if I could still get to the T1 bag, but she didn’t know.  Another guy overheard my question and told me that I could still put stuff in the T1 bag.  I look up, and the guy that answered was Phil, a guy I have ridden with a few times on group rides.  Small world.  We chatted a bit as we walked towards transition.

After adding the chamois cream to my T1 bag, I went to go check on the Black Rock.  I had to add my nutrition to the bike and pump the tires back up.  It is amazing how many people in transition didn’t have a pump and were asking to borrow one. I had a couple people ask to borrow mine, but they ended up not using it.  My pump is sort of broken.  It has inflators for both presta and schrader valves, however the presta inflator doesn’t work.  So I have to use a screw on adapter on the bike so I can use the schrader inflator.  Once I explained that, the couple people that asked decided to find someone else. haha.

Once the Black Rock was all set, Jennie and I headed down the helix to the swim start.  I had complete tunnel vision and totally walked right past Derek.  Luckily he saw me and we stopped for a quick picture.

2011-09-11 07.25.01

Derek just rocked IMLP and was one of IMWI’s many amazing volunteers.  I’d see him again later in the day.

I eventually made my way to the end of the helix. This is where Jennie and I had to part. Well, she had to stand on one side of the fence and I on the other.  I lubed up with Body Glide and then slid into my wetsuit.  Pulled it up to my waist and then remembered that I forgot to put on my calf sleeves.  Crap.  Off it came.  Calf sleeves on and then back into the wetsuit.  I gave Jennie one last hug and kiss before heading to the water.

2011-09-11 07.39.58

Again, I had tunnel vision as I walked to the water and walked straight past Kristin.  She saw me and called out my name.  I stopped to chat with her before getting ushered along by the volunteers.

2011-09-11 07.19.25

I got in the water about 20 minutes before the swim start.  This was probably much earlier than I needed to be in, but the swim entrance gets congested really quickly.  As swimmers get in the water, they tend to linger in the shallow water making it harder for other swimmers to get in.  I quickly moved out to the deep water and tried to relax.  Originally I was really worried about floating in the water for so long, however, my fears were quickly abated. For a while I just let my body relax, put my head back, and floated on my back.  Super relaxing and peaceful.  The water was bout 70* and actually warmer than the air temperature so it was very comfortable.

After the pros started, I decided that I should pay a little more attention.  So, I swam over to one of the volunteers on a surf board and held on to a side of it to keep me afloat.  There were already a couple other athletes hanging on so we chatted a bit before the swim.  When asked what my goal time was, I said that I was hoping for 1:05 – 1:10 based on my times in the pool.  The lifeguard looked at me and said, “Oh well if that is in the pool you’ll probably be about 20 minutes slower here.” What?!?! Not really sure where she got that logic and I really didn’t know what to say.

As the start time got closer, I floated to the front.  My plan was to start at the very far end of the starting line and then angle in around the first buoy.  I was just hanging out and then all of a sudden “BOOM!”, the cannon went off.  I totally wasn’t prepared for it.  Thankfully, there really wasn’t anyone around me so I didn’t get trampled or anything. 

2011-09-11 08.08.32

For so many people in the water, I had very minimal contact.  The only contact I really encountered was at the turns where it really slowed down as everyone made their way around.  Other than that, I would occasionally have someone run up on my feet or brush my side, but nothing that really altered my stroke.  I stuck to the inside of the course pretty much exclusively and made my way out at the corners.  This meant that I spent a lot of the time swimming by myself.  I’m not big on drafting on the swim mainly because I am not good at finding a good set of feet to hang on.  Either I find myself running into the swimmer in front of me or getting dropped instantly.

2011-09-11 08.01.02

The course was laid out really well. The buoys were spaced every 100 meters and numbered so that you knew exactly where you were at along the way.  I always find the swim a little demoralizing because I completely lose concept of time.  I kept plugging away though and before I knew it, I was starting the second loop.  My arms and shoulders definitely felt more tired than they did during a pool swim and I attribute this to not training enough in a wetsuit.  Next time I’ll make sure to spent more time in the open water as does seem to take a toll on the arms.

2011-09-11 07.54.37

The second loop went much better than the first loop mainly because the crowds had thinned out.  I was finally settled into a good pace and just cruising along.  It was sort of funny during the final half mile though.  I was right next to a woman who was breathing to the left.  I was breathing to the right.  So, the entire time, we would look at each other on every stroke.  It was funny to basically be swimming with someone but not be able to communicate with them.

In no time, I hit the final turn.  I tried to maintain the same pace and not speed up, but the energy got the best of me and I kicked it up a notch.  I swam all the way until my fingers touched the carpet before standing up.  As I stood up, I saw a 1:06:XX on the clock. Woohoo!!! Perfect! I ended up with 1:07:10 by the time I crossed the mat.

2011-09-11 09.07.40

As soon as I got out of the water, I saw my cheering section.  I had a huge smile on my face after getting my day started on the right foot.

I made my way to the wetsuit strippers.  In a matter of seconds, I was up and being handed my wetsuit to carry into transition.  Holy bonkers did the wetsuit feel heavy.  It felt like carrying a ton of bricks as I ran up helix. My breathing was really labored for some reason as well and I was felt like I was choking on each breath. Thankfully, by the time I got to transition I had settled down a bit.

T1 could not have gone better.  I immediately found my bag and then proceeded to the next room.  A volunteer was at my feet as soon as I sat down. He quickly organized all of my gear and in no time I was ready and head out to find my bike.  I stopped at the sun screen appliers on my way out.

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I ran with my shoes in hand to my bike rack. I shouted out my number as I approached and a volunteer quickly pulled my bike off the rack as I put on my shoes.  I jogged the rest of the way to the mount line and hopped on to begin the bike.

Stay tuned for the bike!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2011/09/15/ironman-wisconsin-the-swim


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  1. Matt Oravec

    Had a very similar swim encounter as you haha, wasn’t that long though but it was a girl and she was breathing towards me and I towards her… both of us were bilateral breathing but must have had identical timing on our stroke. I laughed under the water that it happened.

    good stuff man, should have slapped that lifeguard upside her head for partaking in “ironman conversation” haha.

    You are one fast swimmer!

    Next blog post please!
    Matt Oravec recently posted..Rev3 Cedar Point – Race Report

  2. BDD

    Congrats on a stellar swim!!! Cant wait for the rest

    I shower before I do anything, even training, I feel better and more awake after a shower
    BDD recently posted..So You Wanna Be A Triathlete?

  3. Derek

    totally funny about swimming next to someone and seeing each other on the breath of the strokes- lol

    and what was up with that lifegaurd comment?!

    was so glad to see you on the helix pre-swim and pre-race day…
    excellent photos
    Great swim!

  4. Jeff Irvin

    Great swim Kevin, you really nailed it!

    Good to hear you didn’t get the crap beat out of ya at the mass start.

    Such a unique transition area at IMWI, pretty cool actually.
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Bullet Points within Bullet Points

  5. Bret Petersen

    Not weird, normal. I shower before every race also. Helps me relax and warm up the muscles.

    Tri Tats are the best. I’ve had the opportunity to wear them for two races now. Looks much more professional, plus their much easier to read.

    You had a GREAT swim, good job avoiding the huge crowd. I would guess that played apart of your fast time.
    Bret Petersen recently posted..2011 Hy-Vee Triathlon Race Report

  6. Viper

    Congrats on a great swim!

    I too like to shower before a big race. I think it helps warm up the muscles after sleep. Cheers!
    Viper recently posted..Ten-Day Forecast

  7. Morgan

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh I love reading this! I was so freaking excited for you all day and now I’m excited all over again reading all the deets! So proud of you Kevin and excited to read the rest of the journey!!!
    Morgan recently posted..WWKD

  8. Ellen

    What an awesome swim!! Congratulations!!

    The starting gun totally caught me by surprise last year too, but you lined up WAYYYYY smarter than I did. Kudos!!

    SO proud of you and can’t wait to hear more!
    Ellen recently posted..Awe and Blah: Sonoma/Dry Creek and the Toddlers and Tiaras Prostitute Costume

  9. Elizabeth

    Great job!! Can’t wait to read about the bike and run!
    Elizabeth recently posted..Go Ahead: Walk a Mile (or 1,000) in My Shoes

  10. Matt Smith

    I’ve am nervous/excited by just reading your report. Great job on the swim! What the heck was that lifeguard smoking? 20 minutes more…are you kidding me? Thanks for the tip on training more in a wetsuit. I didn’t know they had people to put on sunscreen. That sounds like a gross job! I used a pump with a schrader valve for a long time before I got a decent one. That’s funny that people passed on using yours. Hah!

    Well, I know your bike portion was awesome, and I can’t wait to read about it. By the way, I started listening to OAR a bit and can’t get “Black Rock” out of my head! I don’t know how I missed them in highschool…
    Matt Smith recently posted..Once more to go, and it’s the big one.

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Yeah, the sunscreen was kind of gross but it is better than getting burned alive.

      Love OAR! I didn’t discover them until about a year ago. I’ve always been a big DMB fan and I had a fellow DMB fan recommend them because they are both jam bands. The only fault that OAR has is that they are Ohio State grads. haha. Like DMB, their live stuff is 10x better than their albums. Rain or Shine is a 4 disc, 2 day concert is awesome! I just got their new CD (King) and it is pretty good, but I can’t wait to hear some of the stuff live.

  11. lindsay

    it would be cool if they fired a real cannon into the water to make a big splash.

    it would not be so cool if any triathlete’s chose that spot to wade in, but they would have to know better.

    nice job on the swim!! can you predict winning lottery numbers too? just let me know.

    anxious to hear the rest!
    lindsay recently posted..in five years

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      The winning lotto numbers are 4 8 15 16 23 42. You’re welcome.

      1. lindsay

        umm i’m not playing those numbers. although it would be cool if we then all ended up on some freaky island.
        lindsay recently posted..in five years

  12. Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race

    Great job keeping your cool with that lifeguard b/c I would have spit out questions to her to make her feel stupid. It’s race day and you don’t say that. Maybe think it but you say nothing and let it go.

    I love the fact that you brought an electric skillet with you. You know me I need all MY stuff and need to be able to keep with my trends for racing from my training.

    I shower before races but not before training. So no you are not odd.

    Next blog post please!
    Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race recently posted..Athlete’s Plate by the Athlete

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      You know… I bust my ass last night getting the post ready for this morning and you don’t read it until 6:00PM EST??!? HAHA! Totally kidding. I’ll work on the bike next so you have something to read tomorrow.

      The electric skillet is awesome! It cooks super fast too. We are already planning on using it at home when we are in a hurry because it heats up even faster than our stove top. I think we might look into buying a small mini fridge next. Like a 1.5ft^2 one. The cooler worked but we kept having to refill it with ice and worrying about things getting soggy.

  13. Jon

    Dude look how thin you are in that mirror picture! Did you find out what your post race weight was?

    Seeing Derek at the start of the race is a good omen! I saw him at the swim start @ LP. He needs to come to IMMT.

    Numbered buoys? They BETTER use those for IMMT since its one loop.

    Awesome time man! What did your swim workouts look like towards the end of peak training? Were you keeping your 100 times pretty low? I remember mine getting slow.
    Jon recently posted..A Shave and a Juicer

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      I never found a scale post race until I got home the next day. By then I was already back at my starting weight which is good. I’m guessing I was probably in the 150-151 range post race (started at 155-156). I can tell when I lose too much weight because I get a really bad headache. Never got one so I am thinking I actually did pretty good despite my issues later in the day.

      Who is going to tell Derek that he needs to come to IMMT??

      The numbered buoys were nice. They counted up on the shore side and then down again on the backside.

      I know we have talked about swim plans/workouts in the past but I was really happy with the Matt Fitz plans. The workouts got a little boring after a while because they were mainly they same thing each week with an extra interval here and there, but I saw some huge progress over the season. Each week had 4 workouts. 3 or the workouts were intervals and the 4th a long swim. On the interval days, there was 1000 – 1200 yards of warm up/drills/cool down and the intervals were usually 100’s or 200’s with some 150’s and fast 50’s thrown in. On the long days, I really hammered it. I tried to maintain a 1:35/100yd or better on long days and that is what I ended up with at IMWI.

  14. Alexa

    I wish I had your swim! Great job! I was slower than I wanted to be. BUT.. I thought the T1 volunteers were FANTASTIC! They shouted my bike # down the line and had my bike ready to go when I got there!
    Alexa recently posted..Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

  15. Mark

    You should update your header bar…. you are no longer a “future” ironman. You are the ironman of today! Also, the empty white bar looks ugly…. 🙂

  16. Mark

    ok… so the next countdown hadn’t popped up when i posted that….

  17. Elizabeth

    Congratulations on the swim – totally awesome time! Sounds like so far the volunteer support was wonderful from the wetsuit shuckers to the sunscreen appliers – HA. Cannot wait to read about the bike.
    Elizabeth recently posted..2011 Frantic Frog Race Report

  18. Mandy

    You are so freaking fast, that is awesome.

    I got all excited reading this. There is nothing at all like an IM swim start.

    Your sherpa takes excellent photos. 🙂

    The electric skillet idea? BRILLIANT.
    Mandy recently posted..Happy Retirement Mom!

  19. Tim C.

    Great swim Kevin! I had no idea of your swimming ability. Where do you hide your gills? I may need some coaching!!
    Tim C. recently posted..Playmakers Classic Triathlon

  20. Heather

    Excellent swim Kevin! I would have totally bitch-slapped that lifeguard. Who is she to try and burst your bubble right before the start? Some people!

    Glad you prevailed and hit your goal time! Can’t wait to catch up on the rest of the story!

    BTW – I am going to let you get in the kitchen comment slide on my last blog post only because I came home to find a wonderfully adorable cow postcard on my desk! Thanks for thinking of us!

  21. Kristin @ Lazy Marathoner

    The people without pumps are usually out of towners like me, you can’t really fly with it. It was such a luxury for me to be able to take my pump to IMLP! Nice work on the swim. I’m actually a little faster in an IM swim than in the pool so I don’t know what that lifeguard was thinking! Contact was nil this year, I was so surprised. It was a brutal experience in ’09 (a bunch of us did ’09 and this one and all agreed) and I got kicked in the face so hard last year my goggles were embedded in my eye socket!
    Kristin @ Lazy Marathoner recently posted..Short and Sweet – Fourth Ironman Finish

  22. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)

    Seriously, your swim time is AWESOME!!! I am so jealous of it!! I’m glad you had a good swim with little contact! That’s what I’m hoping for too!

    I loved the picture of you coming out of the water…what a great shot!

    Can’t wait to read about the rest of your day! 🙂
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..Harvest Moon HIM Race Report

  23. kc

    I pray my swim is like yours. Great job out there! You did fantastic. Great idea on the skillet – may need to borrow that idea for my eggs. On to read some more awesome race report …
    kc recently posted..you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ …

  24. Colleen

    Eeek – I’m just catching up! You really had a great swim! What’s up with the lifeguard though telling you that you’ll be 20 minutes slower. Uh… maybe not lady! 🙂

  1. Ironman By Thirty » Blog Archive » Ironman Wisconsin: The Run

    […] The Swim […]

  2. 2011 Wrap Up » Ironman By Thirty

    […] was more of a pass/fail goal more than anything.  A season of training culminated in one of my most memorable races ever.  The entire weekend was a blast and I am proud to call myself an Ironman (and wear my […]

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