Steve and I drove up to Morgantown Saturday morning, a good 7 hour drive, and got in with plenty of time to check in the hotel, get our race packets and check our bikes into transistion. We even had dinner; all before 6 p.m. We decided to take a quick drive around the bike course and I'm glad we did. The roads are pretty bad out there and it was good to know ahead of time where some of the holes and mini mudslides were.
Woke up feeling alittle tired, made some strong hotel coffee and drank a good solid cup of it. I couldn't eat though. We'd had a pretty big dinner the day before and I just really wasn't hungry. Got a shower and my stuff together and off we went. I set up my little transistion space and then horrors!! did something to my swim goggles to cause some sort of permanent fog to the left lens. I ran over to Steve in a panic and luckily he was able to fix it so I could see. Sarah and Shane came in at about 7:30 a.m.; Sarah still trying to push us to take the flat pedals off her bike and put her clipless on at the last minute! On race day morning! Uhhh NO! Grabbed my wetsuit and headed out to watch Steve get in the water and warm up.
I wasn't happy with the idea of jumping off the dock and starting the swim in the water. I got no chance at all to get wet or warm up before my start. I also was a bit nervous at the idea that I had never swam further than about 650m in open water and this swim was 1,500m. Steve came back from warming up and was telling me something about a current on the way out that would make me feel like I was going really slow. Intuition told me that he was nervous for me. Maybe his intuition told him I was in for some trouble. His intuition was right.
Sarah and I started together because all the women started in one wave. She was so cute and excited not really at all nervous. That girl is unnaturally comfortable in the water. I on the other hand was feeling really constricted by my wetsuit. I felt like I could not breathe even when we were standing on the dock. We jumped in the water on command and the minute my head went under I started to feel a panicky feeling. 5..4..3..2..1 and off we went, well off they went, I was floundering almost right from the start. I could not seem to catch my breath, I was hyperventilating in a big way. I made it around the first bouy, about 100 m and then started to backstroke. The ladies were long gone. The last wave, men 50+ swam around me and around the bouy and they too were gone. The lone wheelchair athlete backstroked by me and I was all alone.
One of the lifeguard girls on a paddle board came over and asked if I was okay. I was hanging on to the bouy for dear life; I was not okay. I was quitting. I had decided I could not -absolutely could not do this. It was crazy to sign up for a race with a swim distance farther than I could comfortably go in the pool, let alone in open water. I couldn't put my face in the water without panicking and there was no way to doggy paddle the entire swim. I would quit, have a nice run and then cheer for the rest of my family, that's what I would do. I told the paddle board girl I thought I might not make it. She said 'there's no shame in having a bad day, if you have to quit then that's what you have to do, no one even has to know'. Okay, I told her, how about if I try again and then I'll decide. We had this same conversation about 4 more times over the next 25 minutes or so. That's about how long it took me to get down to the turn around point.
Somewhere along that way I decided to count my strokes. I decided that each time I got to 100 strokes I'd take a break. That's when I actually started making some progress. I was actually getting somewhere and I could tell I was getting somewhere which gave me confidence in the idea that I could maybe get all the way there if I just kept swimming. Every once in a while I'd get a face full of water and have to fight the panic again, but somewhere along the way 100 strokes became 200 strokes and the end was in sight. Of course I had to drag myself up on a dock with way too tired arms and there was not even a shadow of another swimmer by the time I got there but I made it!
Not a single bike left in transition when I got there. I thought about Steve's advice to treat this as a training day and don't stress and what Leslie told me, stay in the moment and deal with the task at hand. Got on my bike and got the hell out of there. Despite the rough course, the geese, the hills and the rain I had a great bike.
Off the bike before I knew it and out on the run. Unlike the second run in the duathlons I've done, this run felt great. I see that there are definite advantages to starting with a swim. I hardly felt the transition from bike to run, actually I love the transition from bike to run. I feel better on a run off the bike then I ever do on a run by itself; how weird is that? And I really did have a great run today. Of course it was slow, because I run slow maybe someday that will change but for today I ran my normal pace. But I felt really good and I was having fun!
I was dead last in my age group (an hour swim in an oly will do that to you), but Sarah took first in her age group! I was so proud of her and I'm quite sure she was pretty proud of herself.
I had fun despite the rough beginning. I've learned from the experience for sure. I need to work work work on my swimming and especially my open water swimming. Alittle strength training and flexibility work wouldn't hurt either.
Every time I do something like this it makes me admire my best friend and husband even more. I've seen him do two ironman mass starts, one an 'in the water' Kona start and he's just freaking amazing! He might be nervous, but he never shows it and he never lets it get to him. He's a wonderful inspiration and a great supporter too. Even when he's stressed about his own race, (did I mention he did the half and took second in his age group?) he will take the time to make sure my tires are pumped, my swim goggles clear and I have as much advice as he can think to give me. Thanks Wheezy! Just for being you!!