I guess I should give a detailed recap of my first triathlon, the Hammerhead Olympic Triathlon, or HOT2015.
The short version:
I got there on time, the swim absolutely SUCKED, transitions went great, the bike was surprisingly fun, felt stiff during the run but it wasn't warm at all and did about as well as I thought I would. Overall time was much worse than I hoped due to the sucky swim, but there's always next year.
I stayed at my aunt's house Saturday night. My uncle is the one who did triathlons a few years ago, including two full Ironman races in four months. He was out of town, and kinda bummed he wouldn't be able to come with me. My aunt/cousin were planning on driving down to watch. But had a nice relaxing evening. I had gone on a date with a guy named Josh I met at contra dancing the week before, and he was super sweet and awesome. He told me his mom was doing the race too and he and some of his family were going to be there, but later on for just the race. I was rather buzzed from the high of it.
Also from the rather large coffee I had had earlier. Didn't sleep the greatest, and kept having weird dreams like biking on a tight-rope or having to set up in a super packed, muddy transition area.
Woke up right at 5:30, loaded my gear, cut up my apple and bagel, headed out. The only people on the quiet country road were people with bikes loaded on the back, which was definitely fun. Got on base at Camp Blanding, followed the signs to the race area. And caught my first glimpse of the lake, and got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. So....big. Gulped down my fears, parked, unloaded my bike, pumped up the tires, etc. Walked to the transition area, and got body marked. I've been waiting for that for a looooong time, I was oddly excited about it. Got my bike hung up on the rack, arranged my gear and hoped it would work smoothly when it came time for the actual transition, because I was an idiot and didn't practice that beforehand. I reviewed everything mentally several times, and felt confident it would all work well. Hung everything i could think of on my bike so it'd be super easy (I hoped).
Transition area closed at 7:15, and the announcer gathered everyone for race instructions. As soon as I left the transition area I spotted Josh, and omg I was SO glad he was there. My aunt/cousin tried to get on base, but apparently spectators had to be added to a list beforehand which no one informed me of, so they weren't allowed on. It would have really really sucked to have known no one there. But Josh ditched his family to hang out with me the entire time, as it was at least an hour before my wave started and I was a bundle of nerves. That yellow bouy looked waaaaaay too far out, I was freaking out quite a bit. He was being very encouraging and tried to make me laugh, and gave some great advice: Don't drown during the swim, don't crash on the bike, don't stop on the run. Words to live by.
I took a dip in the lake, which felt great, and tried not to think about swimming far out where I couldn't see the bottom. I finally headed over to the start area, stood there freaking out, then turned around and he was right there again. <3 Seriously could have hugged the guy. My wave was last, all the people doing the olympic distance went first, then the sprint guys. The horn sounded, and suddenly we were off =O
The first.....25 meters went great. I was swimming away, could see people, felt fine. Looked up to keep an eye on the bouy, and I was too far right. Tried to swim back towards it, and suddenly almost all of the people were way ahead of me and I was STILL off course! Somehow that just FREAKED ME THE HECK OUT. I'd start hyperventilating and flip onto my back, but it was ridiculously hard to flip back over and start swimming again. I grabbed onto the lifeguards surfboard less than a 1/3 of the way through, panicking and freaking out. Eventually made it to the first bouy, somehow. Then had to swim straight across to the second, and it looked SO far away. Cue more freaking out. I flipped onto my back and tried a modified backstroke that I did in the pool all the time, but I kept getting way off course. The lifeguard people mentioned later on they thought I was swimming back for shore, I was so far off! So then when I'd flip over to make sure I was going the right way, and saw that I was way off, it would completely disorient and freak me out all over again. Seriously, it was one panic attack after another, I couldn't swim more than 5 or 6 strokes. I tried counting to 30, repeating a song, all things that worked in the pool and normal running, but no go. Just too panicked.
About halfway through I was one of the last people still in the water. Rather embarrassing, actually, I'm not used to being last. But it was actually good, as the lifeguards could give me more one-on-one attention! I finally was panicking enough that one of them, Susan, paddled over to me and let me hang on for a few minutes. She asked my name, calmed me down, told me I was over halfway through. That still seemed insurmountable. All of that, and still only halfway?! But she said she would stay near me so I wouldn't get so off course again. And there's the second bouy, still far but almost there. It was either swim or get boated back to shore, which was NOT happening. Even to my panicked brain that just wasn't going to happen. I was going to finish that darned swim, DANG IT.
Finally, a few more panic attacks later, I made it to the second bouy. And now it was back to shore, still so freaking far away. Hung onto the board for a minute again, seriously don't know what I would have done without them. Susan left to help another swimmer (at least I wasn't the last!), but another guy stayed near me. I was still flipping over on my back quite often, when he said what saved the rest of the swim: "You are making really good, strong progress when you swim normally, try not to flip on your back and you won't get off course." Somehow that made me feel a lot better. It was also a lot easier to sight off the swim exit sign and dock, so I took off again. Still had to stop and tread water/hang onto the surfboard once or twice in the 250m back, but mentally I was much calmer. I started counting again, 1-30, look up to make sure I was still on course, count 1-30, look up. Finally, FINALLY there was the exit. Sand between my toes, clear water. Oh my GOSH I was DONE. The most terrified 40+ minutes I have had in my entire life, but I was DONE.
Ran up the little incline, and Josh was still there, bless him. Threw him a "that was the worst thing I have ever done" as I ran past lol. Jogged on surprisingly wobbly legs to the transition area, where the speedy olympic guys were starting to come in to rack their bikes and start their freaking RUN. Ugh. Transition went really really well, actually. I was afraid my feet would be nasty and sandy but there was carpet down so they were fine, thankfully. Yanked my socks/shoes on, pulled on my bike shorts and wear blue tank, helmet on (forgot to take my swim cap off), race belt with my number, and off I went!
The bike part was really, REALLY fun. The sun was out but it wasn't hot at all, and except for a few hills it was pretty flat. Biking down the hills, with the wind whistling past my ears was simply fantastic. I did drop my water bottle going over a rough patch in the road, ugh. But I passed a few people, got passed by some speedy people on nice road/tri bikes, had one lady tell me I should probably take my swim cap off so my head could breathe, which, DUH. Managed to work it mostly off and felt oh so much cooler. Seriously, WHY did I not take it off before?? It would have taken 2 seconds. But came flying back into the transition area (waved to Josh again hehe), racked my bike, threw off my helmet and darned swim cap, and took off again. Took maybe a minute.
Of course the first half mile was dead legs. Managed to run a .3 of a mile, and did a walk/run till about .75 where the course curved. From there I could see the Mile 1 marker, and made myself run till there. Had about a 10:30 pace, which surprised me. I thought I'd be in the 12s for sure. Got some water, determined to run to the turn-around point at mile 1.5 I think
I made it there? I think it was slightly downhill. Turned around, ran till the mini-hill, walked a bit to the top then ran to the mile 2 marker and got some more water. The last leg now. Passed several people that last mile, only walked once, up another small hill. Once that was done it was all downhill. Just keep running, just GO. There's all the people, there's the finish line!!
It was rather anti-climatic. I had no energy to sprint to the finish or gator chomp or jump or do anything, really. Made it through, stopped to take off the chip, grabbed a water and my finisher hat. Walked straight through, told Josh I was going to die, headed right over to a shady spot and just melted. He came over and sat next to me, and I told him all about the awful awful swim. He kept saying how amazing it was that I finished anyway, how he was proud of me, etc etc. I just couldn't get over the fact that it took me 2-3 times longer to do a swim I've done in the pool in 20 minutes. Physically I was well able to, it was my mind that screwed everything up, and logical me found that VERY ANNOYING. Part of it was my fault for not practicing open water swims (ows) and sighting beforehand: DUH, that's not something you can just wing. But knowing I was able to swim the distance but couldn't just really discouraged me. I seemed to forget the fear and panic, only that I wasn't able to do it.
Now, today, I'm still a little miserable about it. It sucked SO BADLY. But I know what to fix. Aaron texted me asking about it, and asked if I still wanted to keep swimming. I told him heck yeah, because that race wasn't going to be my triathlon PR :P He said he could meet up at the beach for an ows if I wanted, and oh yes do I. So right now we're set at Saturday around 8:30. I will get better at this if it kills me.
Other than the awful, terrifying swim, I really did enjoy the actual race. I do wish I had an actual road/tri bike, but not enough to spend $1K on one. Same thing for an actual triathlon singlet: not spending ~$90 for one right now! But I THINK I want to do more triathlons. Triathletes are a slightly different breed than runners and they are so much more expensive and time consuming, but if I'm going to do something I'm going to do it reasonably well. Back to swim training it is!