But that’s no thanks to the insane ocean swim I did as part of my sprint tri on Saturday. I have been doing triathlons for 15 years now, and let me tell you, I’ve never been scared in the water before. Saturday was a different story.
The race was held in Dewey Beach, Delaware. Each year they check which direction the current is running so that the swim can go with it. This year, the current was going one direction and the wind the other. For the first couple of waves into the water, this seemed to be working. But as the wave numbers got higher, so too did the swells. I was in wave nine and by the time I hit the water, the conditions were getting bad. I’ve never had a panic attack in the water, but I think I came very close–I just wanted to get out and be safe.
But like any hardheaded athlete, I kept going. I only saw a few of the buoys we needed to spot. I’ve never been so happy to see the final turn buoy and for that final stretch of maybe 50 yards, I felt like I was swimming, not just surviving. A half mile swim that normally might take me around 12 minutes took me 25. For the people in waves behind me, conditions only got worse. My friend Jessica, there to do her first triathlon (poor girl!) was in the final wave, and even after struggling to make headway for a half an hour, the officials finally pulled the plug and brought everyone in, canceling their chances to finish the swim.
From there it was onto the bike and more wind. On the way out we had a tail wind and I was seeing numbers in the mid- to upper 20s for most of those seven and a half miles. But I could see across the highway to the cyclists making their return at what looked like a snail’s pace, and knew what I had ahead of me. I made the turn and then forward progress seemed to stop. My computer was showing me really pathetic numbers–maybe 14 at best–all the way back in. It was again a ridiculously hard leg of this race.
Finally, finally, I could get off the bike and tackle the 3.5-mile run. We headed off into the headwind again and I’m sure it slowed progress, but I actually felt fairly decent on the run. I picked off a good share of people, made the turnaround and had tailwind again, and just enjoyed the rest of the race. In the end, all four of us who started the race finished safely and one of my friends and I both picked up second in our age groups.
I think I’m pretty much done with ocean swims after that event, at least with ones in that general area, where the swims have a reputation for being tough. I think the wise call on the race director’s part would have been to cancel the swim yesterday, but I don’t suppose anyone could have anticipated how bad the conditions would get.
In my sick, twisted way, I’m happy I got through that race and feel proud that I didn’t pack it in when that first wave of panic hit during the swim. And if nothing else, it was a fun girls’ getaway. I went home with a smile on my face, grateful that I have these opportunities. But now–bring on the run training!
Ever do a race where conditions overwhelmed you?