And holy gawd almighty, I’m not kidding when I say you could have lost a toe, your nose, or any other body part that protrudes during the open water swim. (Boobs anyone?) The temperature at start time was 48 degrees, but it was the water temperature that had me on my knees praying to Poseidon I’d survive 35 minutes in ‘wtf have I done?!’ green, murky, nearly frozen lake water.
It’s one thing to do an open water swim.
It’s something else entirely to swim in water that is 57.5 degrees.
Here’s how the adventure unfolded:
Race morning dawns and my girlfriend Chris and I are up at 4:30 a.m. to eat, drink coffee and work out bathroom business. By 5:30 a.m., we’re barreling down the interstate [mostly] ready to face whatever the day will bring.
Chris’s wave starts at 7:03 a.m.
Mine starts at 7:45 a.m. (Which means I saw her finish before I even got IN the water. I gave her a high five, felt how cold her hand was and immediately knew I should fear for my life.)
A few minutes before gun time, I man up and make my way into the water. I have a little ritual I follow before each swim… wade in up to my zipper, let the water soak through. Walk in up to my neck and let water seep through the top. Lastly, I get my face wet – one, so it’s less of a shock when I start to swim… and two… to make sure my goggles seal. (Swim one event with goggles that leak, you’ll never do it again.)
At 7:43 a.m., 149 of my closest friends and I are all hovering in the water waiting for someone to yell, “GO!”
My first thought: “I need to move to the back of the pack.”
My second: “I should have told someone where I keep my important papers.”
Finally, the Race Director counts down three… two… one and the lake erupts into a sea of chaos.
There is something very unnerving [to me] about a mass start. For one, everyone is fighting for the same space and there simply isn’t enough room. Two, it takes several hundred meters for the spacing to work itself out, (i.e. for the fast swimmers to pull ahead and the slow to fall behind), so the first 5 minutes are a free for all. Finally, I need to be more aggressive. Every time someone smacks me, or I tap them, I lift my head out of the water and wonder who deserves an apology.
The first 300 meters are a holistic disaster. I can’t catch my breath. I can’t find my stroke. My arms are flailing, my heart is racing and my lungs feel constricted from the cold. With nowhere else to go, I decide to roll over on my back, channel a volleyball named Wilson and lay there until I feel ready to try again.
After one minute or five, I roll back over, find my stroke and proceed to move in the general direction of the buoys. For this race you must keep them on your left, which is difficult for someone who is terrible at sighting and swims like a drunk.
I finish the first 750 meters, get out, touch the yellow buoy and wade back in for round two. Around 1000 meters in, I get kicked squarely in the goggles by an enormous man and I wonder if he broke skin. Quickly, I lift my head out of the water and screech, “F*************CK!”
(If one were available to me, I would have stabbed him in his ass with a Bic pen. Not kidding + sorry Mom.)
As I was closing in on 1300 meters I think, “I hate this sh*t. Why am I doing this? How could I be so stupid?”
At 1500 meters, I cobble out of the water and force myself to run-walk up the hill to transition. At this point I am straight up thankful to be alive.
Once safely back in transition, I take my sweet time drying off and getting dressed. First, I order a glass of wine. Then, I opt for the fresh salad and a scoop of palate cleansing lemon sorbet. My main course was a beautiful, marbled Ribeye, medium rare with a salted baked potato. I then round out my 7 minute and 12 seconds transition with a glass of tawny port, a piece of caramel apple pie and a f*ing cigarette.
The bike was mostly uneventful. Knowing I screwed myself in the water, I was relentless in chasing the riders in front of me. One down. Then two. Then five. No matter how bad it burned, I just kept turning my legs over. At mile 20, I switched gears and dropped my chain. (Ugh!) So with cat-like quickness, I threw Black Betty on her back, kneeled down and went to work.
A few minutes later, (my hands covered in grease), I roll into transition ready to rack my bike and put this b*tch in the bag.
Transition 2 was smooth sailing. Once in the staging area, I quickly peel off my cycling gear, grab my visor and a sleeve of Clif Bloks, tug on my running shoes, shove a tampon in my bra ‘just in case’ and I’m out like that sh*t is broke. (T2: 1:52) If the stars align, I know I’ll cross the finish line within the hour.
Total Time: 3:10:45
Immediately following the race, I see Chris and we make our way back to transition to collect my gear. On the way to the car, we stop to watch the Olympic distance awards ceremony.
When they get to my age group, they call out the name of the woman who finished third. As she walks up, I look at Chris and whisper, “OMG, I passed her on the run.”
Lo-and-behold… they call my name for second place:
When I got home Sunday night I spent a lot of time reflecting on what went right, what went wrong, how much my 8 course meal in transition cost me, how awful I felt in the water, how tired I was on the run, etc. While I was happy to lay down a new personal best, I was definitely disappointed I didn’t finish closer to 3 hours.
And maybe that’s the lesson right? Even when things don’t go your way, stay hungry. Be consistent. Court momentum. Starve defeating tendencies. Leave the pen at home. (Or hone your ‘stab you in the ass’ skills, whatever works.) Practice grace. Curse and cry if you must then MOVE ON.
Winston Churchill says, “These are GREAT days.”
I say, “He’s right.”
P.S. Tomorrow night you can listen in as I interview celebrity nutritionist and fitness guru Jay Nixon about food, fuel and what you need to know to set your body up for massive on and off road success. If you haven’t yet registered, save your seat here.
P.S.S. If you’re NOT a member of my sole sisterhood, what the bleep are you waiting for? Get in on the action here and I promise I’ll do my best to keep you laughing and inspired.
P.S.S.S. I’ve had so much fun hanging out with women these last few months… here’s my ‘lets be Ellen + Bradly Cooper’ selfie with the girls at dinner Monday night… can you see up my nose?