Racers to the starting line!!!!
Everyone was bouncing up and down waiting for the start, the energy in the air was palatable. I was in the "Super Sprint" division and had my bright red cap secured, ear plugs in, and my nerves officially freaking me out. We lined up two by two (cue the "Ants Go Marching In" song) and were told that each pair would be spread out by 5 seconds.
Let me tell you, those 5 seconds felt like an eternity. I just kept eyeing the water nervously while willing time to go faster. Being about 5 pairs back I had JUST enough time to register "Oh, shit. This is actually happening" as the first few pairs dove in.
Hand on my watch, goggles slightly cockeyed, and my heart beating out of my chest there was no turning back....Cue the buzzer!!
I did exactly what I tell all my athletes NOT to do---I went out too fast. I started swimming like I was being chased and gasping for air like a fish out of the water while probably looking like one as well. Gradually within the first 50 yds though I calmed down and got a hold of myself. I was so focused on not getting nauseous that I missed the midway bouy and before I could freak anymore we were making the final turn to head back to shore.
Once my feet hit the sand I realized I hadn't given much thought about after the swim. Do I run through the sand to the bike transition? Do I walk to conserve energy? The runner in me took over and I just high kneed it as far as I could until the sand started becoming too soft to run through. After I made it to the transition area I threw on my shoes and helmet while heading to the mounting line. No, that's not some dirty innuendo. It's the actual point where you can get on your bike vs running alongside it looking like you are trying to be the Wicked Witch of the West. I hobbled like a drunken sailor all the way to that little blue line and hopped on.
I had my faithful bike that's been collecting dust for the past 12 years, worked just fine, and had two wheels---basic needs for the win! I peddled hard but felt the bike portion was the most boring part which surprised me. Maybe it was the lack of spectators or the lack of other bikers around but it just felt too quiet. The course went along the beach but the scenery is mostly covered in sea grapes/palm trees so not exactly breathe taking.
Basically, the biking was just a really long tease until I got to my one comfort zone: The run.
By mile 2 of 5 of the bike I was over it and just counting down to the good part. I still had to make it through the rest of the miles while dodging cars because apparently where I live the whole "Road is Closed for Race" is a hard concept to grasp here in South Florida. Cars gone and 5 miles checked off, I made it safely to the transition area to ditch the bike.
I may have been a bit too excited because in my haste to get going I forgot my bib belt with my race number. I took off immediately and didn't realize the error until I was about .25 miles from the transition area. So what did I do? I yelled shit, made another runner turn around, and had to explain what happened while feeling slightly embarrassed. At that point, I was NOT turning around. I had the number on my arm and if anyone wanted to say something to me I really just didn't give a flying F.
It felt so good to run. This was my happy zone, where I knew what I was doing. I passed a bunch of people who I knew were hurting and just kept cheering them on. I was smiling, bouncing along, and kinda wished at that point that I had signed up for the longer race just because I wanted to run more. One volunteer I passed assured me it was almost over to which I proudly exclaimed that THIS was my thing---I was a runner and was more than happy to keep going. She gave a chuckle, a thumbs-up, and told me to enjoy.
I came up to the finish line and had a lot of mixed emotions. I had so much stress and anxiety over all the different parts of the race that it didn't seem real to be at the end. Most of the time people are relieved to be done but as I inched closer and closer, I didn't want it to be over.
I happened to know the race announcer (HEY DAVE!) which made it even more fun having him joke with me as I passed. I finished with the biggest smile on my face and with a full heart. I was handed my medal, a bottle of water, and relieved of my ankle monitor (Freedom!!!). But one of the biggest prizes was when the volunteer taking my monitor commented that she loved what a big smile I had on my face and how lovely it was. I will never get tired of being that athlete smiling at the end of the race and having other people FEEL the joy.
After the results got posted I was pleasantly surprised that I actually had gotten 4th in my age group! That is the closest I've ever gotten to the podium and while it wasn't the most important part of the day, it should as hell didn't suck. Before pulling out of the parking lot to go home I already had a new goal: Come back next year and get on the podium. Will it happen? Who the heck knows but I'll have a blast trying.
Even now a few weeks out I'm still full of amazement, gratitude, and pride as if I had won 1st place. In a lot of ways, I did win even if the stats didn't show it. I overcame the doubt I could do it, pulled myself out of my funk, didn't give into my anxieties lies, and decided to fully embrace my go-to mantra.....
"Don't be afraid to fail, be brave enough to try"---which until I wrote it out just now I didn't even realize how ironic it is that I didn't only try but I Tri'd 😉