By the time I get over to T2 (Transition 2), the area isn’t crowded at all, and fewer bikes are on the racks. I run my bike over to the rack marked “49-54” and hang the bike where it was at T1. I unvelcro my bike shoes and slip them off. I put on my running shoes and tighten them. Nothing really hurts; this is the last part of the race. I’ve done tri; I’ve done ath; now it’s time for lon. I take one last drink from the water bottle before I’m off.
I run through the same entrance that leads to the bike mount/dismount line. A volunteer quickly tells me to turn around and go to the far end of the transition area where the run starting line is. It’s the same opening I came through from the swim.
So I run the couple hundred feet to the starting line, and it’s not as muddy. I cross the electronic chip detector, and people are mulling about as if the race is over. I look at my watch, and it’s before noon. It becomes a goal for me to finish before 12:30, and that gives me enough time to run a 12-minute mile.
Some guy ever so casually crosses my path, and a lady calls out to him that a runner is coming through. That’s me: I’m the runner. Am I the last one running? I know I’m not the last one running, and I know the race isn’t going to end without me. I clap my hands and say woo and ignore the crowds.
The same hill that began the bike ride is right in front of me. My legs feel a little stiff, but I jog up the hill and take a cup of water from a nearby water station. I pull off to the side of the path and stretch my calves while I drink.
As I bend down to look at my left leg, I see dried, congealed blood on my knee. Interesting.
I take a deep breath and hit the pavement.
Other runners head toward me on their way to the finish line. I tell them good job. It takes my legs a while to warm up. My shoulders feel tense, and I have to consciously lower them, because it wastes precious energy to raise them. I take several deep breaths and visualize oxygen traveling to my shoulders, and it seems to relax them.
One of my friends heads toward me to finish her race. We wave to each other.
Up ahead, I see someone I can catch up to. I’m not running very fast. My mind wants me to go faster, but I’m not sure how much energy I have left, and I’m not sure how much longer I have to run, so I hold back.
A few minutes later, another friend heads my way. I smile at her, and she asks what happened. I tell her as we pass each other that I decided to swim the entire lake. I keep going, one step in front of the other.
My stride isn’t very long, but the turnover between steps is pretty quick. I’m gaining on the person I sighted a few minutes before. As I get closer, I notice this person is a woman. An older woman. The age written on her right calf is 62. She’s wearing a pink tie-dye t-shirt. I kind of feel bad passing her. But, I do. And, I tell her she looks terrific. She nods.
I turn right on the road that has the out-and-back point. There’s a police car with its bubble lights on where I’m supposed to turn around, about a half mile away.
It’s time to turn around; I charge toward that orange spray paint X on the road, wave at the officer and start back the way I came.
Two runners are ahead of me. I slow down a bit and speedwalk for about 15 seconds and start jogging again. The first runner I catch up to is a guy. He’s walking. As I pass him, I tell him this is really hard, and he agrees it is, and I tell him at least he’s doing it.
It occurs to me every time I pass someone and talk, I probably come across as condescending. I figure it’s okay, since I was in last place. This doesn’t stop me from talking to the second runner on the way back to the finish line. It’s a woman, and she’s 44. I tell her to keep going. I think I sound like a jerk.
I turn onto the main road, and on my way out, it looked like this road would be uphill on the way back, but it’s not really that bad. I still want to speed up, but I don’t. I don’t want to run out of juice before I get to the finish line. The pace stays comfortable. I can hear the announcer through the trees. The finish is close.
I turn onto the final stretch, another half mile or so. Orange cones divide the road for the runners and for the cars that are leaving the grounds. A police officer holds traffic so I can make this turn. I’m not sure whether to feel special or embarrassed.
Some finishers tell me to stay to the left of the cones. As I continue down this road, an actual volunteer informs me that I need to stay to the right, because the cars need the other side of the road. He said I could tell people to get out of my way.
Finishers and families say good job and you’re almost there as we pass each other. I thank them and say all right all right and woo.
Other people who are walking toward me point to the other side of cones, letting me know that’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m running as close I can to the cones in the center of the street anyway, but at least on the right side. But I point to my side and I tell them I’ve been instructed to stay on this side. And so they move out of my way. That’s the ticket.
I head down the short hill I started about 3 miles ago. I sight the finish line. A volunteer points me down a lane with a flagged rope on the right side and a cove on the left. I pump my fists in the air because the announcer sees my number and announces! my! name!
But I’m also scared of falling into the water.
It really is a perfect day for a triathlon. 100 meters left, and I pick up the pace for the final kick. I’m going to finish. I’m going to complete my first triathlon. I didn’t die, and the goal is mere feet away. The pain in my calf has subsided probably because of adrenaline and endorphins. I’m going to finish.
I AM GOING TO COMPLETE MY FIRST TRIATHLON! That’s pretty exciting. I want to take a picture of my bloody knee. I’m extremely thirsty, and I’m only a couple of seconds away from drinking refreshing, non-lake water. I see my friends, and they cheer for me, and while I expect “Chariots of Fire” to play in my mind, it doesn’t.
But it should.
I cross the finish line.
But, in my life of triathlons, it is not the end.
I am not done.