Saturday will mark another milestone in my unknown and unfathomable triathlon career. Just 50 short weeks after my first Sprint Triathlon, I will be driving into Muncie, Indiana with Racer K, Jim, Mark, Coach, +1, and +2 to race my first Half Ironman. It’s been a wild ride.
I still remember that first Sprint like it was yesterday. I stood in a long line wearing a tight lycra two-piece suit and felt like a complete idiot. But, I looked around for fear in the faces of others, and it was there. Something about that calmed my nerves before I jumped in the Cumberland River for the first time.
The water was murky, rough, and I barely knew how to swim. The current was so strong they had to shorten the distance from 400 to 300 meters, and it was probably a good thing because I was living with my breast stroke. I was really worried about crossing the river and being swept away from the swim exit, so I swam like a bat out of hell when I circled the last buoy. I would love to have video of that swim because I’m sure I looked a puppet whose master was yanking strings uncontrollably.
But I made it out, did pretty good on the bike, then struggled through the 5K. When I crossed the finish line I thought I was the fucking shit! I just did a triathlon, bitches! It felt amazing. I knew I had to have more.
Shortly after that, I went to watch Racer K do Ironman Louisville, and got hooked. I was mesmerized and must have asked Jim 8-thousand questions. In many ways that day changed my life.
A couple weeks later, I stood on the ramp with my age group waiting to launch into my first Olympic. I was scared shitless. The swim buoys looked SO FAR away, I couldn’t believe it. I was genuinely standing there telling myself there was no fucking way I was going to be able to swim 1,500 meters. I’d only swam that far once in a pool, and on this cold and rainy morning, I thought I had met my match.
The horn sounded and I got my first taste of a group start. People were all over me and I started to panic. I wasn’t a hundred yards in before I unzipped my tri top to relieve the pressure in my chest. I glanced at the shore, then dug in with a lackluster breast stroke. The rain fell on my face and the rest of my competition pulled away.
When I hit the first buoy, I was gassed. It was only two hundred yards off shore, which I looked at long and hard before glancing at the next buoy, which I could barely see. I tread water for what seemed like 5 minutes, and damn near jumped on a kayak for a ride back to shore. But, Racer K, Allie, Heidi, and a few more friends were watching, and I just couldn’t quit. Somehow I summoned the courage and energy to finish the swim. Forty two minutes later, I crawled out of the water to loud cheers from the die hard triathlon fans. I was recharged.
Once again, I ripped a pretty good bike time, and fought my way through the 10k. The minute I finished, I knew I left something on the run, and immediately wanted more. My time was 3 hours and 1 minute.
I did a little sprint this Spring and that went fine, but looming in the distance was my second Olympic, Rev3 in Knoxville. I rode over with Coach and it rained for two straight days. On race day it was 58 degrees and the water was colder.
I laid in bed the night before trying to calm my nerves, but couldn’t sleep. I probably slept three hours that night, then strapped on my wetsuit to jump in a dark and angry river for some reason. I really thought I must be going insane.
I was actually pretty relaxed and made it two hundred yards or so before I started having doubts. The current was rigid and the first third of the race was upstream. IT TOOK FOREVER to hit that first buoy. Then it was a short cross to the second turn before swimming downstream to the exit.
I don’t know what came over me, it was almost a survival instinct and I just started hammering. I had no idea how fast I was going, but felt pretty good other than frozen hands, feet and face. It was on this home stretch that I learned one of my biggest lessons in the swim. You have to swim YOUR race. There is just no sense even paying attention to other swimmers unless you find a set of feet to draft on. The race is definitely not won in the water and it is fruitless to step outside of your comfort zone. Save that for the run.
I got out of the water, unzipped my suit, and headed to the bike. I had no idea what my time was, but later found out it was 26 minutes. I’d cut 16 minutes off my last Olympic swim in about 6 months.
I did another Sprint a few weeks ago, but now it’s time to up the game. Muncie will be a major test for me. I must admit training is going pretty well and I feel strong about each stage of the race. Individually, none of these distances scare me at all, but combining them for the first time in one day has my attention.
Today, coach predicted I would finish in 5 hours and 16 minutes, and I appreciate his confidence, but that won’t be easy. I’m guessing he thinks my splits will be something like: 1.2 mile Swim – 40 minutes, 56 mile Bike – 2:40, 13.1 mile Run – 1:49. Add transition time of 7 minutes.
It sounds ridiculous to even think about times and distances like this, but if I’m feeling good Saturday, I think I can hit his predictions. Coming off the bike and running an 8:19 mile pace for a half marathon will be a big test. I’m not quite sure I’m wearing a watch either, so this is gonna be a complete race of “feel.” I’ll keep you posted.