Lior Triathlon, Rishon Letzion - 14 April 2007
This race report is a bit late -- I wrote it after the race, but I've been lazy about posting it.
My biggest concern going into this race was the water temperature, which was about 19°C - rather chilly without a wetsuit. Last year, I got really dizzy while swimming in the cold water in April and it was very frightening. I was afraid it would happen again. This is the last time I bother worrying about anything before a race, as you just never know what is going to be thrown at you on any particular day.
I got to the race site fairly early and had time to get myself set up, take a good look at the course and do a short warmup (wearing my Crocs -- my running shoes were in the transition area and I'd forgotten to bring a second pair). Then it was time to head down to the beach for a quick dip in the water. Yes, it was kind of cold, but not too bad, and two swim caps plus ear plugs seemed to do the trick for me -- I had no dizziness after my very brief swim warmup.
Standing on the beach watching the youth and elite waves start, I noticed that the sea was rather choppy. So did a lot of people. I also noticed that it took forever for the kids to actually start swimming -- they couldn't seem to get into the water. And watching them get out of the water was even worse -- they came out all over the place looking confused and exhausted. This was not a good sign.
I stood on the beach trying to drown out my negative thoughts and before I knew it, we had started. We ran, walked, stumbled into the waves. One hit me right in the face, water got into my goggles and up my nose and panic started setting in. I tried to start swimming, but I couldn't seem to get anywhere -- the waves were just pushing me all over the place. I ended up doing something between breaststroke and treading water, all the while, looking up ahead at the rest of the swimmers. This made matters even worse -- what I saw were people being washed up onto big waves or big waves washing over them. People were screaming like on a rollercoaster ride. Somewhere along the line, I just froze. I didn't know what to do. I was sure I was going to die.
As the other swimmers pulled further and further ahead, the waves still rocking them (and me) in all directions, I decided I was going to swim back to the beach. I was just too scared to go on. I turned around and looked back and almost started swimming in, but then I remembered that my husband, who rarely comes to races, was back there watching me. How disappointing it would be for me to have him see me DNF. And if everyone else could somehow manage to swim in that very choppy water, why couldn't I? I'm not such a lousy swimmer!
This is when I saw the first buoy (the turn around buoy for the 14-15 year olds) and remembered commenting before the race that the water seemed to get smoother after that buoy. That was enough. Finally, I started to swim. I was at least 100 meters into the swim at this point and it had taken me forever to get that far, as I'd actually swum maybe a dozen strokes.
The rest of the swim out to the next buoy wasn't too bad. There were still some waves, but they weren't as brutal as the ones at the beginning. The swim between buoys was the easiest part. That was the only time during the swim when I actually felt safe. The nightmare started again at the next buoy.
As I turned back towards the beach, I felt relief wash over me. The nightmare would soon be over. I swam next to the rope as I was having trouble sighting. I thought this would keep me in a straight line and it did, but it also caused me a lot of trouble. It was only going back towards the shore that I felt the current -- and it was pulling me left, right into the rope. The closer I got to shore, the worse it got. The rope was scraping my arm, my foot kept getting tangled in it and it even ended up on my neck at some point. I kept trying to swim away from it and kept getting pulled back into it. And to make matters worse, a guy came up on my right, also being pulled left by the current, and pushed me right up against the rope with nowhere to go. He actually stopped to apologize, which I found rather amusing.
I was exhausted. The stupid 750 meter swim felt more like 10,000 meters. It just wouldn't end. And it kept getting worse. Now, not only was the current pulling me to the left, but every time a wave came in, it was preceeded by an undertow that pulled me out away from the shore, making me feel like I was swimming backwards. And then, rather than throwing me towards the beach, the waves were crashing over my head. Finally, maybe 50 meters from the end, I saw someone standing and realized that I could touch bottom. This gave me a bit more confidence and I actually did stand for a moment -- I was tired and frustrated and did not want to swim anymore. I did swim more, though, of course, until it was just impossible to swim anymore. That's when I got up and walked out, slowly, just like every single person around me. It was impossible to exit the water quickly. At this point, I understood why the kids had looked so strange coming out of the water.
A glance at my watch proved what I already knew -- I'd swum a personal worst. My time for a measly 750 meters was so ridiculously slow that I'm embarrassed to share it. There were people behind me, though.
Note that every person I spoke to after the race said that the swim had been a nightmare. It made me feel a lot better to know that it wasn't only me. They actually cancelled the swim for the kids' races (the youngest kids to swim were 14) and turned the race into a duathlon.
Interestingly, the horrible swim didn't ruin the race for me or make me less motivated -- quite the opposite. The only thing I remember about the transition is that someone had thrown his socks into my back wheel and I had to remove them before I could move my bike. I got my number, helmet, sunglasses and shoes on, grabbed my bike and took off running faster than I have ever run before out of the transition area. I jumped on my bike and started passing people, determined to make up at least some of the time that I'd lost on the swim.
Apart from getting a little confused about the course (there were a bunch of traffic circles and a few strange turns), I had a very good ride. I passed a lot of people and felt very strong and confident on my bike and I think I loved this part of the race just as much as I'd hated the previous part. I finished the 20 km in a good time, especially considering the number of turns on the course and the annoying hill that I had to ride up twice.
I remember almost nothing about the second transition, either, apart from the fact that the rest of the sock guy's stuff now seemed to be scattered everywhere.
The run was four times around a rectangular course that went right through the parking lot. Weird. The first 500 meters or so of each time around were on an incline, but it wasn't too bad. I didn't feel great during the run, but I didn't feel terrible, either, and I managed to run through the pain that I had in my lower legs for the first 3 kms or so. A lot of people passed me on the run, mainly very fast guys who were already on their third or fourth time around when I started. I also saw one woman in my age group pass me, but I had no idea if she was on the same lap as I was or not, as I'd passed her on the bike and I didn't know how far behind me she'd ended up.
Before I knew it, the race was over. I finished with a huge smile on my face, only to discover several hours later that the camera at the finish line had apparently stopped working for about half an hour and that it hadn't taken my picture. Oh well! My final time for the race wasn't bad at all, considering the horrible swim time. I finished the swim 2/3 in my age group, the bike 1/3 (actually, the third woman only did one lap, but her time for that lap was two minutes slower than my time for each of the two laps) and 3/3 on the run. The woman who passed me finished a minute ahead of me and I ended up in second place in my age group. The woman who came in third was supposed to be disqualified (originally, she was listed in first place, but her 22 minute time for 20 km on the bike was completely unrealistic -- none of the elite men even came close to a time like that!), but for some reason, instead of completely disqualifying her, they moved her back from first to last place and I couldn't care less.
This was definitely not one of my better races, but what started out as a really bad experience ended up with me smiling at the end, so I guess it wasn't that bad! Oh, and was the water really cold? I don't have the slightest idea! I was too terrified to notice!