Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls….I did it! I am a mother-fuckin, chicken-chokin, steamrollin, Half-Iron Triathlete!! (All respect to James Taylor).
Let me start with saying that I did finish, and it was an official time, and IT COUNTS. Now here’s the story…
So we check-in, get our transition stuff together, go down to the beach, ready to rock and roll. 6:15 is the start time for the physically challenged, then the professionals, then a couple of age groups of women, then my group. I am SO READY for this race – remember that I had been freaked out about the water temperature and I got that resolved yesterday…temp was perfect.
The air horn signals our start, and in I go. The first 30 minutes went great…the seas were awfully high, but that was manageable for the most part. I had hoped to do the swim in 60-70 minutes (in the pool I could get it done in 50). We went straight out, turned left, swam 200 yards, turned left again all the way in. At the first turn (waves are now parallel to my body alignment), I turned my head right for a big breath, and because of the swells, I intake 2 full lungs worth of water…I don’t mean swallowing, or getting a little in my windpipe… I mean full-on, ZERO OXYGEN EXCHANGE, pulmonary distress. I’m already in oxygen deficit, and go into instant wind-knocked-out-of-me, cannot breathe in or out, I’m-going-to-die-out-here freakout.
DISCLAIMER: I have promised those folks who follow my blog that I will be as honest and accurate as I can be, and the following paragraph is brutally honest and personal. If you are queasy or don’t want to know what can happen when you breathe in a portion of the ocean, skip to the next paragraph. I warned you.
So, back to me, in a turbulent ocean, unable to breathe, with no flotation device. I instantly know I’m in trouble. There are jetski triathlon officials, helpers in kayaks – I start waving my hands (the universal sign of distress) frantically, and everything is beginning to be a little sparkly in my vision…I’m goin down. Kayakboy appears, I grab on (not a disqualification if he doesn’t provide forward motion or touch you), he coaches me to hoist my body across the bow, and apply pressure to my chest in some manner. I start this, and the result I get is that I get a drinking straw’s worth of oxygen in my lungs – enough to begin breathing. Of course that starts a violent coughing episode, which brings up mucus and salt water from nose and mouth. But because I’m coughing so hard to get this out, it triggers a gag/vomit reflex, but wait, there’s more…as I am in total abdominal spasm, I also feel myself take a shit while I’m in the midst of this. Now, my priorities are the following: 1) Breathe 2) Try to puke in the ocean, not in Kayakboy’s kayak 3) worry about how I’m going to clean out my trisuit, with its spandex feature and elastic legs. I addressed my priorities in that fashion. You probably don’t really need the details…suffice it to say, it was quite an ordeal. Which leads me to….
Next problem…I can now functionally breathe, but when I attempt to release the kayak, the exertion required just to stay afloat in those swells, puts me in to instant deep-breathing, which throws me into a coughing spasm/abdominal seizure. I am half-way throught the swim at this point. Long story short, I limp in piecing together kayak rests (not illegal in and of themselves, but the jetski patrol are hovering, waiting to yank my ass out of the race, like they are doing with dozens of other athletes experiencing the same thing) with little breast-stroking attempts on my own…it was not pretty. I finished TWO hours after I started, which put me enormously behind on my projected times.
When I hop on the bike, after being stroked and loved by my posse/family all throughout transition, I am 7 miles in to the bike ride when I start seeing the leaders coming back. From a 56 mile bike course. Inspiring and defeating all at the same time. Now I have yet another issue: anytime I begin to surge up in my speed to my usually-comfortable 17mph, I get thrown into another coughing spasm…not good when you are counting on your lung capacity to be optimal. So I back down to about 12-14mph which I can sustain with calm, shallow breathing. About 20 miles into the race, I realize I have my own personal cop….I’m tail-end Charlie and the finish line is RIGHT BEHIND ME. No pressure. Brother and hubby find me at the turnaround (mile 26) and with hubby hanging out of bubba’s Corvette convertible, they shout words of encouragement, take pictures, and give me updates on how close I am to making the run course cutoff time.
When I get back to transition, Fam is there waiting, and, they tell me later, they are planning an intervention. They saw me struggle getting out of the ocean, they are concerned for my health, and I love them so much for this. My sons and daughters try to bribe me with foot massages, alcohol, Krispy Kreme donuts…you name it….they are shouting all this to me in transition. A triathlon official approaches and asks if I am going to enter the run course, because….the run course entry closes in THREE minutes. In an instant I’m off…I’ve already made the commitment to myself….they can throw me off, they can close the course, and I may collapse, but I AM NOT QUITTING. If I can get on the course, I have a leisurely 3.5 hours to complete the 13.1 miles.
About 2 miles into it (I’m walking….same lung phenomena….any exertion that raises my heart rate sends me into fits of spasm), Eric and Jesse find me, and I talk Jesse into walking the course with me, completely forgetting he has a pulled groin muscle, and of course he doesn’t even mention it. So off we go….
The blog is going forever….we cruise for 13.1 miles, the kids meet us with half a mile to go, we all hug and cry (more coughing spasms), and we walk to the finish line TOGETHER. I cross the line with 9 minutes to spare, before the official closure of the race – medal and all.
I’m not as tired as I thought I would be, mostly because I didn’t exert like I trained to, so my quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes are not as sore…my back, chest and abdominals are utterly fatigued over the coughing fits…
I have more to say, especially my tribute post, to thank those folks who have made this happen, but I want to spend lots of delicious indulgent time in that, and it took me an hour to get this town, so that post is tomorrow…and if you are reading this, that will likely include you, so please read later.
Thankyouthankyouthankyou for reading….