Tuesday, May 26, 2009

RR: Jim McDonnell 2-MILE Swim

Jim McDonnell 2-Mile Swim
Reston, VA
1:36:07 - 310/310

Summary: Last and damn proud of it...I finished the swim and then did an 83 mile Bike ride on my own - just another day on the road to Ironman USA.

You'll never know if you don't go
You'll never shine if you don't glow

Hey now you're an All Star get your game on, go play
Hey now you're a Rock Star get the show on, get paid
(And all that glitters is gold)
Only shooting stars break the mold

The Rest of the Story:
Saturday there was an open water clinic sponsored by the Reston Masters (race organizers) - it was a great chance to swim in the lake and the weather was perfect.  I got out there and swam the one-mile loop in my usual fashion - SLOW with lots of pauses for sighting. I'm glad I took the time to go to the clinic so I could get comfortable with the course and the lake but that still didn't stop the "inner swim demons" from doing their dirty work. We got some great tips from a panel of swimmers with varied experience.  Three things stood out at the clinic for me - 1.) Just take it one stroke at at time 2.) Find a song or something to distract you 3.) One swimmer said "I was last but I finished - I did it."

I'm a slow swimmer and I have never felt comfortable in the swim portion of a triathlon, ever. It just doesn't seem to be coming easily to me. As my husband Jim and my close friend Keri have said "Something is *broke* in your stroke."  I just don't seem to be able to go anywhere fast in the water but I am working on it slowly.  I am told it takes time and lots of practice. All my swims to date have been 1.2 miles or shorter in a race.  This would be the first time I attempted 2 miles in open water.

Saturday Night, I stood in the kitchen with my husband Jim and cried tears of FEAR for the first time since my Ironman journey began. "Jim, I'm afraid that I am not going to be able to swim 2 miles." I was facing an unknown distance in an event that I already have worries about - this race was a moment that could change everything for me.  "What if I can't do this?"  "What if I'm too slow?" "What if I come out of the water and I don't want to go back in?" 

Sunday morning came to soon, so I focused on my morning race routine: Peanut butter and Bagel, glass of skim milk, pack up the gear and nutrition for the 80 mile bike ride I had planned to do after the swim, pack the car, and off we go to my first Open Water Swim Race.

We got there around 8AM as the 1-milers started their race and sat under the Team Z tent, relaxing and chatting until it was time to line up. 30 minutes after the race brief - spent standing in the sun in a full sleeve wetsuit with the rest of the 2-mile group of racers and they finally started the event.  16 waves were put in the water - 30 seconds per wave - by 1650 predicted seed times. I was in wave 15 - 40 minute seed time.

We jumped in the water and within a few seconds we were on our way.  I just put my face in the water and spent my time focusing on stretching out, pulling water and making sure I could feel the air on my feet when I did kick, which meant that I was on top of the water to some extent.

The first loop went okay.  I found that "Soak up the Sun" by Sheryl Crow, "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys, and "All Star" by Smash Mouth are good songs to pass the time between sighting.  I also learned, when being lapped by the faster swimmers - that I can suffer a punch to the back of the head and keep on going.  I also learned that "Sorry" sounds garbled in water but it was nice that the guy thought to apologize.

Second loop was quite sad and lonely so I just kept doing my thing - running through songs - sighting as best I could.  The negative thoughts came rolling in as I noticed that my not so pretty stroke was getting worse due to some soreness in my left shoulder. As I looked up to sight at one point, I wondered if I should just lift my cap and wave the canoe on over and be done. In that moment, I was close to quitting and then I thought about the Black Bear email that I got for a race next week.  There is a relay team that is doing the race and the swimmer for that team was born with no arms or legs and he is going to swim. Then I thought I Dick and Rick Hoyt - Dick pulls his son in a boat behind him as he swims. If somebody born with no arms or legs can swim 1.2 miles and if Dick Hoyt can swim Ironman's with a boat in tow - then I needed to put my head back down and KEEP SWIMMING.

I relaxed in that moment - because I had finally made my decision.  I was going to swim.  Mine is not a fast or a pretty swim but I wasn't tired - just slow.  To quit now, just because I might be last was not an option - the only option was to finish.

I was the LAST 2-MILE SWIMMER out of the water: 1:36:07

But more importantly, I gained confidence in myself. 

If I had 0.4 miles left - I have no doubts that I had the energy to continue and I would have finished the swim. I would have finished under 2-hours. While my swim won't break any records - that is 20 minutes under the swim cuttoff for Ironman USA which means that I would be out of the water and on my bike and like all the other athletes on that race day in July, I will be that much closer to the finish line.

The dream is still alive - and the reality check was worth the fear. Of course 83 miles on the Bike post-swim, helped to ease the mind a little. 

Work to do and time left to do it in! 


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