SWIM (.5 K/.3 Mi/547 Yds)
POP! The gun sounded and we were off. I had no idea what swimming in a lake would be like and it really wasn't that bad. I couldn't see much underwater but it wasn't completely dark. Rather the first foot or so of water was a cloudy, light-suffused green. I was also happy to find the laws of physics unaltered. I applied the techniques I'd been practicing in the pool and they worked! Reach, roll, pull, glide, reach, roll, pull, glide. I slipped forward through the water just like during training.
Unfortunately, even though I had strenuously coached myself not to, I went out way too fast and by the end of approximately the first quarter of the course, found myself gasping for air. Unable to recover, I ended up doing a fast sidestroke for the remainder of the swim, comforted by the fact that others around me were also by now resorting to backstroke, breast stroke and dog paddle.
The only problem with doing the sidestroke was that I ended up drifting far to the right - Swim left, swim left! the guards kept hollering, and it took me awhile to realize they were yelling at me - and had to cut way back in to make my turn. On the return, I drifted out again, but this was probably for the best because by now the faster swimmers from the wave after us were starting to overtake the stragglers from ours and although I ended up swimming a longer distance than the people who swam the course straight out and back, I at least didn't get kicked or punched or swum over.
As I was approaching shore on the return, my exhalations suddenly began to feel and sound very wheezy. I didn't feel oxygen deprived so I wasn't too worried, but it was an odd development nonetheless.
Shortly thereafter, my fingers struck muck, indicating that it was time to stand up and slog my way to shore.
My official swim time: 16:46.6
Transition 1 (T1):
I ran up the ramp, through the first bike corral, into the second bike corral and over to my bike. I had always wondered how people managed to run barefoot after the swim, but at this race, at least, the organizers had kindly covered the ramp and the path to and through transition with carpet scraps which made it pretty comfortable.
Following the instructions I'd written out for myself, I drank about 4 oz of Ultima, then quickly removed my goggles, swim cap and earplugs and tossed them into my transition bag. Next I poured water over my feet, dried them rapidly with a towel, rolled on my socks and slipped on my bike shoes (a triathlon model with a simple velcro closure). Finally, I reapplied sunscreen to my face, neck and shoulders (why risk skin cancer to take a couple of seconds off transition), reapplied Beljum Budder anywhere I could reach with modesty, donned my gloves and helmet, drank another 4 oz of Ultima, unracked my bike, jogged to the timing mat, crossed the timing mat, mounted my bike and took off.
My official T1 time: 4:08.8
BIKE (20 K/12.4 Mi)
The first part of the bike course was flat and fast. 24 mph! said my bike computer. 22. 24! 23. 24!
This is awesome, I thought! I'm gonna rock the bike!
Then there was a hill.
And as I crested that hill, another hill appeared in front of me. And on and on it went. Most of the downhills weren't long enough to build any momentum for the next uphill so it was basically climb, climb, climb. At one point I looked down to see my bike computer reading 9 mph. At what point does one just get off and walk? I wondered.
There were a few bright spots.
For example, I successfully crossed the uncovered cattle guard without catching my front wheel and breaking my arm.
Also, the cow who appeared to be thinking about stepping out right in front of me decided at the last second to remain on the shoulder with her friends. S. Baboo, who was officiating, told me after the race that shortly before I'd arrived at the spot on the course, the cows had been on the road and one of them was in fact running down the road next to the cyclists, freaking them out to no end, I'm sure. S. Baboo somehow herded them off the road.
Plus, the whole way up I kept thinking, man, I am going to smoke the descent and that will make up for this whole 9 mph thing.
The turnaround at the top of the course was very narrow and I had to slow waaaaay down to navigate. I managed not to fall over, though, and was feeling pysched about the imminent coast downhill when all of a sudden...
JOIN US TOMORROW FOR THE THRILLING CONCLUSION!