Sunday, August 26, 2012

Did anyone tell you this is supposed to be a race?

Do you see me? Bottom right-hand corner of boat, looking back to the start. Hmm...

Sunrise over Lake Michigan
How do I start, this, my treatise on my first ever triathlon swim. Well, first, suffice it to say that it was more an exercise in getting from Point A to Point B in the water than a 'swim'. I woke up with the usual healthy amount of dread about the whole business. Adam had a certain amount of disdain for the whole operation as well noting "I'm not sure how I feel about this new sport" as he went back to bed for a few more minutes as Sara and I headed out at 4:15 am. But Sara and I gamely made our way down to transition, set up our bikes...and shoes...and sunglasses.. and water packs...the amount of equipment involved in this sport is intense.

We then walked barefoot to the swim start which was a quarter mile away. It was surreal and actually very cool to walk barefoot around the city before dawn, and then watch the sun rise over the water. It would have been even more enjoyable if we didn't have a swim looming over our heads.

I don't look convinced that this was a good idea. I wasn't.

Sara and I in our corral for the wave start
For those not familiar, the swim start involves a wave start where runners with matching colored hats are herded into corrals so the dread of the swim can become full-on palpable as we watch the waves before us get in the water and struggle. Okay, not everyone struggles, but enough folks did which added to my anxiety. Thankfully Sara and I are in the same age group (for a few more months until I'm over the hill), so we were together for this. It was fun talking to other people in line. I felt okay. Not great. Definitely nervous.
Our building is visible in the background, which is why I chose
this to be my first tri.

I was really happy when we saw Adam. While I was 99.9% confident I was going to finish the swim, the last time I did a swim in a lake I was pulled out of the water and disqualified from completing the swim test because they thought I was going to drown so top priority (after not drowning) was making sure the lifeguards didn't think I needed rescuing. Constant verbal encouragement form Adam helped with that.

Making friends with the lifeguard.
The swim is a "wet start" meaning we all get in the water for roughly 2 minutes before we head out. You can't touch so you must tread water. Sara is a much stronger swimmer than I (though a beginner too- she seriously kicked some butt today) and she had the confidence to start with the group. I was terrified and planned to let the group go ahead of me and then make my way. Initially swimming was fine but my goggles immediately fogged. I didn't think I could make it through the swim not being able to see so I stopped at the first rowboat. We were told we are allowed to stop at the boats to hold on for a rest, but I wanted to be sure I wouldn't be disqualified for doing so I asked if I could stop and fix my goggles. The lady seemed surprised (how often do swimmers stop at the first rowboat, roughly 20 meters from the start, that's right, this girl does) but we struck up a quick conversation and I made some jokes.

Thankfully, my goggles functioned fine for the rest of the swim, but that delay really set things on a bad foot and soon the next wave was on my tail. I was (and still am) terrified of being swum over and didn't think I could hold my own when 40-50 pink capped maniacs (or so they appeared to me) caught up to me. So I swam for a bit but then stopped at the next rowboat to let the wave pass. Unfortunately this became my pattern, check out the oncoming swimmers, get to the next rowboat. And I really wasn't doing that much swimming. I just didn't feel comfortable not looking around. I think I did true freestyle for like 30 strokes the whole time. It was ridiculous. I spent most of my time swimming freestyle only breathing on one side intermixed with breaststroke intermixed with floating on my back (while kicking). I did a LOT of floating on my back. Not good. I wasn't physically tired, I wasn't even short of breath, I was just in survival mode.

Deer in headlights. Why am I not even pretending to swim??
I found a nice space with no swimmers anywhere nearby, and I
choose to do this?? Again, DID ANYONE TELL ME THIS
I had practiced all my "emergency techniques", you know, what I would do if I freaked out or got kicked in the face or inhaled a bunch of water. These emergency techniques included breaststroke, floating on my back and stopping at rowboats. Unfortunately, for unclear reasons, I instated my emergency techniques even though there wasn't a true emergency. I was FINE. I was OK. I'm like a mayor of an ocean front town who evacuates the area out of concern for a hurricane that is not coming and is not even predicted to come. I sounded the alarms in my head despite no objective evidence that I was in trouble and simply survived.

How I spend most of the so-called swim. 

A rare moment of well, actually, swimming.

Me and a bunch of burly guys definitely not
making forward progress.
Note that I was not the only one who took this approach. In addition to making friends with the lifeguards in the rowboats I also made friends with fellow swimmers. Admittedly most weren't in the mood for jokes or friendship (which also tells me I sounded the emergency alarm for naught if I still had my sense of humor). Most boats had one or two desperate swimmers. But one boat had 8. Count 'em, 8. Here's me looking back at the wave behind me trying to figure out when the hell I'm going to go for it. At one point the lifeguard said "one of you is going to have to go or the boat will topple" so I took off. Me and a bunch of burly men hanging on for dear life on a rowboat during a triathlon we chose to do of our own volition. How do I get myself in these situations? (I'll answer that later.)

I was so glad to have Adam there. He just kept yelling 'go Val' and 'you can do it' and I would wave to him occasionally from some of the rowboats. At one point when I was floating on my back he yelled 'use your arms' and I complied by flipping over and doing freestyle which again tells me I COULD HAVE SWAM THE WHOLE FREAKING THING. Oh, Val, such a head case I am.

Finally, I got to a rowboat where they informed me I had 200 meters left which is such a short distance relative to my training that I got frustrated with myself and skipped a boat (i.e. swam longer). Then there was 100 meters left and I pulled it together and finished. After they pulled me out of the drink and I was taking my goggles off I really wanted to yell "I made it through the f**** swim!" but instead I trotted along the 250 meters to the transition area but only after making one additional face that belongs on the bloopers reel for Triathletes 101.

I'll relay the rest of my race in a later post. The swim really deserved its own, don't you agree?

Bloopers Reel:Look at that face! I look like I have no idea what just happened.
Well, I didn't.

1 comment:

  1. I could copy/and paste this to my blog to give my race report for my first triathlon. WORD.FOR.WORD.

    I was the last woman out of the water. By about 10 minutes. Because I basically did a glorified doggie paddle, and stopped at every lifeguard boat whether I needed to or not. Loser, I was. LOL