Race day dawns chilly and cool. Water temperature is 73 degrees.
The best part of triathlons? Getting your race number sharpied on your arm and calves. It just looks cool, ya know?
Okay, not my sexiest but Dan looks very dapper! Regardless, I'm ready to go... WAIT! Why am I one of the few NOT in a wet suit????
A neighboring racer tells me I'm brave to race in the water without wetsuit. I see only a few others without a wetsuit like me, including a boy of 14 or so. I think nothing of it as it's only a few degrees cooler than it was a month ago.
Once in the water I think it's not too chilly... but the longer we wait, the more cold I get.
Can we PLEASE start????
Finally! We're off... but wait. My goggle is leaking. REALLY??? UGGH! I stop 3 or 4 times to fix it before getting into the swing of things. It's taking a bit longer to warm up than I expected.
Soon, I'm about 1/3 of the way out. I'm wondering where the turn off is and having a hard time slowing down my breathing. I note kayakers near me and long for them to be closer so I can rest but keep on trudging along. Finally, after having slowed WAY down, I near the turn around point.
Looking at my watch, I'm not too far off my pace but I'm struggling to keep going. I've swallowed and coughed up some water and am still having trouble catching my breath. I pass another male swimmer who is also struggling... but after the 2nd turn he passes me.
I notice two kayaker's and flag one down, I need to stop a second... I can't stop coughing nor can I breath. As I rest on the kayak the paddler encourages me to take calm deep breathes which I do until my breathing is more under control. To get my mind off my situation, I ask the kind stranger his name, "Forrest" he responds. I ask about his racing history and he's a fire fighter who has had experience racing triathlons.
Soon, I feel well enough to start swimming again but am quickly in trouble. Coughing like crazy and hyperventilating... again. Floating on my back leads to dizzy and nausea. Forrest rescues me again as I pause. I can't stop coughing. I realize he's right there with me and he encourages me to keep going... telling me he'll be with me all the way in if I want and also reminding me that it's not worth it if I can't finish this swim. There will be other races. He knows just what to say.
Finally, I have him call the speed boat that pulls you out. That driver too encourages me to finish informing me I'm only 400m from the finish... but it sees so far. I give it another go, but quickly am back to clinging to Forrest's kayak. Forrest reminds me that my relay team would rather have me back alive than drowned or injured. I call uncle and have them pull me from the swim.
Susan and Dan are EXTREMELY understanding as I stand there coughing, soaking wet and shivering trying to explain just what happened. Dan's first words upon seeing me: "Are you OK?". Neither were angry and I'm so blessed! They joked instead, "Stop faking and get back in the water!"
Dan ended up riding his bike the 30 miles home and Susan ended up running 2 to 3 hours earlier than she was supposed to that day. It was a hot run for her and she was grateful she didn't have to wait till 11am to start.
I coughed all day... couldn't get warm and still feel a tickle in my throat in the cold months later. I plan to tackle my next triathlon in April 2012, a sprint to beat my swimming demon. I think the cold was to blame and next time, if legal, I'll wear a wetsuit!
I've never been scared of the water before... but today? I can see how people drown. Water is NOT something to mess with. Thankfully Forrest and other volunteers like him are out there in the water to help when one is having an off day.
Thank you, Forrest! For you encouragement and help. I'll see you next time... as I pass by on the way to the finish!