Like a cat, I prefer only to swim for survival purposes. Because of this, I spent the entire week leading up to Tritonman obsessively checking the swim guide for updates on the Fiesta Island water quality – hoping and praying that the swim leg of the race would be canceled. I had joined the triathlon team to test my limits and try something out of my comfort zone (also a little bit because lifting weights on the powerlifting team wasn’t doing it for me anymore), but I wasn’t feeling up for a swim this week.
Unfortunately the weather had been great all week, race day was here and my prayers were not answered. Insead I found myself laying in bed the night before preparing myself mentally for a swim. It had been over two years since I had experienced pre-race nerves – the last time being at the cross country state championships back in highschool – and since then my average mile pace had increased by a few minutes. I had settled into the comfy life of a fun runner/powerlifter nicely, and my body was not prepared for the return to competitive racing. I knew this, and it’s exactly what kept me awake until 2 am… 1.5hrs before I needed to wake up and get ready for the drive down to San Diego. At 4:30am Justice picked Victoria and me up from the ARC. Summer discovered that she had a flat on her way to the meet-up spot, so we swung by her place to pick her up before starting the drive.
We arrived at the race site around 6:10am, and we quickly rushed over to pickup our packets before setting up transition. By 7:20am we were treading in the bay anxiously waiting for an air horn to sound. At 7:25am we were off to the races. I felt okay for the first 400m, and then it struck. An intense bout of vertigo. Everytime that I looked up to sight a buoy the world was spinning. I couldn’t swim straight. I would try to correct myself and swim towards the pack of athletes in the water, only find myself even further away from them 30 seconds later. My sense of direction was gone; I felt like I would never make it out, but I willed myself to keep going – determined not to become fish food. When I finally emerged from the water, I saw the world spinning before me. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make it all the way up the grassy slope to transition. I thought about quitting. Then I remembered. Some of the most educational parts of college are the lessons that we learn from our peers. I had acquired a special skill during my college career and it was time to use it. I needed to pull the trig. So, I bent over the edge of the race course and yacked. I felt somewhat better as I stumbled and made my way slowly towards my bike. The first couple minutes on the bike were rough. I was too disoriented to clip in my shoes, and I was worried about my chances of surviving the next 21km. Luckily the bike felt great. The agony of the swim was over, and minute-by-minute I could feel myself getting stronger. My muscles warmed up, and I started to pass people; shocking because I had been overtaken by 2 waves of athletes during the swim.
Coming out of the bike I felt good. I slipped on my running shoes and headed out on the first loop of the run course. That’s when the bear crawled on my back. My legs felt like bricks and my lungs burned. The cardio-free life that I had been living for the last couple years was not serving me well. Nevertheless, I persisted. I saw Eddie during the first loop, and Summer during the second. Seeing friendly faces propelled me onward. I shuffled and dragged my legs through all 5 kilometers of the run.
Finishing was euphoric. I saw Jesse, Justice, Eddie, Robby, and Victoria cheering for me on the sidelines, and minus the fact that I was gagging and wanted to puke, I felt great. I had completed my first race of the season