Being my hometown, and having spectated twice, there were some definite advantages as far as knowing where to park, drop off bags, etc. We did it all and then ran into Alicia, a friend from Green Bay. We all got body marked, put air in our tires, put a last few things in our transition bags (including my camera) and off we went.
We had plans to meet at the top of the helix at 6:15 with some friends. Found Kevin, but no one else, so we headed down to the bottom to wait. There we regrouped-- Kelly, Joey, Ross, me, Niki, Kevin, Jamey-- and made our way to the water. We were actually still waiting to cross the timing mat when we heard a BOOM! The pros were off. Less than 10 minutes till our start.
We quickly got into the water and swam out. I think this is the only time I had anxiety and I think it was more the cold water hitting my body than anything else, because it was quickly gone.
Even though I knew we would all instantly separate and this may be the only time I see anyone I know the whole day, it was nice to start amongst friends. Got one last kiss from Ross. Then BOOM!And, we're OFF!
Now, I had been dreading the swim start from the beginning. 2550 people aiming for one turn buoy means there was going to be some contact. And there was, but nothing too bad for awhile. I swam and swam and swam. Now, I breathe to my right, so for the first mile I was looking directly at the Monona Terrace, filled with spectators. SO COOL!
Got to the first buoy and it was crowded. Came up for air to get around everyone. Did my token "Moo!" – this corner has been deemed "moo corner", probably b/c we are all in there like cattle – so when in Wisconsin... MOO!
Got to the second turn buoy and turned and THAT is when the real contact began. Not sure if it was because now I was in the thick of the pack or what, but I kept getting hit, pulled on, yanked on, etc. I don't know how many times I thought, "oh, that's gonna be a bruise". But I just kept swimming.
Other than the brawling in the water, this stretch was good. I will say I had to sight less than ever. Swimming behind/amongst 2500 people gives you little to question about where you should be going.
Rounded the third corner, fourth – now back onto the long stretch. By this time, I had been kicked in the face a couple times and my goggles were super-suctioned, creating a headache for me. I pulled them off for a second, just to relieve the tightness and it worked, my headache slowly went away.
Then I was past the Terrace-- when's the turn buoy? Nope, not that one. Nope, not that one. Wow! that stretch is a loooong way. I don't think I realized it the first time, must've been the adrenaline wearing off.
Two more turns, not so bad this time-- the crowds had thinned out and I was on my last long stretch. I'll be honest, my mind was wandering. I was thinking of other things and just had to re-focus, re-focus, re-focus. Then I wondered if I wasn't working hard enough (since my mind was wandering) and I had to remind myself that I was in for a loooong day, so giving it what I could without exhausting myself was probably the right decision.
Last turn– now it was time to bring it home. The pace picked up for everyone, so I did too. I got to the edge, looked at the clock 1:17– yay! I was hoping to finish 1:15-1:45, so I was right where I wanted to be.
Out of the water and onto land. I was out of my wetsuit and onto the ground, waiting for the strippers. They did their job and I was up and running.
Now, this part I was worried about a little. Normally, I don't even really have energy to run to transition after a normal (much shorter) swim and here I was going to run a long transition UPHILL through a parking ramp after swimming for over an hour? What will my family and friends think if they see me walking? Well, I didn't have to worry about it. I had so much energy and adrenaline pumping through my body. I was ready to run.
I saw Jamey ahead of me. Caught him and we ran up the parking ramp together. We saw my family- they cheered! Jamey's fiance and mom had found my family and they were all together. Crazy! I made big muscles, more smiling and just kept going.
This was the start of a great day!