Raleigh 70.3, Part I: THE SWIM

On Sunday, June 4, I completed my first (because there will be more) Half Ironman. 1.2 mile swim. 56 mile bike ride. 13.1 mile run.

Being my first IM, there’s a lot to process, especially as I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the race due to my hip injury. I am thrilled beyond all words that I finished and probably most proud of the fact that I have (as of yet) to get the IM tattoo splattered across, you know, my face.

 There is not one picture of me coming out of the water smiling. Not one. 

There is not one picture of me coming out of the water smiling. Not one. 


Let’s talk water. Even before race day, I was very, very, very, VERY nervous about the swim. It’s my weakest sport and—once I thought I was out of the race because of the microfracture in my hip—I slacked off on my swim training. I only decided to do the race a couple of weeks before the event and swung into panic mode. I did an OWS (open water swim) clinic in a local lake and realized I didn’t know how to sight. I made the last minute decision to rent a wet suit for which I remain eternally grateful.

I’ve done a lot of races over the years and have never panicked at the start line—until now. I was fighting back tears about an hour before the start because I didn’t think I’d be allowed to wear my wetsuit. The water temperature was over wetsuit legal, meaning if you wore one you wouldn’t be eligible for an age-group award. I had no plans on winning any awards, so that didn’t bother me. But then a misinformed volunteer told me that wetsuits weren’t going to be allowed—period. And I freaked. “I don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can do it.” That’s what I heard coming out of my mouth even though I know better than to sink into negative self-talk before a race. “Trust the training” is my usual fallback but I knew my training wasn’t as strong as it should have been so I just felt lost. More than that, I felt a loss of control which, for anyone who knows me, well… let’s just leave it at that.

Fortunately, I found a friend from the OWS clinic who had brought his wetsuit, and as we changed into them we attracted more people with westsuits who approached us with distinct looks of relief on their face, saying, “I’m so happy to see you! I thought I was the only one.” A good reminder that you will always find your people.

 I settled into the swim and was going great. “1-2-3-BREATHE, 1-2-3—BREATHE.” Then I noticed a kayak in my left peripheral vision. I pulled up short and the volunteer leaned down. “Ma’am, you’re headed out to deep sea.”

I looked back across the lake and the buoys were waaaaay the hell to my right. How ‘bout that. I laughed instead of panicked and swam back. Given all my back and forth and up and down, I’m positive I swam at least 1.5 miles versus 1.2.

When I was halfway through the swim, a feeling of fierceness swept through me. “I am going to finish this race.”  Injured or healthy, the swim was always going to be my biggest hurdle. I was slow, but I was doing it.

Goal #1: Don't drown. Check. 

On to the bike. Stay tuned.