OK, not to be such a drama queen about it, but I am starting to think that my 2011 triathlon season was a case of beginner’s luck. 2012 is shaping up to be the endless comedy of errors. Let’s recap:

NJ Devilman, May – broke a spoke, wheel went out of true – DNF on bike

Annapolis TriRock – course PR by a large margin – yeah! woo hoo! (the celebrating ends here)

Eagleman – under-trained, over-heated, DNF at mile 9 of run.

Lewisburg Sprint – bike disappears – DNS

OK, I’m 1 for 4 so far.

Next up, Dewey Beach Sprint

I successfully did this race last year, and as it’s a sprint, I’m not worried about completing, just going a bit faster than last time. The 2011 bike course was cut short due to road construction, so I had a crazy idea to just meet last year’s time by taking enough off of each of last year’s splits to make up for 8 more bike miles.

The neat thing about Dewey 2011 was that it was on Olivia’s birthday. When I had proposed the idea of going to the beach for her birthday and watching Daddy do a race, she was all about it. I thought that would be less interesting this year, but she was intent on going again. We stayed at the Sea Esta III again, and got another corner room from which they could see the run course.

Everything about the race was now been-there, done-that. Or so I thought.

Before I get to the race, I must say that I was glad that the organizers recognized a moment of silence for Steve Linthicum who died during last year’s race. I blogged about that at the time.

I know I am a slow swimmer, but I thought I was getting stronger. I had a swim time around 29 minutes last year, with some serious swells to contend with. I was really hoping for sub 25 this year, even about 20, depending on currents. It’s a half mile swim.

They don’t watch the whole race, but they do want to see me get out of the water.

As we walk down the beach to the start, it looks to me like the water is flowing against our course. I am told this is just the wind, that the actual ocean current is heading north. OK, they know what they’re doing.

They DO know what they’re doing, right?

I am in swim wave 10. This means I enter the water 27 minutes after wave one enters the water. There are 14 waves today, with the last wave for first-timers. Oh boy, they are going to regret signing up for that wave.

At 8:14, we are in the water. I’m in the Clydesdale wave, and yet, I’m still the biggest one there.

I’m in here somewhere. Probably that last large guy.

The water looks less threatening than last year. Even so, the waves before us all have a couple people who abandon the course before they get out to the first buoy. No judgment here, discretion is the better part of valor. Ocean swimming is so incredibly different than a lake, river or pool. It’s different than a bay. It’s just, different. The ocean does not want you in it. There’s a reason surfers come in to the beach.

My swim started out well enough. It felt like we really did have that current I was told about. I didn’t expect a time like 15 minutes, but I did expect to go along smoothly.

And then, I can’t put my finger on when it happened, but it got harder. And the waves got bigger, and I was going slower. I knew I had the endurance to swim very far, so I just tried to plow ahead steadily, no longer worrying too much about speed. The waves were more in my face. People were backstroking, side stroking, breast stroking. A couple lifeguards ended up with people on their boards, and went in. Oh yeah, the lifeguard support was OUTSTANDING. I never found myself in a place where I couldn’t see one or more. Had I needed help, I would have had it immediately.

What I really needed, was a motor. The current had completely changed. I checked my watch about about the halfway point. 45 minutes. Seriously? I was done with this more than 15 minutes ago last year! (And that counts the run to T1.) something is not right. I am nauseous and weak, but it’s not just me. There are several people struggling, and even a few from my wave, not just the ones that started behind me.

I’m going through all sorts of mental gymnastics. Am I going to DNF this thing? There’s the two-sided coin of my family. On one hand, I don’t want them to see me quit. On the other, I don’t want to be out here so incredibly long that they worry what went wrong.

A lifeguard tells me something about going in, but I keep swimming. I apparently missed my first chance there. He was trying to tell me what the next lifeguard finally communicated to me a few minutes later, when I took the time to listen. The current had completely changed. It was against us. “You think?” I said sarcastically. We were being told to go to shore and walk/run in along the beach. We would not be penalizing with a DNF, and could continue.

I followed the waves in to shore. By this time I have been in the water over an hour, and I am weak, tired and nauseous. I am not even sure I WANT to continue. But I know that once I am out of the water, I will probably feel much better. That dizzy feeling usually goes away by the second mile of the bike.

I take my time with T1, and getting water. I decide I have to finish this race. I’m not the only one starting late on the bike, it will be OK.

I get out of T1, and there are tons of people cheering along the start of the course. I get jazzed for that and go flying out to Route 1. At about one mile, I realize I have a flat tire. Not just a bit light, fully flat. My bike curse is alive and well. Also alive and well: my absent-mindedness. I completely forgot to put the pump on the bike, the nice one that needs no cage, that fits right into the frame. I can’t leave it on to transport on the rack, so it comes off and on. Well, it didn’t get back on. There is no support vehicle, and no other bikes stop. I walk it back to transition, and figure I’m done. This is ridiculous. I know I can fix the flat at transition, but once I do, I will be so far behind the last person to leave, and knowing how slow I run, I just don’t think I can do it today. I don’t mind being last, but being last by half an hour or more? Not today. Not when I didn’t really even finish the swim.

I’m thinking about calling Meg to tell her, then I realize something. Why can’t I go run? No reason, really. I turn in my timing chip, rack my bike and head out on the run course. It’s not like I’m banditing, and I’m not cutting the course short and claiming a time. I just don’t want to give up on the day, while my tribe is out there rocking it. I may not be an official finisher today, but come on man, my kids are going to expect to see me run by the motel.

And that’s what I did. I salvaged the day. I was a bit worried someone would see me that would have recognized me from the bike course, and think I shorted it and cheated, but I didn’t plan to cross the finish anyway. No finishers’ medals at this race, no risk of someone giving me one I couldn’t take. Just go run and have fun.

So I did. I did my 3.5 mile run. I waved to the family as I went by, and they enjoyed cereal on the balcony. On the run back, they were roadside with the dog. I got to the finish line, and my plan to side-step it was thwarted by the cheering crowd. I stopped to talk to some people I had met on the beach the day before and pointed out my lack of a timing chip, and they pressed me to run through anyway. OK, it’s not like it’s an IM finish line. Right before the line, some frat guys (or facsimiles thereof) handed me a beer. I finished it standing there, and ran through the finish, to a confused timing chip collector. Once I was done, I got in line for the beer wagon, and talked to some other racers and lifeguards about the swim.

“So, was I a total wuss, or was that swim a nightmare? I did it a lot faster last year.”

“Oh yeah, the current was definitely against you.”

“The current was against me? Poseidon was against me. I feel like I insulted the little mermaid.”

They got a kick out of that one.

Talking to other racers, it was not just me. They had many of us pull out at the end. I’m still disappointed. Plenty of people in my wave and later ones, made it. It wasn’t impossible. But the longer you were on that course, the worse it got. I talked to a guy in my motel after the race. He thought it was a great swim, especially compared to last year. I thought last year was rough, but I would have traded four of those for one of these. He thought I was insane. It turns out he was in the second wave. They still had “original conditions” at that point. He was out of the water before the current changed.

I saw other people coming in from the bike after I was done running, so I started to second guess myself about not returning to the bike course. But after getting kicked out of the ocean, and walking my bike back a mile in cleats, I just didn’t want it that badly.

I did take time to enjoy the most ghetto-fabulous combination of a beer and an uncrustable.

Post-race Meal of Champions

As a technical DNF, part of me heard the voice of Alec Baldwin saying “coffee is for closers,” but hey, even the relay folks get to enjoy what they paid for, so I will too.

I met the race director for the Rehoboth marathon/half-marathon, for which I will return in December.  With that and Beach to Battleship in October, I have two more chances this year to redeem the season, finish a goal, and break three hours for a half marathon.

If this was easy, it would be called football. Now I’m 1 for 5 in 2012. Last year I was 7/8. I will go 2/6 this year. I will.



2 thoughts on “The Mayans May Have Just Been Talking About Me

  1. Best of luck this weekend! I’ll be down in October for the Cape Henlopen Sprint. I had a very rough time at the Marshman during the swim, and I know the open water at Cape Henlopen is even less forgiving. Be sure to let us know how you did!

  2. It’s nice when life and/or the elements of a race goes smoothly. When it doesn’t is when you find out how tough you are. You are one tough guy. Thanks for starting this journey, continuing under adverse circumstances and sharing it.

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