Race Morning – Arrived at the special needs check in at 5:05 am. – A special thanks to Cari Biehl – (Bill’s wife) for waking up early and dropping us off right in front. Bill and I proceeded into the transition area to work on our bikes (fill bottles, air tires, etc). The temperature was about 42 degrees with a stiff wind of about 15mph…….it was cold. At about 6:15 the sun was rising and it helped with the temperatures a bit, but not much, regardless it was time to lose the winter coat, gloves, shoes, sweats and get the wet suit on. At 6:30, the transition area was closing and they were calling for all athletes to go to the beach. Barry, Bill, Gretchen and I all met up before the walk to the beach and took some last pictures. Gretchen pealed off to find her fan club, so the three amigos proceeded to the beach. Right off the bat we found Bill’s posse. He said his good byes then we continued. Somehow in all of the mass we found Team Kinner (man was that nice to see) I gave everyone hugs/kisses and continued into the start gate. Right by the entrance, we found Barry’s mom and dad…he said his good buys, took a few more group pictures and we entered the “arena”. The swim course is a two loop swim with a beach start. Straight out to sea about ½ mile, a 90 degree turn with about a 200m parallel path to the beach to the second 90 degree turn and back to the beach – like swimming around a large triangle (two times). Once we were in the start coral, the three of us tried to find a strategic start place. We decided it would be better to start on the inside of the buoys and then merge into traffic at the turn around mark. Right before the start, I separate from Bill trying to move closer to the front of the pack….looking back, this was not a good move. The 100 pro field was allowed to start 10 minutes before the age groupers, so, at 6:50, the pro gun went off…..about 100 yards out we were all surprised to see the pros battling the surf. It did not look so big before, but now it was looking bigger and bigger.
At 7:00 sharp, the start gun went off and the race was on! As one big mass all 2,300 of us moved into the water and started to battle the surf and each other for position. Somehow I got stuck in a large mass of people all the way out to the first turn buoy. There was quite a bit of pushing and shoving going on, but not as bad as what waited ahead. Everyone bunched up at the first turn buoy and it got very combative. After making the left turn there were three elements fighting the competitors (sun in the eyes, waves, and the mass of people). The swim from the first turn buoy to the second was the roughest swimming I have ever done. At one point I swam up a wave and then took a stroke on the back side but my hand never touched the water due to the size of the wave. People were pulling and grabbing my ankles. My goggles were knocked off and I was getting frustrated. I made the second left turn and headed back towards the beach but tried to stay wide to avoid the mass. Eventually I made it to the beach and over the half way timing mat. I remember looking at my watch and seeing 33 minutes and thinking, “About a minute or so slower than I wanted but good considering the conditions.” Headed back out for lap number two and had a fairly open path to the first turn buoy, but then, as sure as graffiti on a NY city subway car, the melee started again at the buoy. Once again the swim from the first turn to the second was brutal. People were actually grabbing my ankle to push up on me to see over the waves. Made it to the second turn then headed for home. Once again I went wide to avoid the mass but this turned out to be a
major error. About 300m from the beach I got stuck in a rip current. I was swimming as fast and strong as I could but made very little progress. It was frustrating looking down at the sand and seeing it move by so slow