TRI to finish…in the blazing heat

When I received email notice that my Sprint Triathlon START TIME would be 9:20AM, panic set in. Sunday, June 20 was predicted to be the HOTTEST and MUGGIEST (is that a word?) day of the year, and it was now official. I would be in the LAST wave of swimmers to start the Carroll County TRI to WIN Sprint Triathlon. The ReelFeel temperatures by 9:30AM would be 102 degrees.

The South Carroll Tri-to-Win Sprint Triathlon consists of a 400 meter swim, 14 mile bike and 5K run. It is also a fundraiser for the Joanna M Nicolay Melanoma Foundation – a great cause in the fight against melanoma skin cancer. A sprint TRI is short-n-sweet…and meant to be fast. Maybe for some that is…

By 4:30AM raceday morning, the temperatures were in the low 80’s and the humidity was already THICK. I was ready as I could be. My TRI partner Jill (who should’ve been IN the event with me…but forgot so sign up IN TIME – OK jus say’n šŸ˜‰ had gone over and over my transition details…with me the day prior. We had down the transition basics…bike shoes, socks folded and ready to whip on, running shoes without laces, bike helmet, sunglasses bla bla bla. The high heat added new items to the checklist. We decided Bandanas soaked in ice water, tied around my neck and wrist would be my ticket to heat survival. It was all about getting it “done” at this point. No speedy biking…no fast running….nothing heroic….not that I had that in me to begin with .

I arrived at the parking lot – just as daybreak was unfolding. 5:10AM. The parking lot was empty. I was the first to arrive. Time to recline the bucket seat in the Jeep and relax. Sure, I don’t start til 9:20AM….but I had to check in and get body marked before 6AM. The first wave starts at 7 (lucky dogs!)…and I would spend my time thinking “cool” thoughts. I should be dozing off, but I was still fussing with some last minute details. Where would I keep my car key? Should I try to carry my mini-blog cam and film this bloody heat wave? Should I skip wearing my bike gloves? So many things…yet unresolved.

By 7AM, two swimming pools with a total of 11 lanes were buzzing with the first wave of swimmers. I was assigned to pool #2 – with 3 lanes. The slow swimmers are assigned to pool #2, and I was glad to be among the challenged swimmer crowd. Swimming is not my strong suit, but I had trained, and was ready as I could be. What I wasn’t ready for, was the spectacle going on in pool#2.

Now, I know what it is like to be swimming challenged. It defines me. Never having learned to swim as a youngsta – I truly understand the challenge learning to swim in mid-life. It’s not pretty. But what was going on in pool#2, filled with swim challenged adults – was a sight to be seen. I made the wrong decision to leave my blog cam behind. It would have been footage to behold. It was joy to my eyes. People, young and old, big and small…even more swim challenged than I? They were like bumper swimmers…colliding into one another, swimming with no agenda, floating with no propulsion, and lacking oxygen after 3-4 strokes. Sooo…this is how we look? It was hard to imagine…but I instantly felt one with my pitiful swimming comrades.

After the initial AWE of watching the events unfolding in pool #2, I began to wonder if some of these folks would ever make it out of the swimming portion of the event. Their lack of propulsion in the water, could severly impact my start time. What if my start time is delayed til 10AM? I ran to the side of the pool and started cheering them on. “Come on – you can do it — kick harder”. I tried to be positive, tho my other voice wanted to yell out “hurry up…you guys need to get outta the water so I can get in before noon.”

By now it is 8AM, and I had been hydrating LOTS, and just finished a banana. I had at least another 1.5 hours before my number (291) is called to the starting line. But wait, a line of folks in the 290 – 310 range is standing in the queue. Did I miss the call? It’s only 8AM? So, I sached over to the man-in-charge, and asked him if the 290’s are on deck? He then told me that 291 is next to go. WHAT???? That’s ME?? I just consumed a banana….drank a liter of water…and did not have my swim cap or goggles ready at all. But I’m not complaining. Just not ready. I ran to retrieve my swim gear…and was yanking down my swim cap as I crossed the starting line…and plopped into the PITY POOL#2 with my many swim-impaired adults.

Within seconds, pool panic set in…and my breathing tightened up. What’s up with this? I don’t have an answer why mini-panic set in…but I finished the swim in a record SLOW time for me…and was glad to be outta the piti-pool. Off to the transition area…and still trying to decide if I wanted to wear bike gloves. I did. It took forever to get them on over wet skin. Maybe not such a good idea.

I jogged with My bike (Ms Madone) out of the transition area…and onto the bike course. I had my sights on every biker ahead of me. But it was hot…and I needed to save juice for the soon-to-be-hotter run. Maybe I don’t need to pass everyone on the bike. Then again….it’s hard to turn off that switch.

I made all of my gains…on the uphills. Ms Madone likes the uphills for some reason. It was now time to decend….and my speeds were over 30mph…when suddenly I felt like I had no control over my bike. The rear wheel was causing a road wobble so severe, that it felt like my wheel was about to come off the frame. I immediately applied the brakes…which is not necessarily a safe thing to do on a high speed decent. Fortunately, I was able to hang on without crashing…. WHAT TO DO NOW? I suppose I could get off the bike and look at it….but I’m no bike mechanic. I can change the tire if I need to. I looked ahead…and saw 2 more bikers in front of me. Hmmm…maybe I should just stay on the bike…pass them (of course ;-)…and take it slower on the downhills. That’s my plan.

By mile 10 Ms Madone is making some very abnormal, and louder-by-the-minute bike noise. I tried hard not to listen. We (Ms Madone and I) just need to get to the finish line, without the bike falling apart. I was not about to stop, and managed to go slow to keep the bike wobbles down to a minimum. I passed the checkpoint with TEAM BRO and FLUFF (Jill) cheering wildly at mile 11.5. They had volunteered to stand out in the heat for 4+ hours flagging in all of the bikers. In this heat, standing on pavement cheering in bikers for 4+ hours is pretty darn heroic.

Two and a half more miles to go. I’m sure I’m the only biker out there hoping for more UPhills. Ms Madone is really not doing well on any downhill at this point. SOMEHOW…we made it to the finish….and I quickly racked Ms Madone, and gave her a pat on the handlebars for not tossing me over.

I doused my bandanas in ice cold water…and left the transition area to start the run course. I was so busy dousing my bandanas, that I forgot my water bottle. Major detail. By the time I reached the main road, hot pavement added another 10 degrees to the ReelFeel. The run consisted of two long uphills…and 2 gradual downhills. Most of the runners…had morphed into walkers. Not me. I wanted to be DONE. I decided as long as I wasn’t dizzy…I would continue to run. I was wishing for my water bottle, but had to let go of that thought. What will be, will be. With two sopping wet, ice cold bandanas – it really didn’t feel too bad. My thoughts turned to crossing the finish line.

An hour and 40 minutes was the result – putting me #4 in my age division. It’s great being old šŸ˜‰ And I couldn’t have been happier to have started at 8:10AM…instead of 9:20AM. Re-united with BRO and Tri-Sis Jill (you guys ROCK!) at the finish – we made plans for the most important part of any race. FOOD.

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