As we filed down to the swim start, I was standing next to a guy who was shivering and said, “I’m never doing this race again.” I assumed he was going to say something like the weather sucks or whatever, but he said, “It’s so unorganized, nobody knows where anything is. I mean, I got here late and missed the informational meeting, but still.”
I wanted to say, “Oh yeah, maybe next year, you should try putting on a fucking triathlon,” But I just shrugged and turned away. Nerves, anxiety, or whatever it must have been, didn’t deserve a response. I thought Rev 3 put on a tremendous race in miserable conditions.
I’m always humbled when riding or running along and see volunteers excitedly offering water in rainy/55 degree weather. Who are you awesome people? And aside from a few sticks in the mud, most of the athletes were remarkably upbeat and positive. I guess that’s why I’m so excited to be doing triathlons. Below is the summary of my Rev 3 Olympic Swim.
My wave filed through the gallows to face the hangman shaped swim course. The attitude ranged from anxious to intrepid. I mean, who in their right mind would wake up at 6 o’clock on a freezing cold and wet Sunday morning to go swim point nine miles in a raging river? But oddly, I sensed an air of calm and content, probably akin to what death row inmates feel moments before their execution. We were ready. Or were we?
My new buddy, Cliff, decide to get it over quick, and jumped in the freezing water just as we got to the pier. The problem was, it was about 40 yards downstream from the start line. I moved about 10 yards further up the pier, cupped the cold water and let it trickle down my spine to ease the shock. Then, as I was splashing my face, the starter started running toward us shouting, three, two, one! The horn blew, and our wave was off! I looked back at poor Cliff, who had just added 40 yards to his race, then sprinted down the pier and flopped into the river like a maimed walrus about 15 yards behind the people I was now chasing.
It was totally my fault, and lesson number one of the day. Don’t waste pre-race time in conversations with people trying to bring you down.
I’ve never been to the English Channel, but as I flailed about in my new environment, I glanced at the horizon and swore I saw the Walde Lighthouse peaking through the mist.
My pool training has been consistent and my improvements impressive. But as the cold reality of the open water splashed my face and pushed my backwards, my technique acted like a Copperfield prank, leaving me with a empty top hat and no rabbit.
The memory of my first Olympic swim in Ashland City at NashVegas tried its best to creep into my head. That was a rainy day, too, but certainly not as cold and I was on the verge of a meltdown. The NashVegas swim nearly drove me to quit, but I managed to drag myself out of the water in 42 minutes.
I was doing everything to remain calm, but seemingly not moving any closer to my destination. I glanced to my right and throngs of swimmers plowed their way up the line of yellow buoys. I’m no sighting savant, but my intuition told me they were taking the long way to the mark. I stayed to their left and swam next to a paddle boat hoping I wouldn’t get the urge to jump on board.
Frankly, I wasn’t warmed up. I was saying “relax” over and over to myself, but my breathing was short, and of all things, I got tired 300 yards into the race. I stopped and stared at the buoy and knew my only recourse was dropping into a casual breast stroke to find my breath.
Exactly one thing was running through my mind. “I just fucked up my race with this swim.” I forgot my watch and had no sense of time, but when people all around you are wind milling their swim strokes and you are basically treading water, the panic level cranks a little tighter.
Slowly, I began to calm down, but my breaststroke is no match for the raging currents of a river. I was going nowhere, fast, but stayed the course and slowly emerged into freestyle as I turned the corner.
I still felt a little tight in my chest, but focused on nothing but breathing and by about half way through the swim I started to engage. Suddenly, I felt strong and even found myself in a successful drafting position. I also noticed that I was passing a lot of people. It was an empowering feeling and I kept hammering toward the exit, which was still at least 500 yards away. But for the 500 yards, I did not flinch. I may have saved my race.
I touched the side of the pier and a friendly volunteer helped drag me out of the water. I landed with a big squish on my waterlogged ass, then rolled to my knees, hoping my legs would work. They did.
I walked for twenty feet then eased into a light jog as I fought to unzip my wet suit. I looked around hoping to catch a glimpse of my coach, but didn’t recognize a soul. I had ZERO idea of how long that swim took and figured coach would yell out my time as I ran by in a hazy glow. He wasn’t there, and I took that as a good sign. Maybe I got out of the water faster than he thought I would? He confirmed later it was true.* At the very least, I knew I was still in the race.
To be continued . . .
* My official swim time at Rev 3 Olympic was 26:26.