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Dragonfly Triathlon 2009

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To say that I was a little nervous about this race is to say that the Sun is a little light in the sky. I began to get anxious on the Wednesday before the race. Of course, being fresh from the memory of the problems and anxiety associated with the swim in the lake during Xterra Memphis in April, I was more than a little worried about the swim leg of this triathlon. Although it was shorter, only a ½ mile compared to an entire mile for Xterra, I was still nervous.

 

Things were going well up to the day of the race. The family decided to go with me and we slightly miscalculated the time needed for getting to Sardis, Ms. So, upon leaving I was extremely anxious because of our tardiness

 

 

 

I had taken my bike apart to fit it in our family car so I needed time to put the wheels back on it and test it to make sure that it was true. I also wanted to put on my shoes, clip in and leave the shoes clipped to the bike for my first transition. I wanted warm up on the bike and in the lake and, of course, if the race was wetsuit legal, I needed time to put it on. Being late, however, I didn’t get to do most of that. I got to put the bike together and walk it to the transition area only and then get my transition area laid out before putting on my wetsuit and getting ready for the swim. But, after that, it turns out that I had plenty of time, although not enough time to warm up.

 

As I moved down toward the water, I got more and more nervous about my swim and I continued to talk to myself about this effort. I was in the third wave of swimmers and it seemed like, too soon, it was my turn to start. I started out off to the side and behind the rest of the group. But, immediately, I had a problem. I found that my goggle over my right eye was leaking. I tried to ignore it knowing that I was probably in deep water already and I did not want to stop in any event. But, the problem kept nagging at me and ultimately, it blocked my view. So, now I’m worried about the panic feeling again. So, I turn over on my back and get a huge surprise. With the wetsuit on, I float. I mean really float, like a cork or a boat. I don’t have to move at all and still float. Note that with my muscular legs, this is not the norm; usually I sink, and quickly, if I don’t keep moving. Well, all sense of panic is now gone. I can even raise my hands out of the water while I’m on my back and still float. So, I drain my right goggle lens and then turn over and start to swim again.

 

But the goggle kept filling up and would continue that way throughout the entire swim

 

 

 

I now know what Michael Phelps felt like in that one race where he came out of the water complaining that his goggles failed and he couldn’t see. I couldn’t see either.

 

I’d like to say that my next problem came up because my goggle filled with water and I couldn’t see. But, I know that that was only part of the problem. But, the next thing that happened is that I noticed that I was way off course. I was swimming to the left when everyone else and the turn was ahead of me were to the right. In fact, every time I would pop up and breast stroke to see where I was going, I’d have to look all around to locate the buoy’s and the proper swim course. Usually, I found that it was behind me and I was headed away from it, (nearly every time) . I’m sure that I swam an entire quarter mile more because I kept straying off course. And because I went off course so much, I would have to turn over on my back more to rest and drain my goggles. Anyway, pretty soon I turned the final buoy and started the leg back to shore. I still swam off course which made getting back to shore a lot harder and longer. But, ultimately, I made it.

 

I felt great though. I had really conquered the fear of the lake when I was in a wetsuit. No more worries about that, at least until I couldn’t wear the wetsuit. But, that would have to keep for the next time.

 

Next was the bike. This time I wasn’t the last person out of the water, but there still was only a few bikes left. So I moved quickly to get my wetsuit off and get my bike shoes on (remember that I didn’t get to put them on the bike before I started). I then jogged out with my helmet on to the pad. I talked with my swim coach briefly and then ran to the mount line and got on. I got up to speed and then took out my Gu and downed it. I didn’t have my spin yet and my pace was slow at first. But, then the power kicked in and soon I was doing a consistent 19 mph. I thought to myself at least no one will pass me at this rate. I was wrong. A couple of slower swimmers but apparently faster bikers did pass me, probably going 25 mph or more.

 

I also passed a few bike riders myself. I did notice that the riders coming back had their heads bent in concentration. I would learn later as I turned around that they were doing this because the wind on the way back was wicked, to say the least. The 9 miles out to the turn around point was pretty unremarkable. I do remember however, a gleeful smile and cheer from a couple of riders as they came down a steep hill that I was going up. On the way back, I got that same feeling as my speed hit 30 mph. WOW! What a blast.

But, on the rest of the way back, the wind won out. My speed slowed to 15 mph and that was hard to maintain. I took another Gu to help and to give me energy to start the run. As I made it back, noting that the ride was a little longer than 18 miles according to my GPS, I prepared to leave my shoes on the bike and come out of them on the run. I had practiced this before, but I wasn’t very good at it. This time, I managed to make it work although it wasn’t graceful. Instead, I was stopping at the line and popping both feet out of the shoes as I stopped. But, it worked.

Now on to the run. Transition was unremarkable and all of a sudden I’m on the run. I realize that I’m running a little too fast. It is the riding and spinning that makes you want to run faster to get that feeling of speed you just had on the bike and the fact that your legs are use to moving at a 90-100 rpm pace that makes you want to run too fast. I think about dying at the end and I intentionally slow down. I was doing an 8 minute per mile pace and I slowed to 10 minutes. I kept that up until I got to the trails. Unfortunately, they were extremely muddy and I had to slow down even more just to make sure I didn’t slip and fall.

I kept running however and I had plenty of energy. I took another Gu just to make sure and I keep pushing. Some relay runners pass me
 

 

 

I rationalized that they have completely fresh legs and are only running a 4 mile trail run while I, on the other hand, have already finished more than 18 miles, a part of which was in the water, so I didn’t need to try to keep up. I kept my own pace and then as I headed back to the finish line I could feel the call of the “barn.” I began to speed up. My pace went from 10 minute miles to 8 ½ minute miles and finally to a sprint to the finish line as I got into the finisher’s chute. When I got to the finish line, the announcer said my name and my youngest son’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. He was at the finish line volunteering by handing out Gatorade and taking chips. He stepped over to me as I crossed the finish line and yelled “Stop!” while holding his hand out to stop me. Then, he reached down and gleefully took off my chip while proudly telling everyone that “this is my daddy.” He handed me a bottle of Gatorade and then hugged me. There is no metal in the world better than a 6 year old hug at the finish line. It was the perfect end to a great race.

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