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Fifth Time is Definitely Not the Charm

A 10-mile race Friday night and a triathlon Sunday morning make for a very busy (and exhausting) weekend for Michelle.

After I crossed the finish line at the Blessing, all I could think about was how much I did not want to do a sprint triathlon two days later.

Luckily I had at least one day to sort of rest and recover - as much rest and recovery as is possible while spectating at the Save the Bay Swim all morning (hooray and huge shout-out to Scott, who completed the 1.7-mile ocean swim for the first time!!!!!!!  We are SO proud of him!!!!),  going mini-golfing, taking the boys to the Blessing of the Fleet festival for carnival rides, and going grocery shopping.

Needless to say, there wasn't a whole lot of actual rest built into the day - but it was busy enough to distract me from the fact that I was going to have to wake up before the sun the next day so that I could go swim 586 yards, bike 10 miles, and run 3 miles. Just thinking about it made me tired.

One might wonder, if I was so unenthused about doing it, then why had I signed up?  For the simple reason that I've done this race every year since it's inauguration, so I now feel compelled to keep that streak going. I want to do at least one sprint tri every summer, and even though this one isn't well-timed, it's become the tradition, so I'm sticking with it. This is the first year, though, that I seriously questioned the importance of that tradition.

I thought that I'd feel at least a hint of excitement when my alarm went off Sunday morning, but alas, I did not. I hadn't slept well, and I wanted to sleep more. But I got up, went through my usual pre-race preparations, and headed out shortly before 6, just as planned.

Arrived with plenty of time to spare, got my stuff all set up, and headed down to the water, where I stood there shivering - it was cloudy and just under 70 degrees - not really cold, unless you're standing around wearing just a bathing suit! I knew the cooler temps would be nice on the bike and run, but right now it was just making me even less happy to be there.

And as I had walked from transition down to the beach start, I heard something I've never heard at this race before - the sound of small waves hitting the shore. One of the reasons I love this race is that the swim is held in a small cove, and the water is always (until this year) perfectly flat and calm.

This year, though, it was not. Anyone who swims in the open ocean would laugh at my description of it as rough, but for this cove, these conditions would be considered rough. There were small waves and chop, and much more of a current than I've ever experienced. 

I knew I was woefully underprepared for the swim under any conditions, given that I've only swum two times in the past 3 weeks, and haven't done a single open-water swim all year. And I knew the swim was going to be a struggle for me. But I thought that since the conditions are usually so nice, I might be ok. But standing there feeling those waves, I no longer thought that.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but standing on that beach is the closest I've ever come to not starting a race. I was very seriously contemplating just walking back, packing up all my stuff, and going home. My head was not in a good place.

But I knew I was going to go through with it, no matter how tough it might prove to be. I knew I'd feel so much worse about backing out.

So I took many, many deep breaths and reminded myself that once I got through the swim, I'd at least be back in my comfort zone on the bike and run.

I thought that Friday night's 10-mile run was a battle, but that was nothing compared to this swim. Every minute of it sucked. I was mad at myself for being unprepared, I was mad that the water wasn't smooth and calm, and I was mad that I couldn't swim faster so that I could just be done.

I did whatever I could to just get through the water and stop myself from waving one of the kayakers over to pluck me out - not because I was in distress, but because I did NOT want to be there.

I knew it would probably take me about 15 minutes to finish, and I was right - 14:30 for 1/3 of a mile - painfully, pathetically slow - but I honestly didn't care. I was just so glad to stand up and walk out of that water.

Now, I thought, I'd be ok. I'd hop on my bike, fly off down the road, and redeem myself.

Then I tried to clip in my right pedal, to no avail. I seriously can't even remember the last time I had trouble clipping in - maybe 5 years ago? I can only imagine that I must have been flustered from the awful swim, but I still don't think it should have taken me THREE more tries before finally getting my stupid shoe in the pedal!!!!!!  Now I was discouraged and pissed. Lovely.

But wait - there's more!

Just as I thought I'd finally be able to get moving and put all the bad swim/pedal issues behind me, I noticed that my bike number, which was supposed to be stuck to my frame, was flapping around in the wind. Apparently the adhesive on the top of the number was working fine, but the strips on the sides of the number were not sticking the way they should have.

I made a few attempts at trying to fix it (while still slowly pedaling along), but quickly realized that it wasn't going to get fixed. But I also came to the conclusion that it was stuck on just enough to keep it from flying off my bike, and decided that I could live with it flapping around and hitting me in the leg.

So, finally, out I went on the out-and-back course - where I found myself riding into a very stiff headwind. All I could think was - 'You've got to be kidding me.'

There was nothing to do but get through it, though. And I still managed to pass quite a few people on the bike, picking up my speed as I went.

And of course once we turned around, the headwind turned into a tailwind, so during the ride back to transition I actually had a few moments where, believe it or not, I was enjoying myself - FINALLY!

It was nice to get off the bike, though, and head off on the run. This is where I knew I'd be happiest, despite the hilly run course. It took about half a mile for me to shake off the heaviness in my legs, but once I got to that point, I was feeling pretty good. Tired, but good.

And as I knew it would, the chillier air temperature felt great for this part of the race. I never once felt overheated. I was running completely Garmin-free, so had no clue whatsoever what my pace was. I just ran the best race pace I could run.

The run course this year had been changed from previous years due to construction, and I was surprised when the volunteers shouted to me that I was turning the final corner and heading downhill to the finish. I didn't feel like I had run 3 miles. But I certainly wasn't going to argue or complain.

Knowing I had just a few hundred yards to go, I sprinted down and crossed the line with the clock reading 1:18 (which would translate to a 1:12-ish finish for me, since I was in the third wave of swimmers.

And honestly, I was so happy just to be done, I wasn't all that concerned with my time.

But, for the record -

Swim - 14:30  : (

Bike - 37:30 (this includes both transition times - my average bike speed was 19 mph)

Run - 20:11, 6:44 pace - um, yeah, definitely not 3 miles. I can't even run a 6:44 pace in a standalone 5K, never mind as the last leg of a tri. I figure I was probably running about a 7:25 pace, though, which is pretty good, all things considered.

8 of 19 in my age group

26 of 103 females

116 of 285 overall

This race left me wondering where I go from here, though. My heart was just so not in it this year, and I don't know why. I didn't really train well enough last year either, but despite that, I was still excited and I still had fun.

This year I just dreaded it, and I was never able to turn that attitude around, and I honestly found myself wondering if maybe triathlon just isn't for me.

I'm not ready to give up yet, though. Part of me wants to spend the next few weeks really focusing on my swimming and getting out in the ocean for some open-water practice, and try to redeem myself at this September event.

I look at the fact that even though I had an absolutely horrid swim time in this race, I managed to come in 8th in my age group, and I think that if I could get my swimming up to a respectable level, I might have a shot at placing - and we all know how I love to chase down those age-group awards - it definitely provides a lot of motivation in my road races.

But, then there's another part of me that sighs and says I'd rather just move on and make my next attempt in Summer 2013.

I'm not sure which side is going to win out. What do you think I should do? Seriously - I'd love some input!

And in the meantime, I'm proud of myself for not walking off that beach, and for following this race through to the finish. It wasn't easy, but then again, it's not supposed to be, is it?

For more from Michelle, check out Me and the Boys, her blog.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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