Thursday, September 16, 2010

Race Report: Part 2- The Swim

The Nation's Tri has so many athletes that we start in waves.  I.e., the super-fast people (the "elites") go first, followed by the military cadets, followed by the various age groups and gender.  I am a female 30-34 age group competitor.  We were given very hot and sexy dark green swim caps.  I am well aware that my (slightly panicked) mother would have far preferred I'd been given a glow-in-the-dark, flashing cap.  She had some fears of my drowning and dying a wet and silty death in the Potomac.
I stood at the exit chute just long enough to watch the really fast guys come out of the water.  The first few men flew by, having swum for just over 17 minutes.  (That's super fast.)  They ran by at top speed, and I saw the first problem of a triathlon:  I'd never practiced running in bare feet.  
And then I realized: I'd be running in bare feet THROUGH WASHINGTON DC.  
I wear flip flops in hotel showers, I'm so germ-o-phobic and worried about slipping.  To be barefoot... in a city... all together now:  EWWWWW!  
Please tell me how brave I was to take off my flip flops and give them to my coach.  Along with my cochlear.  
I got in line with the other F 30-34s.  Then I kicked my mother out of line.  And then I turned the other way and kicked my husband out of line.  "M, I love you, but you're in my zone!"  Then I talked to the other athletes and wondered what the h-e-hockey-sticks I'd gotten into. 
Soon, we were leaping in the Potomac.  Yes, the swim takes place in the Potomac.  It's not as filthy as I would have guessed, but it does leave one with a fine, silty brown dirt all over you.  (Sorry about your washcloths, Hilton hotel.  You were great!)  
The swim went well- I know I'm a slow swimmer, so I positioned myself at the back of my age group and let the fast people take off.  I started into my stroke.  I've begun to realize that, in open water, it takes me about 200 meters to settle in and get my breathing going, so I just took the time relax and not freak out.  Now that I've cut the neck of my wetsuit, I can breathe SO much easier, and I don't freak out nearly as much.  Whew.  Wish I'd know about that earlier in the summer, when I'd panic because I couldn't breathe.  I should write to that teammate who gave me the wetsuit tip.  
My biggest mistake:  I got lost.  As I rounded the 600 meter buoy, I kept up my stroke and breathing and pacing and suddenly I swam into a herd of people all swimming directly at me.  I stopped dead in the water.  I looked up.  I looked around.  I was totally, completely disoriented.  I saw buoys.  I saw 500 meters.  I saw 400 meters.  I was supposed to be at 700 meters.  Finally, I realized I'd gotten turned completely around.  Disheartened, I swam back to 500 and started that section over.  I kicked myself for about 100 meters, then decided I'd blown that part and I could let it ruin the race or I could make the best of it.  I had pushed myself pretty far back in my age group... but I could only move up, right? 
I figure, with that error, I actually swam about 1700 meters instead of 1500.  Meaning I was the first person in the whole race to get that far. I WIN! 
Winning rocks. 
I concentrated on keeping my body positioned well in the water, and worked on my kick.  Considering I started the summer not even knowing how to do a proper stroke, I think I've come a long way.  Around 900 meters, everything clicked.  (Well, maybe my arm stroke wasn't quite bent right...) I got the full-leg kick going.  I felt my arms pulling down on the water.  And suddenly, I was passing people.  I hit a buoy full on, I was sighting so well.  I swam past about a bunch of people and suddenly, I saw myself matching some guy on my right.  He and I swam stroke for stroke the last hundred meters or so, and then I was clambering up the ramp.  I walked a few steps to reorient myself, and suddenly, I broke into a jog.  
I was running barefoot through a misting tent and over the asphalt of Washington, DC.  
People were cheering on either side of the chute.  
The bike ride was coming up- the part of the event I was made for.  Bring it on, baby.  

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