I signed up for what was to be my first triathlon back in November during a Black Friday deal. The triathlon was to take place in June and consist of a 1/2 mile swim. Early June I knew that I would not be ready and emailed the race organization and asked if I could change my registration to a similar race but one that takes part in September. They allowed me to do this.
The race took place on September 6th, Square Lake Triathlon – Short Course. Even though this was not much longer than my first triathlon the 1/2 mile swim still intimidated me. How much? A month prior to the triathlon I decided not do it. I was OK with this. It allowed me to celebrate the completion of the triathlon that I finished in July and focus on becoming a better swimmer rather than just a swimmer that can swim further.
Then I was laying in bed the Wednesday before the race having issues with the fact that I was quitting. I may not always succeed at things but I don’t quit things. So I woke up Thursday morning and informed my wife that I was doing the triathlon. I could see the concern in her eyes but she knew that I was determined and supported me.
Saturday morning arrived, I packed up like I usually do and hit the road. There was one very important thing not in the van with me this morning, my family. This was the first race that I have done where we decided the kids wouldn’t join me. We had a busy weekend scheduled and with my daughter just going into her second week of school and my son starting preschool on Monday we decided that the sleep was more important.
So I arrived, got my number, got marked, finalized my transition area, and walked down to the lake. Second thoughts immediately started to fill my head when I saw how far out the buoys were.
As I was lining up for the race my thoughts were filled with doubt. Up until I hit the water I continued to wonder if I should just disappear into the background and become a spectator. In the end, would finishing a race really prove anything? My heat took off and into the water I went. With my head games going on I immediately had troubles and couldn’t get into a freestyle zone. I pretty much went right into the breast stroke and soon after the back stroke. I was only about 150 yards into the swim. I knew that it was going to be a long swim at this point. I also knew that I had time because there were some 6 or 7 heats behind me.
At the half-way point I came across another fellow back-stroker and we shared a couple of encouraging words. I am now half-way done, have fogged up goggles, and swimming into the sun. I heard one of the life-guards yell that I was way off course and they helped direct me on the right track.
Still on my back I am now starting to get tired and feel my body sinking further and further into the water. The waves were starting to roll over my head as I continue. Suddenly I notice it getting harder and harder to breathe. At a time I started to wonder if I could unzip my wetsuit to loosen things up to help me breathe. At this time I knew it was more than just being tired. I think that I realized that I was slowly starting to panic. Remembering my promise to my wife that if there was any risk to my health that I would take the appropriate precautions, “life guard, LIFE GUARD, I need a break over here.” He quickly rowed over and threw me a floaty. I sat there for a minute or two and off I went. As I fluttered away he yelled, are you sure you are OK. I yelled back and reassured him. After all I only had about 150 yards to go.
Trying to stay parallel to the buoys I was keeping my eye out at the swimmers swimming next to me. I had my eye on one guy that kept lifting his head to view, more often than normal, and thought to myself – we have to be close. Suddenly I see him stand up and I wanted to sing for joy. But then I started to wonder, what if I have a drop-off or this guy is like 7 feet tall so I make a few more strokes and attempt to stand up with success. My nightmare is over. I get out having the 4th slowest time in the water out of nearly 300 swimmers.
Nothing too much to report on the bike. It took me about 4 miles to get my head in the game and get over what just happened in the water. Then I tried to simply enjoy the scenic bike through the country roads of Minnesota.
As I approached the last transition I felt a slight need to use the urinal. I have never needed to use the urinal during a race so I started to talk myself out of it. As you run out of transition you run right next to the port-a- potties. They pulled me in and I am so glad they did. Once I got in there my bladder was about to explode and I had one of those epic 40 second peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees. Not good for my transition time but happy I didn’t have to hold all of that in for the 5 mile run that was ahead.
I probably passed about 15 people on the run, mostly on the hills. I have been doing 1 to 2 hill workouts each week so my hill running is in tip-top shape.
I finished the race and even though I was happy to be done I did not have the same feeling that I had at the first triathlon that I did this summer. If this would have been my first triathlon I can promise you that it would have been my first and last. Thankfully it wasn’t, and I am looking forward to doing them next year. One thing that I will not budge on though is that I will only do triathlons with swims of 1/4 mile or shorter.
1/2 mile swim – 30:19 or pace of 3:27
T1 – 2:54
16.5 mile bike – 1:09:42 or 15.5 mph pace
T2 – 1:29 (not bad considering my pit stop)
5 mile run – 45:18 or 9:04 pace
Total – 2:29:40
I could sit here and beat myself up over the performance, but I will not. I could be mad about how little I have progressed over the years, but I wont. What I got out of this experience was perspective, simply perspective.
Next up is a duathlon relay – I will be doing the running and thank goodness there will be no swimming.