Swim: 2.4 miles.
The cannon went off and about 2500 triathletes made the mass swim start. Having that many people in the water at one time is quite chaotic and many suffer from severe anxiety in doing this. You get punched, kicked, and “swum-over” (doesn’t that sound fun).
I started towards the back and let a few seconds go before I started swimming. The most chaotic area was right in front of me but the crowd was already thinning out. I could pick my line. I started catching the slower swimmers and did not have to deal with the faster (and more aggressive) swimmers. I could not see any of the buoys due to all the splashing and all the arms flailing about, so I just started following the crowd.
Here is a map of the course.
There were hundreds of people at Monona Terrace to cheer us along.
The first stretch of the swim was a long straight path. I was able to stay in a pocket and find my rhythm. I barely got nudged at this point. All I could think of is that it was finally here. I was actually doing an Ironman!
As we arrived at the first red turn buoy, the first real traffic hit. Everyone got funneled around that buoy and it got very tight very quickly. There was a lot of contact but nothing too severe. I did not pick a good line coming up to the turn so I was close to the buoy where it was most congested. I was hoping to be more on the outside, but it was too late to make that adjustment. I was boxed in. I just tried to move with the herd. I quickly found that kicking a little harder prevented other swimmers from swimming over you. Tradition holds that we are supposed to “moo” at the first turn (a Wisconsin thing), but I was too busy just trying to breath and not get punched. Eventually, the congestion eased, but another turn was coming fast. I angled away from it so I would be on the outside and further away from the mass of thrashing bodies in neoprene. It worked and the second turn was much easier.
The next leg was the longest leg that seemed to go on forever. This was my first sign of trouble. Something that could destroy my day.
My stomach was bloating. I had swallowed a lot of air.
I have struggled with this problem ever since I started swimming again. I can’t tell that it is happening until I have swallowed a lot. It seems to happen at random, and has never happened during an event. If I notice it in time, I might be able to belch it up, but usually it has passed too far to be able to solve it this way. I stop and try to relieve it. No luck.
The bloating is never a problem for me while swimming. Once I am upright for 20-30 minutes, severe abdominal pain develops. Like doubled over and have almost gone to the hospital kind of pain. This had never happened during a race, and it would be an issue early on the bike. Typically, the pain lasts for a few hours. And there is nothing I can do to relieve it. I hoped that I was wrong, but I knew that my day might already be over…
All I could do now is calm down the breathing, try to make sure it doesn’t get worse, and finish the swim. I would deal with the bike when I had too.
I kept down the straightaway. Every few minutes, there would be contact and I would have to change course. But, mostly, I had my rhythm and was able to just keep trucking along.
I was wearing a sleeveless wetsuit and, by this point, my arms were cold and my hands were numb. Not a bid deal, they would warm up on the bike.
At that point, I could hear somebody shouting and I could not figure out why. I finally stopped since I thought that a course official might be trying to communicate something to us. I then realized that we were by Monona Terrace again, and I could hear Mike Riley announcing the race and could hear the roar of the crowds. That was a pretty cool moment! Shortly thereafter, the buoys changed color from yellow to orange. This indicated that we had passed the halfway point.
This pattern continued. Some minor contact here and there, but I was just kind of zoned out. I watched for the next buoy and kept my pace. The third turn buoy was fine (swimmers were so spread out by this point that it was not crowded at all). By the final turn, it got congested again. I have no idea why. But, there was a lot of contact on the final stretch towards the exit. I could here Mike Riley, the blaring music and the roar of the crowd. The boat launch and exit arch were in sight. I felt the concrete under my feet and was able to stand. The cameras clicked as we left the water, and volunteers were there to help steady us as we stepped into T1.
Swim Split: 1:28:07.
Total Elapsed Time: 1:28:07.
Time Remaining: 15:31:53.