It wasn’t easy. Nor was it fast. But we accomplished what we set out to do: finish the 2013 Chisago Lakes Half Triathlon. After detailing our plans last week in the County Press, our trio went through with the competition.
I went and registered our team on Friday and got assigned number 85. I didn’t think much of it over the weekend until I got to the tri Sunday morning and went to the marking area to get my number written on my arm and leg. The gentleman writing the number sees the 85 and looked impressed, saying, “Oh nice, the elite wave... good luck man!” I thought I might need to go home and get a change of swimsuit when he said that. Despite checking the “I would like to be in the slow wave of swimmers” option on the registration form, I somehow ended up with the elite wave. If this was a hot dog eating contest or wedding dance-off, I might be in the elite wave, but no one was mistaking me for an elite swimmer on Sunday.
So when they called the first wave of swimmers to the start line, I bit my lip and sheepishly walked to the sand with these other athletes. I got a few compliments for my bravery and a few eye rolls and head shakes when I told the surrounding swimmers this was my first time and I hadn’t trained. “You’ve never done one and you’re going Olympic distance? Good luck,” one said sarcastically. But most were supportive. I got a “Good for you for going the long course” from one young lady. And I shared a friendly conversation with a couple of guys even as we were walking into the water. That’s when it sunk in that I was going to be in this lake for a while.
I instantly swam far to the outside to avoid the next waves that would inevitably be catching up to and climbing over me, making things even more difficult. The swim course was set up in a triangle this year, and the first third of it wasn’t too bad. I was still fresh and thinking positive thoughts. It was the second third of the course that was the toughest mentally. I was smack dab in the middle of South Chisago Lake, nowhere near shore, and I had a long way to go. I didn’t have time to look into shore, so it was just me and water and nowhere to go.
At least by the time I got to the last third and was coming back in, I could eye up the beach and know it was getting closer. As I was swimming closer and closer, I pictured myself sprinting out of the water like David Hasselhoff on Baywatch and racing to the transition area to hand off our racing chip to Timmy to get him going on the bike. As I got close enough to touch the bottom, I started wading my way in and the second I tried to take my first Hasselhoff-esque step on the beach, I almost took a Humpty Dumpty-esque fall with my jelly legs and decided that walking to the transition area was my best option. I was out of the water in the high 1:15 mark, but by the time I got to the transition, my time was 1:17, one of the slowest times on the course.
Timmy began his bike route as the wild card. We got an update that after an hour, he was at about mile 21, and we thought we had a good chance to break seven hours with that pace. But, the course eventually became hilly and fatigue began to set in and he settled down to a 14 mile per hour pace on his way to a 4:00 bike ride. It was an impressive feat for someone who hasn’t rode anything other than a BMX bike for more than 10 miles. In the third leg, Robbie -- who had bumped his knee at work earlier in the week -- got off to a fast start and kept up a nice pace throughout. He finished his 13 mile run in 1:57, good enough for a 9:04 pace, which actually put him in the middle of the pack for runners. After all of our results were tallied together, we finished in 7:18:23, last in the relay.
But, the key word in that last sentence was finished. We got the darn thing done. Although all three of us admitted that during our respective competitions, we wished we would’ve done the sprint instead, we were so glad we did the half. The sprint wouldnt’ have challenged us enough -- not that we would’ve won it or even been close -- but we weren’t doing it to win, we were doing it to be challenged, and we succeeded. It was a fun adventure and a nice check off the bucket list, although I threw around the idea that we should come back next year and at least break the seven hour barrier. We’ll have to see about that.
I’d like to thank my family and friends for the support. We got a lot of words of encouragement over the last week and it really motivated us to make sure we got this thing done. Also, our significant others, Aly, Danielle and Kelsey, who came and toughed out the whole seven hours of our tri, cheering us on at each transition. And to all the volunteers who make the event possible, especially the guys and gals in the water. They recognized pretty quickly that I was going to be a slow swimmer, but each one offered me encouragement as I passed them. It made things a little brighter on that dreary morning. I have a new respect for the athletes who do these triathlons, and I can’t wait for next year, whether I participate or just cover it again, it’s a blast of an event.
And by the way, yes, Monday sucked as much as you’d imagine.