Friday night, I went to bed, nervous and excited. I woke up at about 6:40 AM and started to move my gear out to the van. After Wendy got some things together for the girls (Roxie and Reagan), we drove up to the triathlon.
We were a little late getting there, so I scrambled to set up my transition area. The transition spaces were so close together, that I couldn’t see a place to put my bike. I started to stress out, walking my bike up and down the designated isle, trying to figure out what I should do. I finally squeezed into a very small space and put down my towel underneath my bike, along with my transition bag.
There, I pulled on my wetsuit over my legs and up around my waist and ran down to the starting point. I found Wendy and the girls and kissed them good-bye. It was then that I realized that I’d missed the start of the Olympic wave (my wave). I pushed passed all of the yellow caps, who were about to start the sprint and made my way quickly to the water’s edge. Not knowing what else to do, I jumped into the water and started swimming- alone.
The shock of the cold from the water instantly triggered my asthma. It sort of startled me. I’ve only been swimming for about 3 months. Generally, I’ve been swimming in a pretty controlled environment. The Lehi Legacy Center has luke-warm water and lots of ways to survive (ropes to hang on to, people to dive in after me, and the ability to stand in most of the pool.) Here I was cold and my stroke looked something like a zebra flailing underneath a crocodile as it rolls its prey to death. Pretty much almost exactly like that. I tried to concentrate, to get my stroke back. Instead, I’d swim for about 5 seconds, look up, realize that I’d spun 90 degrees this way or that way and correct. It was a waste of energy, not at all how I’d practiced, and must have added about 87 miles onto my swim. I hated the whole thing. I was approached by several people in canoes who asked me if I was drowning. They actually used words like “Keep it up, buddy” or “You’re doing great”, but I knew what they meant.
When I exited the water (part of me wants to go back to the previous paragraph and further describe the misery of the swim, but I think I got my point across), I couldn’t even run. I felt like an idiot, but I had to walk. Every time I wanted to run, my body rebelled and forced me back into a walk. I finally managed to sort of trot over to my transition area. I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only one in transition. Apparently, my competition (they did not return the favor when describing me) were was long gone, probably already having finished the whole race, into tomorrow morning, brushing their stupid tomorrow teeth. I was a little grumpy.
Somehow I remembered to put my helmet on before leaving the first transition (you will get penalized or disqualified or lashings or something, if you don’t). I clicked my feet into the pedals and started biking. I have only had one real solid bike ride, since buying this bike (since my LDS mission 14 years ago, really). Within half of a mile of my ride, I realized that I’d left my Garmin back at the transition. It was too late and I pressed forward, with no way to tell how fast I was going or how long this leg would take.
There were long stretches of hot asphalt and there were hills. The sides of the road were littered with the carcasses of several bikers who had been relegated to fixing a flat tire or adjusting their spandex. I pressed on, taking long drinks of Gatorade and still trying to get my asthma under control. I practiced staying “in the drops” of my handlebars when going downhill and tried to not stand up too much when biking uphill.
At the 10 mile mark, I was happy to follow the signs that told me to turn around. There was a point in the return back, when I got going downhill so fast, that I couldn’t stop. I was genuinely frightened and tried to figure out how many times my body would roll if I were to somehow become dislodged from my bike. Everyone passed me. I have a lot to learn about biking.
When I reached my transition area, again, I made sure to grab my Garmin and have it start searching for satellites while I changed into my running shoes. I had only experienced one other practice transition from bike to run. It wasn’t pretty then and it wasn’t pretty now. I sort of limped and hobbled until my legs realized what was expected of them. Eventually (withing about a 1/2 mile), I found a pace and started running. I drank at every aid station and pushed my way back up those same hills I’d been biking. When I reached the three-mile mark, I decided that I was going to make it. Even if I had to walk the entire rest of thew way, I’d be ok. It turned out that I didn’t have to. I ran most of the way, only walking for about a minute at a time to get some of my energy back.
At about mile five, I could see the tent tops of the transition area (now my finish line). It was inspiring and helped me to push through the fatigue and pain that had crept into my legs and arms over the course of three difficult events.
The last one-eighth of a mile of this race was the hardest, because it just goes straight up. My legs burning, I passed two more people before I saw Wendy, Reagan and Roxie yelling for me. It was a welcome sight. I crossed the finish, they stripped me of the timing chip around my ankle and replaced it with a finisher’s medal around my neck. Common courtesy for other finishing racers dictates that you sort of move out of the way, so I walked until I found a little space where I could put my hands on my knees and try to catch my breath.
Almost as soon as I stood back up and looked around, I realized that in some strange way, I had actually enjoyed myself.