I can’t believe my first triathlon is just two weeks away! Actually, I can absolutely believe that. I’m in the midst of what is called “Peak Week” the period where our coaches push us to our fitness limits in preparation for the big race: swims top out at 2600 meters, runs include long hills, and three days a week we have two workouts each day.
It’s been tough, but the results are showing and I feel my body arriving at peak endurance condition.
Which is why this past weekend, I was particularly excited to put it all to the test in our team’s Practice Triathlon! Our coaches had arranged a day that would simulate the actual race as closely as possible. We arrived at 7:45AM to set up our transition areas, clip our bibs to our jerseys and be “marked” by Sharpies with our age and race numbers on our arms and legs.
My transition area: everything I need for the race including water, snacks and route maps.
Soon about 50 of us diving into the San Francisco Bay at the same time and racing towards the buoys. Pretty immediately the familiar feeling of exhaustion that comes with fast-paced swimming crept into my arms and I slowed my pace to catch my breath.
“march of the penguins”…into the Bay
I’m somewhere in this melée. Please note San Quentin in the background. Apparently my team does well to swim in front of California’s prisons.
The issue is, I never caught my breath. My heart continued to race faster and faster, despite my slow pace and eventual transition into doing the backstroke. My wetsuit grew tighter and more constricting. I eventually started coughing uncontrollably. My goggles filled with tears and in emptying them accidentally filled with Bay water. My swim cap fell off. I doggy paddled. I tried to meditate. I swam. I floated. I floundered. And I STILL couldn’t catch my breath.
It was an absolute disaster.
One of my coaches asked if I was okay from a nearby kayak and I shook my head no through a haze of tears and a fit of coughing. I had somehow managed to finish the .7 mile swim course, but she towed me to shore. Dazed and confused, I peeled off my wet suit, strapped on my bike shoes and headed out for a 18 mile ride followed by a 4-mile run on shaky legs and weakened lungs. For me, it turned out to be the hardest run and ride of the season.
Me somewhere along the bike route
Crossing the mock finish line, I officially became a triathlete, but instead of joy I felt defeated and sad with a complete loss of confidence.
So I did what any normal girl would do: I called my parents crying. After reassuring conversations and pep talks from both, my phone rang from the landline. It was my 10-year old sister Skya.
I told her about how I had struggled in the water and how it was really scary to not be able to breath and how the rest of the triathlon was so hard—then asked what she thought.
Her words: “Well, Cass. I think it all just caught up to you. You’ve been working SO hard on this one thing and then you realized that this is ACTUALLY happening and you got nervous. So what you need to do is stay positive and remember that you’re a good runner, a good biker, and a good swimmer. You can do it!”
Verbatim. From a 10-year old.
I’m glad I got this panic out-of-the-way before race day. As Skya reminded me– after three months of training I AM a good swimmer, a good biker and a good runner. I CAN DO THIS!
In a recent team “Mission Moment” I shared with them the story of my sister Keagan
and dedicated my triathlon to her in honor of doing this event for those who can’t. I’m going to share my dedication now to include our other sister Skya, whose positivity and encouragement will help me get across the finish line.
Cass, Keagan and Skya!
Any words of wisdom, advice or encouragement are very welcome as I head into this last phase! I can’t wait to share my Wildflower experience with you soon!!