the race, part 2.

You can find part 1 HERE if you missed it… otherwise, read on!


You know, I didn’t know it at the time, but I was smiling going into the water.


I really had no idea.  In my head, I was focused on the first orange buoy, which seemed miles away. Just get to that, I told myself.  From my training swims in this lake, I knew that outdoor swimming brought with it a whole host of challenges that you just don’t face in the pool. There’s the murkiness, the inability to see where you are going, the sun shining off the water, the chance of a wave popping you in the face when you come up to breathe, the other swimmers. There’s so much there that just ISN’T there while you train.

I walked/ran/sludged to about waist high water before I dove in and started the leg of the triathlon that I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish.

Just get to the first buoy.

You might find, if you ever decide to take up swimming, that it is easier to keep a steady rhythm of breathing in the breast stroke.  Or maybe that’s just me.  But for whatever reason, breast stroke tends to be easier for me, but I go much slower.  While I was on the beach, I made the decision to just stick with the breast stroke until I got to the first buoy.

Up, down, up, down, breathe, blow, breathe, blow, up, down, up, down, breathe, blow, breathe, blow.

Just get to the first buoy.

Part of my brain took notice of the swimmers flying by me.  They seemed to be going so fast, but I honestly did not have enough focus left to worry about it.

Up, down. Breathe, blow.

I passed a few kayaks, each of which held a teenage lifeguard on it, waiting should any of us need any help. I had listened in on their training chat on the beach a few hours earlier, and was comforted when the head lifeguard said, “Guys, there will be people who swim from lifeguard to lifeguard. That will be how they finish this portion of the race. And that’s totally ok.” I took notice of each of these Possible Rest Areas as I passed, wondering if this would be the one that I took a momentary refuge at.

Up, down. Breathe, blow.

Each wave had different colored swim caps. I was part of the blue swim caps, and ahead of us were the green caps, and ahead of them were the orange caps.  As I neared the first buoy, I started noticing that I had caught up to some of my blue-capped friends.  These would be the ones that fell victim to going hard out of the gate and burning out early.

Up, down. Breathe, blow.

I turned at the first buoy, gave not much thought to the distance I had already come, and continued to push, kick, glide… push, kick, glide. There were moments where I broke my rhythm to pull seaweed out of my face, or dislodge one from my ankle, and a small part of my brain noticed that my KT tape had started coming off at points, which I could feel brush up against me every time I snapped my legs back. There was nothing I could do about it at that point, so I continued to swim, internally nodding at each lifeguard I passed. Not yet, I would say. I will need you, but not yet.

I hit the second buoy, the one that marked the halfway point for our long chute before we could turn back and start swimming towards the shore, and did a mental checklist of my body.

Up, down. Breathe, blow.

My legs still felt strong, my shoulders still pulled through the water easily. My breath was steady and even, not panting, not gasping.  I had planned to switch to the front crawl when I felt comfortable, but it was at this point where I made the decision to Just. Stay. Here. I started to realize that…. maybe I could do this.

I started to see green caps sink back behind me, on my right and on my left. I saw swimmers holding on to the kayaks I slowly passed. Soon, there were orange caps that I slowly and steadily went around.

As I rounded the third buoy, the last one that sent us back towards the shore, two things started happening. I started smiling (or at least, started NOTICING that I was smiling) and I started to accept the fact that I AM DOING THIS. (Also, my nose got really clogged and I felt like I needed to suck back phlegm every time I came up… is this normal?? One of the swimmers ahead of me also complained of her nose running… what is that??)  I picked up the pace, kicking out with my legs that had plenty of reserve energy in them, sweeping back with my arms that still felt strong. I pulled to the inside of the course, passing people without adding distance to my swim.

Up, down. Breathe, blow.

And before I knew it, I was there, pulling myself up, trudging through the water towards the chute that would send us towards our bikes.  You can see in this picture that I am looking over towards the start of the swim, where swimmers were still just starting, two by two. This was my silent acknowledgment that the hardest part was over, that it would all be downhill from here.


Little did I know that the hardest part was right around the corner.


2 thoughts on “the race, part 2.

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