Friday, March 02, 2007

The Plunge

So, I've been watching some videos of Ironman swim starts. I can already tell that's going to be a big gremlin. Probably the one that poses the biggest threat.

Gremlins aren't a huge concern on the bike. They just aren't all that fast. I've completed some pretty challenging rides in my life, and know I'll be able to train for anything IM The Ville has to throw at me. Well, if they ever actually figure out what the course might look like. The most recent response I got was, "Soon." Not bad considering the previous response was "just after the New Year."

Gremlins generally leave me alone when it comes to running. They know how little concern I have for setting any kind of records and understand that I've lived with them for a long time. Going into Ironman, I have fairly low expectations for my marathon time, and feel comfortable with my ability to run in even the worst of situations.

The swim is another story. The gremlins know this is my weak area. They know it is the area in which I have the least experience. And they know all the right buttons to push.

What they seem to forget is that training, racing, and (most importantly) planning are effective at smooshing gremlins. The challenge is finding 2500 people to go out swimming so I can practice an Ironman swim start. Hopefully some of the smaller races will enable me to get a feel for this. My current plan is to start all my races right in the middle of the pack. If anything can prepare me for the IM start, that would be it.

Gremlins can be nasty little buggers. Their entire existence is aimed at ruining our day. The entire time we are preparing for a race, they are preparing, as well. We train our bodies, and they make us question our health. We gain experience and they try to convince us we are too green to succeed. We increase our distances and times in training, and they remind us that we still have to put it all together on race day.

But gremlins are weak. They only have as much power as we give them. Most importantly, no gremlin will ever be an Ironman. They can't go the distance. So always remember, any gremlin that shows up is only there for the short term. Put on a burst of speed or focus on your motivational mantra (you have one of those, right?) and they'll give up.

You are stronger than any gremlin. Even if it's a gremlin with a fixation on the swim start. If he likes the water so much, ask him to join you on your swim. Then splash water in his face or dunk him underwater. He'll get the message.

16 comments:

TJ said...

better get rid of those gremlins before you get in the water...they multiply when they get wet.
my view may change before race day, but my current strategy for the swim start at imfl will be to start in the back and avoid the carnage.

Faithful Soles said...

As a marathoner about to venture into the world of ultras with my first 50 miler later this year, and then into half-Ironman and full Ironman in 2008, I found your blog very informative and inspirational. If you get a chance, please visit my running web site, Faithful Soles. I have a categorized and searchable Running Blog Database on there and would appreciate it if you would link your blog to it. I have a number of other ultra-runners and Ironman participants who have linked and would love to have yours included. Thanks.

Nancy Toby said...

At IMFL the swim start was what I feared the most, but since I was in the BOP and stayed there it was a TOTAL NON-ISSUE. Everybody just spread out and was polite and took their time. You've got all day, why rush?

It was SO MUCH BETTER than I ever expected it to be. All that worry for nothing!

It might be a little different for those up in the MOP, though - I wouldn't know!!!

hak said...

While I have a history of getting spanked on the bike and run, I am fairly decent in the water. I owe whatever success I've had in the swim to 70% technique, 30% confidence and 0% natural athletic ability (as I have none).

I can't offer any advice on technique, but would suggest drown proofing as an exercise to consider to boost confidence in the blender that is the opening minutes of a mass swim start.

Seriously...

hak

Triteacher said...

I think you're already on the path to beating the gremlin just by naming it. I can't tell you how many times I drew upon my visualizations of "calm, cool, collected me" during IMWI 2006. Go get 'em!

Spokane Al said...

I think I have the same concerns about the swim start that you do. Each time I race it seems like it takes way to long before I can actually begin to suck in enough air to be comfortable.

Deb said...

Very funny.... I've never actually seen one..but I know they're there!

Bigun said...

Just get your wife to follow along side you in a boat and then have B-boy bash you with a oar for a couple miles - he'll have a blast, and you'll get used to fighting off the gremlins...

Duane said...

Just like the Wes Hobson video, that get's my vote http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3S0wu4Zbfk

Anonymous said...

Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? You can pretend to be anyone you want and wax philosophically with know real knowledge base to draw from. Pretty cool, too bad every once in a while, for even the best pr3etenders, real life must kick in from time to time.

Iron Benny said...

Hey Pol, I was really worried about the swim start too when IMAZ was approaching last year. For some reasons, that was what my nerves focused on. I felt there were a lot of unknowns during the swim, mostly due to the crowds. However, I was surprised to see that there really wasn't anything to be concerned about. Sure, there are tons of people. But if you are patient, it won't bother you too much. For me, it was like the first 300 yards of a smaller race, for the entire distance. It seemed like there were people all around me for the duration of the swim. However, there was plenty of room to maneuver. The start will be a bit crazy, but it will pass. You've been through it before, to a smaller degree. It's no different, except it lasts longer. Anyway, I hope this helps. Granted, I only have one IM to speak of, but from one swim start worrier to another, I hope this helps.
Benny

SkiRough said...

I was thinking more of an accidental elbow to the face during the mass start... :)

tarheeltri said...

You should also consider finding a triathlon in a river. The current is going to be more of a factor than it would in the ocean or a lake.

However, I'm sticking to my guns here. Position yourself on the inside and let all the fast swimmers go ahead. Then just swim on their heels.

TriSoloist said...

Good luck! See you in KY!

Rural Girl said...

For me the big gremlin is the UNKNOWN. How bad will it hurt? Will my gut seize up? Will WI produce the first blizzard in September or a sweltering heat wave? You know, little things like that!

Robyn & Rachel said...

The swim gremlins plague me too -- so thanks for this great post! Like you, I KNOW that I can just KEEP GOING on the bike and the run ...but the swim gremlins actively pursue me! Training = gremlin repelent in my book! - Robyn