I did it! I did Wildflower.
A few weeks ago both Gale and Stephen said that even if I doggy paddle the swim, granny-gear the bike and crawl the run, I can still call myself a triathlete. I was covered! Then I read the Wildflower rules the day before the race and learned that if you crawl at Wildflower, you will be disqualified.
I also went down to the pier on Saturday and watched the pros dive in for the swim on the long course. That got me worrying that my first lake swim just might be a doggy paddle.
But Sunday morning I felt surprisingly relaxed and happy. Standing on the boat ramp waiting for my age group to start I was joking around with some of the other girls.
Then the horn went off.
The water was cold, the wetsuit was choking me, there were elbows in my face, and hands swatting my ankles. My heart rate must have been higher than I thought because I had trouble breathing. I had to stop and tread water and tell myself to calm down. There was even a part of me that wanted to swim back to the boat ramp and stand on solid ground for a minute. I had never met that part of me before.
But thankfully there was a bigger part of me that said, 'Are you crazy? Are you actually thinking about turning around in the first 100 yards of a race you trained 6 months for, just because of a little panic attack?'
So I kept swimming, breathing every two strokes instead of my usual 4, and talking my heart rate down. I made my way to the outer edge of the pack and finally found my rhythm about 10 minutes into the swim.
Even though it was hard to keep track of the buoys and even though I felt like I was swimming in circles, I still swam in the amount of time I had estimated (30 minutes).
Coming out of the water I was disoriented and felt dizzy, but I ran my way up the ramp and into the transition area. It took me just under 4 minutes to get through, and then out on the bike. It was better than my 15- and 7-minute transitions from training but still pretty slow. Although for this race, the transition times were the least of my worries.
I was more prepared for the bike than anything else and the 40K ride felt great. On one of the initial descents I looked over at the bikers coming up and thought, 'This looks like a killer hill on the way up.' Then the song Killer Queen got stuck in my head and distracted me from worrying about a hill I wasn't at yet. So I started humming along to the tune in my head.
"She's a Killer Queen...Gunpowder, gelatine...Dynamite with a laserbeam...Guaranteed to blow your mind...Anytime..." and I forgot all about the killer climb. I was passing people going up the hills, smiling on the way down and I finished 25 minutes faster than I had anticipated in 1 hour, 34 minutes.
My transition from bike to run was a little faster than my first transition at just under 3 minutes. Exiting the transition area you go straight up a flight of stairs and onto a dirt path. The first few miles I felt strong and positive. Then I realized the mile markers weren't mile markers...they were kilometer markers. That's when the shady trail turned into a sun-exposed path and I started to slow down. There was a big hill between kilometers 4 and 5 where my body got in a fight with my mind.
My body said, "I want to walk this hill: There is nothing wrong with walking this hill"
My mind responded with, "There is everything wrong with walking this hill, don't you want to say you ran the whole thing?"
My body shot back with, "Yes, but it will be even better if I can actually finish."
During this debate I would stop running briefly, feel bad about it and two second later start running again, then my body would scream that I was going too fast and I would slow all the way down to a walk again. There was an older gentleman near me that kept a steady pace, and when I slowed to a walk he would pass me, but when I ran, I would pass him. I realize now I should have kept pace with him and I probably would not have walked at all. But the final big hill, combined with the heat, got to me and I had to walk a bit.
I picked up the pace again at the crest of the hill and was able to keep a decent clip on the long descent to the finish line. Coming through the final chute I was neck and neck with another girl and we pushed each other in a sprint to the finish. They announced everyone crossing the line and I felt proud to hear my name over the loudspeaker.
I could have collapsed on the other side of the line but a volunteer threw a cold, dripping wet towel over my shoulder that revived me. I also saw a co-worker who was at the finish line cheering Team in Training athletes across. He congratulated me and I was grateful to see a supportive smile. A smile that said, "Look at you. You just did Wildflower!"