Demons exorcised! – Swimming in Docklands

For those of you who read and wept at my catastrophic tale of coughing up my lung in my first half ironman attempt….., I am delighted to announce (am so ridiculously and disproportionately proud that it is just stupid) that I got back in my wetsuit and in the water this morning and did an easy 1.15k swim!   It was freezing (14.8 degrees) at the Docklands open water swimming venue, and there were very few hardy souls out swimming with us.  I was nigh on kakking my pants about getting into the water, but once I was in and once I overrode my brains rational refusal to put my face in the water, it all went very well!.   We went slow and steady and it was easy!  I wasn’t even that bothered about ingesting whatever grot was in the Thames, and not being able to see more than 10 cm in front of my face in the water, nor the fact that I didn’t know how deep it was.   It was also mildly amusing seeing the shocked looks of passers by that we were actually getting in the water!

Big ups to LB for joining me this morning, neither of us really wanted to be there, which is clearly a great indicator of why we should all have training partners for extra motivation.    I was tremendously grateful for her gentle but pragmatics urgings just to get my face in the water!

Big thanks to all of you too who have reached out and cheered me up on this!  I am totally fine with failing things every now and then, as it least it means the things I am trying to do are hard.

Now I just have to figure out how to persuade my husband to let me sign up for another half ironman this summer :-), and get LB to join me.   If anyone else wants to join us, we are thinking about Vichy on August 27th – the more the merrier.

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Is it possible to cough up a lung?

May 22, City Hotel St Polten, Austria

Well you can probably tell from the title….  the day didn’t pan out exactly as I hoped.   I was up at 4am, had my prescribed Ironman breakfast of bread and bananas, and got a taxi to the race area.   I borrowed a pump from a delightful Austrian girl, sorted out my tires and made sure my bottles were all sorted for my bike.   Wandered over to the swim prep area, got my wetsuit on to the waist (mostly because I was freezing) and found a cafe for a latte….  I was so organised, I was ready an hour before the race.   Everyone was super friendly and supportive, a random stranger wandered past and helped me hoick up my wetsuit.  Pretty soon we were all in the pens getting ready for the rolling start.   I had easily swum the distance in 43 minutes in training, so I assumed that was a reasonable estimate for the swim.  I made lots of friends in the pen, and feeling calm and zen, plunged into the water.

And thats when it all started going wrong.  The water was freezing and black.  Within about 10 meters I had sucked in what felt like a litre of water into my lungs.   I tried to swim freestyle but couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even get my head into the water let alone do normal strokes.   I tried to do a weird freestyle version with my head out of the water like a drowning puppy, but that didn’t work either, and I was coughing and spluttering like a wheezy old emphysema sufferer.    Well, I ended up doing a weird side stroke for the entire distance…. it was honestly the longest and toughest hour of my life…. punctuated by the swim officials paddling up to see if I was ok.  The swim was split across two lakes, and by the time I got out of the water in the first lake, I would have been happy never to have seen water again.   Darling Hubby was there when I got out of the first lake and ran with me to the second lake.  What a legend!!!  I wanted to die, I had to stop a couple of times to try and cough up my lungs (the coughing didn’t actually stop until mid afternoon).

With tenacity I didn’t know I possessed, I got into the second lake and kept swimming…. or at least approximating a swim….. another 1km of side stroke with a fantastic nonstop coughing symphony.  I was clearly in terrible shape, because in this lake the swim officials paddled next to me for all of the race, handing me off from one to the other.  They did ask if I wanted to stop, but I wanted to keep going.  I knew if I could just get on to the bike things would be better.   The agony finally ended as I stumbled out of the water.  Darling hubby has some video footage, but nobody needs to see that.   I summoned all the energy I had and ran to transition, worried that I was not going to make it under the cut off time for the swim (you only have an hour and 15 minutes to get out of the bike zone or you are out of the race).   I was pretty sure I was going to be too late as pretty much the entire field had passed me in the water.  A lovely Israeli girl helped me get my wetsuit off (this is much harder to do than you might think), and I geared up and sprinted to my bike.     A very scary looking Austrian lady stopped me taking my bike off the rack and said I was done.   The race director checked my time, and confirmed that I was just under two minutes over the cut off so I was out.

I am really bummed I didn’t get to go on, though I probably wouldn’t have turned in a stellar performance given my lack of training and the shape my shins and back were in.  I also felt incredibly guilty that I had dragged my Darling Hubby to Austria, shipped my bike, spent a lot of money, and all for a vile 1 hour and 15 minutes of coughing up my lungs in a freezing lake.   I am mostly trying to stay zen about it, and in my more grown up moments I am excited about the potential to overcome the lake demon and get in some more practice swims (oh yes – confession time – I had never swum in open water before the race, and only been in my wetsuit once in the tooting bec lido).    On the bright side, I was genuinely impressed with how wonderful the volunteers were, I wouldn’t have made it around the lake without them.  And, I am proud of myself for giving it a shot, and not quitting, although there were a couple of times in the lake where I did consider swimming up to the official boat and getting a ride back.

We did enjoy some of the day, we watched the first finishers come in, in some truly astounding times!  Then we wandered back to the hotel along the run course past some truly varied body shapes….. I am wildly impressed at the age and shape of some of my fellow competitors….. and some of the chubbier runners were doing times at least 40% faster than I would have ever been able to do.

Huge thanks to my darling hubby, who has my eternal gratitude for his support.  It wasn’t fun having to go back to the race later in the day to pick up my bike and hand in my timing chip surrounded by tired but elated finishers. It was even less fun going to dinner that night and being surrounded by people wearing their finishers medals.    My husband was an absolute darling and kept me company the whole time! and amused me by joking about the nobs.    Love ya babe!!!

Enormous, Scary Lycra Clad Aryans

May 21, City Hotel St Polten, Austria

My darling hubby/support crew extraordinaire and I are in gorgeous St Polten for the weekend.  Several months ago, when i was uninjured and feeling strong, I signed up for a half ironman…. thinking this would be a pretty easy race distance and good practice for the full ironman I intend to do at some point.  I have run, cycled and swum all the distances pretty easily in the past and within the cut off times.   Hmmmmm, feeling a whole lot less cocky now!  It has been six weeks since I injured my shin, and i have only run for 20 minutes in that time (two x ten minute runs in the last week), and only cycled a couple of times.   Worse, I seem to have developed a back problem so everything hurts – even walking hurts.   Oh well, I paid the money and it was non refundable, so i thought I may as well try and race.  And, my hardcore physio was ok with me giving it a bash…. in his words, ‘oh well, just gut it out and see what happens’.   I am oscillating between crapping my pants with fear and then trying to remind myself that it doesn’t matter – ideally I will finish, but if not, it aint the end of the world.   Think I managed to mostly hold it together today, except for a bout of overwhelming panic and awe as we went down to breakfast this morning –  we were surrounded by enormous lycra clad, ironman branded, bronzed, aryan looking germans and austrians!  f@ck me – they were giants!!!! with long rangy muscly legs!!!!  Holy crap on a crap stick, these folks are going to eat me up and spit me out.

The panic eventually abated enough for me to leave the hotel and go and figure out the registration process.   All signed up, collected the bike, sorted out the transition bags, dropped the bike, went to race briefing, went back to bike area as had forgotten to pick up timing chip………, hopefully everything is in the right bag.  If you have never raced a tri before,  be warned, there are epic amounts of kit that you need to have, and it all needs to be in the right place.  Oh, and don’t forget the lube!!!!!!      there are also too many rules for me to follow, so i am sticking to remember the drafting rules, and not too litter – as that is grounds for immediate disqualification.   Also trying to remind myself that as long as I finish, i will be the first woman from NZ to finish (I am the only one entered!!).   Am heading to bed now, stomach is stuffed full of carbs as have gone on a major carb loading effort today.  Fingers crossed I can get my wetsuit off easily tomorrow and I don’t miss any of the cut off times.  Oh, and fingers crossed I can figure out how to pee on the bike….. maybe just a quick google before I sleep to figure that out.  Alarm is set for 4.30 am 😃.