If the Reston Sprint had been my first triathlon there is no amount of money I would have accepted to do another. Going into this tri (like my previous), I had three goals:
- Don’t drown;
- Don’t wreck my bike; and
One out of three isn’t bad.
I wasn’t too nervous this morning. I typically swim in a 25m pool and this snake swim was being held in a 50m pool so that was a bit daunting. Also, this swim was a longer distance than my last triathlon – 400m. Still, I have the most confidence in the swimming portion so I was eager to get started. I waited on the pool deck and chatted with a friend, only occasionally glancing at the pool. The water was a warm 81 degrees and the air temperature was around 80. At least I wouldn’t be cold!
Once I finally queued up to start the swim, I focused on the swimmers already in the pool – some athletes had beautiful, fluid strokes; one man was doing a doggy paddle; another man was just walking. All levels of swimming skills (or lack thereof) were definitely represented! As I neared the start with about 5 swimmers in front of me, I noticed that people had a choice of diving from the side of the pool or jumping in and pushing off from the wall. I decided to push off from the wall since that is how I have been practicing. Once it was my turn to start, I jumped in to get ready. However, when I jumped in my feet didn’t hit the bottom of the pool. I kept going down. Uh-oh! I had assumed that the pool was 5-6 feet deep – it clearly wasn’t. I hadn’t held my breath before jumping in so, without thinking, I tried to take in air – except I was underwater. I came up spluttering and coughing and before I could recover from my miserable entry I heard the word “Go!”
Well, darn! This wasn’t the swim start that I had envisioned. I was really looking forward to this portion, but my confidence was shot. I struggled down the lane, still coughing and trying to recover from swallowing water and getting so much up my nose. 25m down the lane I had to roll onto my back. I quickly was passed by the swimmer behind me and I thought about quitting. My heart rate was through the roof, I couldn’t catch my breath and I just didn’t think I could recover. I’m not a quitter though so I rolled back over and tried to get into a swim groove. That 50m portion ended and I took a 5 second stop at the end of the lane to calm down and catch my breath. It was not working so I took off anyway. I decided to switch to my backstroke (it’s not as good as my freestyle, but I refused to doggy paddle or walk) but that didn’t really help. Soon enough I finished my second 50m length but I was still struggling. I let a couple swimmers pass me before I pushed off the wall. I made it through the next 100m with a combination of backstroking and freestyle.
Finally! I seemed to calm down. I caught my breath and could feel my heart rate slowing. At this point, I had 200m to go and I was confident that I could freestyle the rest of the way. My form was good and I began to pass swimmers. According to my Garmin, I negative split the second half of the swim so I climbed out of the pool, confident that the worst of the day was behind me.
I managed to snag the best spot in transition for the ride portion – my bike was the closest to the exit. I cleared T1, mounted my bike and was on my way up the tiniest of hills. I turned onto the bike course and started to pick up speed as a rider came by on my left. He hadn’t called out so I was a bit surprised. He passed me and started to cut back over in front of me. He was a bit close to my wheel, but I thought it would be alright as he would speed up to pull away. Nope. He braked, held his diagonal line and clipped my front tire. !?#?!@?# I panicked, knowing that I was going down. I managed to unclip my shoes and fortunately came down in some grass. I quickly picked myself up, checked that I wasn’t bleeding and hopped back on my bike. That set the tone for the rest of my ride – I was tentative, slow and fearful of everyone who passed me.
Finally, I made it back into transition. My bike was quickly racked, I slipped my trainers on and I began the run. By this time, it was hot and sunny. The hat and sunglasses weren’t cutting it and Reston is very hilly. I soon started walking. I wanted the race to be over yet I didn’t run to end the pain sooner. Such faulty thinking. Those were the longest 3.1 miles of my life, I think (pretty close! It took me 41 minutes to walk). I crossed that finish mat thankful that this was my second triathlon. Given the abysmal swim and the bike incident, I would have never signed up for another tri (and I would have earned DNSs for the rest of my tris this season) if this had been my first experience with triathlons.
But here is the kicker: this race was longer, I nearly drowned getting into the pool, I had a bike wreck (and I was riding a new bike), I walked most of the 5K and I still beat my previous time. !?!?!!? I don’t even know what to say…