November 23, 2011

Ironman Arizona - The Swim

The Swim
  After I said goodbye to my husband I managed to wipe away my tears as I made my way over to the large area where all of the AG athletes were corralled.  The air was filled with nervous energy and you could just feel it all around you like a thick fog.  Being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of athletes all at once was just so crazy.  I was standing by myself, trying not to think about what I was about to do, and I just started SHAKING.  It wasn't that I was cold, but just extremely NERVOUS!

  Every once in awhile an athlete would catch a glimpse of someone they knew on the other side of the fence and they would start screaming and shouting to each other.  And every time that happened I would get teary eyed all over again.

   Suddenly, I heard a cannon go off and I knew the pros had started!  Everyone let out a massive cheer!  Then, we all just started moving forward.  I had no idea where I was going, but I just let the huge crowd take me with them.  Before I knew it, we were at the edge of Tempe Town Lake and the announcer said we just had to jump off into the water.  I panicked for a minute thinking about having to JUMP into the water, but then more and more athletes kept coming and I knew I had to just do it!
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 I jumped in and amazingly, the water didn't feel that cold.  I honestly think I was in SHOCK!  We had to swim under the bridges to make our way to the start, which was very interesting.  I don't think anyone was actually "swimming," but more like just doing whatever they could to move forward.  Finally, I came to a point where people were just wadding in the water and I stopped and waded too.
 
   What I saw at that point was just so SURREAL!  I could see hundreds and hundreds of green and pink swim caps all around me.  I looked up at the bridge and saw the massive amounts of spectators lining the edge.  IT WAS AMAZING!  Again, I was overcome with emotion and started getting teary eyed again.  The problem though was that I was wearing my goggles and they totally fogged up!  Ha ha!
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   I remember hearing the crowds cheering, hearing the sound of cowbells ringing, then a LOUD cannon !  The start came without any warning and suddenly we were off!  My plan to wait awhile after the cannon went off before starting to swim totally went out the window and I JUST STARTED SWIMMING!   Right then and there I vowed to just keep moving forward whatever happened.

(I got this video off of YouTube!  My favorite part is right at the beginning when there's a girl in the background that says, "Holy F*ck!"...ha ha!  Then at the end, this girl says, "That just looks like it sucks!"  I love the comments!)

   Right after the cannon went off it was just mass chaos.  I could feel hands/arms/fingers on my feet and legs and it only made me want to swim faster.  When I would come close to someone in front of me I would veer to the left or right to try and move away from them.  The only problem was that there really was nowhere to go because people were EVERYWHERE!  But, I didn't panic and just kept moving forward.

   At one point, some big guy wrapped his entire arm around my head, knocking my goggles off of my face, and pushing me under the water.  I swallowed a ton of water and came up choking.  It was not fun!  He stopped to apologize and make sure I was alright, which I thought was a nice gesture, and I told him I was fine.  Thank god I put my goggles on UNDER my swim cap.  **If I have any advice about the mass swim starts of triathlons, it is that you should always put your goggles on under your swim cap.  That way if they get knocked off, you can put them right back on instead of trying to find them in the water!  


After that incident though, there were few times when I came into contact with other athletes, and would swallow tons of water, but for the most part I found myself swimming in open water.  IT WAS AWESOME!  I couldn't believe it and was just sooo happy!

At the buoy turn around, all of a sudden I heard a guy screaming at the top of his lungs, "Help, help, help!"  I stopped swimming and noticed that EVERYONE around me had stopped swimming too.  We all looked towards the direction of the guy to make sure he was alright.  He was totally panicking and screaming!  Then all at once, the hundreds of us around each other all started shouting for someone on a kayak/boat/canoe to help.  Finally, a kayak came and the guy grabbed on.  I hope he finished the race, but I'm not sure if he did.  BUT, that moment was just amazing to me.  The fact that all of us, hundreds of us, stopped and worked together to get that guy help was awesome.  Although we were all swimming our own races, I truly believe the majority of us were looking out for each other and it was a great feeling.

  The swim course is a big rectangle and once I made it around the turn-around buoys I started heading back to the start/finish.  For some reason, the swim back seemed to take A LOT longer than the swim out.  But, every time I would sight, the Mill Ave. Bridge kept getting closer and closer and it was amazing!  I just kept saying, "I'm doing it, I'm doing it!" and I KNEW I was going to finish!!!

FINALLY, I made it under the bridge, around the last turn buoy, and saw the big red TYR flags marking the finish!  I was sooo excited and got a huge smile on my face!
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I finally made it to the swim exit "steps" and literally could NOT get my leg up to the top step.  It was sooo high!  Two volunteers grabbed my arms on each side and pulled me up!  I thanked them a ton and ran up to a wetsuit stripper.  I have never had wetsuit strippers in a tri before, so it was a totally new experience for me!  IT WAS AWESOME!  The volunteer whipped my wetsuit off of me soo fast and it was just hilarious to me!   I grabbed my wetsuit and headed down the swim exit path towards the bike gear bags.  That was the first time I actually felt cold.  It's weird how afraid I was of the cold water, but I didn't even notice it until I got out!  

 I WAS SO EXCITED!!  I just kept saying in my head, "I did it, I did it, I did it!!!"  I had NO idea what my time was, but I honestly didn't care.  All that mattered to me at that point was that I FINISHED!  I made it through the part that I was TERRIFIED of and it was an awesome feeling.  I started getting emotional again as I ran down the path.  The crowd lined the entire path and they were AMAZING!  Everyone was shouting and screaming and it was just awesome!

I got to the bike gear area and a volunteer already had my bag out and ready for me!  Seriously, the volunteers were amazing!  I grabbed my bag and headed to the change tent.  There were women everywhere, but I was able to find a chair.  I sat down, looked around me, and took a deep breath!  Then a volunteer came up to me and helped me get into my bike gear.  I put on my arm warmers and a light weight wind jacket because I was so cold!  I knew I could always ditch them if I needed to, but I would rather be warm then cold.
All of the bikes waiting for us after the swim!

I headed out of the tent and towards my bike and volunteers were yelling ahead of them, "365, 365!"  Before I knew it, a volunteer was handing me my bike and I headed towards the bike exit.  AND THAT IS WHEN I SAW THEM!  My entire family was there, right passed the bike exit, and I LOST IT again!!  I went right up to them, kept saying, "I made it, I made it!", gave them all hugs over the fence, and I was bawling.  COMPLETELY BAWLING!  They all said good luck, and I headed towards the mount line, wiping the tears from my eyes, ready for the next leg of my adventure!
I'm in the blue jacket.  If you click on the picture and make it bigger you can totally tell that I'm crying!  I was such a  mess! 

33 comments:

Big Daddy Diesel said...

I am loving your race reports, your words have such feeling to them, its like I am there watching you. Freaking awesome!!!

On a side note, I use to cross Mill Ave bridge everyday for 8 years to get to work, I also remember when the "lake" was just a dry river bed, and how it was such a big deal when they dammed it off to make it a lake

Chad said...

Awesome write-up of the swim.
I was behind the eye-glasses table, which was just right of the inflatable exit from transition (before you jumped in the lake.) I was also at the same table, moved to JUST after the wetsuit peelers.

Putting goggles under your cap is something I always tell people, but so few folks do it. I don't understand why.

J. L. said...

Loving these posts. What got me in my first 70.3 on my run was my emotions. Is it just a girl thing? And I'm totally putting goggles under my swim cap now. Can't wait for the rest. Have a happy thanksgiving!

Caratunk Girl said...

Amiee, I teared up reading this, I just know the feeling...how overwhelming it is!! You did so awesome!!

Yup. Goggles UNDER the swim cap. Always.

Crazy about the guy who was having trouble, I hope things worked out OK for him!

ONEHOURIRONMAN said...

Let me tell you, IMAZ has one of the toughest swims because it is narrow and they get everyone in the water. IMSG was tougher for me because the water was 55F but IMAZ has most up close and personal moments. Glad you got your monies worth.. :)

Julie said...

Ok I think I only teared up 4 or 5 times during this post! :) I can't say enough how very proud I am of you! You did awesome. I really can't imagine that swim.

Betsy said...

were you in Tri Bellas gear? I think I cheered for you a bunch if you were :)

TriMOEngr said...

Have to admit I teared up a little reading this too. I cried a fair amount during my wedding vows and was kind of embarrassed that I couldn't croak them out. My best man told me it moved him because he knew how much they meant to me. When I read your recount of your emotions in these reports I know it is because it all meant so much to you. Loved all of it!

Molly said...

I love this!!! :) That swim back did seem a lot longer than the way out. Once I survived the swim and ran to transition with everyone cheering, I totally got choked up too - so much emotion!!!

..:danielle:.. said...

youre making ME tear up reading your posts! i cant wait to read about the rest :)

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

Wonderful write up Aimee and congrats on a great swim!

Dawn said...

i'm crying again...
Awesome work in that chaos of a swim.

schwinbp said...

Inspiring...Congrats!! Looking forward to reading the bike/run!

Jason said...

Aimee - this is amazing. Thank you so much for all the detail. I am loving the story and it is like a book I don't want to put down so hurry up and get the rest done....ha!

Great job on the swim and just awesome that all of you stopped to get that athlete help.

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Great job! It was a cold swim.

Jill said...

Well, you DESERVED a good tear-up now and then in that race, girl!! Good lord what an experience! Good tip on the goggles and swim cap, I never would have thought of that. Glad the swim went very well and without too many incidents. Woohoo! Can't wait for the bike (that's my biggest weakness, and thus fear).

Happy Thanksgiving, girl! NOw that you aren't IM training, maybe we can go run or ride together!!

DRog said...

lol@ plan out the window and Just Started Swimming

nice work love the report keep em coming:)

d

Christy said...

Absolutely loving the report!!!

Kirk said...

I'm looking forward to the bike report. Sounds like a great race. Already some dramatic events in the swim.

Stephanie Anne said...

Nice work! I can't wait to read the rest. You're so inspiring!

Whitney said...

Wow, that swim looked crazy. Congrats and I can't wait for the rest of the race reports.

Michael said...

What great stories and detail. It's like being right there with you. I think I would have freaked out a bit with the guy panicking but it is so cool that everyone was trying to help! Thanks for the tip on the googles - I've never even thought about that.

Congrats on the Ironman!! What an amazing accomplishment. Can't wait to hear the rest of your story!

P said...

OMG, I am crying just reading this!! I was thinking about you all day and kept hoping I'd spot you on the course, but never did. I can't wait to read about the rest of your Iron adventure!!

Colleen said...

Aw... you are so cute! I love how emotional you are throughout this! :) Surreal, wasn't it? You did great with the swim by not panicking and just moving forward! Atta girl! Can't wait to read the rest...

Teamarcia said...

I too am tearing up reading this. I can just imagine how overwhelming it all is, but yet, chunk by chunk, you're doing it! Awesome!

Alisa said...

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! That is so awesome that all those people stopped to help the guy in the water.

I can't wait to read the rest.

I know I get teary during races too, sometimes it is just emotional =).

misszippy said...

Aimee--So excited to read your report! Jason kept us up on your progress throughout the race and you did such a great job! Anyhow, I love your swim report so far. Awesome that the guy apologized to you mid-swim and awesome that you were such an emotional mess! Worth it, for sure!!

Jon said...

OMG scary that that guy knocked your goggles off your face. Amazing that he stopped and said he was sorry. First time I have EVER seen that!

I can just tell how thrilled you were finishing that swim. Its kind of funny, but even though the swim is only a fraction of the entire race, it seems like its the longest leg!

Cant wait to read about that bike!

Julie Arts said...

Holy WOW!!! I've got goosebumps and tears in my eyes. I think I'm going to have to wait a while and gather myself before I read your bike post!

Erika said...

This is awesome! I can't wait to read more... and by the way, GREAT advice with the goggles! I'll have to remember that for my IMAZ race. Never raced with that many people before!

Anne-Marie said...

So awesome!! Thanks so much for the goggle pointer - I'd never thought of it that way before but will definitely put them under the cap next time!

One of my friends did IM AZ, and he said the swim was the most chaotic of any IM/mass swim start race he's done.

Kelly said...

I'm so late in reading these, but I am so excited for you!! This totally brought tears to my eyes this morning. I can't wait to read the rest!!

Ironman By Thirty said...

Great job! It sounds like you had a challenging swim with a couple of scares!

I used to put my swim cap over my goggles but have never had any problems getting them knocked off so I stopped because it makes it easier to adjust them if necessary.

Swimming under that bridge makes for an interesting swim for spectators.

If there is one thing to say about IM (and triathlon in general) is that the volunteers are AMAZING!

I hope that guy made it!