In 14 years of racing triathlons, I’ve NEVER not completed a portion of a race. It’s been 21 months since my last triathlon and I’m trying to give myself some grace after the sheer shock and disappointment as this completely blindsided me.
For this race, Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, I felt ready. I dropped from the International distance to the Sprint distance, due to COVID cancellations last year, as this was an event to get back into the flow of racing again.
With the start of each triathlon, I’ve learned to relax into my flow for the swim, however, a few yards in, water was leaking in my left side goggle. I got to the shore to adjust and continued further. A little further, I had to adjust again. Upon continuing I thought of just swimming through it, but it was difficult to get into my rhythm. I turned on my back to try adjusting again and water got in my right side goggle. At this point I’m trying to figure out what to do over the course of swimming another 25-50 yards not far from the shoreline. I then get to the shoreline again and after standing and taking off my goggles, I realize I’ve lost both contacts and can’t see clearly. I try to ease my anxiety, take a few moments to get my mind right and then focus on getting to the first turn buoy and a floating ramp nearby. Once I get to the ramp, I hold on to catch a breath because I’m clearly not mentally focused as the water was choppy because of the wind. Seeing numerous people being pulled out didn’t help.
Talking to the lifeguard on the ramp, he shares that the next lifeguard canoe is close to the next turn buoy, so I focus on getting to that canoe. About 20 yards from the next canoe, I realize I’m in trouble. Trying to calm myself from not being able to see and not even remembering if water is in my goggles or not at this point, I’m just trying to push through. I try not to panic 10 yards away and the water is feeling rougher than I thought it would be. There are 2 other racers already holding on to the canoe and I grab on. A boat comes and the other 2 decide that they are done and take the boat back. I decline and hold on just trying to relax while squinting trying to focus on the next turn buoy.
The female lifeguard on the canoe agrees to follow me as I’m set to head to the next buoy. Another 20 yards or so, I feel it setting in. I’m feeling defeated by not just the rippling of the water, but also not being able to see clearly and my anxiousness not allowing me to relax and swim with ease. I turn to her and say “I’m done”. She calls for the closest boat to come. Two guys pull me aboard and as we head for the closet shore, I’m crying and thinking how is this happening.
In many other races, it would be a wrap, but I’m able to head to transition and still bike and run. At this point, I’m not feeling like this race will count, but I came to race this triathlon (this one I’ve done quite a few times over the years).
As I’m running back into transition, since Coach Mo was volunteering at this race with Dare To Tri, I’m hoping I run into him, because I was feeling defeated. Coach Mo is not one to pull punches. With the hashtags of #effMo and #hatemenowlovemeraceday, even when feeling low, rather than words of comfort, he has a way of saying what is needed to give you that kick in the @$$!! As luck may have it, he was by transition entrance and saw me as I was heading in. I stopped briefly to share what happened. And true to Mo’s form, he says “yeah alright, now go catch a few people”. It was the reminder that I needed, that I can still beast this bike and run. So, on to the bike…
Of course that’s not the end of the craziness. Heading out of transition on my bike, note that with both eye contacts gone, I can barely see so I’m going off blurry shapes and unclear signage. Having raced this triathlon before and reviewed the race map, I knew the Sprint distance was supposed to turn a certain direction. Perhaps I was still in shock and disoriented, but it seemed the cones and direction only went another way, so I followed a few in front of me. It wasn’t until I was at a turnaround on one portion of the route that I saw/passed a large sign that stated “Olympic Turnaround”, that I realized I must have missed a turn out of transition and was on the International distance bike route.
Based on the bike course that passed back by the bike start, though I had to go a few miles further to turn around and get back to transition, I ended up biking only an extra 1.5-3 miles. Oh, and did I mention the wind. Yeah, it was so rough that a LOT of people found the bike tough. At this point, with a pulled out swim, a longer bike than the course, I wanted to redeem myself on the run. Though not my fastest run, as I was “catching” and passing people, I could sense that I was in my zone.
Post race, I was still in disbelief around what happened, and still feeling crushed, so much so that I haven’t even put on the race medal and got teary-eyed from not accomplishing what I thought would be a smooth race. After quite a few hours and taking stock of what happened, what I can learn from it, and how to use this experience moving forward, there are two things I will share..
I couldn’t see clearly during this race, which made this race intimidating and difficult. The life lesson in this is that there are often times when we won’t be able to see things clearly. However, we learn to trust the process, what we go through and learn from it, as well as have the chance to dig deep within to continue the journey, no matter what may come.
And the other thing I take from this is, the winds blew tossing the water around me, pushing and hindering me, seemingly overwhelming me, but not overcoming me. There are circumstances, situations, obstacles and more that will toss you about in life, as well as seem to hinder you and throw you off your goals and dreams. Sometimes you keep pushing through and other times you may experience a setback and come back another day. So continue onward… it’s all part of the journey.