(The “Kalmar” sign made it even more exciting!)
I don’t think I have ever been so nervous yet so calm on race morning in all my life as an athlete. The bus from the hotel to the transition area I couldn’t stop asking questions and panicking and annoying Phil. That is my usual level of nerves pre-race. However, when I started sorting my transition bags and putting Body Glide/sun cream, I just stopped speaking; Phil actually got worried! I’m always chatty before races!
(this sign was up until the athletes started their Ironman journey at 7am…we found it hilarious! #saddos)
Conversely, once we finished the 5 minute walk to the start line of the swim after pulling our wetsuits on (and melting in the heat with them!), I was strangely calm. I reminded myself I had no pressure, the area was beautiful, and I remembered that we do these things for fun. As I squeezed my way to the front of the swim start (coach’s orders) and the national anthem played, I was ready. I was even papped by Keith (I didn’t see them) with a cheesy grin on my face. I think I was just grateful for making the start line after everything that has happened. Anything else was a bonus.
(there she is! didn’t expect to get papped with a smile – so happy I made the start line after all that has happened!)
As the horn sounded, I made my way into the choppy waters of Kalmar harbour. Apparently it was the worst conditions the event had ever seen in its Ironman history. Within minutes, athletes had already asked for assistance onto the boat, withdrawing from the race.
(Unfortunately, a lot of people struggled in the choppy waters and Keith took this shot after only a few minutes)
I, however, felt great! I have never swam in waves like it before! I was used to following lane lines in anti-turbulence, chlorinated waters; not brackish, blink-and-you’re-15m-in-the-wrong-direction waters. I loved the challenge! There were a few times I hadn’t looked up in a few strokes, thinking the splashes in front of me were another athletes’’ feet. I’d look up and it had just been a wave and I was a good couple of dozen metres away from the lead pack! At least I thought it was the lead pack. I had started at the front and I was feeling pretty good, but you couldn’t really tell when everything in the water was dark and a lot of the time when you tried to breathe, a wave coming towards you would stop you. I was breathing once in six strokes for a good few minutes in one area of the race!
What I do remember seeing, however, was a massive crowd of spectators once we swam back along the land towards the finish. You couldn’t fault the spectators at all that day! Apparently at Kalmar’s mini triathlon the previous Wednesday, there were MORE SPECTATORS ON COURSE THAN ANY OTHER FULL IRONMAN DISTANCE EVENT IN THE WORLD! And that was just the mini tri! Kalmar is famous for its amazing support!
Anyway, back to the race. I stupidly didn’t really check the swim course beforehand and thought there was only one bridge to go under before the finish. Nope. There were two. So what did I do? Sprinted for about 400m after the 1st bridge. Where is this finish line!? I’ve been nailing it and kicking my legs like crazy for like 5 minutes here! Wait a second, why are we heading away from the land again? Towards another buoy? Oops. Ok. Back to my regular two-beat kick it is.
(at that 1st bridge….I’m at the far left! video courtesy of Ambjorn Johansson)
Even after hurting following that wee hard effort, I managed to catch a few more people who had been ahead of me in the final 10ish minutes. I felt strong the entire way, despite even throwing up in my mouth half an hour earlier when the waves were really affecting me, and after having to sort my cap 3 times after being kicked and forced under the water several times (I didn’t mean to be in the middle of the pack, I seemed to just float right in there. And boys are stronger. So I just manned up and dealt with it.).
(photo courtesy of Ambjorn Johansson)
Finally we swam under the 2nd bridge and I looked up every couple of strokes just to confirm it was indeed the final bridge before the finish. This area was pretty shallow and I kept catching seaweed (ewwwwww!), but that was the least of my worries; I was about to get ready for a 112 mile bike in those crazy winds!
Another sprint just to “chick” a few more guys, and out the water I came – surprisingly, without falling over! (I was fully expecting this being incredibly clumsy at the best of times) – to a roar of the crowds.
“And 1st age group female out of the water: Debbie Moore of Great Britain”
ME?!?!?! REALLY?!?! I must have swam over 4km there!! Awesome!!! Must.now.look.professional.for.said.crowds.
Oh, AND it turns out I was 2nd FEMALE OVERALL INCLUDING THE PROS!! (When they passed me on the bike I was sooooo confused!! They set off 5 minutes before us!!) and 25th overall both genders, again, including the pros!!
So, all in all, I was pretty happy with the swim 😉