Yes, it was worth it.

May 8, 2007 at 9:15 pm (favs)

5:00 AM: We wake first to a call from my father, then to the scheduled wake-up call, then to ALM’s blackberry. My clothes are laid out and I dress in the dark. Mom found an open Starbucks and produces a skim latte as I load the car. I run through my checklist for a fourth time and try to breathe.

5:30 AM: The long winding drive up to Lake Berryessa is choked with bike rack carrying cars. Mom chatters away next to me, but I would be hard pressed later to remember a topic, or even a word.

8:00 AM: For some reason we sing “America the Beautiful.” Singing calms me, if only for a moment. The first wave wades into the water. The other newbies around me make nervous chit chat. One girl admits that this will be her first open water swim. I shudder for her and explain that she won’t be able to see. Her eyes go wide.

8:20 AM: I wade in with the final wave, and tread water in big sweeping motions to claim some space. I go under a few times into pitch blackness, adjusting to the cold and to the dark. One of the kayakers holds a paddle in the air like a drag racer’s flag, and then suddenly it’s all motion. I take six strokes too quickly, then ease myself into a sustainable pace. The water is choppy and I breathe it in, sputtering and turning onto my back to gasp for air. In the groove again, I start to pass people and wish I’d gone out with an earlier wave. Sighting every 6th stroke, I see yellow caps huddling near the kayaks. I find out later that at least 30 people were fished out, having decided that the cold, rough water was too much, but I’m unafraid in a way that’s completely new to me. Finally the last buoy is in sight and I make a final push onto the slippery launch. I grab flip flops from someone and run to my bike while stripping off the top half of the wetsuit. I stand on the wetsuit with one foot, while pulling the other one up and out. The right ankle needs help getting over the timing chip. Then socks, shoes, sunglasses and bike helmet. I mount my bike at the sign and am off.

The road is pockmarked and uneven and I briefly envy the man next to me on a mountain bike…untill I pass him. I ride for nearly thirty minutes in painful oblivion before realizing that I’m facing a strong (20+ mph) headwind. I’m entirely convinced that I will soon need to pull over to puke lakewater. At the turnaround I breathe a sigh of relief as the wind begins to carry me. Taking the hills for a second time, I curse myself for not finding someone to help me with my gearing. I hear “on your left” and watch a woman fly past. At the next hill, I’m the one yelling out a warning to her, but I start to feel the effects of the heat. At the last speed bump on the way to the transition area, my foot pops out of the cage.

Throwing on the Red Sox shirt, I turn around again to head out on the run. People yell “Go Sox” as they pass me on their way in. Spectators add “Woohoo Red Sox” and I find myself taking it personally. I run as much as I can, but immediately regret my decision not to take a hit off my inhaler during the transition. The temperature has most definitely climbed above the forecasted 72. And then, once again, there’s that headwind. At the turnaround I try to pick up the pace. I vow to run more hills. And then suddenly I recognize the road and know I’m less than a quarter mile from the finish. I’m gulping air, though it’s not really going in, and ignoring cheers from my mother, father and ALM. I cross and gasp while race officials take my chip and hand me a medal. My cheering section arrives to congratulate me. Mom tells me I don’t run like a girl. ALM and Dad offer to gather my things and load my bike. Diluted Gatorade tastes like the best thing I’ve ever had. I go through it all blow by blow with my mother as I retrieve my race t-shirt and more Gatorade.

And then I start to plan how to train better next year.

If you’ll recall, I had two goals for my first triathlon. Let’s just say that next year, I’ll be more ambitious.

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5 Comments

  1. winnekat said,

    YAY!!!!!!!!!!

    I am so happy for you!

    (And envious! I have a LONG way to go before I could think of doing a triathlon.)

  2. winnekat said,

    YAY!!!!!!!!!!

    I am so happy for you!

    (And envious! I have a LONG way to go before I could think of doing a triathlon.)

  3. winnekat said,

    p.s. The Varitek shirt is just awesome.

  4. Nate said,

    Congrats Sara! I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I feel humbled. Nice job!

  5. BS said,

    Thanks! That means a lot coming from athletes like you two.

    I’m sure two marathoners could easily transition to triathlons. In fact, TK, there’s a Danskin tri in Seattle that sounds like fun…

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