Beginning triathlon all over again...(for the third time!)

author : janicebondar
comments : 0

I committed a serious faux pas; trespassed into taboo territory, inviting all those karma chickens to come home to roost - Recounting my most recent DNS ("Did Not Start")

In Seattle, it's rare that anyone can expect a race day as fine as we had for this year's Danskin triathlon. Brilliant blue skies, plenty of sun and even warm lake water! This is a city where people put on shorts and throw open restaurant windows when it hits 50 degrees. We’re a hardy lot out here – but we still absolutely go nuts for any weather like this. Already this is a big deal!

Last time I registered for this event, I got a bit of a flu bug a few weeks before, and I let that be my excuse (vs. admitting to my woeful lack of preparation and training) for not participating on race day. So, this was to be my redemption. The Real Thing. My Debut. Don't worry, Sally Edwards - I'm doing it this time!! Best of all, my dear sister, who has accompanied me on all kinds of hair-brained adventures, was willing to try this once more.

You have to understand something here: even WITHOUT triathlon, we're each just a tad on the obsessive side. Add in any element of triathlon, including the fact that we send each other TV alerts well in advance of the broadcast for each year's Ironman (or any other mega-endurance event) and that we have this incredible “glass completely full” attitude, and you begin to get the picture of just how excited we could get about something like this. I'm sure those around us would love to just smack us. (Thank you, dear partner, for restraining yourself on that account.)

I'd pored over the various articles at BT, learned how to swim (sort of...), participated in a few great clinics that included open water swimming, done the distances separately for each event, written list after list, watched old Ironman videos to get pumped and done just about every overly obsessive thing any good wannabe triathlete can do.

Things were going great! My sister's flight was on time, we zipped through registration, had a photo op with Sally Edwards, no mechanical issues cropped up, and we were even lucky enough to snag some prime real estate for racking. Most importantly - we were ON TIME! (We have a little history here... no matter how early we get up or how well we plan and lay things out the night before, we always seem to be on the run to catch up with the start of whatever event it is we're doing. Not so this time, by golly!) Oh – and my wonderful partner is right on duty, providing superb chauffeur services and general support. All is well with the world.

So - what the #$%& happened and why is this about ‘beginning all over again’?

I committed a serious faux pas; trespassed into taboo territory, inviting all those karma chickens to come home to roost: I went to the swim warm up area and said to my Tri Girl sister "Hey - wanna see my great freestyle?" Oh boy – here it comes…

Swim I did - right into some other woman. No biggie. I needed to get used to swimming as a contact sport anyway, except that this forced me to stand up. This is where the braggadocio caught up.

I stood on something and it didn’t feel so good. I got out of the water, and it didn't look so good. Mind you this was LESS THAN 5 MINUTES FROM OUR WAVE START. No problem. I worked hard to get there and I was going to do it. It didn’t hurt much. My sister suggested going to the med tent to get a bandaid or something (there was a little blood). Good idea! All I had to do was weave my way through a teaming mass of a bazillion women at the wave start! Ever been to a Danskin? You’ve got to see one to know that I'm not exaggerating here.

The kindly nurses in the tent said something about not getting in the water. NOT GET IN THE WATER?! I thought I must have still had some in my ears...

Me: How the heck can I do the swim leg if I can’t get in the water? Can’t you wrap it up in plastic or something?

Nurse: No. You’ve cut this pretty bad. Do you want to take a look?

Tri Sister: I can’t do this without you! (To the nurse) Can you put a baggie around her foot and sort of make it waterproof?

Nurse: we can’t do that, blah, blah, Risk of infection, blah, blah, blah. You’re going to need stitches.

Me (to tri sister – both trying not to sob just yet): Ok – get in the wave. You HAVE to do this!

Nurse: you have about 6 hours to get stitches in there.

They put a “Biohazard” plastic bag around my foot after they finished the pressure bandage efforts. Looked just lovely. I lied to myself and my sister and said I’d just hop into the bike and run portions later after I got squared away.

So – there’s my sister, trying not to cry – being brave and knowing she has to do this for me as much as for herself. And she’s never swum in open water before! What a dismal way for her to start her very first triathlon. So – I vowed to be there for her at each transition and to cheer others on in between.

I could see her melt into the swarm of women at the start and head down the ramp. I watched until I couldn’t see her anymore. That’s when I hobbled over to my partner and had my moment of self-centered meltdown. After the initial gush of feeling, it subsided and came back only in smaller waves of self-pity. My partner, being the nice person she is, promised all kinds of great things: we’ll go anywhere you want for the next one; go ahead and buy that new bike, etc… I knew she was doing this to help remove some of the sting. We stood and cheered everyone coming through the swim finish and finally saw my sister. She looked SO good! So strong! She was transitioning just like a pro: peeling that wetsuit off while she ran!

My new job for the day was this: get over the pity party and provide moral support at the remaining transitions. My partner and I did that – but it was kind of quiet while Tri Sister was out on the road. I couldn’t wait for her to finish! However, the foot really was starting to hurt and needed professional attention. It was clear that running and biking were not wise at that point. I’m ok with pushing myself, but I didn’t want to do permanent damage and prevent myself from even starting again. I was successful with the transition help; only partly so with the end of pity.

Anyway – Tri Sister finished looking just as great as when she started! My partner headed off to get the van while we stayed with the bikes. Supportive partners really don’t get the credit they deserve. And neither do those who do these lame-brained things with us. I’m here to tell you that, after a really long day where no one has had anything much to eat or much less a shower, they BOTH took me to the ER and waited forever for me to get my stitches. And they’ve BOTH still been there to listen to me complain about not being able to work out yet. Finally – they’ve BOTH had to hear me try and figure out when I’ll be able to go for my first tri one more time. (Dear Partner – please note: yes, this does mean the obsessiveness will have to come back out of the closet again. I apologize. And, thanks, in advance, for putting up with me.)

My lessons learned:

  1. Always take your insurance card info with you
  2. Be nice to the med tent folks when they give you bad news – it’s not their fault
  3. Never, ever try to show off before the event -ever!
  4. Bring flip flops
  5. Forget lessons 1 through 4 - but always remember to bring along a sense of humor – it will serve you better than any other piece of gear. And, finally
  6. I’d better darn well make it next time!

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date: October 2, 2005