I should begin at the end, or maybe at the beginning. Swimmers behind me pushed my legs down into the brackish depths of the Willoughby Bay as feet in front of me splashed water in my face. The current and the wind caused me to drift off course, lost in the waves save for the bright orange buoys. I searched for the lifeguards on kayaks or surfboards, hoping for a break. Nah, I can do this. And besides, no shark in their right mind would swim in this water. In fact, other than the oyster shell that sliced my foot open before the start of the swim, I don’t think anything can live in this water.
The current washed over me in waves so that I felt like I was a kid at the beach, body surfing to shore and letting the waves pull my legs back out to sea before pushing me to shore again. I opened my eyes under water and couldn’t see anything. Dizziness and the nausea that accompanies it stayed with me throughout the swim. I turned over on my back often and did the sidestroke to help me figure out which way was up because I certainly didn’t want to go down. Three swimmers were pulled from the course and didn’t finish. Eventually, I found my groove en route to the boat launch, but then the waves slapped my face again, replacing air with saltwater.
The rocky asphalt near the flight deck hurt my feet, and that annoying oyster cut throbbed while I was speed walking to my bike in the transition zone. I plopped my anxious butt down on the hard surface and threw my bike shoes on while chatting with Cathy and Laura. Talking to them calmed me down, but the fear of the swim stayed with me for a few miles on the bike until I fully realized that I didn’t have to go back in the water again today.
On the bike, the course is flat, albeit windy. Really windy. My legs couldn’t catch a break for those twelve miles. I focused on my speed while others cruised by me at over 20 mph. I did my best to hold on to 16 mph while my legs burned and churned those pedals.
By the time I racked my bike, I knew I only had the run left. I can run on tired legs–I’ve done marathons; however, nothing ever truly prepares you for the numbness in your toes or the lead-leg feeling from the bike. I ran like I had no legs, only peg legs. At mile one, I saw Cathy, then Laura (they were just past mile 2 of the run). It sounds cheesy, but their smiles made me run faster and kept me from walking more.
There’s something to be said about the running community: you’re never alone. Through her meet-ups, Cathy has created a positive running group (and swim and bike groups) and has shown me that no matter where you are or where you go, you create what you want in the places where you live. So, this race isn’t about the end of competing in the Hampton Roads area, it’s the beginning of something better.
I am privileged to have competed in the same race with Cathy and Laura, and other triathletes I know like Krissa, Kirk, and Dan. Gene didn’t compete, but volunteered, helping the swimmers navigate the course. I love all the runners from 6@6–my twin, Mira, Megan, Hua, Kelly, Gene, Laura, Jen C., Jen, and all the runners who come and go. Thank you!