It is 10 pm on Saturday night and I am lying in bed, reading a few pages of my book in an attempt to relax. On the other side of our bedroom wall is a rather noisy dog. He seems to be very unhappy that he has been left home alone for the evening. The night before I had a race nightmare. I dreamt I had a terrible sleep before my race so I decided not to race in the morning. It was a laughable dream when I woke up that morning, but now it was turning from dream to reality. Finally I doze off amid the barking and whining until 2:30 am.
When I wake up I methodically start preparing for my long day ahead. I meditate for 10 minutes, then get up and eat two hard boiled eggs. My family and I leave the house at 3:45 am and park in one of the city parkades that is free on Sundays. I drop off my special needs bags with the very enthusiastic volunteers and we on board a shuttle bus to the reservoir shortly after 4 am. My mouth is dry as I’m eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich and swallowing is difficult. I know I need to eat but pre-race nerves are making my stomach feel unreceptive to food.
At the reservoir we make our way across some grass towards transition. All of a sudden my mom yelps, then I yelp in shock as I nearly step on a frog! Since I’m wearing TriTats I bypass the body markers outside transition, get my bottles and nutrition on my bike and then I just sit and wait.
Before I know it, it is time to get into my wetsuit. Neil and I take extra care to make sure it is well adjusted over my shoulders and I liberally slather BodyGlide all over my neck. There is just enough time for one last pep talk and hug from Coach Angie on the walk to the swim start. The gun is about to go off and I work my way through the crowd to the middle of the 1:15 – 1:30 swim group. The butterflies in my stomach are going crazy and I repeat to myself over and over to turn those butterflies into dragons.
The Swim – 2.4 mi/3862 m
I walk down the boat ramp and into the water. The water is a lovely 72F (22C) and it feels lovely. It is not bracingly cold nor too warm. I broke one of the cardinal rules of racing: never try anything new on race day. At the BAM practice swim on Thursday morning I’d been having a terrible time with my goggles fogging up on me. I decided to buy a brand new pair of Roka R1 goggles at the expo, a style I had never tried before. I tested them in the shower the night before the race and that was it. Luckily the gamble paid off and the new goggles were great. They did not fog or leak and they have an incredible field of view out of the top of the goggle that made sighting a breeze.
I am around people all the time in the water, but there is pretty minimal contact. I never really find feet as they are either a bit fast or a bit slow. I have my Garmin Forerunner 920XT set to auto lap every 300 m. It takes me awhile to clue in but I’m swimming just under a 2:00/100 m pace, which is unheard of for me in open water. I rarely swim that fast in a pool!
I make the final turn to start swimming towards transition and I remind myself to keep my form strong and to continue sighting. Trying to maintain this pace doesn’t mean anything if I start zig zagging and swimming a longer line than I need to. I continue to feel strong all the way towards the finish, with no fatigue compromising my stroke. With three buoys left to swim I look at my watch and realize I may be able to swim under a 1:20. All I can think is “holy sh*t, holy sh*t, holy sh*t, I am having the swim of my life!”
2.4 mi – 1:18:25 (2:01/100 m)
W35 – 39: 22 out of 68
Women: 123 out of 415
Overall: 558 out of 1,490