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.