It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. It was. The first couple of flashes, you thought, “was that lightening?” The next couple you thought you saw the bottom of a wall cloud, and you said it out loud. “Was that lightening?”
It was lightening.
I had visions of my A race being rained out, just like my first ever triathlon. After all this training. After coming all this way. After all that expense. Yet, was a part of me hoping that I could avoid the effort of the day?
Iron Scott, multiple ironman finisher who served as our driver and valet for the weekend, drove us in the SUV toward Buffalo Springs Lake. In our group was Tri-Trish, (Iron Scott’s girlfriend) who will be racing Ironman Florida this year, The Cajun Tri-Chica, who will also be racing Ironman Florida as well as representing the USA in international competition to be held in Australia (more on her later), and M&M, the Iron-Chica who will race Ironman Western Australia. Traveling separately but joining us for race and the food was Cajun Mike, multiple Ironman finisher. What was I doing in this group? That was not the last time that day that I asked that question.
A line of triathlete automobiles snaked into the park, slowly inching forward as race time approached. Exiting the cars, we were hit with a face full of blown dust on a cold wind. 20+ mph northerly cold wind, when the weather forecast called for 10-13 mph easterly winds.
“Well, that’s festive.”
Silhouettes of triathletes all over the bluff were quickly parking their cars and wheeling their bicycles toward the transition area, buffeted by blinding clouds of dust. Transition is down a 7.5% grade--the same grade you will have to bike up from a dead stop after your swim.
Because of the traffic, I was somewhat frantic in setting up my transition area. As always, I met some really great people, but there is something very different about an Ironman sanctioned Kona Qualifier as opposed to your local Oly distance event. There are few if any pudgy age groupers waddling around transition. A large percentage are justice league super hero types, especially where the 35-39 year old men rack their bikes. They all looked 8 feet tall and ripped. I am 5’ 4", a hobbit, “a mere child to your eyes.” What am I doing here?
Nevertheless, the announcer kept reminding us how little time remained before the start. So Frodo donned his hobbit-sized wetsuit and skittled down to the beach for the start. I got a chance to do a little warm-up swim, then it was time for the pros. Off with the gun went the porpoises, Luke Bell, Michael Lovato, Andrea Fischer, Natasha Badmann, Simon Lessing . . . .
What am I doing here?
A mere two waves later it is my turn. So, I placed myself at the back of the justice league super heroes and started to swim. The first 200 yards were actually pretty good, but, apparently some of the justice league was having a bad day. I actually caught someone and jammed my fingertips right into the side of his arse. (All together now, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”)
So I am now in the midst of the crowd and freaking out. I am taking a face full of water from the chop on every other stroke, goggles jostled, water in the eyes. But in retrospect, I recognize that I am more worried about being in the way of the terrific athletes I had seen on the beach. I know I can solve my own swim problems and finish, but I don’t want to ruin the day for anyone who is actually racing to race.
I don’t think we should have left the Shire, Pip.
Get it together. Grab a kayak, cough, fix your goggles, and more importantly, fix your head. Find some open water, relax and count your strokes. 20 and site. 20 and site. 20 and site. I am ready to be out of the water, but being impatient will not avoid the effort required. I make a conscious decision not to look more than one buoy ahead. They eventually fall behind until it is time to turn.
So I make the turn. 20 and site.
Where am I? I am 25 yards past the buoys now, drifting further and further every time I site. 12 and sight. 10 and sight. 8 and sight. Fighting my way back to the second turn buoy.
Finally, I’m on the back stretch, but drifting wide toward the shore here. Don’t get impatient. The race does not get shorter just because you are ready to be done. But now the justice league members from the next wave are mixing it in with me and the rest of the pathetic brethren from my own wave. Zig zag to the open water, but then the justice league members from the NEXT wave are starting to mix it up. I manage to keep going, although I instinctively freeze every time I feel someone near for fear of kicking Superman or Wonder Woman in the face.
I’m a very courteous hobbit.
I make the third left hand turn and suddenly realize that I even don’t know where the swim exit is. GUH! Do I have a fourth left turn and then back to the beach or do I swim toward the shore? I think on this through two or three more cycles of stroke and site, and only then realize that I am less than 100 yards from the exit ramp straight in front of me.
I am so glad to be hauled from the water, but there are no wetsuit strippers for me. I look around . . .
Behind me, three or four volunteers are pulling an athlete from the water who has no legs. He just swam the same distance I did. The same water. The same crowd. No legs.
Wow. That is justice league. I’ll go on my two good legs and find my bike now.