Ironman Austin 70.3 Part IV – Scarier than JAWS

Swim Goal: 40 mins; Actual: 40:46

Calm before the storm...

We all make mistakes in races. Most are small. Sometimes – not often – we make mistakes that severely affect or even end our race. But identifying mistakes is a necessary part of the learning process and, I believe, essential to becoming a better racer. Of course, that’s assuming we learn from them. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that you made a mistake, but it’s better to do that than to put a bad race down to bad luck. Blaming the weather or the course doesn’t make sense…the conditions are the same for everyone.

And if you think that only rookies make mistakes, think again. My teammate Wayne, an experienced triathlete, admitted to putting his left shoe on the right pedal and vice versa at one of his recent races. You can be assured he learned from that one and double-checked his shoes the next time!

What was my mistake at Austin? You guess. Here’s a picture of my teammate Marisa just before we entered the water. I am standing next to her.

Marisa in between the Wolfanger shirts

And here we are in the water, somewhere near the front, with 175 people behind us:

Considering that I’m a midpack swimmer, and came out of the swim 43rd in my age group, standing at the front of a swim wave of 200 women was an aggressive astonishingly dumb move. And not just at the front, but center, too. This was not a conscious decision. I – and my two teammates, apparently – just wasn’t thinking. When we got in the water for the start there was just one row in front of us. And because we were in the center, when the gun went off, we got slammed from swimmers on both sides and behind. I couldn’t move right or left, just forward. I was pushed completely under the water, hit in the head, back, feet, everywhere. I swallowed a gallon of water and almost panicked. I had to talk to myself to get through it. It was the scariest open water start I’ve ever been in, and ever want to be in. Someone hit my heel so hard it hurt for half the 1.2 mile swim.

After the first bouy things started to calm down. I moved to the right to stay clear of the fray, and took the two turns wide, which I don’t think hurt my time as I was able to swim freely, while closer to the bouy it was a washing machine frenzy. My swim actually started to feel good and I was able to forget the horrific start. The swim was a triangle, and on the last leg I started thinking, “Why am I hungry?” Then I realized the pain in my stomach wasn’t hunger, but a cramp.

I swam through a bit of hydrilla close to shore but kept swimming until I hit sand and then stood up and started running up the hill. I had heard there would be wetsuit strippers and, as I started pulling my suit off I saw an available stripper and signaled to her. She told me to sit down and then she just yanked my suit off in a second. It was totally awesome and I recommend having a stripper remove your suit if they have them at your next race. Much easier than trying to do it yourself, especially if you’re like me and don’t practice often ever.

Out of the water...prior to getting stripped

So I survived the swim, and actually met my time goal. The start wasn’t pretty, but I felt good for most of it. Little did I know how a mistake I made at the start of the race was going to come back to haunt me later on…




  1. This is very exciting. I think you’re on to something here, I think all race reports should be done in this fashion.

    I did the same thing (started front middle at Luray) and learned from it. It was awful! It was my first Olympic/Open water race and I will never start middle of the pack again!. At Coeur d’Alene I let everybody go for about 30 seconds. That was a crazy swim, 2500 people all starting at once. Although, I have to say the youtube video makes it look worse than it was. At least for me.


  1. […] My plan was to stay at the back anyway, as I had no interested in getting pummeled like I did at Austin…and that was in an all-female wave. I’ve heard men are […]

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