I hesitated for a few precious seconds before slipping beneath the cool blanket of water. Despite being overcast, the visibility was surprisingly clear and I fixated on the frantic thrashing of some feet in front. But, just like a salmon vigorously making its way upstream, in a flash the feet were gone and I was left staring at a few random bubbles. As so I scanned my field of vision for some more feet. After swimming for a couple minutes I looked up to ensure I was going in the correct direction, and to check out the pack I was with. Turns out I was in a very small pack of two. As for my direction... tracking a red buoy amid a mass of red swim caps is easier said than done. All that came to mind was the 80’s song, ‘99 Red Balloons’.
The last time I raced a triathlon was August 1999. Since that time a lot has changed: marriage, a house, two children, an enjoyable career, a few grey hairs, and not least glasses. It’s the subtleties of life that can easily be taken for granted. Turns out, trying to locate a buoy 500m away when you’re near-sighted and not wearing glasses, is difficult at best. All I could do was smile.
With only seven swims in the last dozen years, the last few hundred meters were a tad desperate. The joy I felt grew exponentially as I a) was able to see bottom, b) could stand, and c) slowly began exiting the lake.
The next 1’46” was a blur as I struggled to take off my wetsuit and put on my helmet and bike shoes. That said, a benefit from a slow swim is that the transition was remarkably empty and I was able to clip into the peddles without having to worry about anxious competitors.
Maybe it’s due to some marathon wisdom I picked up over the last five years, but once I settled into a comfortable rhythm on the bike, I took my time moving through the field. With a limited cycling base, I tried to avoid crossing the anaerobic threshold and consequently was conservative on the hills while tapping out a metronomic tempo on the flats. I’d been targeting my return to the sport for three years, and on that early summer morning I continued to grin and count my blessing, fully appreciative of every moment.
With about 500m left on the bike, I used a slight downhill to slip my feet out of the shoes and soft peddled into transition. Despite not having elastic laces I was pretty happy with my second transition (1’03”), and glided out onto the run course feeling smooth. Perhaps it has more to do with expectations than reality, but fearing the worst, i.e. tired heavy legs, I started conservatively and felt nothing but a silky effortless stride. Feeling comfortable so early in the run, I told myself to run controlled and relaxed until 5k, re-evaluating afterwards. Once exiting the water, only one person passed me the entire race, at about 5k into the run. I remember debating picking up the pace, but instead opted for a controlled/enjoyable second half.
Cruising toward the finish line, I could hear Ally cheering, and saw Isla jumping up and down while clanging an old cow bell. Twelve years was far too long in-between races, and yet with no pressure and racing for nothing other than sheer enjoyment, I executed one of my best performances. I crossed the line thoroughly happy, with no excuses, having just relived my youth. It was everything I’d anticipated and more. Results here.
Training: 2:19:08, 14/199 OA, 4 AG, 1,500 swim 27:01 44th, 40k bike 1:10:46 20th, 10k run 38:33 8th
Monday, August 15