Ironman Dublin 70.3 – The swim
August 10, 2015
Breakfast and T1
We got up early and got ready quickly. Breakfast was just a Fuel protein porridge pot, but I was feeling so nervous that I didn’t think I could eat any more. We had agreed to meet Steve in the lobby at 6am, but we there ready and waiting by 5:50am. I was glad that we hadn’t stayed in central Dublin as we would have needed to get the shuttle bus out to Dun Laoghaire.
It was a short walk to T1, and I was relieved to see that people were being allowed to access their T1 bags. I added my missing kit and then went over to my bike. I put two drinks bottles onto my bike and then added my bento box. An American girl whose bike was racked close to mine asked me how I found the test swim. I said that it was colder than I’m used to. She had brought a sleeveless wetsuit with her and was so horrified by the temperature that she had gone straight out and bought a long-sleeved wetsuit, and was now in a quandary as she had never swum in it before. It made me feel slightly better that I wasn’t the only person who had found it chilly!
I gave the tyres of my bike a quick squeeze, decided they were OK and headed out of T1 to find the loos. Fortunately, the queue was very short, with only 2 people in front of me – unlike the queue for the loos in T1, where Steve was held up for a long time.
When should I change?
I realised that everyone was changing on the grass next to T1, as the baggage truck was there. I didn’t want to put on my wetsuit immediately, so I waited around for 20 minutes.
Eventually, it was time to put my wetsuit on. It was a mild morning, so I wasn’t too bothered about putting my hoodie and shoes in my bag. Just as I finished putting my kit away, we saw Claire and Annabelle. They said that Steve was still queuing for the loo, so we had a chat for a while. They had also heard from Suzanne.
Soon Steve arrived and we watched the pros start the race before we headed to the start. There was such a small elite field that it was really hard to make them out. We also noticed that a lot of swimmers seemed to be going a long way off course. Steve headed off for his race start, so I said goodbye to Stu and he went to watch the start with Claire and Annabelle. I felt a little sad when Stu said, ‘I should have been starting now’, but Stu’s more stoical than me and as he’s still limping badly, it was the right decision.
I stood with three women watching the swimmers head out across the bay. Two of the women went down to acclimatise in the sea and as I was discussing this with the other woman, who was from the New Forest, we were told that we needed to leave the area, so my planned acclimatisation did not happen. Lots of triathlon guides advise a quick bike ride, brief jog and some time in the water before the start of your event, but in a large race like this, it just isn’t possible.
I walked over to where most of the other women were waiting. Men had been divided into age groups, but as only 20% of the field was female (500 people), we had been put into a large wave together. I guess some people may find this advantageous, but it was a large wave and I prefer to be in ability group, rather than age group or gender.
I used to be able to do up my old wetsuit on my own, but my new wetsuit is much tighter and also more delicate, so I asked someone else to do it up for me. Immediately afterwards, I saw Suzanne, which was quite reassuring. I had assumed that it would be hard for us to spot each other in a group of 500 identically dressed people!
The start of the women’s wave
The women’s wave was called forward and we realised that we were quite near to the front, so we hung back a little. We also decided to wait at the side whilst more people went past. The compère was doing his best to gee up the crowd and there was quite a lot of clapping and cheering going on. We were told to hug the woman next to us, so Suzanne and I obediently embraced, before we started to shuffle forwards.
I started my Garmin and walked down the slipway a little gingerly as I didn’t want to fall. The water felt cold, but not as painful as the previous day, and I knew there was no time to hang around. I waded forward and then started swimming.
My strokes for the first 1-200m were probably quite ragged, but at least I was moving and not struggling to breathe as badly as I’d feared. I spent a while breathing every two strokes, which helped me to avoid other people’s feet as well as acclimatising a bit. One negative was that I was really worried that someone would hit my Garmin hard and I would lose it. This has never happened to me, but it was another worry to add to my general paranoia. I don’t look at my watch when I’m swimming, so perhaps I should race without it in future.
The first section
I think that my sighting on the first 1000m section was quite good. I stayed near to the buoys and am fairly sure that I was close to Suzanne at the turning point. I had also settled into bilateral breathing and although the sea was a little bit ‘bouncy’, it probably couldn’t be described as choppy. (However, Steve and I did end up with wetsuit rubs that we think we caused by lifting our heads when trying to sight). It was also beautifully clear, with only a little bit of seaweed and NO JELLYFISH 🙂
At the turning point, I got a bit confused. My goggles had fogged up a bit and I wasn’t entirely certain about which way to go. I know it’s unwise to follow others as they might not be going the right way, but there were so many people heading in the same direction, that I decided to trust that they were right.
I passed a couple of men in blue hats from the previous wave on the first straight and also passed several more as I was heading back towards the shore. I felt really sorry for some of them who were doing ‘old lady breaststroke’ and looking totally overwhelmed.
As we turned back parallel to shore, I was passed by a couple of men in black hats, who were clearly good swimmers. I think I was starting to get bored by the stage as I had to remind myself to pull rather than just let my hands glide through the water. However, I remembered Katherine telling me how much she had been shouting at me at Eton Dorney, so I did my best to kick my legs for the entire swim 🙂
I was so glad when I could see the Powerade arch. I swam towards it as quickly as possible but had not realised how difficult it would be to get out. The temporary pontoon was at quite an angle and was very slippery. I was really grateful to the gent who pulled me out of the water.
Weymouth swim time: 58:56
Dublin swim time: 52:40
Division rank: 68
My Garmin data shows that I swam 1.959km, so my sighting was better than I thought, which is great to know 🙂
Heading into T1
It was then up some steps. At Weymouth, I had to run with my goggles on because I couldn’t see without them. Now I’ve had laser eye surgery, I don’t need prescription goggles, but I decided to remove the top half of my wetsuit before dealing with my goggles, hats and earplugs. I know some people recommend putting your goggles and hat in the sleeve of your wetsuit, but I can’t afford to lose my goggles!
Just as I was removing my hat and goggles, I noticed the STC supporters. I tried to say something to them but didn’t react quickly enough. I then took my Garmin off and tucked it in my top, so that I could remove my wetsuit more easily.
The changing tent
It felt like quite a long run and when I got to the changing tent, it was chaotic. I think I preferred Weymouth’s approach, where bags were outside in numerical order and people collected them before heading into gendered changing tents. Nudity was then permitted anywhere in the tent and there was plenty of seating, which led to a much less frantic atmosphere. In Dublin, people were putting on shoes and extra layers in all of the aisles and the staff seemed unable to cope. One woman kept shouting at everybody that if they didn’t move she would give them a 5-minute penalty, but her shouts were largely ignored.
I had too much stuff in my bag and would have been better off if I had headed to the chairs and then tipped my whole bag out. I decided to start with putting on my headband and bike helmet as these were not optional items. I made a vague effort to dry my feet and put on some socks and my bike shoes.
I ignored my gilet and cycling top and after glancing at my bike pump, I decided to leave it behind. It fell out of my cycling Jersey recently and my tri tank pockets are smaller, so I thought it might not stay in very well. This was a decision that I thought was risky. I picked up my protein shake and managed to splash it on my sunglasses before I pushed it into a back pocket. I then put on the dirty sunglasses and my race belt, shoved everything back into my belt and then ran to my bike.
Running to my bike
It felt really odd running for such a long way in cycling shoes without actually having my bike with me. A few people headed straight for the portaloos, but I didn’t need to stop. I felt bad that most of the bike racks were empty, but then I reminded myself that all of the racks to my right were for people who had started earlier, so the fact that there were some bikes there meant that I was doing well (or that people had withdrawn). Quite a few of the women’s bikes had gone, but I wasn’t last. I hadn’t looked behind me when I got out of the swim, so I have no idea how many pink and white hats were still in the sea.
I’m not really sure how many buttons I had mashed on my Garmin whilst it was nestled in my top, but as I was running to my bike, I saw that it thought I was already cycling – oops!
(Weymouth time: 9:18)