This blog is written by Alan Scott, its part two of four describing his 2015 Hawaii Ironman experiences and lessons learnt. Hopefully it will prove entertaining and perhaps useful to anyone aspiring to go to Kona or simply complete an Ironman.
Its 4.14am and like so many out there I am staring wide awake at my alarm clock waiting for it to go off, it’s been a restless night but it’s so often the case. The days in the build-up have been chilled so one of poor sleep is night is fine. After a cup of coffee and some Greek yogurt with berries nuts and a little muesli we wonder down to ‘body marking’.
We filed into the ocean, jockeying a little for position then after a brief lull the cannon boomed and we were off! Being a strong swimmer the strategy was to start towards the front and work hard for 400m or so and find a good group. That decision, coupled with the swim start being narrowed this year, made for an intensely violent start. Being punched hard in the face and dragged down numerous times by hands groping at my legs and arms I had to work hard to suppress the waves of panic that rolled over me as claustrophobia threatened to overwhelm. In this situation surrounded by thrashing bodies all competing for the same space, roughly a thousand marauding swimmers behind you, you only face one option; suppress the waves of panic, keep swimming. I have never experienced anything like it before….
Thanks to my pal up front the rest of the swim was relatively uneventful, a touch of ‘biffo’ at the turn around buoys coupled the occasional swimmer trying to ‘steal’ my feet then homeward bound with “cross feet” leading the way. Coming out of the swim in 59 minutes when the consensus was the distance was just over 4k was a good swim in the end and put me towards the front as I headed into transition. I was also very happy with my Roka swim skin. I can’t tell you how much time it saved hydro dynamically but felt great as it sucked everything in and psychologically I felt that I had done everything possible to prepare myself for a fast swim!
Despite the turbulent start I would always advocate starting towards the front, or at the very least around swimmers that are slightly stronger than you. Using stronger swimmers around you will mean quicker times, an easier swim and importantly saving vital mental and physical energy for the big day ahead. This is something you can practice in groups in a lake or cramming into a lane. It might not be that enjoyable however just like all things, the more you practice the better you will execute on race day.
Coming out of the water I easily stripped of my Roka swim skin and washed off some of the salt water in the fresh water showers. Then the tricky part, trying to pull on my Embrace Sports speed suit, which had been rolled down to my waist during the swim due to race rules. This proved a little tricky when wet and even with the help of a steward I probably lost 30 seconds getting it on, however the aero advantage on the bike coupled with the sun protection on the shoulders and arms during the ride made this worth it. I then drank half a litre of Ucan* while I ran to my bike. This perhaps is not the norm as most folk recommend waiting until your stomach settles on the bike before taking on nutrition. However I had practiced this with success during ‘B’ races and it worked well for me. With the added bonus that its one less thing to pack on the bike!
*Ucan is a slow release carbohydrate drink made from a modified corn starch. The principal behind this drink is that it releases energy at a level not to cause your insulin levels to spike. As a result you do not suffer peaks and troughs in energy.
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