Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SandmanTriathlon, Virginia Beach -- The Race

Sandman Triathlon, Virginia Beach
While the night could not have been worse, the morning could not have been better. We broke our vow not to make Redfish sleep anywhere but his crib at home, and we paid for it. I decided after IronGirl to tough it out and bring the kids to the race because I missed them so much, and it was such an empty feeling to cross the finish line at IronGirl and have no one there for me.

The price we paid was that I didn't get any sleep the night before the race. Redfish stayed up until 9:30 p.m. or so (instead of 7 p.m., his normal bedtime) and then was up every hour after. That is, until 3:30 p.m. when he gave up sleeping altogether and woke up the neighbors too. When my alarm went off at 5:40 a.m. I was already awake. Redfish was asleep in bed next to me. Something we've NEVER done, but we were desperate.
A friend of Mr. Preschool was letting us stay in his condo, about 1.5 miles from the race. To avoid having to find parking by the oceanfront, I decided to ride my bike to the race. My running shoes, my flip flops, my wetsuit, my towel, Gatorade, water, breakfast, hat and all of my other junk for the race was in the backpack on my back. I rode 3 blocks down to the boardwalk in the dark. Then, I rode along the ocean, listing to the waves and the silence. I rode by the oceanfront carousel that we had let the kids stay up late to ride on the night before. I looked to my right and I could see just a hint of Redish pink coming up where the sun would be in 20 minutes. It was breathtakingly beautiful and I knew right then that regardless of the race I had, It would be a good one.
I got to the transition area very early. I wanted to have time to go down by the ocean and think before the race. It was a gorgeous day -- cool and crisp. I racked my bike in the best spot, which also meant being the only female in the front half of the transition area. I set up my transition and walked down to the beach with my ipod.

Next thing I knew, they were closing the transition area. I still had to go back in, get on my wetsuit and leave my glasses. I had to pee so bad, but I skipped the port-o-john and RAN. I grabbed my wetsuit and frantically tried to pull it on.
"All athletes must leave the transition area now!" they kept saying on the bullhorn. Let me just say that Adrenalin does NOT help you get on a wetsuit. I was freaking out. This really nice guy came over and told me to put a sock on and that would help me get my foot through the hole. I was already sandy, so this really helped. But when I mentioned that now I had a sandy sock he said, "You'll be running so fast you won't even notice it." At least it made me smile when he said that, even if it was just to laugh at the thought.
My plan was to get the wetsuit halfway up and then walk the 1,100 meters down the beach to where they had already started the swim. I struggled some more with racing to put on my wetsuit. Cursed my belly and my butt for making it all so hard, and hustled out of the transition area. I left my glasses in my helmet and put on my foggy goggles (yes, I know this is not a great look) .
Mr. Preschool was outside waiting with the kids. Not exactly great timing, but still I was happy to see them. That same nice sock guy came up and handed me 2 cups of water.
"Here, take this, it's a long walk, you're gonna need this water, take your time."
Damn, more water, just what I needed. I had to pee bad. For half a second I thought about trying to pee in my wetsuit and decided, I just couldn't. I walked down the boardwalk to the swim. It was a long, long walk. And finally I saw it. The exact same public restroom that I had tried to fix my contact in. It was surreal.
"HEY, hey you. Don't you get it?
You are still here.
You are still in the same place.
You are still freaking out...Aren't you here to bury the demons....
To show yourself that when push comes to shove, you can make this happen.
You can take a deep breath, and make a little magic -- take a little leap and shine."

I walked down to the beach and heard the air horn. The third wave was starting. It was chaotic, lots of people running into the waves at the same time and then the lifeguards would go in and start pulling people out. They were pulling out skinny fast runner types and they were pulling out Clydesdale men types. It didn't seem to matter. All sorts of folks were going out and coming back in. I guard told me that they expected to pull out or save about 50 people during the race and when the red flags went up on the lifeguard stand (baning recreational swimmers), I wasn't surprised.
I found my friend Roseanne and her friend Cabell and they helped me slip the top half of my wetsuit on. I knew that swimming in a wetsuit for the first time during a race was a risky, stupid thing to do, but I figured at this point, having come full circle yet again, that I'd adjust and be fine.
And moments later it was my turn. The air horn blew and we were all rushing into the water. The wetsuit was especially tight around my neck, which was uncomfortable, but it was my arms not being able to fully extend that caused me more trouble. Despite that, I realized for the first time that this was really the race for me. The lifeguards came in behind us and starting pulling people out. But, somehow that made me feel more comfortable. I knew they were there if I needed them. And I was excelling in a difficult situation, trying something hard and trying something new.
I love the ocean. When I swim in it, there is a feeling I can't describe that comes to me. I feel like I'm drifting through life, being pulled by my own force. I feel like for one of the only times in my life I am able to let go and drift whatever way the water wills me, but at the same time, maintain complete control. And one of the most absurd things happens, because I have the hugest respect for the water and the havoc it can create. Despite the ocean being incredibly rough, I felt safe.
After passing the four buoys, I tried to ride a wave in, but they just weren't the riding sort of waves. They were just too big, and too confused. I started taking off my wetsuit in the water (bad idea) and got stuck with one arm in and one arm out with my elbow bent, I felt like a bird with a broken wing. I saw Mr. Preschool and thought of asking him to help me. Despite the absurdity of it, the "assistance" penalty crossed my mind and I decided not to ask for help. Mr. Preschool told me that I was only the 2nd Athena out of the water so I better book it (this later turned out not to be true).

I pulled off the wetsuit, grabbed my glasses with a sigh of relief and run with my bike to mount it. There was a huge cluster of folks mounting their bike on the sidewalk! What. What are they doing? Crazy. I pushed my bike off the sidewalk to the street and walked down a few steps and then mounted it. (Mr. Preschool told me that seconds later he saw a biker run over a pedestrian and badly cut his foot, ruining his race.)
The bike was pretty uneventful. Headwinds all the way out. Crosswinds whenever we got near the water. And the wind pushed us all the way home. The course was mostly closed to vehicle traffic (a first for me) , which was a huge relief. At each intersection, there were soldiers from the national guard. I passed many, many folks on the bike and was passed by many men, but only 2 women.
I started the run, and as always the first mile was hard. Okay, the entire thing was hard, but thr first mile sucked more. The good news is that for the first race ever I was able to run according to my predetermined plan. I ran for 3 minutes and then walked for 1 (or 30 seconds depending on how good I felt.) It felt really good to be true to my commitment to run. My run time wasn't that much different, In face it was 20 seconds slower than my PR. But the fact that I ran when I said I was going to run meant alot to me.
I conquered my demons. I finished strong. I had fun. There is no doubt you are living life when you race. Something about triathlons just makes you feel so alive.


Susie said...

Hi Jonah,

Trigirl Susie checking in - I loved reading about your Sandman experience. I'm going to try to keep your description of what swimming in open water is like in my head. What a soothing, comforting way to look at it! Thank you :)


FTL said...

Good job on the sandman. For some reason, the sandman swim is always "interesting". I was in the 3rd or 4th heat and i remember passing people in the prior heat before rounding the first bouy. Lots of peeps bailing out. The pool-only swimmers run the risk of dealing w/ decent surf... being prime hurricane time.

Good luck w/ Eagleman. Its a fun race. I did that race for the first time last year. A bit breezy on the bike, and a hot heat on the run. Zero shade. Get used to riding in the wind. Put in the running miles and you'll be fine.

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