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Ironman Arizona 2011: The Swim – Geek Turned Athlete

Ironman Arizona 2011: The Swim

If you missed the pre-race activities, click here.

For the first time EVER, I was able to sleep the night before the a race. Who was I? Since I had set everything I needed out the night before, it only took me 20 minutes to get ready including putting my breakfast of a gf bagel with maple almond butter and mango smoothie together. The hubs and I sat on the couch chatting about race strategy before I grabbed my special needs bags and headed downstairs for the hotel shuttle ride to the race site at 5:30am. I was feeling surprisingly calm UNTIL I arrived at the transition area.

The race didn’t start until 7am, and I really think that there was WAY too much time to stand around. I dropped off my transition bags, chatted with a few fellow racers, stood in line to get my tires pumped up and body marked, put my wetsuit on, then just stood there feeling very alone and scared. I looked around in the crowd for the hubs or my coach, but there was no sign of them anywhere.

All of the sudden, people were lining up to get out of the transition area. I starting talking to a girl who was hit by a car 9 months ago, and she was racing! It turns out that her last open water swim was in May. I thought that my last open water swim in August was bad! Luckily, she was a good swimmer anyways (ended up swimming like a 1:06) so she had nothing to worry about. We wished each other good luck, and the competitors slowly started to funnel out of transition. My heart rate started to rise!

This thing that had taken over my life for the last year preparing for was finally starting.

General Goals for IMAZ:

  • Stay positive!!! Whatever happens, stay positive. Tell those negative thoughts to “get the heck out!”
  • Eat and drink ALL DAY. If I miss 1 hour on the bike eating, I’m screwed for the rest of the race.
  • Pace yourself. It will be a LONG day.
  • Most important: HAVE FUN! I only have ONE 1st Ironman.
  • Time Goal: 13 to 14 hours


As I ran through the chute to the water, volunteers were screaming, “The race starts in 3 minutes. Get in the water!” People were jumping off the 3 foot cement walk-way to get into the water. I hesitated at first. I knew how frigid the water was. Thinking, here goes nothing, I jumped into the icy cold water.


Swim Goal Time: 1 hr 30 min to 1 hr 45 min

I treaded water for a moment, not sure where the start line was.  Then I heard the horn sound. Looking forward, I realized the start line was 100 meters from me. Crap! So, I started swimming. My goggles immediately filled up with water. I stopped, poured them out, and tightened the strap. They filled up again, and again, and again. I was yanking on my goggle strap like crazy while spewing the F-bomb and trying to swim. They wouldn’t tighten. Panic set in. How was I going to swim 2.4 miles like this? Why did I have to buy new goggles the day before the race and NOT try them out? I know better!! Ahhhhhh! This went on for at least 5 minutes.

Then, my rational side kicked in. Flip on your back, Nicole.  Take off your cap, and look at your goggles to see what is up. That is exactly what I did. It turns out that my cap was stuck in the strap tightening mechanism, and that is why it wouldn’t tighten. Once I got that fixed, my goggles still leaked a little bit, but only bad enough that I would have to drain them every 10-15 minutes. I repeated: Ain’t nothing but a thang! No biggie. So I have to empty my goggles every 10-15 minutes. It is NOT a big deal in the big scheme of today, not at all. I’m finishing this thing. Crappy brand new goggles are NOT going to stop me!


Once I got my goggles semi-fixed, I just focused on regaining some rhythm. Despite swimming with 3,000 other people, the water didn’t seem crowded to me for the most part, and when it did momentarily, I just told myself that this was just a very large swim practice. A very large swim practice, that’s right.


The turn around came so fast. I could not believe it when I hit the large red triangular buoy. It got crowded around the buoy, but once we made it 100 meters to the second red triangular buoy to complete the turn around back to the transition, it spread out again. Only at about 600 meters from the end did I start to wish it was over with. I was getting bored, a little tired, and I wanted out of the water. I finally started the red buoy to turn left at towards the shore, and I was so happy!!!


My pace picked up a little, and I tried to force the pee out so I wouldn’t have to deal with that in transition. I’m sure other people were thinking the same thing because the water seemed a little warmer as I got closer! haha


Swim time: 1 hour 32 min

I got to the steps to exit the water, and I couldn’t crawl up on them. A hand reached down and plucked me from the water and placed me on the steps. As I stumbled up the slippery concrete steps, I depended on the volunteers to tell me where to go. I felt dizzy and out of it. Trying to be vertical after being horizontal for an hour and a half does that to you, I guess. I looked around and saw a few older woman shaking uncontrollably and volunteers wrapping their dripping wet, shivering bodies with mylar blankets.

I tried to pull my wetsuit off my arms with no luck. A volunteer noticed me struggling, and asked me if I needed help. I nodded yes. He ripped my wetsuit off my arms like it was paper and gently sat me down on the pavement before ripping the rest of my wetsuit off. He pulled me up off the ground and told me to go. I thanked him and ran/walked to the transition tent.


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The second I stepped foot into the transition tent, it was mass chaos

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Kristen (inspiredbydooce) November 25, 2011, 1:39 pm

    I love that last picture- the look on your face seems to show exactly how you described- a little dizzy and out of it :)
    Can’t wait to keep reading!
    Kristen (inspiredbydooce) recently posted..thankful friday

  • Charisa November 25, 2011, 3:04 pm

    CONGRATS on your race!!!! So very much to be proud of :)
    Charisa recently posted..Thanksgiving

  • Amber November 26, 2011, 7:47 am

    Nice job on the swim. My friends who did the race said that they just got pummeled left and right. Did you have any unfortunate punches or kicks?

    • Nicole November 26, 2011, 11:49 am

      I really think because I started near the back, that the beating was kept down to a minimum. I was kicked in the head the day before, and kicked in the ribs and my arms a couple of times during the swim, but nothing too terribly bad. Did your friends start a little farther up?

  • Sana November 26, 2011, 2:34 pm

    Bahaha, I have a feeling a lot of people were nervous peeing in that water ;0
    Sana recently posted..Women With Real Figures Shop Here Too

  • Jess November 27, 2011, 9:40 am

    I cannot even FATHOM swimming for that long, this is just amazing to me to read. God I am so impressed by you!!!

    • Nicole November 27, 2011, 4:32 pm

      Obviously, the faster you are, the less time you have to spend in the water. That is definitely a motivating factor to get me in the pool more often in the next year! The pros do it in under an hour!

  • Jeannie November 28, 2011, 11:13 pm

    Nice swim despite problems with the goggles! I can imagine feeling pretty woozy in transition after swimming that long.


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