The night before the race was pretty low key. I went to bed early and went right to sleep. Woke up several times during the night, wondering if I had overslept. Finally got up, got all of our stuff together, and headed over to transition.
We got to transition about 30 minutes before the race start. Organized everything for the bike and the run, and took all my swim stuff to the beach. While I was pulling on my wetsuit, my wife and I saw Shirly Perly and her husband Dave - it was great to meet them in person. We all marveled at the Gulf, and hoped the swim would go OK.
The start was a wave start, and mine was one of the last waves. I stood and watched as each wave took off, wetsuits and swim caps bobbing up and over crashing waves in the surf. Finally my wave was called into the waiting area, and after 5 minutes we were off.
Getting through the breakers was difficult. I finally decided just to go under them as they broke. The water was cold as it seeped through my wetsuit. I finally got out far enough that I could start to actually swim. It was almost like we were swimming in a fog - there was just chaos, with a bunch of swimmers, all being swirled around in waves up and down.
It was very easy to lose your course - the only way to see the buoys was to look when I was at the peak of a wave. There was an overcast sky which dulled the color of the green and orange buoys against the horizon. I constantly had to spot, with the rough water tossing me around. The course was out 900 yds, over 200, then back in 900.
Right at about 1100 yards, as I turned the first inbound buoy, I decided to stop looking for buoys and just spot off of the resort back on the beach - it was much easier to see. As I put my face back in the water to swim, I saw immediately beneath me a fish that was about half my length. Now I know my goggles magnify somewhat, but it seemed close enough for me to reach out and touch it. I looked more closely at it to figure out what kind of fish it was. Hummm...bluish gray color, torpedo shape, dorsal fin, no scales. It was a very small shark, and it was hovering right under me. Strangely, I had no sense of fear or panic because it was so small. It swam below me maybe 20 or 30 seconds, then it was gone. It was actually a pretty cool experience. Once it was out of sight, I got back to the task of plugging away at getting back to shore.
I reached the second sand bar, walked across it, then swam the rest of the way in, trying to avoid being slammed by a breaker. I got back on shore, took off my wetsuit, and showered the salt water off in a run-through shower.
Final swim time was 49 minutes, which I was thrilled with, given the conditions.
I learned after the race was over that 38 year old Patrick Kane had died on the swim that morning. I'm still very disturbed by this fact, and very saddened for his family.