June 22, 2008

Happy to be racingYesterday was Saturday which was race day which was a really good time. GB played number one fan and got up with me at 3am to drive to the race. Things went very smoothly and I had somehow tricked my body into not being nervous right up until we arrived, which meant a lot less bathroom stops along the way. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get set up and warmed up but the one thing I was very focused on was getting a good swim warmup. Over the years I have learned that a warmup in the water is the key to a good swim for me. I made my way down to the water while putting on my spanky BlueSeventy wetsuit, thinking about my goal of having the fastest female swim split. It was a river swim and the water was so refreshing that I didn’t want to get out once I got in and ended up having a great warmup.

I was feeling focused at the start and I just knew that those girls would have to fight me hard for the swim lead. When the gun went off, I let rip and went like a bat out of hell. By the first buoy there were about 25 yards between me and the next few swimmers. By the third buoy I knew there was no way for them to catch me and I started congratulating myself goal number one. I could see GB taking pictures of me from the river bank and I was swimming hard and basking in the glory of being the lead swimmer and being so far out there. Of course, there’s always that thing in triathlon where ANYTHING can happen. ANY.THING. Like say, for example, your wetsuit zipper coming all the way down and the back and arms of your wetsuit ballooning out as they fill up with water. Anything, as in you realizing while this is happening that you can simply not swim fast enough to keep your lead if you don’t stop and do up your wetsuit. Anything. As in while you stop and flail and struggle and swear and yell and try to do up your wetsuit, four girls swim by you. Four girls who 2 minutes ago had no chance in hell of catching you. After a great deal of struggling, I panicked and started swimming with it open again. I grabbed the zipper leash with my teeth and tried to yank it up when I turned my head to breathe. This served only to fill my mouth with water and make oxygen hard to get. Finally I stopped again and tried to zip it up. At last after some more flailing I succeeded, put the damn leash back in my mouth so it wouldn’t fall down again and chased those girls. They had a big lead on me but nothing makes me crazy and fast like knowing that I deserve to be in front of them. One by one I chased them down until I was almost on the feet of the lead swimmer. I almost caught her but not quite although I was really happy with my effort to regain the lead. Of all the things my coach has ever said to me, the words that have been the most effective for me in racing are “you deserve to be up there at the front”. Since she told me that and since it occurred to me that she was right, I have found a whole other gear to chase with and it feels good.

Anyway, while this whole wetsuit disaster was taking place, GB was on the beach watching me comfortably lead the swim and then stop swimming and start flailing. It didn’t occur to me at the time of course (and why would it?) that GB would think I was drowning and would start frantically trying to find a lifeguard to rescue me. Luckily by the time a lifeguard had been located, it became apparent that I was not in fact drowning, but I think I might have caused some serious panic.

I emerge from the water to see GB and I say as I run by “MY WETSUIT CAME OPEN CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!?”. GB yells something about focusing and I keep running into T1, perturbed that I have no-one to commiserate with me about my misfortune. The bike ride was hilly and tough. I was holding the lead for a bit since the first swimmer turned out to be in the relay, but there are girls out there who make me look like I belong on a tricycle. One of them blew by, pushing me into second place and I knew that without a motor, I had no chance of chasing. Then the guy in front of me somehow throws himself over the outside median while still attached to his pedals. I know I can’t just ride on by since he could be hurt. So I unclip and say something intelligent like “DUDE!!! Are you okay?” when I really should be putting hands on stable to protect his spine instead. He gets quickly up and seems more embarrassed than injured. He says he is fine and appears to be fine, so I start riding again. Of course, once again, while I was standing still during a race several girls have blown by me. My podium spot is gone and I know I am not biker enough to chase it down.

The ride goes by slowly and painfully and I am thrilled to arrive back in T2 for the run. My transition is quick and I blow out of there like I mean business. The first 5k loop is awesome and I feel like the real thing. I attack the hills and nobody catches me. This is unheard of for me on a run and I am thrilled. By the second loop I am once again aware that I have a knee injury. It starts to really hurt so I baby it a little by landing differently. This creates a pain in my ankle that is no more productive than the knee pain, so I try to go back to normal running. I see GB on the loop and yell out that my wetsuit came open on the swim. I am still looking for sympathy on this issue and I am still in disbelief at my unlikely bad luck. GB yells at me “I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. RUN!!!!”. Some spectators laugh at our exchange.

Everyone on the course is very friendly. Some guy tells me as we are running side by side that his crank arm fell off on the bike. I excitedly tell him about my wetsuit but he doesn’t care. Two girls run by me and I see a girl on the out and back who is closing in on me. Finally she catches me and says “you are CRUSHING your agegroup”. I say “I am???” and she nods. “Bigtime”. “Cool” I say as she starts to pull away. I have a mile left and I know I am fit enough to go with this girl so I try, but my knee will have none of it. And honestly, I make the decision to ease up. If I am crushing my agegroup and have no chance of an overall podium finish then it’s not worth it to wreck my leg over chasing this girl so I let her go. I am annoyed at my knee for being a limiter when I know I have more left, but grateful that it has let me go this far this fast.

Finally I can hear the announcer at the finish line and I speed up a little with the energy of the finish line. A strong finish but I know I have lots left. This is nothing like my last race where I couldn’t breathe by the end. I feel like I can go out and do that one again so I know I have lots more left in the tank. Either way, my time is much faster than last year – not even in the same league, so I am happy with my finish.

I go straight to the massage tent. My masseuse whose first language is obviously not English asks me to take a deep breath and then “expire”. She obviously means exhale, but I almost pee myself trying not to laugh at her grammatical misstep as I happily expire on the massage table.

Triathlon racing is almost never what you think it’s going to be. But ain’t that half the fun?


4 Responses to “Parachute”

  1. IM Able Says:

    Totally happened to me! In my last half, my zipper *split* right at the horn to start! No chance to re-zip, so a really smart lifeguard told me to do the (um) obvious…take it off! (Incidentally? Hard to do underwater! Who knew… .) I handed it off to him and swam in my cycling gear. Craziest swim!

    Totally feel your pain! 🙂

  2. Beth Says:

    CONGRATS Ness!! I seriously think I would have cried, right there, in the river, wetsuit wide open and all. DUMB WETSUIT!!!! But you handled it so well, racing those girls down anyway and since the first girl out of the water was relay you DID win the swim!!! YIPPPPEEEE!! Just wait until that knee is 100% better and you will be even more of a force to be reckoned with. So happy for you. Happy recovery! 🙂

  3. rachel ross Says:

    Nice race ness! Way to crush the AG.

    I’m so sorry about your wetsuit, that should not have happened to you, you poor thing. (there, finally, the sympathy you deserved!)

    Hope the knee is healing up..

  4. marit c-l Says:

    Okay – BAD wetsuit – BAD! Now, onward and upward. 🙂 Great job on the rest of the race – really good of you to stop and see if the “dude” was okay. I don’t know how people can just ride by without stopping…. Nice job on the run – way to KILL the AG 🙂 Glad that you didn’t EXPIRE afterwards. hee hee hee

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