I slowly watched everyone pass me by. After about 5 minutes I saw a lady doing the backstroke cruising by me. I was starting to have pool flashbacks of the of the 60 year old ladies in there aqua dresses cruising by me. This was a disaster. I decided to check behind me to see how many people I was beating. Let’s see, there was one, two? Nope just one. This person was about 25 feet farther out and pretty much hot on my heels. I decided then and there that I would not be the last one out of the water. I put my head down and started to go hard. I went for about 10 maybe 11 strokes and decided I better look up to see where I was. WTF! I was heading straight to the middle of the river. You see in the river there is no black line to follow like there is on the bottom of the pool.
It was then that I resigned myself to bringing it on home mom style. I just continued to paddle along staying just ahead of the last place person. The weird thing about being that far back in the race is that you get a personal kayak escort. Actually I guess they’re less of an escort and more of a “make sure this guy doesn’t drown and we get sued by the widow, because he looks like he’s never swam a day in his life” type of thing. Oh, and for the record I’ve instructed my wife not to sue if I ever die in a triathlon. It’s ridiculous! If 1 person drowns, but 2000 other people finish the same swim, who’s fault is that? I’d guess it’s the guy who drowned. Not the race director! But I digress.
So I’m about halfway and started to sense to a presence on my left. Luckily, it wasn’t the other swimmer. Unfortunately it my “escort” coming to ask me if I was doing okay? Damn it! That was a blow to the ego. For him to feel the need to pull up next to me and ask me if I was doing okay, must have meant that I didn’t look like I was. “I’m fine, but this is about all I got so I’m sorry”.
His reply to this really stung. “Don’t apologize, your doing great BUD”. Again with the bud! Bud probably doesn’t seem like an insult to most people, but I’ve had it ingrained in my head since a young age by my friend Mark Ward that this is the highest form of disrespect anyone can dish out. He once told me he’d rather be slapped in the face. I don’t quite feel the same way, but it still bothers me. Well, there was nothing I could do about now so I just continued on. I decided my energies would be better spent trying to hold off the dude I was battling for second to last place out of the water. We were in a battle to the finish line, and although it wasn’t actually a battle to the death it was close. I was not going to finish last! Drowning seemed more appealing.
The race came down to the last ten yards. By now it was obvious that this guy was also aware that we were battling for the dubious distinction of coming out of the water last. He kicked into another gear, but he had no idea that I had a secret weapon. I broke from my “mom not letting her hair get wet stroke” and unleashed a few strokes of freestyle, and I just edged him out!
I came out the water and started running towards my bike. It was now time to get a look at my nemesis. As I turned around I heard her say, “We made it! This is my first tri and I’m loving it!” That’s right, that’s not a typo I said her and she was about 50 and probably 20 pounds overweight. I guess I can’t really expect the only other person out there with a personal kayak escort to be a guy my age.
The thing about triathlon is it’s a three headed monster. It would have been really easy to write off the rest of my race and just take it easy for the rest of the race, but that’s just not me. Just because I wasn’t great at something didn’t mean I would give up. I decided I would get on my bike and hammer to see if I could catch some people. At first I was passing mountain bikes and hybrids, then I started passing a couple road bikes and by the end of the bike leg I was passing some guys on tri bikes and I had taken a few age group places back. I realized this is actually really fun! To be honest about 1 mile into the bike I came to the realization that I LOVED this sport.
When the dust settled I had passed 200 people and I finished 50th overall in a time of 2:30. For the first time I began to think that this might be something I could be good at eventually. All I needed to do is stick with it and learn how to swim.
The next year I came back to this race and finished 8th overall and 2nd in my age group.
The lesson here is don’t give up just because things don’t go the way you want or envisioned, because if you continue to work hard eventually things start to go your way.