Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Am a Rhode Warrior, The Swim

As a Skirt Sports Ambassador, we were asked to write about our most real race experience.  Mine happened August 2014 when I finished the Rhode Warrior Half Iron Distance Triathlon.  I overcame my fear of the water, killed some major hills on the bike, and fought the worst demons, ever, on my run.  But thorough all that, I finished and would do it again. #REALwomenmove and this proves that you don't have to be perfect to get it done.  I would love to hear about your most real race experience either in the comments or my FB page.  

I'm not really sure how to start this recap. My head has been spinning since I finished Sunday. Such a long day and so much to remember.

I guess first, I should say that in January, I did not know how to swim. The thought of putting my face in the water terrified me.  When I won the free entry to the Rhode Warrior Half Iron Distance Tri, my first thought was, "Yeah, right, you got to be kidding."  But once I told Mr. RWM, his first response was, "You can do it."  Just like that, said it like it was nothing, but I knew he was sincere. He was sure that if I wanted to do this, then I would and he would support me 100%.  That right there was all I needed and I took on the challenge.

(For those of you who don't know, I won the entry by entering a contest that named the race.)

First thing on the agenda, was learn how to swim.  I have a friend, who is a fantastic swimmer and also taught swimming at the Y, give me some pointers to get me started.  I am pretty sure it took me a full ten minutes to put my face in the water and even when I did, I started to swim with my head up.  This did not feel good at all, but it was a start.

Then I signed up for swim lessons and right before they started, I strained a muscle in my arm.  I ended up in the ER and then PT for six weeks.  You got to be kidding me, no swimming for six weeks.  My first thought was, "My race is over."  It wasn't.  I worked hard to get back in the water, keeping up with running and biking.  When I got back in the water, there was no time to mess around. I needed to figure this breathing thing out and stay focused. I had my lessons and headed into my first tri and I loved it!

Something really clicked after that race. I got in the pool a few days later and had one of the best swims of my life. It just got better from there.

Training continued going well from there until the summer hit and the kids got out of school.  Right off the bat, I had sitter issues and then my son got sick.  We didn't know what was wrong with him and he kept getting worse. Turns out it was Lyme Disease and he is fine now, but for a few weeks it was scary.  Things didn't get much better after that, he got hurt a few times, ended up in the ER once and was rescued by a life guard at the beach.  The scariest moment to date!  My nerves were shot  and I didn't want to leave the house for fear of one of the kids getting hurt again. This race was quickly approaching and at this point, I am not even sure how many workouts I missed. I was feeling bad and even a little depressed. It was hard to pull out of but once I did, I got back on track pretty quickly.  Time was lost though and you just can't make that up.

I did the best I could. I signed up for a race clinic which was swim the Rhode Warrior course followed by a bike ride on the course.  The swim was excellent, the bike ride, not so much. It was tough for me to shake but it wasn't the first time I biked the course. For some reason, that bad ride stuck with me until race morning.

Ok, so the night before the race, there was a talk at the race site about what to expect race day. Mr. RWM came with me, and then we had dinner with Beth who was biking it as part of a relay team.  Her swimmer joined us and it was a really nice time.

I was relatively calm for most of the day.  I had been a lunatic for the two weeks leading up to this race and I guess I just realized, I did all I could do and nothing can change it. It was here and I was showing up no matter what. My parents also came into town to see me and I was thrilled they were here to support me.

My alarm went off at 4 am.  I ate my normal breakfast but really had to force it down.  Mr. RWM drove me and was staying for the swim.

I headed into the transition area, got my number written on me, and found my spot.  I set everything up and started to look for my friends.  Again, I was pretty calm.  I was happy to see everyone.

I am surrounded by awesomeness here.  In fact, the lovely lady with the 3 on her arm placed third overall!

I got my wetsuit on and then we all walked the mile down the beach to the swim start. So happy it wasn't the other way around!  The walk seemed to go on forever.  My nerves started to kick in and looking back to where the last buoy was, made my stomach do flips.  I swam the distance in training but it was intimidating looking out at the ocean and seeing how long it looked that morning.  It's all mental but still scary none the less.

We were swimming with the current but it didn't seem as strong as it was the last time I swam here.  When it was my time for my wave to line up, I got in the back.  I knew it would take me longer than most people so no need to get run over.

There was one girl next to me who was also lining up in the back. It was just the two of us and everyone else in front.

Once we hit the water, I started to think, "I can't believe I am here!"  "I can't believe I am doing this."
I decided to take the swim in pieces which basically was first buoy, second buoy and final buoy.  I did notice the girl who lined up with me was swimming right next to me.  Cool, I will stick with her as long as I can.

Got to the first buoy and turned right, Oh God, it is looks so far!  The current was not as strong but I knew I could do it. I just started to swim.

I started out a little rocky and kept looking around me.  The Coast Guard was out there, people in kayaks and paddle boards.  I knew I would be safe.  I stayed with the girl from the start but she started to pull ahead.  I kept her in my site and just followed.  I felt like I was in the water for a long time but didn't want to look at my watch. I promised myself it would be ok to look once I hit the second buoy.  Before I hit it, the kayaker that was near me said I was doing good.  She pretty much stayed with me until the end.  I was sure there weren't too many people behind me, if any.

I got to the second buoy and swam a little before looking at my watch, twenty minutes.  Soon after that, Beth's swimmer, Tanya caught up to me. She asked me if I wanted her to swim with me a bit but I said I was fine.  I was. I actually felt really good here. I was swimming without any problems.  I could see the last buoy and I just swam.  Before I knew it, I was there.  The kayaker who was with me told me, "good job", and I thanked her for sticking by me.  Once I turned, and headed to shore there was man on a paddle board next to me.  He said I was drifting to the left and to try and swim to the right bit.  I did that and he stayed with me until I was out of the water.  I didn't need help or anything like that, I was fine but do appreciate the people that were looking out for me.

It didn't take long to spot Mr. RWM who was smiling and taking pictures. I was pretty much in shock that the swim was over and I did it!  The swim was the scary part, the thing I thought I would never be able to do and here I was, coming out of the ocean after swimming 1.2 miles!

I thought I was last coming out of the water, but there were a couple bikes still on the racks so yay for that!  The swim took me 44:14.  Leading up to this race, I was sure it would take me an hour.  I think I am most proud of this leg of the race.  I basically went to can't swim and a fear of my face in the water in January, to 1.2 miles in August.  I got over my fear and an injury and swam my heart out.  I felt fantastic coming out of the water and I think my smile shows it.

In transition, I got my wet suit off. I sat down and rinsed off my right foot and then put a sock on my left. Yes, you read that right, I put the sock on the foot that was not rinsed.  I should of taken the time to fix that, but I didn't. I just put the second sock on the right foot and put on my bike shoes.  I grabbed my inhaler and fuel, put my helmet on and headed out.  T1, 3:09.

Mr. RWM was right there taking pics of me and wishing me a good ride.

You can read about the bike here and the swim here.

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole


  1. So. Much. Awesomeness! You are an incredible inspiration! I'm so glad this went so well for you and so very impressed! You can do anything!

  2. So awesome! You did great!!!

    I can't wait for part 2! :)

  3. Wow - incredible to go from never swimming to the half ironman distance! Very inspiring. Cheers!

  4. Great Job Nicole!!! So inspiring!!! You rock and I knew you could do this. I love Mr RWM for saying "You can do it" I can hear him saying exactly that too! The smile on your face in the pictures tells the story. You did it! You came from a non-swimmer to a 1/2 ironman swimmer!!!! I can't even find the right words I'm blathering... So proud of you!!