The Official "Positive Thinking Saved Me" Triathlon Report

Every triathlon teaches us lessons about ourselves, both as people and as athletes. I affectionately called today's race the Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo Cancer race, since it was my first race since I found out I had cancer, and less than 4 months from my thyroid surgery.

That isn't to say that I would have felt like "cancer beat me" if I didn't finish - I knew there was a chance I wouldn't. I'd entered the second race in the Rice and Rose Sprint Triathlon Series as a test - nothing more. I'm about 6 hard weeks into my Olympic-distance training plan with an A race in November and a B race at the end of August (9-10 weeks from my base.) Because I haven't done a triathlon in about 2 years, I knew that I would be able to tell at the end (or DNF) of this race whether I'm heading the right direction for my goals this year. It was also close by and super cheap compared to other races, making it a perfect choice. Of course, I entertained hopes of placing in the Athena category, only because the race had fewer than 110 participants, but the truth was, I just wanted to get the scoop.

About 5 minutes into the swim, the scoop was scary. This was, hands-down, the second most terrifying swim of my life.

Rip currents were threatening, as this artcile suggests, and my experience this year has been in lakes. We had to enter the water a few hundred yards away from our target buoy, running away from it, to avoid being carried past the buoy by the currents and having to swim back against them. The instant I was shoulders-deep, I panicked. I couldn't get my bearings or my breath. Waves were up to 5 feet and semi-choppy; I was literally in over my head. Even once I got out into the water, I couldn't get calm enough to get my face under water and breath right. I swam the entire way with my head above water, like a complete and utter newbie. I haven't done that in three years, since my very first race. Still, I controlled my nerves and breathing through the main 400 yards of the swim.

I just about cheered as I rounded the final buoy. If I could have jumped, I would have. The lifeguard reminded me to swim far left (South) so that the Northbound current would carry me into the swim-in and not far past it. This seemed like a great idea, until I got to the last 100 yards, where the waves pushing me to shore were crashing over me, even standing. I was literally getting taken under with everty wave. The current was so strong that, when I tried to stand, it pushed me down and North. Then I had my biggest swim freakout of all time. I kept glancing behind me, looking for the lifeguards. I even threw in the towel for a second, raising my arms and turning to look for help.

No one saw me.

I panicked even worse. All I could think was, I'm going to drown less than 100 yards from the swim-in.

Then I saw a lady ahead of me, not more than a few dozen yards. She was standing in the water, watching me, trying having some kind of conversation with me about how I was doing and she was waiting for her friend to finish.

Wait just a damn second. She's standing in the water. I could be standing in the water!

So I jumped up and dragged myself to shore.

The rest of the race was relatively uneventful. My bike pace, despite a wicked headwind for the entire ride, and an INSANE desire to pee, was almost 16 mph - only about 2 mph off my high pace. I made a friend on the run, during which I made a friend named Toni who was celebrating her 67th birthday. (She told me that she didn't even have the juevos to complete the swim, but she was just running for fun.) When the run got tough, I touched the scar from my thyroid surgery and reminded myself that, if cancer couldn't beat me, the swim didn't beat me, this race sure as hell wouldn't, either.

And I finished in 2:05:27, my second fastest sprint time ever.

Lessons learned:
  1. Need more OCEAN swim practice. Lakes don't count!
  2. Keep thinking positive!
  3. Need to remember to PEE EARLY, PEE OFTEN before races, because the position of my saddle frequently creates/worsens urges to "go."
  4. Need to keep with the plan, increasing frequency and volume of training gradually and working on my speed/bricks.
  5. Bricks have really paid off. I run after every single race right now and it was a great key to my non-walking success during my uber-slow run.

I was trying to decide if this result means I should do the next race in this series, which has an 800-meter swim, and I decided against it. So, next stop: Battle for Fort DeSoto, August 21. The swim is 200 yards shorter and the bike is 1 mile shorter. (The run is .2 longer, but that doesn't count). AND the surf is calmer. AND my attitude is better.

Battle for Fort DeSoto: PHEAR ME!!

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