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Hi, I'm Whitney! I am a middle of the pack runner who discovered the fun of triathlons in 2009. Join me in my adventures in life and training. I run with the Rush Running team and enjoy the fun that comes with such a supportive group of friends who understand what running means to me. I'm newly discovering road biking and the fun that it entails.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Redman Half Ironman - The Swim

Redman, on September 24th, was my first half ironman distance triathlon.  I was a diligent reader of the pre-race guide and showed up at registration on Friday ready to check in all my gear for the race.  I was quite happily surprised that it was only the full distance racers that would have to prepare and check in gear bags.  Registration was a very smooth process and didn't take very long at all.  There were mandatory athlete meetings which really covered basic information.  I didn't learn that much except for a couple of road hazards that we would encounter on the bike course.  I took a few minutes during the mandatory meeting to shop the expo booth while it was deserted!

The race would start on Saturday at 7:15 for the full distance racers.  There would be a 15 minute wait and then the start of the half distance waves.  My favorite comment from the athlete meeting was that as athletes we were too healthy for the close in parking spaces.  The race urged us to use the athlete parking lot 1 mile away so that our family and friends would have access to the easier/closer parking.  While this is no big deal before the race...that mile walk back after covering 70.3 miles was a little slow! It also meant that I needed to adjust my timing in the morning to allow enough time to get to the race site and walk from parking.

I knew quite a few others at the race which was a huge help and confidence boost! For the ladies, there was me, Mandy, Pauline, and Kayle.  For the guys, there was Mark, Cord, Jon, Ty, and Randy.  I also noticed a fellow athlete with the same transition bag and discovered she was also from NWA! There were some others that I recognized from local events but didn't know...either way there was quite a crew of racers from NWA at the Redman event. 

Still sleepy, not quite sure I'm ready, you name it I was feeling it!
Race Morning:
My official race sherpa was my brother in law Tim.  Normally my sister accompanies to the start of races and then Tim comes later with the kids.  This time he had asked to come early and he didn't even regret it when I said we would be leaving super super early.  It was a 30 minute drive to the race site and we got there right around 5:30 when transition was opening. 

I went into transition and got my set up done.  All of the racks were assigned by race number which made things really easy plus we had checked in our bikes during registration on Friday.  I was a little nervous but overall not too bad.  I kept feeling like I was forgetting things and like I didn't have my set up right.  Of course, I visited the porta potties several times! I never understand why people put their wetsuits on soooo early because they really slow down the potty line and you would think they would learn. 

A few minutes before the full distance start, I went ahead and put on my wetsuit.  Tim had to help out with the zipper and of course he took a very unattractive photo of me putting on the wetsuit. 

Not Cool, Tim!
Much better! Ready to race!!!

The swim is held in Lake Hefner which is only open for swimming for this race.  The lake level was really low so the organizers had modified the swim to a triangle with a long mud run to transition.  They were able to carpet a lot of the run otherwise it would have been a total mess.  Another issue was that some of the buoys had moved off course and even though the organizers explained it to us it didn't make much sense. 

Mandy, Me, Pauline, and Kayle! It was Pauline's 2nd 70.3, but the first for the rest of us!
The athletes were congregated inside transition waiting for each wave to be called.  As a group, the wave would then walk down to the lake edge with the beautiful chords of a bagpipe playing.  As we were waiting to get into the water, I told the girls that I had to pee and they encouraged me to warm up my wetsuit.  It felt goofy but I figured there wasn't that much of a difference between that and waiting until I was in the water! On a side note, later I would see a sign on the run course that read "We know you peed your pants and it's okay!" Too funny!

When we finally entered the water we discovered just how difficult the mud was as we sunk mid-way up our calves in mud holes. 
If you look closely, you can see all the ladies have their arms out for balance walking into the lake.
 I put on my goggles and immediately discovered that it was going to be a rough swim...they were fogging up super badly and I really couldn't see through them to sight.  Lesson learned...always Foggle my goggles in advance! I accepted that it was going to be challenging and got ready for the shotgun blast to signify our start. 

I took off and tried to settle into a rhythm.  I was with people for a while and then all of sudden I wasn't.  I popped up and took my goggles off to see where I was and I was so far off course.  I assumed at this point that I had missed the first turn because of where I was in relation to the other swimmers.  I was pretty pissed with myself and wasted energy trying to get back into the pack.  I finally got in with the pack and we reached a turn buoy and I was thinking great I'm back in the game and only 1/3 left. 

Imagine my surprise when I spot another white turn buoy...yep still a ways to go since I was only on the 2nd leg of the triangle.  I had to keep stopping and moving my goggles in order to sight and find landmarks along the shore to focus on.  It was such a great feeling to finally see the big arch over the transition come into focus and realize I was almost done with my swim. 

The first leg of the swim course...just try to figure out the buoy line!
I was so upset with my self because I felt like I swam so much extra distance over the whole swim due to my foggy goggles and horrible sighting.  The race organizers had about 6 orange buoys on the first arm of the triangle but they weren't in a straight line.  Between the first turn buoy and second there were no sight line buoys.  Between the second turn buoy and the swim finish, there were no sight line buoys.  It was just a tough setup!

I swam until my fingers touched the mud because I knew how tough the mud was to walk out of the lake.  There were volunteers standing in the mud who helped me stand up and start to get my wetsuit down to waist level.  The walk out of the lake was really slippery from all the athletes so I walked slowly until I could get to a spot that was carpeted.  I ran up the carpet to the wetsuit strippers where I was quickly helped in getting my wetsuit off.  They also had kiddie pools there to help clean off our feet. 

From there, I headed to my bike rack and got myself ready to tackle the bike.  I had no clue of my swim time and just knew that I felt good except wished I had stayed on course.  I checked around me and saw that some of my friends were still swimming so maybe my swim wasn't as bad as I thought. 

Swim results: 42:53
Up next: The Bike!

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