To say that this race was a challenge is quite the understatement.
It was almost 2 hours away from my house and I wanted to make sure we got there in plenty of time to warm up and get everything together for transition. The race was set to start at 11am. We arrived at 8:30am. Packet pickup and transition didn’t open until 9am, so we were stuck waiting in the car with the whiny kiddos for a little while.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I knew I was in for it for the day. It was SO cold. It wasn’t the temperature so much as it was the wind. It was 38⁰ according to the thermometer reading in the car. Add the 30mph wind gusts and it was Jack Frost cold. Just two days ago it was 70s. Seriously. That’s Indiana for you!
I decided to walk down to the beach of the reservoir where the race would start. Just the walk down there was brutal. I finally got down to the start area and found what looked like an ocean shore with all of the waves rolling in. White capped waves. In a reservoir.
What the what?! I’ve never swam in choppy water, so this would be a new experience. I’ve never swam in the cold, either. So it was a two-for-one deal! Yay! Luckily, I had brought my wetsuit.
After packet pickup, I went to set up my transition area. I have an aluminum road bike and it served me well. All of the fast carbon bikes were flying around on the racks from the crazy wind. They had people change out their disc wheels because of safety concerns.
At the pre-race meeting, they announced that everyone would be doing the sprint distance swim due to safety concerns with the water conditions. They also canceled their canoeing event. Many people dropped down from the Oly distance to the sprint and some just left all together. I was already there and set up and in my wetsuit…so it was go-time for me.
On a normal day, that water would’ve seemed very cold at 66⁰ but it felt nice and warm with the wind and brisk air temp that had only warmed to 39⁰.
There was a wave of the elite swimmers and then everyone else went one by one every few seconds. I started mid-pack.
We just needed to swim out to a buoy, turn, swim to the other buoy, turn and get out. Easy peasy. Uhhh. No. There were several kayakers out there (luckily) and within 100 feet of entering the water, many had people hanging on and heading back to shore.
Every time I’d try to take a breath, a wake would hit me in the face. I had to take my time and majorly over-rotate just to get a breath. I finally made it around the first buoy and realized that with the way the water was moving, I was having to fight the water to keep going where I wanted to. The water wanted me to go left and I wanted to go right. I finally made it to the second buoy. The end was in sight. By that time, I just didn’t even want to lift my head out of the water because the air felt SO cold. I made it to the end and stood up. Immediately, I was chilled to the bone. I ran as quickly as I could the 200-ish meters to my bike and by the time I got there I couldn’t feel my face, hands, or feet. How the hell was I going to bike almost 26 miles?!
I took my time in transition and took off my wetsuit, toweled off, and put on my jacket. I didn’t have any pants (fail 1). I also didn’t have any gloves (fail 2). I got my helmet on over my hood and put my glasses on. I normally don’t wear socks with my cycling shoes, but it was not optional. I needed something to keep them somewhat protected. I grabbed my bike and took off. Immediately, the wind cut through me.
I made it just down the street and realized my computer wasn’t working. I wasn’t concerned with my time anymore, as I just wanted to finish, so I stopped for a few seconds to adjust my sensor. I was okay through the first 5 miles. I wasn’t comfortable, but I was still mentally okay. The course involved making two loops for the Olympic distance.
At mile 9 there was a 1.5 mi length of open road with nothing but straight head wind. Oh, and did I mention there were HILLS? Rolling hills. Lots of them. I hate hills. Actually, does anyone LIKE hills? If so, they’re not my friend. I did like the speedy downhills, though. As if the temperature, wind, and hills weren’t enough, it started SLEETING. I lost it. I couldn’t feel my face, hands, or feet and everything felt like I was being stabbed.
I made it back to transition, slightly disoriented and broken. As soon as I dismounted my bike, I totally lost my mind. I was unable to walk without stumbling. How on Earth was I going to run a 10K?! I saw Jeff by my transition area…
…and reminiscent of being in labor, I just looked to him for help. He could tell I was broken. He asked if I was okay and I just sat on the ground and bawled. I couldn’t get my fingers to work to undo my helmet buckle. He tried to help and I just cried more and told him he couldn’t because I can’t get outside help.
I looked around and saw so many bikes in the transition area. Then I cried even more because I thought I was in last place. Another athlete in transition was beyond nice and came and unbuckled my helmet for me. Then another one handed me some gloves for the run. Bless her, my angel!!! I gathered myself and got my running shoes on and headed out. My feet literally felt like someone had tied bricks to them.
I tried to run. I couldn’t. I walked the mad-woman walk and cried the entire first mile. The race support included an ambulance and crew. I knew I looked like a mess when they zoomed by then put it in reverse to come check on me. The nice man in the passenger seat offered for me to get in and go back.
I didn’t come this far to give up now.
Through tears, I said “I can’t give up” and continued my mad-woman walk.
Once I hit the mile mark, I knew I had to run if I wanted to get home faster. I started running, but it felt like there were rocks in my shoes. I stopped at an aid station and took my shoes off and looked and nothing. Nope, it was my feet. Ugh.
Luckily, by mile 3 I started to get a little bit of feeling back. I sped up from snail pace to about 9:30/mi and came back to finish strong. Of course the finish was UPHILL. I stripped off my gloves and jacket and made sure to do my best “arms up” finish pose for pictures.
I did it.
I went to look at results and realized the list of finishers was pretty short. And, there were only two women listed on the sheet that was posted right before my finish. In the end, I was one of only 45 finishers out of 73 registered. There were only 7 women. I was the only one in my age group, so I was technically the winner of my age group.
How fitting that the award looks like none other than a piece of ICE!
My finish time was 3:13:42
As Coach Sidner put it, “Half of success sometimes is just showing up.” Truth.