Till now, I had managed to keep fear at bay by distracting myself with the training, and other preparations, but it kept gnawing at me as I drove. That was one reason why I had to be at the race venue in advance. I was at Texas Ski Ranch just a little after 6a. No other Trioomphers had gotten there. And with my relay partner still absent from the scene, I couldn't do much about setting up transition. I got body marked, got my timing chip and sat in front of the lake looking at the swim course and "trying" to get comfortable with it.
The yellow buoys marked the 300m swim course - it seemed like a LONG distance. The lake seemed too BIG. I wasn't trained well. I would get tired. Fed up with all the negative thoughts, I just started looking at other athletes, their gears, the bikes.
45 minutes or so later I made my way to transition and found other trioomphers - the two Stephanies, Cha, G3, Sha, and Savi. It calmed my nerves a little to see all of them. Around 7.20 or so, Savi and I went to the swim start area for me to get warmed up and get familiar with the water. The water was warm and you couldn't see a thing under it. There were these small tadpole kind of fish that nibbled on my calves and startled me more than once. The first time I went out, I came back panting, and desperately short of breath. I couldn't do it. The last buoy was too far. How would I last the entire distance. I didn't know any stroke other than freestyle. I didn't even know how to tread water properly. I strongly contemplated telling Savi that I would quit. And hoped that she would understand. But then.... if hundreds of other women over there could attempt to do it - a lot of them for the first time - SO COULD I. Besides, Ganesh and Arun had come from Austin to cheer us in the race. And Vinit - who I knew would be really proud if I finished the swim. I couldn't let any of them down. I couldn't let myself down.
So I went out for a test swim again. This time it was slightly better but I panicked once I was 25 yards away from the shore. I swam right back and found Sha entering the water. One look at me and she knew how I was feeling inside. She was full of just perfect words - "Iti, you can do it", "you'll be fine", "it just looks very far". I swam a couple more times and then just decided to work on my mind.. filling it with positive stuff - thinking about my training, calming my nerves by saying positive stuff to other trioomphers. Meanwhile I also spotted 2 life guards with floats and 2 people on canoes in diff spots on the swim course. The strategy was formed. I would just swim to the first person, then the next, then the next and so on. And then I found out that if I hung on to the floats to take a breath, I wouldn't be disqualified.
Great.. super... Sha and I were to go out in the last wave with the other relay swimmers. We saw all the other trioomphers start their swim in their respective waves. Soon it was our turn. Once we went in, I hung to the back of the pack and swam slowly to the first life guard. Stopped for a breath. So far so good. I wasn't warmed up enough and could not get my rhythm but I was still in the game at least. Next I got to the first canoe and after a short breather, swam right to the last buoy. That was the turn around point. Since I was the last swimmer, the first life guard with the float was right behind me. She was one big help. I had constant encouragement along the way. By now I was warmed up enough and swam the last 100m non stop. It was the most inefficient stroke EVER. All the "good" swimming practices that I incorporated in my training never really showed in my swim BUT at least I finished the swim without drowning!! I was ecstatic !
From swim finish area I ran to the relay area, where Savi was waiting for me. I gave her the timing chip and off she went with the bike. I had close to an hour to get changed and ready for my run. I found Sha (she was Preethi's partner) and she told me how she was having a tough time with her stomach - Madam had dined at Thai Passion the previous day!! :D We just hung around, ate a little and talked about our tri experiences.
Savi came in at around 10.15a and after the chip exchange, I took off for the run. It was 2 mile out and back course and the sun was beating down like anything by now. The temperature must have been in upper 90s and I felt it within a few yards of running. But I wanted to maintain my pace anyhow and the effort nicely led to side stitches. I kept my pace and waited for them to subside. It was hot hot hot. On my way back I crossed Sha (Preethi had come in a little while after Savi) and we did a little high five and then there was Cha at the entrance of the Ranch. I was dead from the heat by the time I entered the Ranch again. But the voice of the MC over the speakers, the cheering from the onlookers made me sprint the last few hundred meters and there it was - my pink and white finisher's medal :)
After cooling off a little bit , I met all the other people. EVERYBODY finished and did really well. Lots of photos, hugs, congratulations later, we also got the biggest team award. It was awesome!! I couldn't eat anything because of the heat, although there was yummy food from Tacodeli, mimosas, and ice cream. However, I did get a free massage before driving back to Austin with Savi :)
I really need to work on my swim. I do fine in the pool but open water scared the sh** out of me. Panic totally got me in this one. Many many more open water sessions in Barton Springs.
Our Relay Timing:
|Overall Place||10 / 11|
|Gender Place||10 / 11|
|Division Place||8 / 11|
|Swim 300M Rank||11|
|Swim 300M Time||14:48|
|Bike 11 1M Rank||10|
|Bike 11 1M Time||1:15:04|
|Run 2 Mi Rank||8|
|Run 2 Mi Time||23:52|