...I had sneakers but not much else. I hadn’t owned a bike in 20 years. The last time I had ridden was when I took my mom for a ride around the seawall some months before. I could barely swim, and I certainly had never swam in the ocean or in a full wetsuit. My buddy Brett was kind enough to lend me his very expensive tri bike. I found a place to rent me a wetsuit. And with 6 days to prepare I basically wobble-rode that bike around false creek once, went for a run or two and tried on the wetsuit in my house ("I am Batman") and watched "swimming" on YouTube.
I also read forums. They gave me lots of good advice. For example:
Forum advice: You need a nutrition plan. My Interpretation: Get chocolate covered almonds Forum advice: Watch your hydration ahead of time: My Interpretation: Drink a crap load of iced tea Forum advice: Start your swim as a newbie on the outside and towards the back: My Interpretation: Get all confused when the swim horn goes off and fall over some rocks.
So here I am, race day. I’ve stuffed my face with pre-race cliff bars . I have a big box of chocolate covered almonds in transition for “race calories”. I’ve laid all my stuff out: A towel to wipe my feet, my cycling tank top, my running shoes, my borrowed helmet on my borrowed bike. I’m already wearing my race inspired purple running shorts. What could go wrong?
I wedge myself into my wetsuit and take a little warm-up dip in the ocean. This is the first time I had ever swam in a full wetsuit. My legs floated so high I felt like I was being flipped upside-down. “This is great” I thought. “I’m so floaty I’m going to crush this swim”.
We lined up for the start. I eyed up my competition, which consisted mostly of old women and about three or so children. Yes, children. I’m not kidding about that. I was in the “try-it tri” afterall.
The horn went off and I dashed into the water and immediately bailed over this massive sharp rock. “Who the heck put a rock in the ocean, dick!” I thought to myself. I stood up and ran some more and bailed again. I was probably 50m into my 300m swim before the water was deep enough that I could actually start to “swim” (I use the term loosely).
The first buoy was 100m out. So with my 50m waist-water stumble I had only 50m to actually swim before making a turn. But in that 50m I managed to get so off course that instead of swimming round the buoy I swam directly into it, getting caught in the anchor rope in the meantime. Hurray for swimming!
I unwound myself and made the turn in a panic of bubbles and spitting (all mine). I was planning to settle into a groove. Well let me tell you, 150m in and I was not only not in a groove, but I had actually determined that if I drown right then and there I was good with my life. I was in total bliss (mentally) at the thought of eternal peace (Peter just open those gates for me); physically I think I probably looked like a moose trying to claw his way across a frozen river dressed like Batman in a pink swim cap.
I avoided the second buoy by a country mile as I made my second turn back to the start. I was immediately blinded by the rising morning sun. I couldn’t see a thing, and so I just knuckled down and pulled. I was spitting out more water than I was bringing in air, everything was oh so salty, and when my hands finally struck land and grated themselves across barnacle laden beach sand I stood up, looked around, and bolted for the timing mats to the faint applause and "you can do its" from a crowd that was nothing more than a muted blur in my mind.
I stripped my wetsuit and nearly vomited as I entered transition. Light headed and soaked, only a bike and run to go….
..to be continued