If you want to hear the story of how my first triathlon went horribly bad, read on.
Last year I decided that I was going to sign up for a triathlon. Not a sprint or olympic distance triathlon, a half ironman distance. 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run. I think they should have cameras on the people like me that have no business being in the race to watch the train wreck that is going to be there race. Because there were no cameras on me, let me tell you the story.
The swim. 47:25 (goal 45 minutes)
During the warm up I saw a decently large fish eating something in water that was about six feet deep. Insert every fear pertaining to the movie ‘Jaws’ and then go have a swim. It was a great way to get ready for the swim. I am a decent swimmer so I thought I would take a position near the front of the pack. The swim starts and now I want you to picture 200 people in wetsuits, swimming to the same place, at the same time. It only took about 100 meters from the shore and I found myself behind someone and trying to stay far enough back that I don’t touch his feet. The person behind me wasn’t as courteous. Every time he touched my feet, my heart rate would race and I froze on the spot, check and make sure that it wasn’t a great white shark, and then continue swimming. Before my heart rate would relax i would get touched again, stop, check, continue. And again. And again. Each time my heart rate would skyrocket until finally after about 50 more meters, it was going to beat out of my chest and I could swim no more. I stopped and tread water and forced everyone to swim around me while I gained my composure. Can I quit? I turned around to see another 100 people swimming at me. Swimming against the flow made me more nauseated. Can I get to one of the volunteers in a boat? Sideways didn’t seem like a good option either. So I stayed there treading water and let nearly the entire field pass me as I tried to regain my composure. Finally after 2 or 3 minutes I continued on in the race. For the next 500 meters every time I turned my head to breath I thought I saw someone beside me. Which now made my swimming stroke pull, pull, breathe, AHHHHHH!, stop, check. Pull, pull, breathe, OMG!, stop, check. Also because I hadn’t practiced seeing where I am going WHILE swimming, for the rest of the swim after 5 or so breaths, I would completely stop swimming and make sure I was on course and continue on.
Transition number one. 7:46 (Goal 4 minutes)
As I am swimming to the swim finish and my hand grazes the mud at the bottom of the lake I take a few more stokes and decide that the water is shallow enough that I can run. I stand up and promptly start to run…. and then fall completely over. My head is spinning. In an effort not to drown in a foot of water I frantically try to stand up. This seems impossible so I end up taking a knee until I feel that I could stand. It was the feeling just like when you stand up really quickly and are a little light-headed. As it turns out, if you try to stand up really quickly after 47 minutes of horizontal cardio you really really light-headed. When I am finally able to stand I start making my way to the bike. Running while taking off a wetsuit is the most awkward thing to try to do. It’s even more awkward when your head is still swimming and you’re not exactly sure which way is down. This continued as I tried to get ready for the bike. Finally, I just sat down and took some time to gather myself. After 7 whole minutes, I decided that I could probably balance on a bike and I would let the rest wear off while I was pedaling.
Bike 2:59:00 (Goal 3:00:00)
This is my strength in triathlon, and the only time during the race that I hit my goal. Actually everything went pretty well during this leg of the race. Except for going up the one hill climb and then going down it. Now I am not very good at climbing hills because I have a little more fighting against gravity than most other triathletes. So as I start to climb the hill, everyone starts passing me. EVERYONE. But usually I am able to make some of this up going down the hills. So as I crest the hill I hunker down and get ready for the decent. I passed 3 or 4 people then I came upon a woman, white knuckled and riding her brakes down the hill. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem except she was hugging the white line and there was a guard rail on the right which made passing on that side pretty sketchy. “On your left!” I yelled, but she didn’t budge. I yelled again and she didn’t move from the white line to make room to pass. With no oncoming traffic, I thought that I would pass in the traffic lane and surely anyone in a vehicle would move over into the oncoming lane to give me room. I passed the lady, and just as I do so a jacked up black pickup passes me so close that I could probably have licked his mirror. The startle of seeing a vehicle so close made me give the bike a little shake which nearly made me run into the truck. Thankfully, I was able to move over and survive to bike another day.
Transition number two. 3:17 (Goal 2:30)
Your brain doesn’t work so good after 4 hours of cardio. I took my shoes off while on the bike, pedaling on top of the shoes that are still attached. I get to where my stuff is, take off my helmet and put my running shoes on and start to run out of the transition area and into the run. I get just to the end and start to slow down to a stop. I had that sinking feeling that I forgot something. I forgot all the food in my bag that I wanted to take with me on the run. So I turned around and went back to my bag, and loaded up the food that I had ready, and left again. It’s just never a good feeling when your running against the flow during a race.
Run 2:43:44 (Goal 2:15:00)
Did you know that you should train to run? I didn’t and it showed. After 7km I hit the wall and died. Unable to continue running because of the complete lack of fitness I had to run/walk the remaining 14km and it took two whole hours. Do you know what it’s like to not have anything left in the tank, and still have two hours ahead of you? I do, and it’s the worst experience of my life. The people at Ironman know this, and that’s where they get you. To have a laugh, they put a turnaround at 10km, so your as far from the start as the finish. If you want to quit, you have to walk your butt back anyways, so you may as well try to ‘race.’ At around kilometer 12 I got passed by a guy that according to his leg was in the 60-64 age group. I yelled at him “your over 60 and kicking my ass!” Around kilometer 15 while I was attempting to jog, I got passed by a guy walking. Walking! It was then clear to me that I was doing a lot of bouncing up and down without a lot of forward motion.
In total, I completed the race in 6:41:16 and finished 736 out of 898 finishers. As I crossed the finish line I was hooked. I became a finisher. I became a triathlete. I became Superman… almost.