so Tina Maze’s home town name is Črna (black) na Koroškem, but after she won two medals on Olympic Games they changed it in 2x zlata (2x golden) na Koroškem (after first medal it was just Zlata (gold) na Koroškem). after her unbelievable season last year they changed it in Tina na Koroškem, and after Olympic Games in Vancouver 2010, Srebrna (silver) na Koroškem.
Every year on Catalina Island (for the last two, anyway) the whole trip there’s always one generally pervasive thing gnawing away at my mind: ”I CAN’T believe they are letting us do this”. Held on Cinco De Mayo weekend, the Catalina Island Classic gets it’s name from the legendary downhill and slalom skateboard races of the same name that took place on the other side of the island in the 70’s. There’s the customary day of practice riding and some sort of qualification thing. As i was just shooting (and partying) that weekend so we hopped on a late ferry on Saturday and got there just as the day’s runs were coming to a close.
The next morning I awoke with a broken phone and a generally positive disposition, all things considered, and got up to shoot the course after the requisite supplies had been foraged from town. The event is an invitational, making sure that only skaters with big name sponsors skate in the event, but also ensuring this is very few racer’s first rodeo. The shred level was high right out of the gate, with some of the skaters (Levi) even neglecting to put his hands down during a race heat. The course winds it’s way down a beautiful mile of mountain asphalt, with four sliding corners and a 40mph top speed, making it moderately slow by modern racing standards. Retirees would make their way into their robes and out of their timeshares, hop a golf cart (which are absurdly ubiquitous on the island - it’s got a 17 year waiting list to get your car out there) and buzz up to the race course to get a taste of the action, listen to Striker announce and maybe buy themselves a collapsible water bottle from a sponsor tent.
In short: I can’t believe they let us do this. A skateboard race. On Catalina Island: the Florida of the West; on Cinco De Mayo. Awesome.
Well, I got into the water and my first goal was to get on
the cable. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about it before, but Mirror Lake has a
nylon cable, roughly 5 feet below the water’s surface, that runs its length for
the boat races (buoys are tethered to it). It is also used for the Ironman swim
course and it seems like EVERYONE fights to get on it. Anyway, I found my way
to it and immediately noticed there were a bunch of people behind/to the left
of me who were flailing around/panicking. I steered clear of them but I found
myself in a position I’ve never been before… I WAS PASSING PEOPLE! I’ve never
been in the position of having to go around people, but now I see why people
get grabbed/kicked/punched/swam over. I consistently found myself at someone’s
feet, at the beginning of the swim, and with people at both sides of me. I
found my stroke and reassured myself that this swim was going to be different.
I kept stroke for stroke with the surrounding swimmers and, before I knew it,
we were already past the 2nd of the numbered swim buoys.
Side note, these buoys fight back. I want to say there were
16 numbered buoys, 8 yellow, 8 orange, and 3 red turn buoys. I swam into damn
near every one of them, similar to downhill ski slalom. I was hell bent on
staying on the cable, but these buoys were like honey badgers, they didn’t
I kept it moving, paying attention to my breathing, making
sure to extend fully and shoot myself forward on the pull, while keeping an eye
out for other swimmers. I kept watching the yellow buoys go by, and by buoy 6 I
realized I was still in a huge pack of swimmers. My initial thought was
“There’s no fucking way all of us will DNF the swim!” and kept moving. I
finally saw the first red turn buoy and avoided looking at my Garmin for my
split time. I knew I hit the first turn buoy in roughly 26 minutes during my
practice swim, so I had a goal. When I got to the turn, I cut it wide and
angled my watch upwards to see the split, 24 minutes! I was PUMPED! I put my
head back down, swam towards the second turn buoy (the swim is a narrow
rectangle), and hit the second turn at roughly 25 minutes. It was at this
point, barring absolute catastrophe, that I knew that I was going to put my 8
second fiasco behind me. But, this is where it got interesting. The faster
swimmers arrived. I felt like Mufasa getting stampeded by a heard of
wildebeests, except I ain’t no bitch. I moved a little to the right of the
cable, sighting backwards every once in a while to make sure one of these
hotshots didn’t try plowing over me. I got kicked in the nose once and twice in
the goggles, with the second time almost knocking them off. If the UFC
sponsored swimming, it’d be in Mirror Lake.
Along the way, though, something crazy transpired. I found
myself swimming stroke for stroke with Amy (@findingironman) for the majority of the return trip! Amidst the chaos,
I noticed someone with an odd swim stroke besides me and, after a few run-ins
with wildebeest, noticed the 989 on her swim cap! What are the chances?? I knew
it was her, and I felt like she knew it was me, but we couldn’t exactly stop
and talk, ya know, since we were both getting stampeded in an Ironman swim. It
was pretty cool. I lost her at a swim buoy, it looked like she went under it,
and didn’t see her after that.
I kept my line, staying close to the draft in the lake, and
pulled my way closer to the end of the first loop. I could hear Mike Reilly’s
voice bringing people in, and that brought back last year’s memory of the
finish. It empowered me. I could also see the dock with all of the spectators
and the final red turn buoy. I was feeling great. I made the final turn, fought
with a few more wildebeest, and stood up when I saw the sand close enough to my
face. I looked at my Garmin and was in shock, 55 FUCKING MINUTES! I did my
practice swim in almost 58 minutes, and that was with an in-water start and
only swimming to the outside of the dock! “Fucking ecstatic!” would be the
polite way to put my emotions at the time. I realized that I had 85 minutes to
swim another 1.2-mile lap, to make the swim cutoff, and knew I could do that
doing a goddamn doggy paddle.
I was going to do it.
I ran through the swim exit, made a right, and ran back
through the swim entrance for my second lap in the lake. To my surprise, they
had a water station in between Exit and Entrance, so I downed a couple cups of
water instead of drinking the “electrolyte enhanced” lake water. The second lap
started much calmer, since the wildebeests were heading for their bikes, so I
pretty much had my own lane for the majority of the second lap. I didn’t have
the benefit of the draft, but I also didn’t have to worry about getting
kicked/punched in the face or having my Garmin knocked off. I noticed a few
people in front of me, but we had a similar pace, so there was no need for
combat swimming. I paced myself well, swimming into every goddamn numbered
buoy, and found myself at the first red turn buoy again. I didn’t check my
watch this time, instead waiting for the second turn buoy. At that turn I swung
my arm up, saw 1:24 and realized I had 56 minutes to swim the last section in
order to make the swim cutoff. I got chills.
By this point, the sun was out, the fog was gone, and I was
on my way to finishing the Ironman swim. If it was possible, I felt strongest
on that final stretch. The numbered buoys were flying by (my sense of flying
might be skewed…), I was catching and passing people, and I could start to hear
Mike Reilly again. At this point I was
thinking about my finishing time.
Another side story: I had a 1-dollar bet going, the cost of the Irontrac App,
with a couple people. One stipulation centered on swimming slower than 2:05,
that was with Dan, one of my swim partners, and also with Lindsay, but that
stipulation was simply to make the swim cutoff. Seemed like everyone enjoyed
breaking my balls about the 1-dollar App! Spoiler alert, I kept my dollar bills!
I got to the final numbered buoy, saw the mini orange buoys
that guided people away from swimming into the dock, saw the scuba divers under
the dock giving people thumbs up, and pulled my way to the final red turn buoy.
This time I didn’t have a kayak escort. This time I didn’t have wrecked
shoulders. This time I wasn’t going to be the last person out of the water.
This time I was going to finish the fucking swim before the
I saw the sand, stood up, saw the swim finish arch, and looked
at my Garmin. It read 1:55!! TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES AHEAD OF THE CUTOFF! A
TWENTY-FIVE MINUTE PERSONAL BEST! Explaining the feeling of making the cutoff
isn’t easy, but it’s probably up there with riding a Unicorn. I was officially
going to make it to the next stage of an Ironman!
I exited the water through the swim exit, turned to the left
to see two photographers and a line of volunteers forming a funnel down the
carpet, all of them cheering for me! I ran right through them with no idea that
they were the wetsuit strippers. Whoops. I was entirely too in the zone. I made
my way out of the beach, and as I approached the turn to transition I heard
loud screaming coming from the crowd. It was my family and friends! The only
thing that stuck out to me was my sister, Jess, and her obnoxious screaming and
It honestly made my day.
Adrenaline was pumping through me and it just carried me
through to T1. My energy was off the charts. I had just swum for longer time
than a few of my half-marathons, and I was like a spring chicken out of the
water. I didn’t have to run, but it was the only thing that felt right. I was
done with the swim. DONE.
Now it was time to get changed and tackle the meat of the
day. The 112 mile bike ride. So, off to T1 I went.