The Swim – Froth, Speedos and Bulging Eyeballs

Posted on August 13, 2011. Filed under: baby, farky, ironman, ironman regensburg, race report, race review, Referee, regensburg, Rory, run, swim, triathlon, wetsuit |

I am not totally a control freak but I do prefer if people would just do what I tell them to.  So, with more than a little pleasure we were all sitting in the car outside the apartment by 515am as requested.  The satnav was programmed for Neutrabling and off we set to find the 5000 space car park that I had failed to spot the day before.  Probably the key difference that made it easier was that at 530 there was pretty much a traffic jam on the autobahn in one direction and there were now Ironman motorway signs up so we just followed the crowd.

530am, half a bottle of sunscreen and then it rains….

As soon as we parked I jumped out, grabbed my wetsuit and made my way to the shuttle bus.  Upon seeing that there were about 20 people in the queue already my patience snapped and my need to keep moving overwhelmed me so I decided just to walk to the lake.  With 140.6 miles to cover, what difference was another mile and a bit going to make?  And then after a few minutes the heavens opened.

T1 was pretty chaotic as people grabbed the giant plastic bike bags and put them over their heads and passed them over the fence to their Sherpas; so being a newbie I did the same thing.  I guess as it was hosing down people started putting on their wetsuits before 6 am so, being a newbie, I did the same thing.  They were also doing stuff with their transition bags but that is where my imitation had to end as I’d already forgotten what had been explained at length at the race briefing.  I found some friendly nearby Pirates – Happy Chap, Toucs and Ironwolf – and they pointed me in the right direction. Clothes for after into the lorry, blue bag next to the bike and chuck your wetsuit in when you finish – simples.

I was by now soaked to the skin and the flaws in my plan were starting to become more apparent.  With economy of packing in mind I had only brought one pair of shorts so at the end of the race I was going to be slipping into some sodden shorts. And to make that a little more uncomfortable after 112miles on a bike and 26.2miles running I had forgotten my undies. And I had forgotten to pack a towel so showering was going to be interesting. And worst of all, I had launched my White bag into the lorry with some gusto, walked back to my bike and then pondered why I still had my flip-flops on.  This meant that after the race I was going to be wearing my trainers until I eventually got to bed. Mmmmmm, going commando in cold, wet shorts with the same shoes I had run a marathon in and no massage because I would be absolutely stinking and salt encrusted as I’d had no shower.  With hindsight, the finish didn’t look like the nirvana it once had so may explain why I spent so many hours loitering out on the course rather than just getting finished.

I’m just about the middle in a black suit and blue hat

The swim warm up was really calm justas the sun was rising.  The rain had eased, the air was really still and there was a general hush across the millpond as the mist lay low on the water. With 10minutes to go we were pulled out of the water, did a bit of hand clapping, Mexican waving and mumbled along to the German national anthem.  Out of 2100 rubber suited characters I found myself next to one of the Pirates – Wild Will – who gave me the best advice I got all day – “Don’t take anything personally in the swim”. Given my short fuse that was very sage advice as time and time again my patience was tested.

Did this pair not get the dress code email?

Bizarrely, I had expected the start to be an emotional experience but I found I actually became very calm and task focussed and through the whole day never really thought much further than the next milestone and never thought about the finish until I was about 3k to go in the last lap.  Eventually, we got the one minute to go signal and I knew that the start was now at any point in the next 60 seconds.  After what seemed like an eternity I saw the lead canoeist instruct his brood to get themselves the heck out of Dodge, the signal went and the maelstrom began.  After about 3 paces into the water, the bottom disappeared and we were swimming.  Well, swimming after a fashion – the water was white, there were feet, hands, heads everywhere and the punches and kicks rained down.  After about 20 strokes I found myself in about 8 meters of clear water and breathed easy.  After about another 10 strokes my dream of a simple swim in my own wee bubble was shattered when all hell seemed to collide right on top of me.  And at that point had someone offered me a way out of the water and back to my bed I would have grasped it with both hands.

Swimmer Soup

The first length was 1k down to a giant yellow Powerbar bottle on the far beach and I can safely say that through the fists, feet, splashing and darkness I didn’t see it until I was right on it.  Other than the general stramash the first length was un-noteworthy, however, at the turn things got interesting again as the field converged. By this point I had gathered my nerve and my old water polo instincts came into play and I gave as good as I got with sharp elbows and pointy toes.  I was swimming stroke for stroke at the same pace as a chap in a red suit (I don’t think he was Santa so he has some fashion questions that need to be answered) who had an absolute aversion to swimming straight.  One minute he would be next to me, the next he would be right across my face.  As getting way from him was the only solution I took a very long route to the outside of the field for the first return up the lake.  At this point something quite awful happened.  I literally came face to face with a pair of speedos and a hairy, beer enhanced belly.  I might as well have spotted Jaws underwater for the speed that my face recoiled and popped back above the surface.  I resisted the temptation to barf, again swam away from the offending obstacle and carried on.  Only later on the bike did I again come in contact with the speedos.

Pam and Rory are brave for the camera

The next turn was uneventful, however, for 5 or 6 minutes I presumed I had to be leading the race as I couldn’t see anyone else. Then it turned out that we were swimming in a channel that was about 50metres wide and I was at the wrong side of it. So completely disregarding Pythagoras (and I did actually think about it given the loneliness of long distance swimming) I swam diagonally for pretty much the whole length adding a huge amount of distance in the process and eventually finding all of the swimmers that were beating me who I had momentarily lost. The good thing about the extra distance was that it delayed the final turn.  This turned out, for some reason, to be where the roughest boys and girls played.  Normally I breathe every 4th stroke unless I need a breath sooner for any reason so when I took a punch square on the right goggle lens, I breathed on the very next stroke and by complete chance took another punch. After 4 punches I stopped believing in coincidences and I stuck my head under the water and kicked like I was being chased by the speedo man to get out of trouble.  It worked – I was out of trouble – however, my right eye was now squished right into my goggle lens and it was more than a little uncomfortable. So with great reluctance I stopped for a second to release my Marty Feldman eye and then got back on my way.


I honestly had no concept of pace given the general physicality of the swim. I had given Pam and the Farkies an anticipated time of 1:15 to 1:20 primarily because every swim I have done this year was exactly on 1:15 pace. As I exited the water I was cramping a little in my feet and stumbled on the beach but I could see the Pirate Orca just getting her wetsuit off her shoulders a few metres ahead. I had problems with my Garmin all day and when I looked down and saw 1:06 I assumed it was just another problem. I only got confirmation from Pam out on the run that it had been 1:06. It is safe to say that I was delighted with the time and if I had got the amount of training time that I should have in the water in advance I am confident I could go well under the hour.  The sherpas it seems were less impressed with my speedy swim as they almost missed me – bless them.

T1 was less of a blur than usual for me and completely out of character I actually managed to find my bike on my own. I had had a long run out of the water which meant that I would have a short run with the bike. This was good as I run with a bike in hand with as much elegance as a cow walking downstairs.  I passed my Sherpa shouting party now armed with cowbells on the way out of T1 and then it was time to face the bike. Like it or not I was now clad just in a helmet and sleeveless Lycra for the next 180km.

Thanks to Sherpa Les Farky for the photography.



Sleepless Night


The Longest Day

One Guy, 5 Stone, Two and a Half Years and Two Races

The Swim – Froth, Speedos and Bulging Eyeballs

The Bike – Rain, Rain, Hill, Rain, Rain, Hill, Ouch

The Run – 42.2km of Hanging In There

The Aftermath



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