Thursday, August 1, 2013

At Least I TRI-ed -OR- That time I saw a leg while swimming in the river...

A month ago I set out to complete an olympic distance triathlon with two goals in mind.
1. Have fun
2. Don't die

It was much easier to have fun than it was to not die.

Before the race I got interviewed by a news reporter about my strategy for beating the heat (a forecasted high of 108). That was little embarrassing, since I didn't really have a heat busting strategy.

SWIM ~ .9 miles
I did my warm up swim across the river, which left me dizzy and disoriented before the race even started. I was really dreading the swim part because I've heard horror stories about how you get kicked, hit, and pushed under. Sure enough, as soon as my wave started there was some man swimming diagonally into me, other people kicking me, and other people smacking me. I didn't like that. I slowed down. Partly because getting kicked is unpleasant, but mostly because the current in the river was anything but "negligible" like they said it would be.

I made many rookie mistakes. Mainly, I wore Adam's wetsuit which filled with water, adding at least 10 extra pounds. I quickly fell several (hundred) yards behind everyone else. The water safety patrol kept checking on me to make sure I was ok. I kept telling them, "I'm fine. I've got lots of endurance, just no speed."

One of the spooky things about swimming in the river is that you see things float by underneath you. Most of it was plant life, but I'm sure there were also fish (I'd seen them the day before). What really surprised me was when I saw a leg. 

A human leg. 
Floating right under me. 

It's hard to panic in the water and not drown, so I quickly looked up. That was when I noticed the body that the leg was still attached to. The live body, that was apparently swimming even slower than me.

A few wasp bites to the neck and 1 hour 40 minutes later, I finally was done with the swim.

BIKE ~ 40K (24.8 miles)
The bike part wasn't too bad. It was four laps on mostly flat road. Because of my swim, I was the last person on the bike course. Towards the end one of the cops got on his megaphone and cheered me on. "Go 668! Last place! You got this!" 

The support crew was all surprised that every time I rode by I was smiling and thanked them. I'm sure it wasn't easy waiting for the slow poke in 100 degree weather. Also, I was really happy that I hadn't crashed and knocked all my teeth out.

RUN ~ 10K (6.2 miles)
When people say it only takes a few minutes to get your land legs back after cycling, they lie. It took almost the whole first mile before my legs felt solid again. I knew I wasn't doing too bad because there were still a lot of people heading in when I was on my way out. At mile 3, I was probably a mile or so behind the next few people. I kept going. The trail ranger kept checking on me. The aid station people kept pouring water on me and putting ice down my shirt and dousing me with sunscreen. They were awesome. They were also relieved to have me pass by because that meant they were done for the day. I caught up to someone in the last quarter mile. She asked if I wanted to cross the finish line together. She said she was going to wait for me and was impressed that I managed to catch up. We crossed the finish line together, the last ones to finish the race. Then, race officials came over to give us our awards. She finished first in her age group (60+). I finished 4th in mine. There were 5 people in my age group who started the race. Apparently only 4 of us finished it.

Even though I thought I came in dead last, I actually beat someone! My bike time was faster than 2 other people, and my run was faster than 10 others. With all three events combined, I ended up ahead of the lady I crossed the finish line with.

Will I do another triathlon? Yes, as long as it is a sprint distance. This one was harder than running a marathon.

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