Scott Ready for the Swim

Chicago Triathlon Swim, Part 3 of 7 2010 Recap

Post Triathlon Recap Part 3 of 7. I started writing up a recap of my event, and it kept growing and growing and growing. I decided to break it up. The purpose of the recap is give new people the thoughts and ideas they can use to help them prepare for their own future first endurance event!

Scott Ready for the Swim

About an hour before my race time, I walked back to the swim start. I watched a heat or two, and just mentally went through the whole race. Mind you, the time is around

7:00am ish. I knew from my practice, that it would take me about 30 minutes to put on my wetsuit. Those things are a pain the neck to put on. They’re so tight and new ones especially haven’t been stretched out. Wetsuits are suprisingly very fragile and can easily rip. As I was putting on my wetsuit, I started to sweat like crazy. The weather wasn’t too warm yet, but it was warm enough to be in shorts and a shirt and be comfortable. My brother came out to see me, and he helped zip the wetsuit up. By the time I got my suit on, my heat for the race was already in the chute and close to being next. I had to cut through a couple of heats, to get to my group, the white caps. At this point, I’m a little nervous, but confident. I feel like I’m a good swimmer, and I put in more than adequate time swimming in the pool.

My brother was standing there with me on the other side of the fence, so I was able to chat with him. I asked him if my ears were supposed to be in or out of the swim cap. I had never wore a swim cap before, so I didn’t know. He said it didn’t matter, but for me it was more comfortable to have the ears in the cap. My wife and kids showed up just as I was the next heat to jump in the lake. That was super fun. My daughter, Miss M, calls me super Daddy when I wear my wetsuit. I felt proud to be demonstrating an active lifestyle to my young kids. That as you age, you can still have fun and be active. My parents did that with me by participating in sports leagues and hiking. I’m glad I learned that lessson, and I am passing that on to my kids.

Chicago Triathlon Swim Chute

Now, I have never did get a chance to swim in my wetsuit. I also did not get a chance to swim in Lake Michigan. I had no idea what to expect. I expected super cold water. When it was our turn to jump in the lake for our swim start, I was surprised at how warm the water felt. It was officially 72 degrees at the start, but with the wetsuit on, I was totally warm. Almost too warm.

Bang, My First Triathlon Starts

At the Chicago Triathlon, you tread water for a couple of minutes before the start of the race. Now, I think I am a strong swimmer. From my timed pool practice, I felt I’d be a little better than average in the lake. So, I tried to position myself near the middle back of the pack. There were a lot dudes in my heat. The gun goes off, and we start swimming. There is really no where to go at the beginning. The people in front of you are not going, because the people in front of them are not moving. Its a really slow start.

I felt totally unprepared. Swimming with a swim cap was totally foreign. I felt like I couldn’t hear. I totally recommend that you swim with a swim cap at least part of the time before your next race just so you can get used to it. As I was swimming in the beginning, I tried to swim with the cap covering my ears, then i stopped and then tried it with cap just above my ears. I felt more comfortable with it over my ears, but all of that was challenging to do while swimming.

Swimming in the Dark

Its not dark. In fact, the sun is up and it is pretty bright outside, but the lake water although it is clear, doesn’t have the white bottom of the pool. So, as your swimming its really quite dark. Visibility was really low for me. I could not see where I was going at all. I tried to pick my head up to sight, but It was so difficult.

So, the awkwardness of swimming in the wetsuit for the first time, the darkness of the water all have me spooked. In fact, I almost panicked. Seriously, my heart was beating so fast. I just could not get used to swimming and bumping into people. Everytime I tried to swim, I would bump someone. I didn’t mind people bumping too much, but it was when I would put my hands out and bump someone else. I felt terrible about it, because I felt it was my fault since I couldn’t see so well. Also, your just not used to swimming into people since you don’t do it in your everyday swims. I’m really glad I’m a good swimmer, because I just kept telling myself the swim is the shortest part time-wise. Spacing will open up soon.

I had to actually do some breast stroke just to call myself down a little bit. While I’m swimming, I’m thinking there is no way I am doing a triathlon again. I can’t imagine if the water is freezing or if dead fish happened to get in the course, etc. Yet, I kept saying to myself, just swim. Its not that bad. Just swim, get to the outside and swim. So, I did that. I just kept stopping to see where I was, and just kept swimming on the outside trying my best to swim around people. its hard to tell how far you go in the lake, because you don’t turn at the pool wall and there are obviously no laps. However, the way the chicago triathlon swim course is set-up, you swim south in the lake then turn around and swim back north past the starting area. So, when you hit that starting area again, you know you’ve gone about half-way. So, the whole part, I keep thinking. Swim to the buoy, turn. then, I keep thinking swim to the start.

Just swim.

One happy surprising thing about Lake water swims, is the water actually tastes pretty good. Its basically Chicago Drinking water without all the copper pipe taste. Its much better than chlorinated pool water. That was kind of refreshing.

So, I just swim and keep sighting towards the finish. I felt bad, because I mentioned I am a pretty good swimmer. Well, I would get in a groove and swim pretty fast, and then I would bump into someone. This would cause me to stop and see where I was in relation to other people. At this point, I could see where there was a swimming lane and just swim around people, and did that most of the time. Yet, there were a few times, where I would bump into someone, then see where the person is, I swim past them then bump into them again, the swim past. I was really spooked by the bumping into people. I don’t know why, because like I said I wasn’t afraid of drowning or anything (except when I almost panicked a little after the swim started). I guess its been a while since I let my competitiveness take over my polite-ness.

I finally near the finish line. I’m making a bee-line towards the steps, and there are steps in the lake. For the triathlon, they build these steps in the lake to get out to run to the

Scott Triathlon T1 Transition

transition area. At the swim exit, there are bunch of volunteers in the water helping you. That was actually really nice.

The Transition and the Swim Exit Mat, is actually a good 400 yards away from the lake. So, I started jogging, I took off my swim cap, and googles, I half unzip my wetsuit and start running.

Run a Triathlon Barefoot?

I was totally surprised how far the lake swim exit was to the transition area. 400 yards is a healthy jog especially when you are doing it barefoot with wet soggy sensitive feet. I felt like I was running on gravel and tearing up my feet. It was due to that, I wasn’t sprinting to the bike.

Finally, I enter transition, and I plop down on the hill and pull of my wetsuit. I knew from my experience, that I’d need to sit down to take off my wetsuit. I wasn’t going to have enough room by my bike. My T1 transition was long compared to the norm. I was about 7:00 minutes and the norm is about 4:30 minutes. Part of the issue was I forgot my heart rate strap, and had to go back and get it. I know to practice my transition for next time.

Overall, my swim time was decent. I was right at the pace I wanted. 35:33.

Tune in next time to see how my Bike went.

Part 1:  Expo Day
Part 2:  Transition Set-up
Part 3:  The Swim
Part 4:  The Bike
Part 5:  The Run, if you must call it that.
Part 6:  Post Race.  Will I do a triathlon again?
Part 7:  Race Day Gear Thoughts