My wife and I had a very good trip to Milwaukee for USAT Age Group Nationals. The weather was good, the race venue outstanding, and the city…well, a pleasant surprise. Even the drive (all 1,630 miles round-trip) was enjoyable (special thanks to my now married niece Kayla and husband Aaron for watching the kids for a few days).
With my wife (racingtales) starting in the second wave and me starting in the second to last wave, I had the opportunity to watch her race. What an amazing sight. She was outstanding…strong word “outstanding” but when you qualify to represent Team USA at Worlds, it is an appropriate adjective. You can read her race recap by clicking here. I get the photo credits 🙂
For me, not so successful. I had 3.5 hours to wait from arrival to wave start time. I had planned my nutrition carefully and had a good night sleep. I thought I was ready and felt good. My training had gone well. I was a few pounds lighter than I was at last year’s race in VT. About 20 minutes before my wave start time, I put my wetsuit on, checked my goggles and thought I was good to go. Ten minutes before my wave start, I had my GU (peanut butter…mmm….). But then the waves stopped….no one was swimming. People milled around while we were guessing what was going on. As the life guard and rescue personnel activity increased, we figured it out…SOMEONE WAS MISSING!
I’ve noted the deaths by men in my age range (45 – 54) during triathlons, and while my rational side knows that I get annual check-ups and am in good health without a history of heart trouble in my family, my non-rational side thinks about it every time I race. We waited almost an hour before the race restarted …apparently the guy was fine but failed to tell an official know that he was out. I had been sitting for an hour in my wetsuit and didn’t realize how much I was sweating….a bit of a cold sweat.
My wife got me some Gatorade, which I promptly spilled into my goggles. Even after the restart, I was still 4 waves out. With 7 minutes between waves, that meant another 21 minutes. But wait…my wave was gathering at the bottom of the dock. Maybe I miscounted. I grabbed my stuff…zipped up…went to the bottom of the pier. Waited a minute and jumped in. The water was colder than I expected and I couldn’t see well out of my left eye…darn Gatorade. I rinsed the goggles to not much improvement and swam about 10 M before getting shuffled to the start…..WHAT WAS GOING ON?!?
Because of the delay, the waves were starting 3 minutes apart instead of 7. That meant that the kids behind me (24U) would catch me on the swim…oh well….oh…they would swim OVER me. I moved towards the back to rinse my goggles again. I had them back on and the race was ready to start. I generally stay toward the back and was hanging on the dock. There were guys all around and the horn sounded. We were off..or not…
For some reason the guy next to me thought he could use me as a wall and kicked-off me…right in the gut. I was OK and started my swim. I realized I wasn’t breathing well and stopped. I was fine, everything was fine and then I continued. I swam about 75M and stopped again. I was done. My mind said – “Not Today!” Too much going through my head. I swam back to the pier, handed my chip to an official and made sure they documented that I was out of the race and took the walk of shame, partially clad in my wetsuit, up the pier.
The swim area was great for spectators as there was a bridge on which you could stand while the swimmers went below. That was where I found Alison. I scared the heck out of her when I tapped her on the shoulder as she thought she just saw me in the water. I was mad at myself, frustrated, disappointed. Alison gave me just the right amount of space during our 1 mile walk back to the hotel. While she showered, I scrubbed the numbers off my arms and legs. I had to make the break. I called back to the house as my sister was with our kids now and I knew they may have been watching. I wanted them to know I was fine. Then I pulled myself together over the next 30 minutes and decided to focus on Alison’s accomplishments. We had a celebratory dinner in Toledo, overlooking MudHen’s Stadium.
When I told my younger son what had happened, he got emotionally distressed and was worried that I wasn’t OK. I did what every father would do and told him that we all fail and the best measure of a man’s character is how he overcomes personal challenges…then I put it in terms my 9-year old son understood: When a pitcher knocks you down, you get back up and swing at the next strike and try your best to get a hit. You come back stronger as a result.
I realized I had to listen to my own advice and looked for the next triathlon I could find. It turned out to be our local race: South Riding’s Sprint Triathlon. This was Alison’s year to race it while I watched the kids but she was able to convince our sitter to come over at 5:20 in the morning (Thank you Owen!!). So I bought a bib and I was in! I will do a race recap later, but the result was good. I won my AG and was 18th overall….Alison was 2nd overall.
My lessons learned:
- Don’t race your first race of the season at a National event
- I hadn’t raced as I was recovering from knee surgery
- Practice open water swimming prior to your first open water race
- Expect cold water – even if it is not, your nerves may make it feel cold
- I am debating a full-sleeve wetsuit as I’ve felt cold a lot lately – any advice is welcome
- Have confidence in your health and training (assuming you see the doctor regularly as I do)
- Finally – remember to enjoy the experience! While it is a race, there is nothing like the camaraderie experienced at a triathlon.
Now I have to find my next race…l am looking at the Giant Acorn at the end of September. It is a fun race that I’ve run before. Hope to see you there!