On our way down to the start we caught up with Nina who was lucky enough to have her first coffee in hand and a smile on her face. Final wetsuit adjustments and pumps handed to Nina to take care of (which, she then noticed, she was one of hundreds of partners left holding pumps under their arms.) then down to the start. Geoff McGrath, a seasoned ironman who completes his races in under 9.5 hours, had told me to get down to the start early so I didn’t get caught up in the entry penguin shuffle but unfortunately thats exactly where I ended up, at the back of a long line of wet suits heading to their deaths in the vast open lake taupo.
Into the water as quick as I could and a quick sharp warm up to get the blood pumping through the body, actually spent most of the warm up dodging other swimmers before making my way towards the front / middle of the crowd. It was important not to be caught behind too many slower swimmers or I would be swimming over the top of them which is no good for me or them.
“3 minutes to go” I heard Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) shout over the megaphone. The nerves started to come over me. The next 2 minutes flew by because the next thing I heard was 1 minute to go and the whoops went up in the water.
BANG!! The Canon went off!
I started the garmin and got into work. The first 100-200 meters really fast which, unfortunately, meant swimming over a couple of people, sorry. Within 80m I had clear water and started to settle into a groove and I could see a few leaders 10 or so meters to my left and to my right doing the same. Slowly we came togther until I was sitting on the hip of a woman and could feel a couple of people on my toes. My rythm was settled and I was happy in this position.
With beautiful chrystal clear waters it was easy to follow feet and I was lucky enough to be following a pair of feet that seemed to be heading in the right direction which meant I only had to look up every 10 strokes (just to make sure they were still swimming straight.)
At the turnaround I was still on the feet or on the hips when all of a sudden she started off to the right. It was so sudden it was strange, she must have felt the person on her right was forcing her too far out.
I kept my line and ended up at the front of the bunch. It wasn’t really where I wanted to be but the water was so beautiful I didn’t mind cruising along at the front. I kept my line having checked the target over the past few days but kept seeing others swimming really close to the bouys on my right and swimmers way out to the left. Soon enough I couldn’t see anyone around me and I could have been all alone in the whole lake apart from the occasional tap on the toes from a swimmer behind riding my wake!!
Getting closer to the finish more swimmers started to pull up around me, one in particular, an older swimmer, was swimming really strong for the end of 3.8km, in fact he was swimming so strong you would think he just jumped in the water. He would have pulled at least 200m ahead of me in the last 500m if he could have swum straight. I don’t think I have ever seen such a fast swimmer cross my line so much.
As we rounded the last buoy I started to kick a little harder to get the blood down to my legs ready for the long run into Transition 1 (T1) and it was here the trouble started for the day. Cramp in my lower right leg, this wasn’t right, now??? I would have expected to see cramp in the run some time but not the swim. I slowed my kicking and the cramp eased up but as soon as I stood up I could feel it coming back. I actually duck dived a couple of times to stop it and the last time I stood up it seemed to ease a bit. Then it was the long run up to T1.
As I ran along the green carpet through the long tunnel of people up to the grass stairs I was wheezing which I had experienced a couple of times before in training but didn’t expect it today.
This is the second time on the day I could feel something wasn’t going quite to plan and little did I know it wasn’t going to be the last.
I came out of the water in 53.16 and won my age group so better than expected in the swim.