The day I have anxiously been waiting for has finally arrived, the Monticello Olympic tri. It’s time to put myself and my training to the test. My morning is going fairly well as I make last minute race preparations. Even though I am hungry, it is hard for me to eat. My pre-race meal includes baked chicken, a baked sweet potato, and collard greens. I know that may seem heavy and/or weird, but I know that combination will give me the energy that I need. Once I finish my breakfast and gather my things, it’s time for the hubby and me to head to the race site.
During the drive I keep walking through my swim strategy that my swim coach gave me the day before on the phone. We had discussed it before, but she knew how nervous I was and it would be a good idea to remind me. The closer we get to the race site, the more apprehensive I feel. I know I can do this swim, but I also know it is going to be close…..real close to the 50 minute cut-off time. I don’t even think about the bike and run portions of the race. My mind is only on the swim.
We finally make it to the race site and it is abuzz with activity. As I approach the transition area I see Lake Monticello. It’s big and looks menacing, especially since it is a cloudy, dreary day. I tell myself I will deal with her in due time, but right now I need to get my transition area set up. Fortunately for me the Olympic transition is not as crowded as the half transition area. Except for one minor hiccup, I successfully organize my transition area. After making a final run to the porta-potty I grab my wetsuit from my hubby and head to shore.
Right before I get to the lake I run into one of my teammates who is there for moral support. She helps me get my wet suit on and we walk together to the beach. As I stand on the beach and chit-chat, I can feel my stomach tightening. I am becoming more and more nervous and begin to question myself. Fortunately one of my tri coaches walks up to me and gives me some advice on how to handle the swim. There is a designated area for athletes to do their warm-ups and I know I need to jump in for a little while. My swim coach had advised me to do so, especially since the water was going to be a little chilly. I put my face in the water and do a few strokes. I feel ok and decide this may not be as bad as I think.
I am thankful I am in the last wave. I don’t have to worry about anyone swimming over me since I have decided to jump in a few seconds after everyone else begins. As the countdown for my wave begins, I feel like I am going to vomit. If I vomit in the water, so be it, I am going to swim through it. The horn sounds, and we’re off. Once I am in the water I take a few strokes, but then something goes wrong. I begin to panic. I can’t catch my breath. I float on my back a little and flip back over. I take a few more strokes, but every time I place my face in the water, my body freaks out. She doesn’t like the fact that I cannot see the bottom. This is going to be an interesting swim.
As I attempt to regroup, I notice the other swimmers are getting further and further away from me. I don’t dwell on it because for me it’s not about being one of the first ones out of the water, it’s just trying to beat the time cut-off. I see one of my teammates get pulled from the water. She is having difficulty breathing and has had enough. Once she is in the boat, this sense of loneliness engulfs me. She and I were both concerned about the swim and had been encouraging each other prior to the race. I was hoping she and I could push each. I am going to have to push myself. I continue to struggle to get to the first buoy, which is 300 meters away. I even take a break on one of the kayaks. After who knows how long I make it to the first buoy. I ask for the time and realize I really need to get moving.
At the second buoy I regroup again and come up with a plan. I decide I will take 10 – 12 strokes and either flip over on my back or aqua jog. Thanks to the wetsuit, I am super buoyant and aqua jogging is a breeze. I begin to make some progress, but the boat that has my teammate on it is coming my way. I can smell the gaseous fumes coming from it and it makes me feel nauseous. The boat seems to follow me. I want to scream so bad and say, “Leave me the hell alone! I am not getting out of this damn water!” That would take too much precious energy, so I keep pushing on, and fortunately the boat goes away. I soon discover that anytime I flip on my back, I get off course, so now it’s swimming and aqua jogging.
As I make my way to the second buoy, I realize I have my own personal kayak escort. Periodically I ask him for time and periodically he encourages me. I really don’t see any other swimmers in the water. I am scared and feel alone. I begin praying, reciting scriptures, and talking out loud to myself for encouragement. I know my kayak escort thinks I am crazy! Finally I make it to the second buoy! 900 meters down and only 600 meters to go. I tell myself that I need to pick up the pace a bit, regardless how much my body may freak out. I can now see the shore and my kayaker tells me I am about a 100 yards away, a football field. I pick up my pace a little more, and then it happens….time is called on me.
Soon as I hear it that awful word, my meltdown begins. If I had not had on a wetsuit, I would have gone underwater. I stop all movement and just cry, and not the quiet cry, but the ugly, bawling type of cry. A boat comes and I am pulled out of the water. As I sit in the boat I just keep repeating I am a failure. The volunteers try to console me, but I am inconsolable. I literally ache. I have never felt so embarrassed, humiliated, or defeated in my life. I do not want to go to shore and face my husband and friends. I feel I have let so many people down, especially my husband and my swim coach. I just want to go home and dwell in my misery.
As soon as the boat reaches the dock, my husband is right there to try and comfort me. I am not hearing it. I don’t want to be touched; I don’t want to hear that I should be proud of myself. I just want to be left alone. As I storm up to the transition area, I rip off my goggles and throw them as hard and far as I can. I am mad at myself for not making the cut-off. I ask God why didn’t he help me finish, which is completely foolish on my part. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did. During my meltdown the tears will not stop falling and snot is flying everywhere. I don’t care. I am hurting and I am not concerned about who sees me. I knew I wanted to finish the swim, but I didn’t realize how badly I had wanted it until time had been called on me.
Once in transition I slowly begin to gather my things. There are other people around me, some I don’t even know, and they all are doing their best to console me. I try to be polite, but I am still not trying to hear it. I just want to go home. My husband and I gather my things and we head to my vehicle. On the way I run into some of my friends who offer me hugs, words of encouragement, and wisdom. The tears are still dropping, but I am finally gaining control of my emotions. Complete strangers walk up and tell me how proud they are of me and even hug me. I am amazed by the outpour of care that I am receiving. The tri community is so awesome!
I could go on about the aftermath, but this post is long enough, and I am still processing some things. So I will save that for my next post. Thanks for reading!