Today, I completed my second triathlon! I wish I could say I felt great about it, but I am totally disappointed. As much as I would like to think that I didn’t have delusions of grandeur, that is really not true. I was totally delusional this time around. See, I have been doing very well with my swimming and that was my biggest challenge the last time. Before that first triathlon, I hadn’t really ever done more than a couple hundred yards. I knew I could not swim that distance. Lately, I have done up to a thousand yards. My comfort level in the water went from a zero to at least a seven. I really enjoy swimming now. (Side note, the book “Mental Training for Peak Performance” is a great help. I clearly need to read it again though.) Anyway, I was feeling very confident in my swim. If I had to sum up what I needed to do differently this time, it would have been to be able to swim the distance. I didn’t have any issues with the goopy water, or the seaweed or rocks. Heck, I have been swimming with my eyes shut, so that it being dark wouldn’t freak me out. It was the distance, and the distance alone, so why wouldn’t I be confident? I’m never one to say it out loud, but in my mind, I was feeling a little cocky. That is, until the night before the Turkey Tri….
I haven’t been feeling well, I have had a cold for about a week that has been getting better, and then slams me in a vicious cycle. Last night, I wasn’t even looking forward to the triathlon. My internal confidence was completely gone. I felt very apprehensive, scared even. I tried to tell myself how I trained really well for swimming and that was my only challenge, but that little voice inside knew that I wouldn’t buy it. I have had some challenging weeks the last couple weeks, been a bit lazy in my training and certainly not great with nutrition. Though I have improved and enjoy it now, I haven’t been going to the pool like I should either. I started to feel this sense of dread, but couldn’t really put my finger on it. I chalked it up to nerves and packed my bag. I was in a horrible mood, just totally not feeling it. I didn’t even want to go. I started to question why I was even doing this. It would be much easier to just eat junk, watch tv and gain a couple pounds. Heck, no one ever really thought I was that fat to begin with, so why not? I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. I went to bed early and just hoped I would wake up with a new perspective. The night was rough, I barely slept and never once felt good about what I was doing. Maybe it really is time to quit, I thought.
I woke up feeling just as lousy as when I went to bed, but got up and had some coffee. I haven’t been having caffeine so I hoped the jolt would do me some good. I had a snack, finished making my drink bottles for my bike and got dressed to go. I was feeling a little better but still really apprehensive. I did not want go, but how do I tell Darin I just wasted the money because I’m “just not feeling it today?” I decided to put on my big girl pants and keep moving forward. We were on our way to the triathlon and I almost asked Darin to pull over so I could use a restroom. My stomach was in knots, and it wasn’t the coffee. We got the venue and I set up my transition area. I was there later than last time, so I didn’t have the best spot but I made due. I headed to the restroom one last time and went to get body marked. When I was walking there, I heard the announcer say that the race was wetsuit legal and the water was about 75 degrees. I wanted to cry right then and there. I have a wetsuit, but I did not for a moment guess the water would have been cold enough for it. Then I started to think about the time my sister in law came over when we got the house. We had no heater in the pool but wanted to swim so badly, we jumped in. It was like torture to me, it was about 75 degrees. I do not do well with the cold. I love it, when I can bundle up, but I get cold very easy. I also have an issue where, if I get too cold, my body starts taking the blood supply from my fingers and toes to keep my core warm. Weird, I know but something that doesn’t affect me too often being in Florida. So, no wetsuit and 75 degrees. It was about 67 outside and I was cold as it was, but was going to have to make due. Again, I wanted to quit and I hadn’t even started.
We walked over to the swim start, and Darin reached into the water. He asked if I wanted to touch it. I said no, because I knew if it felt too cold, I’d quit before I even started. I may be guilty of a self fulfilling prophecy but it went downhill from there. The buzzer went and we started off. I began with proper form and tow seconds later, popped my head out of the water. It was cold, really cold. I kept telling myself to put my head in and swim. I tried again but couldn’t exhale out of my nose properly. My sinuses were clogged again. I popped my head out again and tried to breath. I was almost at the first buoy and I grabbed ahold of the surfboard the lifeguard was on. He asked if I was ok, and I said “not really, I can’t feel my feet”. He told me he knew I could do it and to just rest a minute, to take deep breaths….through my nose. I chuckled to myself because I would have loved nothing more than to breathe through my nose at the time. It felt like an eternity, holding on. I looked back at the shore and could see my boys and friend that I have known for about 16 years and her kids standing on the shore. I couldn’t really see their facial expressions, but I knew they were concerned. I wanted to cry right on that surfboard. I said “I think I need to quit” to the lifeguard, and he said “no, you don’t… just swim to the next surfboard. You can do that, I know it.” I thanked him and slightly miffed that he wouldn’t help me quit, I swam for the next lifeguard. I struggled the entire time, but finally got to her. She too was very kind. She told me to stop kicking completely and relax my legs. I told her I thought I needed to quit, that I was too cold and couldn’t feel my feet or fingers. She asked if I wanted her to help me over to the shoreline, where I could stand and pointed out that there was a man taking the shoreline and kind of swimming on and off. “Isn’t that cheating? Do they allow that?,” I asked. She said that they wouldn’t disqualify me, and that it’s my race to do it as I would like. I sat there for a minute. I started to feel so sorry for myself, my pity party was in full force. My feet and fingers numb, deciding between quitting completely, cheating a bit and moving forward. Then I pictured all different outcomes. Sorry family and friends, I was just too cold. I am sick, I have a bad cold you know. How they would be ok with it and support me no matter what. Then, that one little voice, that wonderful voice in my head that was hiding all this time said something to help me decide. “There is a guy in this triathlon, that has no hands at all” is what it said. How dare I say that I cannot finish?
I pulled myself together, thanked the lifeguard and left the safe haven that was the surfboard. I headed off again and again, freaked out and could not keep my head in the water. Well, on my back it is, I thought. From the moment I decided that quitting wasn’t in the cards, I accepted my fate and moved forward. I kept the buildings in the corner of my eye so I knew where I was headed and started at the clouds. I decided to start naming everything I was thankful for. My amazing family. My friends, those that woke the crack of dawn and those that wanted to be there but could not. The list grew, and I was sure to include my fingers and feet, though I could not feel them at the time. I got a rhythm going and finally made it past the second buoy and to the shoreline where I could now see the concern hiding behind the smiles and cheers. I couldn’t stand at first, I was dizzy and shivering from head to numb toe. I shook it off as best I could and headed into transition. I could hear D2 ask if I was ok, and I said yes and gave him a fist bump. I could tell he was concerned. The worst was over, but I still really wanted to just get warm and go home.
I got transitioned and hoped that after a bit on the bike, I would regain the feeling in my feet. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the feeling in my toes back until the run. The bike went fairly well, even though it was cold I was much warmer on land. There were a couple over zealous jerks that passed on turns, which freaked me out. A nice crash would certainly cap off the horrible day so far, I thought. Then I snapped out of it, no more pity party, think positive. Switching my mindset was easier as I passed my group, hearing them cheer my name was great. Hearing them just as excited for me, no matter what the time and telling me I could do it was all I needed. I was happy that I didn’t quit and part of me wanted to push really hard to make up the time, but I had no idea what my time even was. I was having such a hard time on the swim, that I never transitioned on my Garmin. I decided to turn it off and just try to pace myself so I knew I would finish. I knew at that point that there was no way I was beating my time from the first race, this would be about survival.
I finished the bike and transitioned to the run. It was nice to start the run with dry feet this time. I learned from the last one to ensure I had dry feet for the run. Eventually they were soaked again as I didn’t fully dry off since it wasn’t that sunny out, but it wasn’t until the very end that I noticed. I passed my friends and family twice on the run, just as I did on the bike, and heard them cheer my name. Each pass made me smile bigger and bigger, the cheers and the thought of being closer to the finish was sinking in. I feel like I paced really well on the run. I walked a few steps when getting water but other than that I held steady. I sped up a bit at the end as I knew I could and crossed the finish line at 1:42. As much as I wasn’t caring about time, I was pleased it wasn’t longer. I assumed it was a good half hour longer or more than my last, but in reality it was about 10-15 minutes longer. All in the swim, I was sure.
I got my medal and grabbed some orange slices and water and was greeted by those same smiles, this time with hugs, congratulating me and telling me how proud they were of me. I wanted to cry, just like last time, but in a totally different way. Last time, I was filled with such pride and accomplishment and appreciation that all my work finally paid off. This time I was upset. I felt like congratulations were not in order, this time, I felt like a failure. I didn’t think they would understand, and didn’t want them to keep trying to make me feel better, so I just let it go. I wanted to get changed, and get some breakfast. We had a great time at breakfast, and I ate like pancakes were going out of style. I started to feel better with every story, every laugh and every thought of how appreciative I was of the people I was with in that moment. I didn’t have time to think about the failures of the day, this was a celebration.
I have never had such a bad experience at any kind of race. Considering how many I have done, I am very lucky. I always read about races and bad experiences, but even my worst had never felt all that bad, until today. I’m so glad that my first triathlon was challenging but a great experience. If this were my first, I don’t know that there would have ever been a second. I’m also glad that I had to sign up for the next one before this one, or I might not have signed up. Each time I do this, I learn something. I learned so much this time around. I learned that while I wish it went better, I am still really proud that I didn’t quit. I had several excuses that people would have accepted as reasons, but I didn’t. As Han Solo says and I learned, “Don’t get cocky, kid.” I learned to appreciate even more, the difference between pool swimming and open water swimming. I learned that when I have a cold, I don’t do well with the swim. I learned to bring my wetsuit if there is any remote chance the water could be cool enough. I know now, that sometimes you have to have a bad experience to truly appreciate the good ones. This was a very humbling experience, and the kick in the pants I needed. I start my new training plan tomorrow, for a distance about twice what I struggled with today, but I start knowing that I have the time and drive to make that race even better than the first. I start knowing, that it is SoPossible’!!