The most exciting and frightening race event in my vast 20 month athletic career is now several days behind me. All the hype and stress, all the training, all the sleepless nights worrying and dreaming about everything that have gone wrong, are over. I no longer have to stare at Fort Pond, wondering if I will drown, freeze to death, be bitten by a snapping turtle, dragged under by a three foot long Carp, or worse yet, panic during the swim, shit myself and be dragged out of the water, humiliated, by one of the sexy young life guards. Whew! I survived it. No tears. (Well, they would come later as they always do) No vomit. No shitting myself.
In September 2012 I ran my first marathon in East Hampton, NY. The day AFTER that, I woke up to find athletes participating in the Montauk Mighty Man Triathlon, right outside my house! At that time, I had no idea that I would ever consider doing a triathlon, much less signing up for this very one. But after having so much fun in the McMinnville Triathlon, I just had to sign up for the 2013 Montauk event. This would be my first open water event, and I had yet to swim in open water during any of my training. YIKES. Unleash the fear factor! You see, I have an overwhelmingly inappropriate fear of open water. This makes no sense at all, since I grew up on Long Island, was a beach life guard, and spent many a summer swimming all day and night in the deep waters of the Long Island Sound.
I purchased a wetsuit, endured a few evening swims in the Clackamas River with the Portland Triathlon Club, and off I flew to NY. The amount of crap you have to pack for an athletic event is nothing short of insane. I don’t think the settlers on the Oregon Trail packed this much!
My vacation in NY lasted 21 glorious days. The Triathlon was 19 days into the trip. That left a ton of time to train on the race course and get my open water experience to the point of being comfortable. Theoretically. It didn’t.
Warm, sunny days are common in the Hamptons in September. So are cold, cloudy, and windy days, however, as I was soon to experience. The first day of the trip proved to be in the upper 70’s and my childhood BFF Dede, who happens to be a fish in human form, was visiting us. She practically held my hand and stayed in the water with me for my first official Atlantic Ocean open water training session. I was pretty freaked out and imagined all manner of sea creatures lurking beneath my wet suit clad body, so while Dede leisurely swam a mile or two out in the deep water, I clung to the shallows, where I could touch the bottom with my hands. I figured the sharks would feast on Dede, and I could just stand up and run the two or three feet to the shore for safety. WIMP! I had three of four other swim workouts planned over the next few weeks, and I tried a few different beaches, but never got over my fear of being the only one in the water-or on the whole beach for that matter.On one particularly windy day, I squeezed my body into my wetsuit, drove to Navy Road Beach.
The usual calm bay had white caps and two foot waves crashing on the shore. I stood there for about three minutes before I turned around, got back in the car, and headed home. I think I poured myself a stiff drink and contemplated withdrawing from this race. Big Baby!
Part of being a real Triathlete means you have to learn to ride a bike with clips for pedals. This has always terrified me, but I decided to buy some cycling shoes and clips and bring them with me to Montauk, to train. My intention was to have them installed on the bike I keep in Montauk and then bring them home to put on my bike here. I had forgotten, though, that the bike I have in NY is a big fat Hybrid bike.
The guys at the Montauk Bike Shop, Lenny and Pierce, had a few chuckles at my idea and basically thought I was nuts. (I am) They quickly talked me out of it and INTO the purchase of a used beautiful Giant Road Bike.
I’m sure this won’t be the last bike I buy. I now officially started training like a “real” cyclist. Cloppy shoes and all.
Cycling training in interesting in Montauk. The freaking WIND! Usually when you ride into the wind, you at least know that when you turn around, the ride back will be glorious, with the wind at your back. Not so here, where Long Island is less than a mile wide and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. That wind whips in circles and is ALWAYS coming at you. Suffice it to say that my bike workouts were brutal.
Other than my slacking off my swim training, and struggles with cycling, my running was going relatively well. I stuck to my plan and logged my workouts daily. I also TRIED to keep my nutrition clean and healthy. That mostly went well, except for the excessive amounts of wine, margaritas, and the crazy blended drink called a “Kahlua Banana Banshee”. HEY! IT”S GOT A BANANA IN IT!
I would like to say that my relentless training and vast experience as a competitive athlete prepared me to be calm and confident as the days lead up to this race. Not so. There wasn’t a night that went by that I didn’t spend two to three hours flopping around on the bed, imagining all sorts of horror and drama in this race. Will it rain? Will I crash my bike? Will I cry and shiver, and make an ass out of myself? Time would tell.
I boldly kept on training. Kept on stressing. Kept on imagining horrible things. But somewhere behind all of that, I stayed extremely excited about facing my fears and finishing this race. I’ve had a lot of firsts in the past year, so why stop now. Stay tuned for Part Two-The race. Here’s a preview of that morning: