On Sunday, against everyone’s advice, I got in the water to start my first tri. I then proceeded to swim about 150-200 yards before freaking the fuck out and waving down a kayaker to be pulled from the water. And just in case anyone needed proof that my breakdown was anything but mental, I managed to pull myself into the rescue boat without the use of a ladder. (“Oh, wow,” said one of the rescuers.) Yeah, exhaustion, right.
A lot of stuff went through my head Sunday morning. See, my plan was to do the race because it would be fun. I would take it easy and get through, and the swim would be the easy part, because everything else would hurt my leg. But then it started raining. Katie and I trudged to the transition area at 5:45 am in a cold, continuous downpour. Suddenly the idea of walking a 5k seemed anything but fun, and the warnings about bike accidents began to get to me. Will I ride my bike seriously again? Of course. But have I ridden my bike seriously since the accident? No–as of a few days ago, I couldn’t even get on it.
So as I struggled through the water after the start of my wave and began to hyperventilate, I couldn’t help but remind myself that I had missed six swim workouts due to my injury, that I had never swum 800 yards and had always struggled with swimming, that I would probably fall off my bike and break my leg this time (and if I didn’t, Katie would and it would be my fault for bringing her here), and that if I didn’t break my leg biking, I probably would running, and oh my God I’m drowning. Then the next wave of swimmers came through, destroying all of my confidence, and I thought about getting out of the water. And when I did, I felt a huge wave of relief wash over me. So I got out and got dropped off on the dock in the care of two EMTs. I apologized to them for wasting their time and explained that I shouldn’t have started the race because I was hurt. They assured me I wasn’t wasting their time (liars), but said they were wondering why I was limping.
I think that if swimming had been the hard part of the tri, as it was always supposed to be, I might have made it. If it had been dry and I wasn’t so scared of falling off my bike, I might have made it. But all I had to look forward to after struggling through a muddy, murky swim–and I’m someone who doesn’t like to put her face in the shower–was more pain. My boss’ boss called it my better judgement. She said she was glad to hear that it kicked in before I hurt myself. I’ll take it, and I’ll try not to be too embarrassed that it didn’t kick in at a more appropriate time.
But three good things about DNFing:
One: Katie finished and set a 5k PR. She came in fourth in the Athena group (a category designed to give tall athletes eating disorders) and was the fastest Bolton. I’ve asked her to write a real race report.
Two: I found my dad’s cousin! He was resting on the kayak I went to for help and either miraculously recognized me or thought he’d take a chance and ask the other shlub on the kayak if we were related. And we were. Rick swam from kayak to kayak and went on to finish the race just fine. We all managed to catch up with him and his wife after the awards ceremony, so now we’ll have something to talk about at the next reunion.
Three and perhaps best of all: I ran into an old co-worker, one of the first people to turn me onto running. I hadn’t seen Ellen in about 8 years, but she’s the first person who brought me to a road race so that I could run along with her four-year-old (now 13) son while she and her husband did a 5-mile race. The whole time her son and I ran the one-mile fun run, he talked on and on about what a great runner his dad was. I thought it was an adorable example of how much a little boy loved his father, but no, it was the truth. Ellen’s husband, Budd Coates, came in to win the race. I later found out that he is director of employee health at Rodale–publishers of Runner’s World–and an all-around running bad ass. (Here’s where I would ask Budd for a job if it didn’t entail moving back home.) If you’ve ever gotten a running log with your RW subscription, chances are Budd wrote it. A quick Google search shows that he’s a four-time Olympic Trials qualifier and that he came in 16th once. That’s pretty good.
Anyway, they were there on Sunday, cheering on their daughter, and I never would have seen them if I hadn’t been waiting for Katie to finish. One of the guys on my bike rack joked that I was a little too committed to getting my $85 worth out of the race, but I can say that seeing Ellen again made it all worth it, and I mean that in the most earnest way possible.* In the long list of things I loved about Laneco, she was at the top.
*Oh, and so did seeing a flash of impressed-ness cross Budd’s face when I said I ran a 3:45 at Marine Corps (“Not bad,” he said. I guess he didn’t expect that from the girl wrapped in an emergency blanket complaining that she got scared.)