Here we go with a very belated race report on the Blue Lake Aqua-Bike from June 9th. I didn’t advertise that I was considering doing this race(ish thing) beforehand, mostly because I wanted to give myself a chance to back out at the last minute. This might be the first time I’ve ever not gotten a discounted race fee for registering early…I signed up Thursday for the Saturday race.
My real motivation for doing the Aqua-Bike was my husband…He decided to tackle the Blue Lake Sprint Triathlon, his first full-length sprint tri. (He did a novice tri last summer, with a quarter-mile swim instead of the half-mile one.) He finds open-water swimming very intimidating, so it was pretty huge for him to decide to go for this. I was going to be there anyway to cheer him on, so why not try the two events my foot would allow me to do? (Common sense provides a few reasons: a $85 race fee, for one; icy-cold early June lake water, for another.) We decided to go for it, together, so that cold Saturday morning found us unloading our bikes in the muddy field of Blue Lake Park.
After we set up our transition areas, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. My normal triathlon warmup would involve jogging for a few minutes, but since jogging was out, I settled for warming up by putting on my wetsuit, which got my blood moving a little (Have I mentioned it was really cold out?) Hubby and I then headed down to the water, where he did the responsible thing and got in the water, to get used to the water temperature and practice his stroke. I, however, got distracted by the confusion of several racers about where the bouys were located for the half-mile swim. (No one ever listens to the pre-race briefing, do they?) In my usual do-gooder (know-it-all) style, I explained the course to them, and to the next people who came up after that, and the next, and the next…Until my husband came up and told me I better get in the water, because they were about to line up my wave.
I jumped in the (freezing) water as fast as I could, did a few breathing exercises to try to get used to putting my face in the water, and barely had time for 5 or 6 strokes of freestyle before I had to get out and run over to the starting line.
I was totally out of my element in the mixed group of my wave, which was comprised of aqua-bikers, relay team members, and, in an odd juxtaposition, kids 11 (and under) through 19 and Clydesdales. None of them seemed to be interested in any prerace banter (30-something females, my usual peers, excel at it), so I was alone with my thoughts until the horn sounded.
Blame it on the lack of a warmup, or the decline in my fitness level due to injury, or the cold I was coming down with but didn’t know about yet, but that was the most miserable swim I’ve ever had. As soon as I dove in, I was panicky and short of breath. My arms felt like they were flailing, and I couldn’t stand to put my face in the water. Getting into any kind of a rhythm was out of the question. Switching to breaststroke didn’t seem to help, and I was seriously considering bailing out of the whole thing by the time I got to the first bouy. Then I saw the row of rescue kayaks on the inside of the course, and realized that any time I wanted to, I could just swim to the side and they would save me. At that point, I decided to head for the next bouy and see what happened. I tried to force myself into an even stroke, breathe regularly, and use the legs I’d forgotten I owned (they were dragging along behind me like a half-dead horse.) It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fast, but eventually I got to the next bouy, and the next after that, switching to breaststroke every time the panic started up again. Eventually I was at the finish and heading back through the super-muddy transition area.
After slipping in the mud and stubbing my left big toe, I was back at my bike and struggling to get out of my wetsuit with numb fingers. (I have a sleeveless wetsuit, so I was essentially numb from the shoulders down. And my feet…I couldn’t feel my feet at all.) Once I fumbled my helmet and gloves into place, I was off for the slippery 0.22 hike to the bike mounting line. (Seriously…It took forever, so I checked my bike computer.)
The best thing I can say about my ride is…It wasn’t my swim. I think there was a headwind both ways, if that’s possible, and I barely dodged the giant dead possum in the roadway. I was thrilled to see my husband’s smiling face in the oncoming riders after I passed the turnaround. Thrilled because A) He obviously survived the swim, and B) He almost looked like he was having fun!
Then I was at the bike dismount line, and crossing the timing pad, and…I was finished. The most anticlimactic race finish ever. As I walked my bike back, I was passed left and right by triathletes running back to get ready for the last leg. A kindly old lady looked at me walking along and said sympathetically, “You’re doing fine, honey…Save your legs for that run!” I appreciated the good will, but had to explain that my race was over. Really, it was a strange feeling…I felt like I’d forgotten something I was supposed to do.
I racked my bike, threw on some sweats, and got over to my husband’s bike rack in time to cheer him on as he headed off for his run. Then I beelined for the coffee cart, and ordered my self a nice hot mocha. I strolled back along the course and cheered a few runners on, then saw my husband, still smiling, running along WAY ahead of when I’d anticipated. Totally awesome to see him finish so strong!
So, it wasn’t the Olympic-distance triathlon I’d hoped for to start my summer, but it was better than nothing, and it certainly taught me a couple things about warming up properly before an open-water swim. The highlight of the day was definitely seeing my husband finish something that I’m sure, a year ago, he never would have thought possible. Funny, I think I probably felt the same way just a couple years ago!