At 855am, I snuck back into the transition area and tossed my fleece, beanie, and flip flops with the rest of my gear. I had to be careful to avoid getting in the way of athletes already well on their way, running into T1 from the swim while stripping off their wetsuits. I rushed out through a gap between them. I could smell the wet asphalt. The slap of their bare feet was somehow loud even with the screaming of the crowd. I shivered with anticipation. In less than an hour, that would be ME!
I joined the crowd of athletes milling around on the boat ramp. Safety in numbers--I made sure I was surrounded by athletes with the same color swim cap as me. No way I could miss the start then. I found the other girls from my team in my wave: Emily, Nami, and Paige (an honoree). I thanked Paige for coming out and training and racing with us, and told her how much I admired her for doing so.
An air horn blast cut through the air as a wave of men ahead of us rushed into the water for their start. Waves go every 5 minutes at Wildflower, so you have to get your swim warm-up in stolen, 5 minute intervals before they clear the water for the next start.
I took advantage of this window, and waded out into the water on the boat ramp. I stretched my race cap over my head and put on my goggles. The pavement was rough under my feet. The water was cold, but nothing compared to Stevens Creek Reservoir. I stroked out 20 or 30 yards and took care to let water in the top of my wetsuit. Eeeeek. Cold. I steadied my breathing and adjusted my goggles. They seemed watertight, so I went ahead and swam another 50-60 yards, focusing on gliding. The water in my mouth tasted almost tropical, full of life. There was a lot of algae in the lake this year. I didn't mind; I grew up learning to swim in lakes.
I felt strong. I love to swim. I am a beginner cyclist, and an okay runner, but I feel comfortable saying that I am one hell of a swimmer. I felt light and strong and buoyant. My chest was full of tight anticipation. I was bursting out of my skin, wanting to get started and mix it up!
I swam back in to the ramp and waded back out. Tri wetsuits are so weird--I can never quite get used to the sensation of water dumping out the legs when you stand up straight on land after a swim. I giggled and found my teammates again. The announcers cleared the water and started another wave with the blast of the airhorn.
I repeated the warmup cycle for the next wave or two.
914am. The announcer shouted to clear the water. There was music blasting in the background from the grandstand above the chute. I positioned myself to the left of the pack, hlafway between the front and the back. My mind slowed to a crawl. I thought, "Strong and serene...Slow is smooth, smooth is fast...softly, softly..." The crowd was whipped into a frenzy, counting down with the announcer. "Five, four, three, two, one, GO!" The airhorn shrieks again, and this time it is for me!