It’s taper time, bitches, and do you know what that means? It means I’ll have more time to get the shit done that I neglected because I was too busy doing my workouts until noon, showering and stuffing my face until 1:00, then staring at the wall going “buh buh buh” until my first kid gets home at 2:45, then spending the rest of the night stuffing THEIR faces and making them do their homework and go to practice and get ready for the next day while also reminding them that no, they cannot spend an hour in the jon as to avoid emptying the dishwasher because conveniently, it’s time to go to practice/school.
For instance, take today. I got up, got my kids to school at 7:45, hopped on my bike and rode 40 minutes, messed around with my dumb cadence sensor who just wants to be free but will not because I’m going to zip tie that MFer until it cannot breathe and fall off my bike. I then did strength, showered, ate, drank coffee, cancelled my NatureBox subscription, emailed all my Stride parents, picked up more crap from Saturday’s event that I just left laying around, posted a few things on Facebook, researched how to tighten my shoe cleat on my bike pedal, put on makeup AND curled my hair (this is a big one), worked on my new “About” page that I’ve been “working on” for months now but can’t seem to finish, packed up and took a load of crap to Goodwill, picked up my book on hold at the library, came home and it’s not even noon. Can you say “hollah”? I mean, really. It’s not like every day had a huge long workout, but when they shorten up, I can certainly feel it.
Anyway, while I taper down for my first triathlon on the 25th, I MUST reflect on the last year and smile. Hell, I need to do a little dance! I swam the “Mott’s Channel Swim”, which is almost the same course as my triathlon course at exactly the same tide as my triathlon tide, so it was picture perfect practice for my triathlon. Saturday was my first swim race, and a year ago, I had only been “swimming” for a few weeks. It’s crazy to think that a year later, I was swimming over a mile in the channel, without a current push, with about 100 other people, and I would really enjoy myself. And I mark Saturday as the day that my fear of swimming, my fear of not making my cutoff for the swim in the tri, my fear of failing at the tri would turn into determination. It’s about time.
Saturday morning started off like Friday – it was absolutely gorgeous. I had six miles to run, so I decided to get a good parking space at the swim race start, and I took off for my run from there. I was hesitant to get my pace miles in because of my *(^% shin splints, but I got two miles in at 7:40 and the others at 8:15-8:30. I would have done three at pick up pace, but I misread my workout and only did the two. It was probably good for my splints. I saw some people I knew along the way, saw the ocean, and knew it would be a good day for a swim – sunny, warm, slight breeze, NOT windy. I wasn’t nervous at this point, so I was hopeful that I would remain calm.
After my run, I went to wish my coach and swim race director a happy birthday, got my timing chip, and chatted with some of my buddies. I was doing the “Mott’s Channel Swim” which was a mere 1.3 miles, but there were others doing the “Swim the Loop” which was a 3.5 mile swim that ended against the current. Yikes. No nerves yet. I got my post-race bag ready, dropped it off, made sure I had my swim cap and goggles, and ate my two pieces of bread with peanut butter as I waited for the trolley to come take us to the start. I ended up sitting by someone I knew and a few I didn’t know but got to know as we waited to head out. It was fun! Some of us were concerned the warm weather (in the upper 70’s or lower 80’s at finish) would make us too warm for wetsuits but I wanted to practice my “real” tri experience as close to what the tri actually will be, so I had mine on. When we got to the start, music was playing, and I wondered how it would be to swim with about 100 other people, which is something I’ve never done. Obviously the crowd would thin out significantly, but I just didn’t know what to expect. Gulp. Then the nerves hit. Big ones. Big raging ones with nausea.
The only thing that went through my mind to do was go to the person with whom I’ve done the most open water swimming with, the person who has ALWAYS told me that I could do it, to not worry, and that it’ll be ok – my friend Stacey. I only met her on July 4th, but I’m so glad that I did!! I have complained and moaned and groaned about my swimming ability, and she has always been so positive to me, and it all came around on Saturday. I found her and was met with a hug and a “You’ll rock this race”. That’s all I really needed, and then we talked course strategy. Thanks, Stacey! I knew I needed to veer to the left to catch any current that would take me right, and I knew that I needed to try and hug the marsh to the left. The part that I DIDN’T do was REALLY study the details of the course. Sure, you look at it and seems easy and like a straight shot until you get out there and realize you can’t see the finish because there’s docks and buildings and boats and water weeds. More on that later. The National Anthem was played, and we were about to head into the water for the mass start at 10:00 am.
When we crossed the mat to get into the water, I was still a little nervous, and I honestly couldn’t believe I was about to embark on my first swim race. Me?! Swimming?! Crazy!!! The water was pretty cool, not yet COLD, but cool, so I was glad I had my wetsuit on. Picture it: 100 swimmers happily chatting, sun shining, beautiful view, and pretty calm waters. It was go time. I started close behind Stacey so I could keep an eye on where she was going, and the horn sounded. We were off.
There’s really nothing like the sound of 100 swimmers all in the water at the same time. I have always enjoyed the sound, and here it was again. And this time I was one of them. I usually get songs in my head or count strokes or just watch the docks pass by when I swim. This time, I was concentrating on sighting and knowing where I was and where I wanted to be. It seemed pretty easy in the beginning, probably because I’m familiar with the course. I waited until I reached the first buoy to check my Garmin, just to see where I was. Hmmm, not too bad! I didn’t look at the time, because it was really irrelevant at that point. I remember thinking, “Hey, I’m crossing the channel. I’m almost across the channel. I crossed the fricken channel!”. I did check a few times to see if there were other swimmers behind me, and I was actually glad there were. Just a few lingered, but I wasn’t last.
The water got slightly more choppy as we progressed, and my goggles fogged up. I had to stop to check my bearings and clear my sight, then I started back again. Since I hadn’t had a day off in eight days, my body was pretty tired, but I felt good and strong. My coach even said “let’s have you swim on some tired legs”, which they were. In a good way. I watched my distance progress, and at .6, I was happy to be half way. Then it dawned on me that the race was, in fact, 1.3 miles, not 1.2. Dur dee dur. Oh well, just keep on swimming! I’m not sure how far into the course we were, but I remember passing a buoy and thinking we needed to head right to the finish. I swam that way for a bit, was confused because there wasn’t another bright orange buoy to sight to, so I stopped to verify I was going in the right direction. Good thing I did, because I was NOT going in the right direction. Oopsy! I corrected myself and headed towards the other swimmers.
I was still feeling good, staying focused, and I made sure I knew where I was from this point on. And the funniest and most ironic part for me was that I was having FUN! I didn’t care how fast I was going, I didn’t care that I made a mistake, and I honestly didn’t care if I was last as long as the support people didn’t harass me, which I knew they wouldn’t. THIS is why I wanted to do triathlons! THIS feeling – the FUN, the excitement, the thought of doing something new. And I liked it. (Did I just hear my husband groan and hide the credit card?)
I knew I was getting closer to the finish when I could hear the announcer. I checked my Garmin and knew that I would end up swimming farther than 1.3, but again, I didn’t care (and what was I going to do, stop, hold my Garmin up and say “Hey, I’ve done 1.3, so hellooooo, I’m DONE!”? No, just like any distance, Garmins are Garmins and with my little “detour” I very well probably did swim some extra. I was trying to find the finish line as I was pretty damn confused, and finally it became clear AFTER the stupid boat moved away from blocking my view of it.
When the finish line came into sight and I had just a little left to go, things changed. I saw some swimmers behind me, and my competitiveness came out. No way in hells bells was I going to let someone pass me now, so for the first time probably EVER in the history of me open water swimming EVER, I tried to swim fast. I lengthened my stroke, pulled harder, kicked harder, and I made it to the finish as fast as I could. In front of the other swimmers.
We had to climb a ladder onto the dock to well, get out of the water, but to also cross the timing mat. I stopped my Garmin on just over 47 minutes. 47 freaking minutes! Can you say insta-tears?????? Holy hell, Gary was so right, I had been freaking out about this half iron swim for NOTHIN’!!!! I F*****G DID IT!!!!!!! And I swam a bonus .09 miles with a total of 1.39. If I can do THAT, then what the hell have I been whining about making the cutoff in the swim in 90 minutes with less swim to finish? Yes, Gary, you were so right!!! Cue the “told you so” dance!
THAT is when it happened. THAT is when my fear disappeared, and determination slowly took over. It probably started happening the minute the swim started, but when I was done, I had such a feeling of……of…..happiness. I set my mind to it, I did the work, and I did it.
I was wobbly right out of the water, not vertigo as some swimmers have, but I think it was simply “tired body syndrome”, which became “I want a damn beer syndrome”, which became “this was awesome syndrome”. I recommend that one for anyone 🙂
I found the results and saw that, with my 2:00 wetsuit penalty, I finished 82nd of 98 swimmers. If I took out my penalty, I would gain 5-10 spots, but still, I finished, so my place is irrelevant. It simply didn’t and doesn’t matter to me. We hung out for quite a while, drank some beers, ate lunch, and watched as the 3.5 mile swimmers came in, many of them against a very strong current. They were inspiring, that’s for sure!
So now, as I taper, as I get my race plan in place, make my lists, get my race head on straight, I know that I’m determined to tackle any obstacles that come my way come race day. I know that I can do it, that I can overcome, and that I can finish my race strong and smart on October 25th. Saturday was the day my fear turned into determination.