I’m alive…

Before and after the race

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?  


Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge


  1. says

    Wow, that is intense! I was thinking of you this weekend, wondering how it went… I had a mini-panic in my first open water swim, I would have been a mess in that scenario. Crazy! But as you said, there’s no way to predict conditions would get so bad. Congrats on finishing!
    Laura recently posted..A therapeutic runMy Profile

  2. says

    That’s such a tough call! I have been pondering the “when is enough enough?” question for athletes lately. There’s such a fine line between pushing it and insanity. Glad you *slowly* made it and finished though – that had to feel great.
    Sheila recently posted..The Long Run That Finally WasMy Profile

  3. says

    Wow, that does sound like a tough race! Great job fighting through the swim and the headwind on the bike. It was tough for everyone, I’m sure! Congrats to all four of you finishing and to you and your friend for the hardware!!!
    Erik recently posted..Running…My Profile

  4. says

    Holy cow…that sounds terrifying. It’s one thing to deal with tough conditions on the bike or run…but in the water would freak me out – it’s definitely my weakest of the 3…So glad that you were able to get through it in one piece!!!
    I did a race in Central Park a few years ago – the start was fine, but by mid-race we were in a pretty bad snow storm. NYRR did their best to keep conditions safe, but it was SO cold that the roads surrounding the water stations were freezing up faster than volunteers were able to put down ice. The course ended up being totally covered in a layer of ice/sleet/snow!! Definitely not my best race time =)
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..Guilt With a Second ChildMy Profile

  5. says

    Yikes- that swim sounds scary. Congratulations on your age group placement, and for pushing through that swim!
    Hopefully your friend who finished this one as her first tri will stick with it!
    I was actually scared towards the end of the bike at IM Arizona in 2010. The winds picked up so much that I was almost knocked off my bike; thankfully I unclipped and put my feet down just in time.
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..One more time – summer hikesMy Profile

  6. says

    That sounds awful. So many people panic about lake swims, but I’ve always thought an ocean one would be awful in general, but that ones sounds awful. I feel really sorry for you friend who got that as her first experience. Wind during a tri is miserable….it effects you all the way through. I’ve had times where my bike is averaging like 6 mph into the wind…it’s mentally draining that’s for sure!! Way to hang in there!
    Michael recently posted..I’m on TV, Transformers & a ReunionMy Profile

  7. says

    YIKES!! Glad you toughed it out and were able to take home some hardware!! You are amazing if not slightly stubborn 😉
    I had a tri once where the temps hit the upper 90’s at the end and I felt a little funky but I survived. Cause I’m stubborn too. heehee
    I did hit a giant cone in a bike race and almost went down. I was in a pack of about 30 racers, all men. That would have been a horrific crash. I spent the last half of the race terrified.
    Missy recently posted..It was awesome, then it wasn’tMy Profile

  8. says

    Way to finish strong, and congrats on the AG award. You are a fast swimmer in my book to be able to swim half a mile in 12 minutes.

    I mostly hate wind. It definitely hurt you more than it helps you. My most painful races were due to the wind. At the Oklahoma City Marathon, a wind gust literally stopped me in my tracks.
    2 Slow 4 Boston recently posted..Potato Chips: My Health FoodMy Profile

  9. says

    Geeze oh pete, those swim conditions sound terrifying. During the swim of the one and only tri I’ve ever done, I’m pretty sure I had a panic attack ’cause I couldn’t breathe and my heart was racing out of control. It’s a pretty scary feeling. And that wasn’t even in swell/intense conditions like yours! Well congrats on taking 2nd in your AG!
    Efo recently posted..Race Recap: 2012 Panerathon 5KMy Profile

  10. says

    You are so awesome! Growing up on Long Island I know how scary the ocean can be and how quickly it can change. I am so impressed you finished and did so well afterwards! And yay for a great weekend! Hugs and congrats!
    Erin Henderson recently posted..Taper Take TwoMy Profile

  11. says

    I’ve done 2 triathlons. My first involved an ocean swim. I grew up in water, but was never a “swimmer,” so I didn’t have a high comfort level in the first place. The water was very rough that day. It was really horrible. I won’t do another ocean swim either (or probably any more triathlons, but that’s a different story :-)).
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Sweaty Saturday: I Lied. It’s About Cross CountryMy Profile

  12. says

    Oh goodness – when the wind is howling, particularly in the the mornings, I am a wimp
    and pull the covers over my head and nest down in my bed. My dedication to training goes out the window. I HATE wind – running and riding. Nice job on exercising and building your determined perserverance!!!
    Steve & Kathleen recently posted..Good times in Aspen/Snowmass!My Profile

  13. says

    oh my gosh, that swim sounds terrible and scary! So, even though I swim, I have the thing about open water swimming – hate it. When I did the NYC tri, I totally had a panic attack at the start which was no fun! And that race has probably the easiest swim portion ever – a straight shot down the Hudson River, no need to spot or turn. But congrats on finishing a tough race! Yay for run training!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..It was a good dayMy Profile

  14. says

    Geez that sounds terrifying. Thank heavens there were no dire consequences. Sounds like a race directors nightmare. How do they score the people who couldn’t finish the swim??
    My most overwhelming conditions were at my first marathon. But I didn’t know any better so just kept going.
    Marcia recently posted..Pretty Muddy Race ReportMy Profile

  15. says

    Congrats on your race!

    I DNF-ed once on an open ocean swim. Got caught in a rip current and even though I was a reasonably strong swimmer, I just wasn’t getting anywhere except pushed around. Never been so happy to get out of the water in my life! So I know exactly what you mean. 😉
    Beth (i run like a girl) recently posted..Morning motivationMy Profile

  16. says

    You did an amazing job. We athletes are a tough and stubborn bunch. Normal people would have pulled the pin once they’d seen the conditions. I’m glad you’re not normal and got the satisfaction of finishing … and placing.
    Char recently posted..Weekend RoundupMy Profile

  17. says

    Swimming in rough water is the worst, I come from a swimming background, but it offers little in regards to rough water. As much as I hate to see races altered, the race director made the right decision
    Scott recently posted..Weekly RamblingsMy Profile