Santa Rosa Triathlon Recap: Part 1
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” -Orison Swett Marden
The best thing I could have done for myself was to get in the water the day before the race and do some swimming. As soon as we crossed the Santa Rosa Island Bridge and laid our eyes on the Gulf of Mexico, I got nervous enough to fully expect that I would blow at any moment, as in throw-up from the thought of swimming in the Gulf.
Friday, the day before the triathlon didn’t look promising as a day that I could get in a practice swim. The wind was cool enough to bring on the chill bumps and the sky over the Gulf was gray enough to make the water look murkier and less crystal clear than it usually is on the part of the island we were staying on. As usual, my first thought was, “If I get in that water, I won’t be able to see any sharks or jellyfish that I know are out there.” Let’s be honest. My fears are not unfounded. When humans step into the sea, we are entering their front door. The sea is their home and we are just guests. I did, in fact, witness a Shark Week moment, but that is another part of the story, which I will share later.
We stayed at the Portofino Island Resort and Spa and headed out to the hotel’s part of the beach where we made ourselves comfortable under the umbrellas that were attached to the beach chairs supplied to us by the resort. I used a towel as a blanket and was able to relax and watch the waves and storm clouds. (One highlight of the trip down for the triathlon is that it felt like a much-needed vacation. The condo was beautiful, the seafood was mind-blowing and we were able to enjoy it, despite the triathlon jitters.) I found other unexpected and unplanned moments of joy in photographing the intact sandcastle that someone built the day before and the time we spent collecting shells. I tried to wear my air cast on the beach, but gave up and took it off. It didn’t quite match that cute beach cover-up I wore that morning.
Our plan was to hit the expo at around 4 o’clock and I prayed that the weather would clear up enough for us to get in the practice swim. Thankfully, by 2:00 the sun was out and the beach was full of people. I feel better when there are other people in the water, not because I’m ever hoping anyone else gets eaten, but according to the girl at the hotel, “the sharks are afraid of people, so there’s nothing to worry about.” Ok, so apex predators are scared of humans? Sure. I wanted to tell her to go continue smoking whatever it is she smokes that makes her blissfully out of touch with reality. Maybe she knows something I don’t. Moving on. A note on the expo: the best part was impulse purchasing these out-of-control fabulous pumped up kicks.
After lunch and before the expo, we changed back into our swimming gear, walked back to the beach across the street and got into the water. I sucked it up, did my best to get through the breaks in the waves and swam for about 10 minutes before we headed back closer to shore to continue looking for shells, but this time diving under the water to get them. The best shells were about two to three feet from the shore. Those ten minutes made a HUGE difference in how I felt about completing the swim the next day. HUGE! I don’t often feel like I’m a badass at anything, but after coming out of the water, I was pretty sure that I was, in fact, a badass.
That feeling would last about 16 hours until I was in the transition area putting on my tri tats. I didn’t feel like such a bad ass then, just nervous again, but more confident that I would have been without the practice swim. I REALLY lost my super powers when I realized that the relay teams went with the first wave, which included the elite group. Initially I had no idea that we were starting with the elite group. I looked around and thought, “ Wow, these relay people look a lot more hard core than I thought they would be. Maybe our team won’t win. Oh, look. Why is Jennifer Pinto doing a relay?” (If you don’t know who she is, Jennifer won the whole dang Santa Rosa triathlon in 201 and is a very accomplished triathlete.) My brother-in-law’s sister, Carla, was also doing a relay and was standing next to me when we were gathering before the start of the swim. She corrected me and I felt better that the real bad asses weren’t my competition. Or maybe I felt worse because I was the little newbie fish out of water, so to speak.
For once, or twice, in my life I focused on what I was doing and ran into the water when the horn blew to signal the start of the race. I had no hesitation and little fear at that moment. Because I had practiced swimming through the surf the day before and because Carla had given me a couple pointers, I was able to somewhat keep up with everyone else getting out past the surf. Once we were past that point, however, I was alone in the water. They left me in the dust, or whatever the ocean equivalent would be. I had less than my usual fear of sea critters as I was solely focused on not drowning. Swimming in the ocean is a whole different animal. For me, that particular animal would be a snail. That’s what I felt like, a snail, but I kept swimming. I got a bit off-course twice, but got back on. To the person on the kayak yelling, “There you go! You got it” as I lifted my head and looked around to see where the hell I was headed, thank you. If it weren’t for that person, I may have ended up in the Keys.
The hardest part of the swim, for me, was the swim back onto shore. I had no idea that the buoys would be so far out. Running on the sand and then concrete back into the relay transition area on my bum leg also wasn’t easy. A nice spectator yelled out as I was walking by, “Slower is better than not at all.” While I really appreciate that kind of support from strangers, I just wanted my unfit tibia and me to make it back. I was a bit embarrassed to be walking, but his comment lit a fire in me and I ran the rest of the way in. In the end, I was just happy to be there and participating in the triathlon. I completed the swim in 18:03, which compared to the other athletes in my age group, confirmed that I was actually moving at a snail’s pace. The rest of my team knocked it out of the park and set us up for an 8th place finish in our division. Yay for the If You Never Tri Team!
Part 2: More photos of my team and the triathlon, a truly shameful vacation food log and the big Shark Week moment.