Me: I kinda wanna do SuperiorMan. The short course.
Julie: Oh, InferiorMan?
Me: Yeah. That one. But I haven't been swimming or biking at all, I haven't done either since last summer, and I haven't been running much.
Julie: Hmm. Well, I mean, you can complete the distance. Like, you can cover the course.
Me: Okay. I mean that would be my only goal.
And so it went. That was on June 23. I decided to do the race.
The "short course" at SuperiorMan is a 1/2 mile swim, a 35.4 mile bike, and 5.6 mile run (41.5 miles total). (The "long course" is the Half Ironman distance, 70.3 miles total).
Between that day and today, I did the following, triathlon-specific training:
- I rode my road bike twice, once for 17 miles and once for 20;
- I swam in open water three times, each time just testing it out (w/wetsuit) but not swimming for any significant distance;
- I swam laps in the pool once for 20 minutes; and
- I ran sporadically, never more than 5 miles.
That was it. That was not wise. That is not something I recommend.
Enough background, let's get to the day.
I wasn't doing this race with anyone and no one was going with me. That's pretty normal for me - I've done most races solo. That said, my friend Christina Meier - who I know from high school (where she was a stellar swimmer) and have stayed in touch with since (to follow her path to becoming an IRONMAN) was there volunteering for the swim portion. And Mike (husband of Julie and my other trainer at Destination Fitness) and Calla, a friend from the gym, were doing a relay so they were there as well.
If you don't know this race, you can read about it here. I won't describe how it works. But it's kinda fun and quirky and cool. Especially if you love Duluth.
Calla and I boarded the Vista Star and headed out to the swim start. I was anxious but not particularly nervous. On our boat (which was the second of two) were the fastest swimmers for the 1/2 Ironman distance (who were swimming 1.2 miles) and all of the people doing the 41.5 distance, the slow group (me) and the fast group. We were entering the water in that order.
The jump off of the Vista and into the water was more jarring than I was expecting. Julie prepared me, but it still knocked me a bit out of sorts. I took a second to gather myself and began to swim. For about 4 strokes. And it was exactly like the sprint triathlon I did last summer. I couldn't breathe. In or out. I just couldn't catch my breath. A dude in front of me was breast-stroking so I tried that. Nope. I was a mess. I saw a kayak and yelled for help. I was literally about 15 yards from the Vista at this point. I grabbed on and tried to calm down. I kept telling the man in the kayak: "I just can't breathe, I have asthma, I just can't breathe." He was very kind, but after a couple minutes he said: "Do you want to get on a rescue boat?" I looked at him and said: "I think so."
And then all the thoughts went through my head. "What do I care? I didn't even train for this. This isn't a goal race. Barely anyone even knows I am doing this."
But then I pictured my poor, lonely bike sitting in transition. (This is true, I actually did). And so I said to the man: "Let me try again." So I did. And it was awful. And I kept struggling, but I pushed my way along until I came across a nice woman in a kayak. She became my new best friend. At least for the next half hour or so. I hung on with her for a bit, gathered myself, and swam. And she followed me. And I hung on with her for a bit, and gathered myself, and swam. She was great. Quiet. She didn't say much. Except when I looked at her with sad, embarrassed eyes and kept saying: "I just can't breathe" she would say: "You're doing great. You're gonna get there." She was with me until I entered the slip that led to the end of the swim portion of the race. (For those not familiar with the sport, it is within the rules to hang onto a kayak or boat or really anything at any time while in the water as long as you don't make forward progress).
And so it went.
When I was between the two buoys that marked the turnaround point for the 1/2 mile swim course, I had stopped and yelled for help (again) and my kayak friend was working her way over to me. I was treading water and I heard someone yell: "IS THAT SARA??"
It was Christina.
Me (yelling): "Ugh. [expletive I can't remember]! Yes, it's me. I can't breathe! This is awful!
Christina: "But you're doing it!!?"
Me: "Am I, though? Am I??? I keep holding on!"
Christina: "That's okay you're out here and you're doing it!"
Me: "I'm a mess!"
Christina: "You're amazing!"
Christina was very excited for me. She should be a motivational speaker.
Background: I have been talking to Christina about wanting to do triathlons for years. Since 2012, I think. But it's never quite come together - and then I did that first sprint Tri last summer and bombed epically. I'd been texting her all week about how to prepare for this damn thing. Anyway, she had context, she knew this was a huge challenge for me, and also a huge dream. And she was proud. In the moment, though, I was not.
I muddled through the rest of the swim like that, and I finished. How slow was I? Let's just say that all of the people doing the 1.2 mile swim that started with me? They beat me. But, I didn't quit. And I got there. Now? Onto the bike.
The bike was by far my favorite part of this race. Even though I baaaaarely know how to operate my road bike. I am not fast on the bike, but I like that you can just kinda kick back and decide how hard you want to work. For me, today, that was a gift. I spun along the course at a comfortable pace and I completed it. Now, it was no small task. Before today I'd probably been on my road bike no more than a dozen times. Total. Ever. I am still scared to clip in and out of the pedals. And, before today, I had never, ever, ridden this bike, or any bike, more than 20 miles. But it never felt long. It was quiet and private and the lake was beautiful as always. I finished the 35.4 miles and, as compared to the swim exit, I felt pretty fierce.
I got back to transition and Christina cheered me in and met me near my stuff. I changed into my running shoes and noticed that the bottom plate on one of my bike shoes had come almost completely off. Apparently I really WAS feeling zen out on the bike! I had no idea until I took off the shoe.
Anyway, the run. So, this is the part that's actually my sport. This is what I do. It was 5.6 miles. I ran 40 miles once. But, of course, that was not without training. And not after 35 miles on the bike.
OUCH! Sweet Jesus. This run was unpleasant.
My quads rebelled like nothing I've ever felt before - including when I ran that 50 (40) miler on killer hills and technical terrain. So, I ran/walked it. Some people go into a race planning to do that. I defaulted to it and felt fine about it. I ran a little, I walked a little, and so on.
And, after all was said and done, I finished. I wasn't last. I almost was. And if I had been? Meh. I finished. Such as it was.
- I AM proud that I finished...because I started, and, well, I was very close to getting on a rescue boat and calling it a day.
- I am NOT happy that I did this. It was not wise. Yes, I had the underlying fitness and innate athletic ability to complete the course. But I had no business being out there. I was presumptuous to think that I could or should do it without training. I shouldn't have. No one should.
- I had a blast today. I was in pain a lot of the time, but I loved the event. Clint Agar and Duluth Running Co. do a tremendous job putting on this race. And everyone on the race course was so kind and supportive. It was a great atmosphere. I am grateful.
What now? Well, I have to figure out if this (the swim, mainly) is a demon I want to battle or something I want to let go of while I go chase other goals. I don't know yet. Both times I've done a triathlon the swim has been extremely traumatic. Terrifying, really. That said, in talking to other triathletes, I know my experience isn't abnormal. I also haven't ever really trained, or practiced, swimming. So to write it off now might be a bit premature. And also a lame excuse.
Anyway, I march on with my plan to be #FITfor40. I honestly do not know what's next, other than continuing to show up for classes with Julie and Mike. Stay posted.
Here are some shots from the day:
|Transition Area a Dawn|
|I really "tore it up" on the bike course!|
|Bike to Run Transition|
|Yay! A friend! (Thanks Christina!)|