IMMD Race Report: Pre-Race and Swim

“Sara Lilley, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” is my new favorite quote and now one of my favorite memories.  Ironman Maryland was last Saturday and despite all my worries about not finishing, I found the beautiful red carpet finish line in time.  I decided to cut my race report into 3 separate blogs, one for each part of the race. Since I’m sticking to my “one and done” mentality about a full Ironman I know that my race report is going to be long because I want to remember every little detail about my race.


We arrived in Maryland on Thursday and spent the two days leading up to the race doing athlete check in, first timers clinic, dropping of bike and gear bags, a practice swim with jellyfish, and trying to avoid cromiting (when you’re so nervous you can’t decide if you are going to cry, vomit, or both). At athlete check-in, every athlete gets 5 different gear bags (bike, run, special needs bike, special needs run, and morning clothes). I checked and doubled checked my bags so many times before I dropped them off. My favorite bag was my bike special needs bag that had a HUGE bag of chips and Mountain Dew that would be waiting for me when I reached mile 62 on the bike. Each athlete also received a letter from a local student in the public school system. It was so fun reading the letters from the kids! Each athlete who was trying to complete their first Ironman was given an orange wristband that said, “I will BECOME ONE, class of 2019” to wear during the race. I loved being able to identify other first timers.

Race Morning:

The morning of the race I was awake well before my alarm (which was set for 4am) because I didn’t sleep at all the night before. I was so nervous that I was wide awake all night. Transition was open from 5-6:30am, so the plan was to be in transition when it opened to have plenty of time to get ready. An hour and a half seems like a lot of time to finish getting ready, but there is a lot that has to be done the morning of. Nutrition has to be added to gear bags, both special needs bags and morning clothes bags must be dropped off (in 3 separate locations), body marking, pumping bike tires, and trying not to cromit made the 90 minutes fly by.


The swim was a self-seeding start which means everyone lines up based on their estimated swim time. I had done the 2.4 mile swim in the pool in about 1:50, so I lined up with the 2 hour crowd. The first athlete entered the water at 6:40 the last athlete entered at 7:02. I started the swim at 7:00, so I was really close to the back and there were only a handful of swimmers behind me. The beginning of the swim was shallow, so everyone was walking/running/jumping in the water until the first turn buoy. Shortly after I started swimming I realized I had seeded myself too slowly because I was actually passing people (I was passing people in the swim?! What?!)

I had two realizations during the swim:

  • An Ironman swim feels more like roller derby in the water. I’d been told open water swimming was a contact sport, but had never experienced that until this race. My biggest race leading up to IMMD, was Ironman 70.3 in New Orleans which only had about 1,000 people. IMMD had around 2,100 people at the start. I got grabbed and hit so many times during this swim.
  • The jellyfish were EVERYWHERE. It was impossible to avoid them. Every few strokes it felt like my hand was running through tall grass. Every inch of exposed skin (with the exception of my face thankfully) got zapped. One sting was so sharp I picked my arm out of the water because I was convinced I was bleeding. There was vinegar waiting in the transition area to help with the pain from the stings, but I don’t think it helped much. I even used Safe Sea lotion as a precaution against the jellyfish that obviously didn’t work.

This swim was a two loop course and the time limit was an hour and ten minutes for the first lap and two hours and twenty minutes for the entire swim. My goal for this entire race was simply to finish, so when I finished the first lap (44:19) well under cut off time I was thrilled. It took me 1:32 for the entire swim. I have never swam this fast! When I got out of the water I was SO EXCITED! I came out of the water giggling to myself because I couldn’t believe I swam so fast and giddy because my time with the jellyfish was over!

Stay tuned for IMMD Race Report #2

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