So I actually completed a longer-than-sprint distance triathlon yesterday. And yet I’m feeling pretty low. Why?

Yesterday was the big practice event before the actual tri in November. It was a real litmus test for how we will do in a few weeks. And on many levels I feel like I probably failed. 😦

Part of is has to do with my perhaps inflated expectations of wanting to complete an Olympic triathlon. If I had begun and continued with the goal of a sprint, I’d be riding high right now.

So.. first we got our transition areas set up in the parking lot of Paradise Cove Beach Park in Tiburon. I got it all arranged fairly neatly. Then we wriggled into our wetsuits and head down to the water. We took a look at the course, which was a triangle shape – first heading  straight out to a buoy, then back to another buoy near shore and then a parallel line to the first buoy and repeat. It totalled about 900 meters or half a mile.

We got into the water and it didn’t feel horribly cold to me. I think they said it was around 65 degrees. We bobbed around for several minutes and then it was time to go.

I’m not quite sure what to say about the swim except it was a ridiculous combination of strong, easy swimming and absolute struggle where I could not catch my breath. It went back and forth like that. It was in many ways an echo of my Livermore lake swim, except the bad parts weren’t quite as bad and of course I swam a much longer distance successfully. However, I had to hang on to the kayak or the buoy several times to get my breath.

The angelic Annika, my mentor, swam by my side and called out encouraging things to me the entire time. I am not quite sure what I would have done without her. After one triangular loop she asked me what I wanted to do. I stood in chest-high water for quite a bit, collecting myself before I decided to go for the 2nd one. I just had to.

The second loop was somewhat better, or maybe not. I also needed several breathing breaks. I swam on my back for a while. I came in 2nd to last.

Then it was time to transition to the bike course. I was feeling pretty shaky and jellified at that point but I did manage to get my wetsuit off and my bike shoes and socks on. I took off and immediately there was a big hill up from the parking lot to the street. I managed to get up it in first gear.

I feel pretty proud of the way I managed to navigate a hilly, twisty, trafficky course on the bicycle. It was some of the best cycling I’ve done. But after the 8.5 mile loop I felt like I just could not bring myself to do a 2nd loop. I wanted to get off the bike, onto the run and DONE. There is one big steep, LONG hill near the end that nearly had me puking. I yelled obscenities all the way up the hill but I made it. I knew that it was worse than any hill for the real triathlon, and I didn’t think I could do it twice.

So after one loop I switched out my bike shoes for my running shoes and took off. I walked up the hill with the intention of running once I got to the flat road. This wasn’t going to be. My feet and calves felt like cement and were cramping up like crazy. I could barely hobble. So I did a combination of mostly walking with some small spurts of slow running when I felt able to.

My husband and mom had generously offered to volunteer at the 2-mile water stop so I was hoping to get myself into good running shape by the time I saw them. I finally made it around the corner and saw my husband’s sweet face and the cups of water lined up on the back of the car. Then I saw my wonderful Lily. She was kicking butt! She felt awesome and wanted to run with me. I had to wave her on. I slowly jogged back to the park and was FINALLY feeling halfway decent as I got to the parking lot. My feet and calves had relaxed but I was having some GI distress and not 100%. I joined the group who had finished, got my awesome paper medal and felt some degree of pride.

One one hand: DAMN I completed a triathlon! Even with the missing 2nd bike loop, the distance I did yesterday was longer than a sprint. So I had to feel good about that.

On the other hand, it filled me with worry (and not relief) about the upcoming Nov 6th tri.

My husband had seen my swim from the shore. He pretty much felt like (and told me so) that he did not think there was a snowball’s chance in hell I could complete the full mile. I just struggled way too much. Part of me wanted to punch him for saying so, but part of me knew, with a very sinking heart, that he was right.

After everyone finished we gathered for a really nice BBQ hosted by our coaches. I went up to Coach Haakon, dragging Mr. McBody with me, and asked him what he thought I should do. He said that he felt like physically and athletically I could do it, but I might not make the time cutoff. (but would I get a medal for finishing? YES!) But he also said he thought I was “on the bubble” between Sprint and Olympic and I could just have an awesome time doing the Olympic. Mr. McBody and he had a long discussion of my Breathing Issues during OW swimming.

I went back over to sit on a bench overlooking the incredibly gorgeous bay. I started crying and I just couldn’t stop. I just kept sobbing, “I’m so-so-so-so disappointed in myself.” I wanted to be with my team on Nov 6th so badly. I want to be able to battle through it and complete. But I don’t know. I just felt so sad and let down and disappointed.

So there it is. Yesterday afternoon I was all on fire about going out to swim in open water like EVERY day, and getting a special coach and just really trying to overcome this. Today I just feel tired and kind of resigned.  And I’m not quite sure what to do.

I’m also sad that I wasn’t able to fully enjoy this incredible milestone: my FIRST triathlon! A huge accomplishment. I looked at all the congratulatory comments on my Facebook page and felt like, “Man, if you only KNEW.” Part of me snatched the victory away from myself because I felt like the struggly swim cast a menacing shadow across all of it. I couldn’t be as happy as I wanted to be.