I need to preface this post by saying that despite my best intentions, I was unable to finish the race. There will be more on the ins and outs of why later. For now, I’m just going to report on my day in chronological order.
The day started at 5am- my first task, as usual was to feed and walk the boys (Wrigley and Marshall, our 2 dalmatians). After that, I ate 2 scrambled eggs and got all my gear together to head down to the race start. We arrived and parked at about 6:25. I was glad Gayle was with me, as I have a tendency to panic and would probably have been racing around like a crazed chicken. I dropped off my swim to bike transition gear (shoes, helmet, water bottles, food, etc) at my bike, got my body marking done and got my wetsuit on up to my waist. Gayle and I did some sitting and people watching until it was time for me to get on the trolley for the ride to the starting line.
Once there, I sipped on my water and tried to relax. Between 8:00-8:30 the full swimmers went by and it was great to watch them. The tide was really moving, the slowest swimmer got to us (their halfway point) after about 45 minutes. At 8:30, the waves began. A new group started swimming every 5 minutes. I knew my group was last, so I didn’t feel any hurry. I pulled my wetsuit the rest of the way on, and got in the water to float around a bit. The water temperature was 72 degrees and the weather was absolutely beautiful. I had heard someone say that they dropped an empty potato chip bag in at the start and it made it to the finish line before the cut off time. I figured if a plastic bag could make it, so could I!!
And then it was our turn.
Swimming in salt water is a much different experience than swimming in a pool. Swimming with a wet suit is a completely different experience than swimming in a swim suit. I wish I had done more of both in preparation. The salt water dried out my lips and made me wish for a glass of water. I quickly found myself in last place, but wasn’t worried. The current was strong, so strong in fact that race officials decided that swimmers shouldn’t go around one of the buoys but could cut more of a straight line. The fear was that the tide might sweep people in the wrong direction.
Fortunately, I had my own personal guide on a paddleboard. He was extremely helpful and guided me into areas where the current would be most helpful. He also was encouraging me as I slogged along. When I was almost to the finish, he pointed out another person on a paddleboard and said “There’s Katie!” I had asked about my friend Katie earlier, as I knew she was one of the people helping out on the swim. He called her over and she shouted encouragement as I finished the swim. She also let everyone else know my name so they could cheer too. It was a great experience. I could barely drag myself up the ladder and out of the water, fortunately, there was someone there to help me. And the swim portion of my day was completed. (Time: 50 min 17 sec)
Take a minute to read about Katie’s experience as a volunteer at Beach2Battleship here. It’s a great read and she’s just an all around great person!
Swim to Bike Transition
As I started running up the dock, there was a volunteer to help unzip my wetsuit and two others to help get it off my feet. (I’m pretty sure I got all this personal attention because I was the only athlete around…..) They were all very helpful and encouraging. The run from the swim end to the transition area was about 400 yards. It was a bit sad and lonely to see my bike as the only one in the transition area, I had to remind myself that as Gayle kept telling me, “I had to run my own race and not worry about anyone else.” I dried my feet, put on my helmet and shoes and was off on my bike.
The portion of the bike leg that went through town was great. I didn’t have any trouble with the grates on the bridge to get off Wrightsville Beach. I thought I would have some issues because I’m a wimpy cyclist, but it wasn’t difficult at all. There were volunteers and police directing traffic. They seemed to be positioned every few feet and were all smiling and encouraging and cheering me on. I was feeling pretty good. Unfortunately, my feelings started to change once I got on the section of interstate. There were no more people standing on the side of the road and things turned very lonely. If you know Wilmington at all, you know traffic can be an issue. Add 2000 athletes and their friends and family to that and you get major delays. And irate motorists who were not shy about letting me know just how upset they were. (There will be more about this negativity in another post.)
By this time, I had also discovered that my bike was not working properly. It was stuck in one gear and it wouldn’t change no matter what I did. And not being able to change gears was making it virtually impossible to make it up the hills (the overpasses on I140 might not seem big when driving, but when you are riding a bike…they are huge!)
I love my bike. It’s a Felt road bike. It’s not incredibly fancy, it’s not new, but to me it’s beautiful! And fast….sometimes I feel like I can ride like the wind and never slow down. But not being able to change gears makes it about as effective for racing as a beach cruiser. On the uphills I couldn’t make it pedal easier to save my leg muscles, and on the downhills, any momentum and speed I gained was lost because I couldn’t pedal fast enough to keep the gears engaged. I just had to coast. I could keep my speed around 9 miles and hour, but even on the flats, if I tried to pedal faster, the gears wouldn’t keep up. I was stuck.
I kept tri ‘ng. I was way out of town by now, riding on country roads with no one in sight. My physical and mental frustration was growing rapidly. I kept bargaining with myself. ”Go one more mile and then you can stop.” ”You have to keep going.” ”I can’t pedal one more stroke.” I even stopped twice for stretch breaks, but they didn’t seem to help. And after about 23 miles of this back and forth I just couldn’t go any further. My mind and body had quit. But I persevered! I believed if I could just make it through the bike ride, I could finish the run (and the race).
I made it to mile 40, saw an aid station, pulled over and started crying. The volunteers there were very friendly, they offered me drinks, food, a chair and sympathy.
I sat and cried for a while and then called Gayle. She was home, waiting to meet me downtown at the appointed time, but she nixed those plans and came to get me. We loaded up the bike and headed downtown for probably the worst part of the day. I had to collect the stuff I was going to use on the run and my wetsuit and things from the swim. The wetsuit part wasn’t that bad, because it seemed to all that I was just finished and getting my stuff. But going to the transition area to get my run gear was hard because everyone assumed that I had finished the bike and was headed out to run. So I got all the congratulations from volunteers and others that were just standing and cheering.
After spending some more time crying I did get to congratulate a friend who finished the half, and also commiserate with another woman who had to abandon on the bike portion of the event.
I don’t regret my decision, I regret that it had to be made, but i still think I did what needed to be done. I’m proud of myself for even getting off the couch and starting the race, and for getting as far as I did. I greatly appreciate all the prayers and cheers I have received from friends and strangers. I am thankful every day for the support and cheering and kicks in the butt that I get from Gayle.
And I’m not done. I will live to fight another day and conquer a half ironman race, and ultimately an iron distance. I know it seems crazy, but it holds great appeal to me. The training began again with a run yesterday.
Thank you again for all your support! I couldn’t do it without you!!
and as always, I’m still tri ‘ng