What an experience, to say the least.
- I got to see 3 of my best friends from DC (who all rocked it, by the way)
- Talked to an awesome volunteer who is looking for a Fall marathon (oh, hello Richmond) and might consider doing her first tri soon (if nothing else, jump down to read the write-up about her)
- 2 really nice support guys with paddleboards and kayaks helped me out in the water
- I passed a bunch of people on the run, and put down a very respectable 10k time (run recap)
- My bike tires stayed inflated, which is a huge victory in-and-of itself (bike recap)
- …Annnnd I didn’t drown (full swim recap)
Truth be told, there was a little more to it than that, so let me break it down for ya.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to most of you, but the swim was my main concern entering the race. For starters, I had nowhere near the training that I should have had. Swam in open water a total of 2 times this year, and maybe only another dozen in the pool (all of which were fall shorter than the 1500m we had to swim in the race).
And on top of my lack of training, I just don’t do well in the water. I’m a land guy. Always have been. And if I can’t plant my two feet solidly on the ground, I get a little nervous. Throw me in a river with strong current, ask me to locate & navigate around 2 buoys, travel a total of 1500m (more like 1600m for my swerving self), and drop a 1-hour time limit on me… and I get A LOT nervous.
It also doesn’t help that my buddy calls me the night before, in Richmond, and says that the river is moving at 6.5mph. And minutes later, my friends from DC (who LOVE swimming, btw) just talked to a race official at the hotel, who told them, “Oh, yeah. The swim is definitely still on.”
Holy Freakout, Batman!
Now that all that is out of the way… I walk up to the beach with my buddy, Nick, since we’re starting in the same wave together. Although I know there’s nothing more I can do at this point, I’m still not the least bit comfortable with what’s about to happen.
I talked to myself the entire 20-minute car ride to the site, going over my game plan.
- Goal #1 – Just survive the swim. As long as I make it out of the water… mission accomplished.
- Goal #2 – Don’t get a flat. As long as my bike was operational, I knew I could physically get through the bike (albeit slowly).
- Goal #3 – Make up some time. Leave it all out there. Give it everything I had left in the one discipline I knew I could smash.
And yet, here I am, 2 minutes before the start, freaking out like a 3-old-year with a spider crawling up her arm.
“Oh, crap! Did he just say, ‘Go?!'”
Lucky for me, the water near the shore was really shallow. We were able to walk the first 50, 60, maybe 70m or so. I took advantage of every. single. step.
I tried to stay as far up-river as possible, because I knew the current would be pulling me down river. And I had to stay to the right of the turn buoy.
Yeah… that didn’t work. My lack of swimming prowess, combined with a fairly strong current, threw a wrench in that plan. I found myself about 100m from the turn buoy, and completely down-river from it. I grabbed onto a paddleboarder for a minute to gather my thoughts.
“I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t fight the current. I didn’t train enough. My form is already shot and I’m not even halfway there yet. I might have to call it quits.”
I looked at the paddleboarder and said, “Alright, I’m gonna give this a shot.”
He said, “I’m right behind ya, man. Go for it.”
So I swam almost directly upstream, expending way more energy than I realize I had in me, and made it to the turn buoy… at the same time all the women who started 12 minutes after me made it there.
Typically, I would love the idea of being surrounded by 30+ beautiful, athletic women in swimsuits. But there was nothing typical about what was happening to me right now.
Once I made that first turn buoy, it instantly gave me confidence that I could at least make it back to shore. The thoughts of quitting quickly disappeared.
I coasted on the short down-river stretch, and eventually made it back to shore. The really shallow water I mentioned on the way out… I totally forgot about it. So when I was still 50 or so meters from shore and my feet unexpectedly hit the ground… Hallelujah!
One last thing… On the way back into shore, I knew how strong the current was, and I was really proud of myself for compensating. I learned my lesson on the way out, and took a much better line than many others who I saw much farther downstream as we were approaching shore.
Goal #1 accomplished. 1500m in 38:05
Nothing too eventful on the bike. I didn’t really take it all that easy (at least in the effort I put forth), yet still found myself at the bottom of my age group. So goes it when you buy a $1500 tri bike & don’t ride it for 3 years. But I kept both tires inflated, and nothing broke.
I tried to push myself whenever I could. Part of that was because I was so elated that I made it out of the water. The other part was just me being competitive.
I still cranked out 40k (24.8mi) in 1:19, which equates to 18.8mph. Very happy with that on how little training I put in.
As was the case with the 4 sprint triathlons I did several years ago, I always get passed by a bunch of people on the bike. The only difference this year… longer distance meant even more people passed me.
But the beauty of a triathlon for me, is that I’m a good runner. I probably passed 90% of those same people on the run.
I averaged 7:48/mi, and finished 10k in 48:29. My legs felt like poop from mile 3 on, but hey, nice job guys. Real proud of ya.
The coolest part of the run (literally, the coolest) was the turnaround point. I love running. I love volunteers. I love kids. And I love water, especially when I’m hot & thirsty.
There were a bunch of kids offering a “splash” at the turnaround water stop. How can you say no to that? So the first one completely misses my face & drills me in the chest. I saw the rest of the kids getting jealous because they wanted to splash someone too. Again… how can you say no to that?
Long story short, I got splashed 5 or 6 times, everywhere from mid-thigh to my face, all within a stretch of about 30 feet. I ran the last 3 miles a bit soggy, and uncomfortable, but you know what, the kids loved it, and even a few other racers smiled. That’s worth more than any finishing time I’ve ever put up.
While my buddy Nick & I were standing about 50 yards from the finish, cheering on Amy (his wife) and Erica (aka: E$), I started talking to the awesome volunteer on the corner. She’s a runner, but was always a bit nervous about the swimming & biking, so she’s never tried a triathlon.
I’m not the kind to force anyone to do anything, but if she enjoys being out here cheering us on, and she loves to run, my guess is, she’d enjoy herself with a triathlon. So I gave her some ideas on training, and which races to start with.
Low & behold, she actually looked me up online after the race. Her name is Kelley. She just recently moved to Williamsburg, and hasn’t found many running buddies yet. But she told me she was looking into doing a tri, and also asking about marathons in the Fall. I think I know of a good one 🙂
I love my friends. I love triathlons. I love volunteers. And people are awesome.
And I finished with a total time of 2hr 51min… but honestly, who even cares?! I finished.