Pictures Came In from The Pros …

Should I get these? I’m kind of narcissistic, I guess. But you see the bright green swim cap and the sticker and sign on my bike helmet and me being glad to be running and almost finished. BEAUTIFUL day. Heavenly day.

My face here is funny to me.
My face here is funny to me.

 

This is the best of the bike photos. I'm getting close to transition.
This is the best of the bike photos. I'm getting close to transition.

 

I'm probably just getting started, here.
I'm probably just getting started, here.

Epilogue, Post-‘lon, A Few Photos

Next time, I will have trained longer than 6 weeks.

I never did find that lifeguard to thank him.

My left calf has completely recovered. All it needed was some rest and nutrition. And a heating pad. It feels great.

I’ve been swimming twice this week: on Monday I felt really tired. Wednesday’s swim felt normal again.

My knee looked pretty gross initially. It has scabbed over nicely and doesn’t even itch.

I was mad at myself for a little while for botching the swim, but I actually learned from the experience, and I know there will be a next time. I feel so much better about it now.

Wow, people. It really was a gorgeous day.

Where Bumpass is. Notice the pretty, blue sky!
Where Bumpass is. Notice the pretty, blue sky!

 

Transition Area
Transition Area
my bike, hanging up on the rack - yay, 50!
my bike, hanging up on the rack - yay, 50!
The Mean Lake - do you see the buoy way out there?
The Mean Lake - do you see the buoy way out there?
Cristi and the Mean Lake - another buoy is out there, somewhere ...
Cristi and the Mean Lake - another buoy is out there, somewhere ...
Micah and the Mean Lake - he's NOT acting ...
Micah and the Mean Lake - he's not acting!
where I needed to get to
where I needed to get to
pretty cool battle wound
pretty cool battle wound
showing it off; I only could have gotten it when I fell between the swim and bike
showing it off; I only could have gotten it when I fell between the swim and bike
We did Bumpass!
Micah, Cristi, Becca, Me: We did Bumpass!

Run

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.

I finish.

But, in my life of triathlons, it is not the end.

I am not done.

Bike

The single transition area is very well-placed for all three sports. The entrance from the swim finish line is about 50 feet away. I jog that direction with a slight limp. My left calf seems to be pulling the rest of the leg with it, but it feels better now that I’m on solid ground and can offer it some real resistance.

As I turn into the entrance, I notice the mudslick the athletes before me left while they transitioned. I slow down a bit, but I slip and fall onto my left knee anyway. Some volunteers ask if I’m all right, and I get right back up and trot to where my bike is parked.

I notice a lot of bikes in the racks, which means a lot of people have already begun their runs. The guys who share a bikerack with me had just pulled into transition from their rides and gotten ready for the 5K. I know I can’t think about how far behind I am. But I also accept that since I’m so far behind, all I can do is my own race.

My feet are muddy and grass is stuck between my toes, but a small bin of rinsing water is next to the bike rack, so I take the time to dip my feet and shake off the excess water before putting on socks and biking shoes. I put on a bright green cycling shirt, where my opened pack of energy gel is waiting for me in one of the back pockets. I take the water bottle from the cage on the bike and squeeze a bit of delicious electrolytic sports drink into my mouth. I return the water bottle to its place.

I punch my left calf a few times, trying to beat out the cramp. I know I’m going to have to bike and run with a spastic, left calf muscle.

The helmet with the “50” sticker I put on it goes on my head. I make sure to fasten the strap right away – I don’t want any time penalties added to my already huge deficit. My bike has a “50” sign hanging from the crossbar. I remove the bike from the rack and start to roll out.

A volunteer has been watching me the whole time, making sure I get everything right about the transition. He points to my right shoe and tells me to fix my strap: it wasn’t velcroed. I bend down and secure the strap. He points toward the mount/dismount line and instructs me to get on my bike over there.

At the mount/dismount line, I hop on my bike and begin pedaling. I clip in my cleats to the pedals and crank up the short hill that begins the course. I notice right away bright orange arrows in spray paint marking the major turns.

As I round the first turn, I see two sets of orange arrows: one for runners and one for bikers. I observe a few herds of runners ahead of me, and I decide to ride in the center of the road and let the runners have the sides. Beyond a certain point on this road is the turnaround for the runners, and once I pass this point, the road is essentially clear for me.

Just past the runners’ turnaround is a short bridge, and I ride across and make sure to take in the coolness of the river on both sides and the blue sky that now has the reference of trees lining the banks, and quite a few of these trees have leaves that are beginning to turn. It’s gorgeous, that chlorophyllic fire up against such a perfect, cerulean sky.

I remember to look down at my odomometer. I guess I started somewhere around mile 930, so the course should end at about 942. Between the first two miles, I spot another cyclist. I approach her and get ready to pass. I call out that I’m on her left and she turns her head to make sure we don’t collide. I take a little heart that I got to pass at least one person.

The course winds and rolls lightly, and it has to be one of the most beautiful rides of my life. The road is quite smooth, and it stretches across a couple of clearings of farmland with hay bales folded like sleeping bags and resting picturesquely near some barns. It’s absolutely breathtaking, but in a positive way, not in the way that makes me think I’m about to drown to death.

As I round a curve coming down a small hill, I remember that I didn’t die. I offer up a short, happy prayer. Of course I keep my eyes open, and I speak softly as if I’m talking to myself. This cardiosupplication is a single thanks. Thanks, Father, that I didn’t die. I take in the scenery and add to the prayer in my heart. My coronary expression of gratitude doubles in quantity and expands multidimensionally.

Still pedaling. The odometer reads 934. Ahead of me is a police car with its flashing lights. I see the officer and I signal left. He confirms by pointing in the same direction. I don’t intend on stopping. I reach into my back pocket and eat some more energy gel. I take a few swigs of sports drink. I make a note to drink a whole lot more water when the race is done.

More rolling hills. More insane scenery. Another awesome bridge. More energy gel and more sips from the water bottle. I shift down on the uphills and shift up on the downhills to keep a consistent RPM. On a straightaway, I try stretching out my calf every time I pedal down with my left leg. It still feels a bit tender, and I wonder how it’ll hold up during the run. I take another swig, and I imagine the electrolytes working their magic on my calf.

I’m glad that last police car popped up when it did. I wondered if I missed a turn. I had looked at the sides of the road for signs of triathlon, and I can now trust the stretches sprawl over a few miles before any major turns.

A car passes me, and I’m really enjoying this ride. I pass over yet another bridge. I stay on the right side, and I love how my bike and body tilt toward a focal point on the curves of the road.

Around mile 938 on the odometer, my thighs start to burn a little, but I keep cranking. I see another police car flashing ahead. I signal left, because I know I’m riding in a circle, and the officer points where I point. I thank him as I zoom by.

My breathing is slightly labored from pedaling, but it’s nowhere near the intensity of the swim. This is not my fastest ride, as I actually haven’t been on my bicycle since … June, but I’m not doing all that poorly. I think I’ll finish in under an hour, which is almost how much time I spent in the lake. That thought amuses me.

A few more of the smaller, rolling hills, and I start to climb a longer hill. I get to the top and bear slightly left, and I see one last police car. I signal left. The officer points. I thank him as I turn. I see other cyclists riding the opposite way to their cars. They’re done; I still have 5K to run. I turn back onto the short road I pulled out of 12.4 miles (20K) earlier, and I see quite a few runners heading toward the finish line.

The mount/dismount line approaches, and a volunteer signals for me to slow down. I unclip the cleats from the pedals and apply the brakes. I dismount my bike and start running with it toward the transition area. The volunteer tells me good job, and I exclaim something like this is crazy, and he laughs. I say woo.

Swim

It’s 9:30, and I’ve been here an hour already. My friends have stuck their hands in the water, and they say it’s warm. And I believe them, because I know how warm 74 degrees is. I think, didn’t I already say that it’s like room temperature, but it’s wet?

I’ve already picked up my packet. There’s a sticker for my bike, my number to pin on my shirt when I start the bike portion of the race, and a sticker for my helmet. My number is 50. I guess I registered relatively early.

My bike is hanging up in the transition area. All the bikes are arranged according to number. Transitioning is completely new to me. I have my bike shoes positioned just so, my helmet hanging off the handlebars, and my water bottle full of delicious electrolytic sports drink. They also gave us a small pack of energy gel in our packets. I’ve already opened mine and eaten some. It’s apple cinnamon, and it’s not bad at all.

Volunteers bodymark us: our numbers in permanent marker on each knee, each bicep, and our AGES on the right calf.

I fasten my racing chip to my left ankle after not following directions and initially putting it on the right one. This is after some guy walks up to me and makes a point of it. That’s some good sportsmanship right there.

We each get colored caps according to age and gender waves. Young men, young women, older men, older women, then the “Clydesdale” and “Athena” categories. My cap is bright green: I get to swim with the older women.

I’m wearing my tri suit. It’s black. I’m wearing a t-shirt over it, and I start to feel a bit nervous. By this point I’ve lost my goggles, so when one of my friends asks for the car keys so she could go get something, I asked her to get me her spare set of goggles.

She comes back with the goggles. I try them on. The seal on them is pretty lousy and the suction is close to nonexistent. My friend tells me as much. I keep pushing them onto my eye sockets until they stick on my face. I get a little bit more nervous.

It’s about 9:50, and I remove my t-shirt and set it at my transition area. I walk with my friend to the swim launching site. I see giant hazard-orange buoys marking the horseshoe-shaped course. The first wave – red caps – walk into the water and get into position. An airhorn sets them off. Three minutes later is wave two, yellow caps. Three minutes after that: wave three, blue caps.

Then we bright green caps wade into the lake. I float toward the back of the pack. I’m treading water. I notice my breathing getting faster. I feel a few kicks from the surrounding treaders. Two minutes until the horn. Slight panic sets in. I keep treading. I try to calm myself down, but it’s not working. Ninety seconds. Treading, treading. One minute. Probably the longest minute I’ll ever experience. Thirty seconds. The crowd begins to inch up to the starting line.

Airhorn.

All I know is my arms flail, and I can’t breathe. I know I have to get around that horseshoe, but I can’t breathe. My lungs constrict, and water splashes everywhere. I try freestroking, the way I’ve been training the past six weeks, but I can’t move my arms the way they know how. The water is choppy, and I am certifiably freaking out.

I roll onto my back and begin backstroking. My breathing is still rapid and very shallow, and I’m trying to fight the fear of drowning from entering my thoughts. I keep backstroking. I sight toward the starting line, and I see the final wave starting.

The sky is perfectly blue and clear above me. I stroke and kick, stroke and kick. Water splashes over my eyes, and I sputter and cough. Stroke and kick.

The next time I bring my body up to sight, I’m not very close to the buoys. I’ve been veering off the course. So I turn my body, and I keep stroking and kicking.

I bump into a few swimmers. I feel their feet or arms brush against me. I accidentally hit one swimmer as I bring my arm down to stroke (then kick). In between gasps I tell her I’m sorry, and she tells me it’s fine, and she keeps on.

I sight the rescue boat. I keep getting closer to it and farther from the buoys. I sense that I’m zig-zagging, and I try to correct myself repeatedly. I don’t feel tired at this point; but my breathing is still a problem.

My thoughts trail to conversations I’ve had the past few days. I’m not sure how much time has passed. I pass the big orange buoy marking the halfway point. It feels like I’ve swum way more than a quarter mile. I’m sure I have. The lifeguards are following a few of us stragglers. I raise my head to sight the rear of the course and no colored caps are behind me.

I take a moment to rest on a water noodle one of the lifguards has brought. I try to take a few deep breaths then I lurch ahead through the water. I try freestroking again, but it’s not working out. Back to the backstroke. Back to my distracting thoughts and the clear, blue sky.

Two-thirds of the way I sight and a really nice lifeguard tells me how much farther I have to go. He lets me hang on to the end of his surfboard, and he turns slightly so that I can see. There’s a big yellow airtube wiggly-man billowing at the end of the dock marking the finish line. It looks so far away. I curse. I tell the lifeguard I’ll be backstroking the rest of the way. He tells me he’ll follow me just in case I need another break.

Stroke and kick, stroke and kick. I’m counting strokes at this point, sighting every 25 strokes or so. The end doesn’t look any closer, but I can feel some progress. I’ve caught a second wind of sorts. The lifeguard says people are cheering for me. I can’t hear them: the splashes and whirs of my own body are the sounds I choose to focus on. This white noise has calmed me for however long I’ve been in the water. I feel like I’ve been swimming forever.

I make a note to thank the lifeguard later for his help and patience.

I’m going to finish. My breathing has calmed somewhat, because I’m going to finish. It’s okay if I’m last out of the lake.

I make it to the dock. I pass the wiggly man and grab onto the dock. One of the volunteers tells me I have to make it to shore – that’s where the swimming finish line is.

One last surge toward the finish line and my left calf muscle cramps up in a wicked way. I tell the lifeguard. He tells the volunteers on shore. I wave my arms under water because I still want to get to the finish line. I spent so much time dealing with fear, actual pain isn’t that big of a deal. 

I don’t know what time it is.

I get to where I can actually stand up, then I wade up to the shore, pushing past that damned charlie horse, and I grab some volunteers’ outstretched hands to get onto dry land.

Well, I did not die, but I thought I might.

I am home, and I was feeling fine until a big fist of tired decided to punch me around 10:00pm this evening. I think I’m out for the count.

Photos, details to come. Just a few photos from my camera, though, as my batteries decided to die when I started taking pictures. And the batteries I bought at the convenience store near Bumpass apparently only had a little bit of juice left.

I texted a few of you today after the race: “Lost A LOT of time in the water, but I finished.” I made up a good bit of time biking and running, but the swim was so, so hard for me. Bah.

Thanks for all your support and hoorays and woo-hoos. All of you rock.

Slow and Steady

That’s what they say wins the race. Or, in the case of Sarah’s dreams, second place. I’ve reinflated my tires. I’ve packed my backpack. It’s only a daytrip, so I didn’t go crazy. In about 20 minutes, I’ll be heading out the door to meet my friend on this side of the GW bridge. Then we’ll go meet the friend who’s picking up the car in Fort Lee, NJ. Less than a mile and a half.

Swim, bike, run. Three little things. Three fun things. It’s going to be a blast.

The water was 74 degrees this morning. That’s room temperature, but in water. And once I get swimming, it’ll be fine.

Here’s the course map. It looks like someone did it with the little WordArt tools. With his eyes closed.

Okay.

I’m nervous and excited. I slept rather poorly last night, and I hope I can get some rest tonight. I don’t know if adrenaline can push me for two hours like that. This is a completely new experience, so we’ll see. If I love this, you know what’s going to happen. Triathlons may be all I talk about for a while.

As for now, I’m nervous. Dang, people.

Workout

Just got back from a workout. I swam for about 25 minutes, then I did the stationary bike for 15 minutes (about 5 miles), then I ran for over two miles on the treadmill. The actual triathlon will require another half hour on the bike and another mile running, which I can totally do. But the big thing for me is the swimming, and I think that’s going to be fine.

I feel amazing. My entire body will rest, and it will recover, and I’ll be a wee bit stronger the next day.

We learned about miracles yesterday in seminary. We discussed Christ’s turning water into wine. We talked about the little miracles that happen in our own lives. I read this entry to them. Those kids, man. They’re quite the miracle.

I have a ton more to write, but it’s getting late. I’ll try to catch up over the weekend.

Try-athlon

Last week, I tried dolphin kicking, and I really liked it. I liked squiggling underwater and breaking through the surface and looking back to see how far I went. No dolphins were harmed in my efforts to pretend to be a professional swimmer.

Today, I tried flip-turning. I got the main idea, and it was pretty fun once I learned how not to get a bunch of water up my nose. Kicking off the wall is fun, people. I may have to keep up my swimming just so I can improve the flip-turn.

The swimming distance for the sprint triathlon is 750 meters. Not quite a half-mile. I swam that distance all in one shot today, calming myself down, regulating my breathing, sustaining a rhythm. It was a slow swim, and I felt really good afterward, like I was ready to bike 20 kilometers and then run 5k.

We’ll see how it goes in a week and a half.

I’m getting pretty excited.