On Saturday May 5th, I competed in my first triathlon relay with my boyfriend and another friend. It was the Napa Valley Vintage Half-Iron Triathlon and I was responsible for the swim leg. For those of you who may know me, this should come as no surprise. Here was my day start to finish…
Brian and I woke up at 5 am and couldn’t manage to put clothes on and eat by 5:30 (designated departure time), so we ate our oatmeal in the car. That was a joy to scrub later. After a little detour, thank you MapQuest, we arrived at our destination with 15 mins to spare. After shivering while staring at Lake Berryessa for a half hour, Biker Brian was late, we got registered and numbered and it was time to get into my swim suit. The thing about triathlons is that everybody wears a wetsuit, this is for two reasons. First, because all of the swims are done in open water and most of the time, its really fucking cold. Second, because the neoprene is supposed to assist in maintaining proper body position in the water therefore enabling the swimmer to be more efficient. This is debatable however and seeing as though I haven’t bothered to find a wetsuit I opted to swim without one. I have swum in 65 degree water before, this should be no problem. 1.2 miles is only 2100 yards which I swam in 26 minutes the weekend prior.
Ok, so I’m in my suit and its 8 am and the Sun is rising and the race official is telling bad jokes. I’m a little cold, no, more than a little cold. The air is cold and I haven’t warmed up, I’m half naked for gosh sakes. I am in total denial of how bad this swim is going to hurt. The first wave of swimmers takes off, I opted to go in the second wave. This guaranteed I’d always have people in front of me to chase after. As I wade in the water I realize the officials lied about the water temperature, its way colder. There was four minutes between the two waves and being able to start in the front of the second wave meant standing in that cold water letting my muscles tighten slowly and painfully. My remarkable ability to deny reality has proven useful once again and I ignore the cold. I should have gotten a wetsuit. Too late now.
The gun goes off and I dive in, instant brain freeze. I’m sighting on every stroke both because my head is cold and because I cant find the buoy, I wear glasses. I finally see it and then take note of the swimmers around me. One guy even with me to my right and another guy a little ahead to my left, must catch guy to my left. I catch up to him as we reach the buoy and I make the right turn facing directly into the sun. The rest of that first loop went rather smoothly. I even caught up to the first wave as we swam past the boat launch marking the beginning of the second loop.
That’s when things got interesting. Remember my brain freeze? Turns out that part of the lake is particularly cold and not only did my brain freeze come back, but my muscles cramped just a wee bit more. Now I’m having a hard time keeping my stroke at a normal length. The whole time I’m passing people and that’s taking my attention away from the cold and the cramping. Did I mention that when its that cold its really difficult to breath in fully? Half way through the second lap I felt like shit. I didn’t think I could get any stiffer when suddenly I realized this was because my body was pulling heat away from my limbs trying to keep my heart warm. That is a really interesting feeling, they call it hypothermia. This made me pick up the pace. If I don’t get out of the water I’m going to freeze. This made for wonderful motivation to pass more people. “Dig woman dig” I repeated to myself as I lengthened my stroke and started kicking again. This was going to be ok. I can do this. Positive thoughts filled my head as I started to choke on gas fumes. Yes gas fumes, the ass hole driving the rescue boat had his exhaust pointed at the swimmers and I was breathing it, for about 30 strokes. By the time that was over I made the last turn back towards the boat launch and kicked into something resembling high gear. It was over already!
I slipped and almost fell standing up on the boat ramp (slimy nasty boat filth) and ran, barefoot, 200 yards to the transition area to pass the time chip to Biker Brian. My frozen fingers begrudgingly grabbed the Velcro and it was over. My job was done in 31 minutes and I loved every minute of it.
After some violent shivering (all that cold blood hit my heart at once) and a headache from the gas fumes, I warmed up and watched Biker Brian pull us into 12th place. Then my Brian (yes sir I claim him!) ran his cute little butt off and we finished 1st among the relays, 4th overall. Not bad for my first try. Thanks guys, you did most of the work.