I’m sure I haven’t mentioned that I did a triathlon this summer, or again this Labor Day weekend. I kept it pretty quiet. You know me, so quiet. So humble. I was uncharacteristically out of words afterwards…but I’ve finally found them. Here’s my first race report:
Door County Sprint Tri, July 16th or therabouts, 2016
First, the swim. I was ready far too early. I paced and did some swim sprints to get my heart rate up. I peed in my wet suit a dozen times (while in the water, of course) before my wave went off, third to last. I wade out with the pack when the buzzer goes. I dove in and start free-style. I was a pro. I put my face in the water. I had conquered the totally rational, everyone-has-it-even-if-they-lie-fear of sea monsters. I was sailing along. Five strokes, ten. But there were all these other people in the water. Polite ones, sure (thanks, ladies!!), but also people in kayaks telling you stuff and a boat and someone with a megaphone, I think, and it was too much. It was all pulling at my attention and I just couldn’t stop looking around. None of these conditions are trustworthy! All these moving pieces! So I did the side-stroke for a quarter mile to keep my head up and in the game. No biggie. I can do a front crawl at the same pace I can side-stroke. (I’m doing a Masters class now—and it turns out side-stroke is not an actual thing. When she says 100 yds, free choice, she doesn’t mean side-stroke. Wut?)
I fall a bit behind my wave and it gets nicer out in the water. I am a seal. I am a sylph of the water. I am a selkie. God, this is such a long quarter mile.
I schlepp onto shore and someone calls my name and I flash a million-watt smile. I have been advised to find the camera, let it be my friend. Lo! The very woman who suggested this tri thing seven months ago is the wet-suit peeler right in front of me! She yells “Oh! I get this one!!” and she and her dad unzip me and rip that suit off and get me back on my feet in nanoseconds and I’m rubber-legging it up the ramp to my bike.
I don’t remember transition. I’m already out on my bike, and it is quiet out here on the road. And the bay is to my right and there’s hardly anyone else on the road and it is amazing. I laugh out loud and startle myself. What a charmed life, to have this body, this time, this ability to move, this gorgeous earth to speed across. Then my left arm goes densely, leadenly, numb. And my toes start to go pins-and-needles and I start to wonder what I’m going to do next. It has only been five miles. I put my head down. I pick up the pace. I fly into the water station at the turn-around at mile nine and ask everyone for ice. Ice. Ice! They are confused. I wheel my way into their supply line and grab ice out of the buckets, cooling bottles of Gatorade, and shove it down my shorts and into my left arm sleeve. The volunteers just goggle at me. I want to tell them to volunteer at an Ironman after 9 pm and they’ll see it all, then.
Coming back in, I am now completely alone. There are no more waves coming out and me and my trusty 1995 hybrid are streaming through the countryside. Med-tent stop. Beg for more ice. More stunned and confused volunteers. Someone gives me a glove with ice tied inside, which I shove, again into my shorts. Someone else picks up on the urgency and helps me stuff ice into the elbows of my cooling sleeves.
Mile 15. Three to go. There is no one to yell “Hybrids for the WIN!!” or, “Go get ’em tiger!” at. There is no one panting “Good job. You got this,” as they pass me either. Just me and the road. And despair. We soldier through, together.
18 miles, done. Transition is going fine. I have this small chest of ice holding my ice vest in it. I have nailed down the motions of one, two, three, dumping the ice water over my head, zipping up my vest, putting on my shoes…and I can’t tie my shoes. My fingers will not work. I look for anyone to help and then can’t remember if officials can help or just other participants or anyone or WTF will I do if I can’t tie my shoes?? And I grab two fistfuls of ice from the pavement and hold them for a minute, and I can finally feel my fingers and tie up clumsily and boom, I’m ready to run.
Good lord. My body doesn’t work. I did my due diligence, people. I did brick workouts. I know this sensation in my legs is temporary. But this is ridiculous. My toes have cramped into tight, little snails. My left leg is going numb. My hands are on fire. I am tired and so freaking pumped. This jolt hits me–this dichotomy of “Oh boy” and “Yass!” is why there are addicts in this sport. You are doing this to yourself…and it’s miserable and exhilarating all at once. I stumble past the big crowds. I don’t see my family, but I do see a sign for me. For me?? On this road? And it’s an inside joke from sixth grade. SIXTH GRADE!?! Did you ever once think when you were in sixth grade that 26 years later you would do a triathlon with someone in your classroom?? I didn’t. I loved it. I cried and kept running.
The road gets so, so hot. I finally see people ahead. I have found my way back to the race. People are walking, drooping, shuffling. I shuffle right along with them. I walk some. I pass a woman with a “Baby On Board” t-shirt and tell her “Hell. I couldn’t even walk to my mailbox when I was pregnant.” (Partial lie. I could have. I just would have vomited if I did.) I thought I would run the whole thing, but nah, son. Not today. I can’t uncurl my toes. I run until I’m just about to vomit, then I walk a minute and try again. I get the shakes. I’m so, so hot. My ice vest has thawed. I’m dumping water on my feet and head and in my bra at every station. No weird looks here. Everyone is wilting. I’ve set my eye on Sparkle Skirt, who is part of a Team Triumph, a superhero up ahead. If Sparkle Skirt can push a whole ‘nother person through this, I can push my own damn self. I yell thanks to those Angels for pushing and for pulling me along, too. It’s a 5K. And it feels endless.
I finish. I don’t see my family. I fumble and panic with getting my ice vest off, then fall into the ice pool with my finisher medal.
I did it. It was hard. My first thought was “Aaaand, never doing that again.” Only to immediately remember I was already signed up for one in six weeks.
I’m a triathlete.