Monday, September 13, 2010

Chapter I: Welcome to my Nightmare

Yesterday was my 'A' race. I picked on race to peak for this season and the Patriot Half was it. Similar to last year, the timing of the race fit perfectly into my schedule. I was having a good tri season leading into the race. Hopefully I could extend my luck for one more race.

I was having my usual pre race nightmares before this race, but what made it unusual is that I had more than one. The first one centered around my finishing time and the second involved the water temps. I didn't sleep too well the night before the race, but then again I never do. When the alarm went off at 4am, the first thing I thought was "when was this a good idea?" Every year I wake up and say "this is it, I'm never doing this again" and yet once I get going the thought is gone. I got up, ate breakfast and took my shower. Wingman got up and we packed the car and made our way down to the race site. I felt very nervous. More than I have in the past. I just wanted to get things going.

I setup my transition quickly, hit the port-a-john, donned the wetsuit (to keep warm) and we walked down to the swim start. I asked Wingman a few times if we could pack it up and go home and he said no. Knowing he wouldn't let me leave, I set my sights on the swim course. I knew what it looked like from the race maps and when I looked out into the water, it looked similar, but it also looked long. I told the Wingman what I predicted what time I would do a 'normal' 1.2 mile swim in, but today I wasn't too sure. I bid him farewell and waited for my wave to start. I eased my way into the water and the first thing I thought was "Wow, the state of Virginia spared no expense and carpeted the bottom of the James River." Seriously, it was so smooth and nice to walk on. I wanted to be sure I had some nice open water to start in. I again looked over the swim course and picked my line. I also noticed the orange buoys used to mark the course were few and far between. 

Basically it is a rectangle swim. But there was a catch. There's a current that will pull you to the left. So the best approach (I found out AFTER) was to swim out to the right and let the current bring you back in towards the buoy. I should have picked up on this when I saw people lining up to the right of me and very few of us to the left. When the horn went off, I was on my way. I kept the yellow turn buoy in my sights and focused on swimming straight to it. I had a few swimmers around me so I knew I was in the right place. Or was I? It took an eternity to get to that first turn. I kept looking up and it never got closer. And it seemed that there were swimmers all over the place. The buoy was getting closer and I saw that swimmers were coming from my right. Where the heck was I?

"Lights go out and I can't be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead"

Even today, I have no idea where the heck I was on the swim out. Swimmers were coming from my right and I saw some other buoys. First thing I thought was "is there another race out here?" Just mass confusion by a lot of people out there. A group of us had to make a 90 degree turn and it seemed that the others were swimming towards it and didn't really turn. I could see the convergence that was going to take place at the turn and I braced myself for it. I was going to cut the turn close and suffer the consequence of it. I had someone trying to swim over me from my left but I held my space and made the turn.

I got around the first turn and peeked at my watch. I almost puked when I saw the time. I knew I had to do better going in if I was going to do something decent. I figured I was caught up in a current. I didn't find out how strong it was until afterwards. I made it to the 2nd turn and as I looked up to find my line to get back in, I knew I was in trouble. The sun was up and in my eyes for the swim in. Plus it was reflecting off the water so I was blinded looked up and out in front. I just focused on staying with the swimmers near me and hoping they stayed on course.

"Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks"

As I got closer to the shore I could finally make out where I was supposed to land. I found out later that they had some kind of flashing red light but I never saw it. They also had a giant figure in yellow on the shore that was shaking around so you could see something but with the sun it's hard to really see until you get closer. I thought I was on the right line, but I almost swam into the lifeguard on a surf board. He gestured for me to swim to the left. I thanked him and continued towards the shore. I could see that even at 150 feet out, it was so shallow that people were walking. I cut my losses, started walking and removed my wetsuit. Even this area was 'carpeted'. You go Virginia, way to stay classy!!

I finally got out of the water and looked at my watch. Swim time was much longer than I was hoping for. I know I made up some time on the swim in, but still the overall time was ~5-7 minutes longer than I was capable of. I was dejected as I began the long hike to transition. The swim/walk and hike to T1 wore me out. Physically I was quite tired from fighting the current. I was worried about the bike coming up. Wingman walked along with me encouraging me. I finally made it to transition and sat down to put on my socks and collect my thoughts. I went from dejected to how can I do some serious damage control? I grabbed my stuff and was on my way.......................

Up Next Chapter 2: Taking Care of Business

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