Race morning came at 4 am. Actually, 3:58. I woke up 2 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. (Amazing how our internal body works when we have something set in our schedules.) I was pretty much ready, with all my stuff laid out the night before, bottles pre-mixed in the refrigerator (freezer for bike water bottles). I packed up the car with everything, and Rebecca and I headed down to breakfast at the hotel, which amazingly opened early for all the Eagleman triathletes. I popped my frozen gluten free waffles into the toaster, pulled out my jar o' peanut butter, and syrup bottle and smothered it on once the waffles were toasted. I really do look forward to this meal. Where else can you say you need to cram 1000 calories into your system at 4:30 am and follow that up with a couple of 200 calories mixed drinks!
Following breakfast, we finished loading up the car and made our way over to Cambridge. We were able to find a parking spot a couple blocks away from the transition area, so it wasn't too long of a walk with all my gear. Once we got there, I set up my transition area and had all my gear laid out and ready to go. I quickly got body marked and lathered on layer one of my sunscreen. After a few minutes of walking around and talking to a few people, one of the body markers noticed that my numbers were already smearing off. This is what happens when it is so hot and humid that you sweat just at the thought of blinking. So she wrote another layer on my arms in the hopes that would stay on. I'll note that it was only about 30 minutes later when I realized that both arms had completely lost the body marking. (I will say its much easier to sweat off the numbers than to scrub them off post race like I usually have to do.) It was just that hot. Plus, I had to lather on 2 more layers of sunscreen and I wasn't going to wipe around the numbers. That just would have been weird. I would have had sunburn in the shape of my body marking numbers, 313. Hmmm...an idea for next time if I have a good sequence of number (hopefully not three 6s).
At about 6:40, I took my wetsuit and swim gear over to the swim start to watch the pros go off. My wave was only the 3rd wave, so I was up only 15 minutes after them, at 7:00 am. I started putting on my wetsuit, and more sweating occurred. Finally, they started calling for us to enter the water. For the first time in....ever...I was looking forward to getting into the water and cooling off (mind you, its not even 7 am yet!). I walked my way out to the start buoys and gave a few waves back to Rebecca (she has all the pictures of this and will hopefully be posting them shortly...cough, cough). I decided to seed myself off to the right, since all the turns were left turns. I figured this would give me a pretty contact free zone to just swim and if I swam a little extra distance, thats fine.
The countdown began from 1 minute...to 30 seconds...to 10, 9, 8...3, 2, 1! I don't remember if it was a horn or a gun, but off we went. I walked for as long as I could, since the water wasn't deep at all and began swimming after about 10 steps, thus beginning my first half ironman. The swim course was in the shape of a U, where you swam straight out to the last buoy, took a diagonal left, and then took another left to come back the other way, which took you in between 2 boat piers. In actuality, the swim was slightly different than the way it appears in the graphic - the bottom part of the U was much longer (about 2-3 buoys long). The way out was going smoothly, just one stroke after another. The sun was out, but didn't really impact my sighting too much. I was bilaterially breathing, so I saw people on both sides of me and figured I was in pretty good position. Not too close to the inside and far enough outside to avoid significant contact. As I neared the last buoy before the first turn, the water got a little choppier and I began to get pushed away from the turn buoy and toward the boats sitting on the outer parts of the course to prevent other watercraft from entering the swim area. Once I made the first turn, I kept getting pushed out. Not only that, but I felt like I was swimming against the current. You see, I'm not a strong swimmer by any means, so any current not working with me, seems to make things tough. My other problem was that although I was bilaterially breathing, one side of my stroke was much stronger than the other, which helped force me out even further. At one point, I almost was close enough to touch one of the boats. And they were sitting pretty far off the course! So, I just kept stroking away at the water. It got very discouraging every time I would sight, because I would be farther off course from the buoy and have barely made a dent in covering the distance to the next buoy. Finally, I made it to the end of the buoys at the bottom of the U and made the left to the final long stretch toward the finish. At this point, all frustration went out the door, because either there was a slight tail current, or the constant flighting against the current in the earlier part of the swim made me feel like I was cruising. My focus came back and I was actually enjoying the last part of the swim. I passed several more buoys and started sighting for the series of orange buoys leading to the boat ramp. As I neared the orange buoys, I felt like I was getting pushed again to the outer part of the course. I fought to stay inside the orange buoys and just barely squeaked to the inside of the outer of the 2 buoys leading to the finish. I did notice others who struggled to make that turn as well, some of which were swimming back upstream, because they were forced past the buoy. By this point, I joined many other swimmers as we congregated in the 10 foot wide and probably 100 foot long swim chute leading up to the boat ramp. I felt my hand touch the sand with my last stroke and stood up a happy man to finally see land again.
I looked down at my watch and it read 46:07. I was hoping for something closer to 40 minutes, but given my sighting and water current issues, I was happy to have made it out of the swim safe and unscathed. It was about 200 meters to the transition area along the gated path. I did my best to jog it and try to get my land legs back. A quick run under the fire hose to wipe off any sea water and I spotted Rebecca standing along the fence snapping shots for me. After Columbia, where I was lectured at how I need to smile more for the camera (or at least acknowledge my wonderful photographer's presence), I decided to throw Rebecca a little surprise. I stopped running as I got closer and gave her a big smacker right on the lips. I could tell she was surprised and never expected me to do that. Of course, now she expects it every time. We'll see... And don't accuse me of not smiling in this picture, its not from her. I only smile for Rebecca. Thats my rule and I'm sticking to it!
I entered T1 and ran another 100 yards or so to my transition rack and began taking off the rest of my wetsuit. Threw socks on (I need them if it is longer than an Olympic distance race), shoes, sunglasses, helmet, and grabbed 3 GUs to shove into my back pocket as I ran my bike toward the bike out. At about the same time, I saw Winz exiting T1 as well. Looked down at my watch and read 4:01 for my T1 time. Considering the longish run, the stop for a kiss, putting on socks, and taking my sweet ass time since this is a much longer race, I'm pretty happy with that.
I hit the lap button, clipped into my pedals, and began the bike...