Monday, September 09, 2013

2013 Nautica Malibu Triathlon

It was 4:05 a.m. when I joined the line of cars at the Zuma Beach entrance. The gates were scheduled to open at 4:30, but the line was moving steadily. By the time I parked, it was 4:20. My two goals for the day: live and finish safely. In my car, under the cover of early morning darkness, I prayed. After several days, the huge knot of fear in my belly had not subsided; it still rolled around. "If you're going to vomit, best to do it now." I thought. I didn't. Spotlights and tail lights flicked on around me as participants gathered belongings and made their way to the triathlon staging area. I fell in behind a group of young volunteers who complained about the early morning call time. I found the WB tent and part of our tri team. The flurry of tent activity made me anxious, so I moved toward the water. I could hear it. I could smell it. I couldn't see it. I tried to imagine perfect conditions - calm, inviting - and prayed the light would show just that. A couple of teammates came over and asked if I needed help. Questions tumbled out, one right after the other - where do I leave my bag? Where do I go? How do I find my team? Where do I start? When do I start? What do I do? When do I put my wet suit on? What is going on? My patient teammates answered every single one of my questions, peppering their answers with words of encouragement. Good god, I needed to hear that! That really helped to ease some anxiety. I found my relay team in the transition area, had a group pep talk and reviewed the event activities. I was feeling better. I knew what to expect, what was expected of me in the transition and how things were supposed to work. To help ease my fear, my relay teammate introduced me to another WB team member. This was her 2nd triathlon. She taught herself how to swim last year by watching YouTube videos! Holy smokes! I was truly inspired. After the pre-race meeting, I made my way back to the tent to put on my wet suit. I watched the water, noticing the currents and waves. At that time, it wasn't bad at all. The water looked good; kinda calm, almost inviting. Such a tease. Wet suit, swim cap and goggles on, it was time to move down the beach to the start corral. I noticed a woman in a WB jersey, so I called out "Go Team WB!" We introduced ourselves and started chatting. She couldn't have been more calming and encouraging. I felt much better - confident, encouraged, strong, determined. I can do this! I walked into the water to flood my suit, get used to the water (62*) and watch the swimmers. A gal approached and I recognized her from my first ocean swim clinic. We went over the lessons learned, trying to remember do we dive under or over these type of waves? I was concerned that the water was getting rougher. She was concerned that the current was pulling against the way we were supposed to be swimming. The water wasn't calm anymore. I joined the yellow caps of Wave 11, waiting for our turn. 

::air horn::

And, we're off!

I didn't run down the beach. The advice I was given was to stay at the back of the pack and stay to the outside of the pack. Since the currents and waves were breaking/pulling south, I opted to stay on the inside so I wouldn't be pulled too far out or off the north-heading course. I set my sights on the orange buoy and moved towards it. All I had to do was round it and hit the 350 yard straightway portion of the course. This was really hard. It was much harder than I expected. People splashing and flailing around me. I'm swallowing waves of salt water. This is NOT swimming at the YMCA! I lost my bearings, lost sight of the buoy. When I found it again, I started my swim strokes. That's when I felt the leg cramp. I switched to side stroke, which didn't help at all. I called for help. A life guard was on me in seconds. "What's wrong? You okay? Grab the board." I managed to say "leg cramp" as I grabbed the board. I raised my leg and he helped stretch the muscle. "You okay?" I nodded and moved toward the buoy once again. As I rounded it, the cramp was back. I yelled out again and the lifeguard was there in seconds again. He grabbed my leg, my calf was pulsing, spasming. I couldn't make it. I asked him to take me in. I cried and yelled 'FUCK!' as the jet ski took me to shore. 

I sat on the beach, crying. I tried to massage and stretch the cramp away so I could at least stand and walk to the transition area. "Honey, are you okay?" A lady in a purple visor knelt down next to me. "Can I help you?" I don't know where she came from, but she was amazing! She helped me stand and let me lean on her while I walked. All the while she said encouraging things - you're so brave, what a good job you've done, you're a winner, you did it. She pushed me to run up the transition hill and yelled "Way to go!" 

Making my way up the hill, I heard cheering and clapping and encouraging words from the people lining the path. They didn't know me, they didn't know my name. They cheered anyway - "Good job, yellow cap!" I didn't finish. The cheers made me sad.

My relay team spotted me and rushed to our transition lane. Words of encouragement as we made the switch of the timing chip from me to our cyclist. And off he went!

I told my relay runner what happened. He made no big deal out of it - "Girl, you signed up and you showed up. Then, you got INTO THE WATER and tried your best! I would NEVER get into the water. BUT YOU DID!" We hugged it out. A few minutes later, a volunteer came by and handed me a medal. I refused it. My relay runner told me to take it, I deserved it.
I was disappointed the rest of the day. There was so much going on as we waited for the bike to run transition, that I was able to push that feeling aside. Once I got into my car for the drive home, that disappointment took hold. It wasn't until late in the day today that I was able to feel proud of myself. 

I did sign up. I did show up. I did get into the water. I did my best. That's a lot to be proud of.