A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hot, Cold, Cramps and Pain...My Ironman 70.3 Boise Part 1 (The Swim)

As I stood sweltering in my wetsuit approaching the dock on Lucky Peak Reservoir I watched as the first waves jumped in the water and began the swim. I quickly noticed people struggling and one woman was pulled from the water shortly after she began. Thus began my Ironman 70.3 Boise.

When the time came for my wave to jump in the water I didn't hesitate. I wanted as much time to aclimate as possible before the horn sounded. The shock to the system was immediate. As cold flowed down the back of my neck into the wetsuit I gasped for air. "Just breathe," I thought, and got calmed down. But then my hands began to hurt. The only part of my body that was covered, other than my face.
Arms raised...trying to exude confidence as my mind was saying "Don't do it!"

When the horn sounded I started swimming, head up (polo style is what my swim coach Nancy Strickland calls it). The first time I put my face in the water the gasping returned. Just breathe. I couldn't. It was like sticking your face into a bucket of ice water. So I continued swimming polo style. Having practiced this in the pool for short distances I knew I couldn't do this for 1.2 miles. Too inefficient. I would expend too much energy. So I stuck my face in the water and tried breathing on every stroke. Gasping. Just breathe. I couldn't do it.

That's me just to the lefts of the yellow starting line bouy. Just breathe!
Bouy to bouy I headed towards the first turn. One thing about swimming head up was that I swam straighter than normal. I have a major issue with weaving in the water. I knew if I could make it to the first turn I could finish. I thought about quitting and remembered the look on the face of the woman as she left the race minutes in. All that training, anticipation and angst for nothing. "Just finish," I told myself.

Rounding the first turn I settled down and was able to keep my face in the water for brief stretches. Stroke. Breathe. Stroke. Breathe. Then the cramps hit. First my right calf. Then my left. Then my right hamstring. are you kidding me? Half a mile in to a 70.3-mile race and I'm cramping. Not good. What do you normally do when you get a calf cramp? Scream, right? Then what? Stand on it or grab your big toe and pull, right? How do you do that treading water? It's not easy.

That's me in the center of the picture approaching the loading ramp. Face in the water!

Rounding the second turn I was now breathing OK and able to keep my face in the water, but was dragging my legs uselessly behind me. I couldn't bear to look at my watch, thinking I was probably approaching an hour in the water. I thought of Leslie standing on the shore getting worried. I could see the swim finish now. The light at the end of this very dark tunnel. So I picked up the pace and finally reached the dock. Then I saw the concrete of the boat ramp below me...then the carpet they laid for us.

Struggling to get out of the wetsuit.
Happy to be on land...alive!
 Standing, stumbling, I ripped off my goggles and neoprene hood and screamed, "This sucks!" As I crossed the swim finish timing mat I looked at my watch 51:xx. Slow, but not as bad as I thought. More important, I was alive. And the swim was done. But the pain was just beginning. Next post: The Bike.

Ride on...



  1. I don't like reading this! I hope this is your last triatholon!!! For some reason, I was especially concerned all day Saturday and yesterday, just thinking about you. So glad you made it, can celebrate, and that you are o.k. Mom

  2. Mom, I doubt it will be my last triathlon but I'm darn sure going to pick warmer venues in the future!


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