A Dark Descent
A rotten swim, totally demoralizing. I knew that the water would be cold, so before the race I swam out to the first buoy for a warm-up. By the time I got out there I realized it was 6:57, three minutes till the start, somehow I had lost track of time. I hustled back to shore, circled around the entrance chute, ran over the timing mat and dove in just as the starting gun went off.
I got into a real free-for-all right from the start. Somehow swimmers were coming over me from behind, which is still a mystery to me as I had started out in the back. Rounding the first buoy, now this is only like a minute into the swim, I started to freak out. I couldn’t seem to get myself under control and I started breast stroking. I knew that this would be a swim killer, “don’t stop stroking, don’t stop stroking,” has always been my mantra in the water because I know that if I start breast stroking or treading water I’m just going to go into more of a panic. I tried to return to the crawl stoke, but I just couldn’t find a rhythm, it was like I was going nowhere. The swim took me a long time and it seemed even longer.
I came into T1 one of the last male elites – so much for elite. I got on the bike in a bad mood and took off at full speed. Going out of the park I hit a speed bump and lost my chain; it got all caught up between my chain ring and my chain stay. Somehow I managed to free it up without getting off the bike. Dang they should have put a ramp or something over that bump. Once I got the chain back on I put my head down and started cranking; at this point I was glad to have gone out with the elites as getting stuck behind a slow rider on the long no passing zone would have been frustrating. One of the elite women sign posted me just before the only hill on the course, I made up a bit of ground on the climb but then she was gone. After the turn around a pack of three gals came by; I stuck close, but had to ride in the middle of the road in order to avoid any drafting accusations.
Coming into T2 I once again hit the aforementioned speed bump at a good clip and knocked my rear wheel off. My Felt B2 has horizontal (i.e. track) rear dropouts and that bump kicked the wheel straight out the back. I yelled something that the kids nearby didn’t need to hear, and then had to make a fast decision as to whether to try to reinsert the wheel or just carry the bike the final two hundred yards to T2. My decision to fix it cost me at least a minute. I think it was the right decision, however, as trying to run in those bike shoes would have probably lost me more than those precious sixty seconds.
In T2 I changed shoes, grabbed my number belt and took off. Unfortunately I took off in the wrong direction. I got all kerfungled and couldn’t figure out where I was going. Luckily Michael Covey from the PRO Club was outside the transition area and yelled “Mike go the other way!” I was fed up at this point and so I said screw it I’m going to run hard and I’m going to keep upping the pace until I freaking pass out. I managed to pass two of the three women who passed me on the bike and I just kept turning it on. The angel on my shoulder was saying “no way can you hold this pace man ease up ease up,” the devil on the other side was saying “roll with it man let’s try to salvage this disaster.” I decided to listen to the man in red.
The run was primarily on grass, which in one respect is easier on your body than pavement, but on the other hand you really have to pay attention in order to avoid a turned ankle. Most of the time I was looking at the ground, but every once in a while I would look up to catch a glimpse of a gal in an orange and blue tri suit, she was a really strong runner and I made it my goal to catch her. I passed her in the woods just before the final sprint to the finish. I sprinted the final one hundred yards and finished one second behind my buddy Joe. Having a unexpectedly strong run and finishing with my friend put a good end to what started out as a fairly rotten race.
All in all I’m happy about the ride and run, but that swim was bad. Two of my friends, both strong swimmers, each reported having panic attacks in the water. I also overheard two other people saying how much trouble they had on the swim. I’m a strong swimmer and I’m wearing a wetsuit for goodness sakes, there’s no excuse for acting so gutless in the water.