(from my journal the morning after the race)
In less than two hours, if you take out the transition times, I completed my first triathlon. I did it in the coolness of a Tahoe fall morning at 6,000ish feet of elevation. My lungs worked overtime against the cold and altitude, a feeling reminiscent of being on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Somehow though I remembered what folks said just hours before in Facebook messages, via e-mail the weeks leading up to the event and my support crew that day. “Have fun!”
“I feel no fear,” registered in my head as I stood looking out at the waters reaching for miles. I couldn’t believe it as I put myself into the “icy” Tahoe waters I was actually warmish. My toes had chilled as I stood in the sand listening to my story being read to the thousand plus participants gathered on the shore. I held the moment in my heart as the Athleta, Award of Inspiration was bestowed on me. The spoken words an acknowledgment of my accomplishments personally and professionally over my lifetime.
Once in the water I did not stop and grab onto a support boat, paddle board or kayak. I couldn’t believe it I passed them by as I alternated between my back bug stroke, side stroke and breast stroke. The wetsuit was pulling down on my shoulders making my lungs feel even more constricted so being on my back and side allowed them expansion. As I turned the corner of the second buoy I was headed directly into the sun, just coming over the peak. The brightness blinded my ability to see where I was going. My thought had been to front crawl the last 175 meters, as I rolled onto my back again I saw a wave of purple caps (the 40-44 year olds) rolling toward me. They were released five minutes after our group and were beginning to overtake me. Their bodies created extra turbulence adding to my feeling of disorientation. Still I did not freak out. I just stuck to my original plan. Though it was a bit slower method I still got in to the shore in 17 minutes. I didn’t panic to find the bottom as I came in. Instead I glided through the water enjoying the last bits of a naiad world I’ve always been destined to claim.
As I heard “LauraLynn you did it!” my hands went to my face feeling the googles where my tears were gathering. I pulled my goggles up onto the top of my head before shielding my face once again. I was slightly embarrassed momentarily to cry into front of hundreds of people watching us swimmers emerge from the water.
I had to stop and acknowledge this place that has healed me so many times. The mountains again witnessed my overcoming a HUGE fear, the first time looking death in the face, this time the unknown depths of these waters I so love. The first time I sat on the shores of this lake flashed into my memory. I am popping my last chemo pill under a giant redwood overlooking the lake. At that time and for the last twenty plus years I yearned to climb these mountains or even scarier swim the crystal blue waters fed by the snow melt from high above.
The emotion sat with me as I began to unzip my wetsuit. I made my way to the shoe area where I began sucking on my now frozen Sharkie snacks. I slipped my rapidly freezing feet into my water shoes and headed out. I dried myself as I walked rapidly the approximately 4 block trek to the transition area. My hopes were both actions would help me warm up my body as it hit the air now edging toward the upper 40s.
Once I got to the bike I struggled to get my wetsuit off my left leg, the timing chip was strapped onto it. Note to self: next time take the darn thing off first. Then came trying to put my cycling/running top on – the wetness and it being a bit too snug lost me even more time. I laughed at myself as I thought about what I must have looked like bound up in my beautiful blue jersey top. Eventually I was good to go and grabbed my bike, heading for the outward bound chute. This I knew would be my favorite part.
Goosebumps were multiplying across my skin. I anticipated warming up as I began to ride. The sun only spotted portions of the route so instead of decreasing the chill now consuming my whole body it increased it. My feet were frozen to the point of not being able to feel them at all. The downhills continued to lower my body temp as the cool air hit my wet bike shorts and swim top (both worn under my wetsuit). Finally about halfway up to Cave Rock (the turn around point) I remembered I had a lightweight windbreaker in the pouch under my bike seat. So I pulled over quickly, after pulling it out while riding, and slipped it on. I forgot to zipper it for extra warmth, but appreciated a reprieve from the wind’s bite on my arms and back. As my bike mounted the turn-around-point I looked out to see Lake Tahoe in all her glory. I smiled and paused just a moment remembering to, “Enjoy the ride.”
On the way back I cheered others on by name, if they had their bids on their backs. My legs felt like they could go for miles, but my lungs were struggling. I felt their boundaries of expansion and pushed it with all I had. I took advantage of the downhills to “run” shifting to my big ring and punching my pedals so I could pump extra power into my spinning wheels. On the steepest downhill I had to just let go, conquering another smaller fear of going fast on my bike.
As a kid it seemed every time I did go extra fast on my bike I crashed – BIG TIME! Like the time I was trying make my way into a parking lot to beat a car coming down the hill behind me. I beat it but slide on my side across the blacktop parking area tearing up the side of my completely exposed leg. Even as an adult when I was learning to draft for the sake of going faster with less effort my front wheel clipped the back wheel of the bike in front of me. WHAM! Down I went splitting my helmet open.
I didn’t dare look at my speedometer for fear of seeing how fast I really was going. I also didn’t want to hit any bikers I was passing as I zoomed downward. Before I knew it I was turning the corner of Hwy. 50 heading back toward the transition area. My frozen toes made it very challenging to get them into my 5 fingers shoes.
As I tapped the blue timing tarps to start the run I felt good. My legs moved easily, as my feet began to thaw. On the run I used my mental mantra of ‘in through the nose, out through the mouth’ to regulate my breath. It helped warm the air still quite cold and balance my mind as I felt my body shift into my last mode of the day. A small ache, that started the day before, was now becoming an immense pain in my left foot. It started at the base of the toe next to my big one and ran over the rise on top of my foot. I ran the whole three miles in nearly the same amount of time in which I did many of my training runs, 36 mintues.