London

Serpentine Swim

The morning was cold. The swim was shortened to 750 meters due to a difference between the air and water temperatures. The air was colder than the water by 10 degrees. Officials were concerned that too much time in the already cold water – into the colder air – could cause hypothermia. I didn’t get an exact reading on the temp but it was very cold – I could see my breath and I wore my down vest and many layers. Normally I would have been upset at the shorter swim but this morning I just wanted the race to be over. We waited for 10 minutes shivering in wetsuits and barefeet in the first swim pen as the course was refigured.

The start was brilliant. We were lead onto a long pontoon that jetted out towards the middle of the Serpentine. Each competitor allotted one spot on the pontoon wall. I really liked this – no stacking or getting kicked – just one girl to the left and one to the right. “On your mark get set BLAM” (it was actually a fog horn sound but I’m not sure how to phonetically interpret  that) I found myself getting bumped a couple times but nothing too violent. I got on good feet and hung tight. By the second buoy I started to work my way past some gals – taking the turns smoothly and feeling ok.

SwimStart_AGW

 

I was in and out of T1 like a snap. I had an absolutely marvelous racking position – the 5th slot from bike out. Score.

Out of T1

On the bike I felt flat but was deeply happy that the roads were dry – there were just so many people – some passing on left some on right, a lot making really risky calls. I was caught by a group of gals in a solid draft pack. That really ruffled my feathers. I answered back and forth with them for a time and by the second loop I had lost them. I came up on a few more gals as I made my way back to T2.

I’ve been getting a lot of question about what the f*** happened in T2? I know a 5 minute transition. What were you getting a massage? Nope…

When I raced Knoxville it was cold – my hands went numb on the bike and I had quite a time (literally) getting my helmet off in T2. I was nervous that would happen again here but when I saw it was to be sunny on race day I worried less about it. Well that was silly.

Jumping off my bike running into T2 I found my fingers were numb (big surprise).  I thought “Ok OK I can save time by working on this strap as I run” the rules falling out of my head – replaced by desire to conquer that damn buckle!

Joe and Rebekah were right there running with me on the outside of transition cheering me on – I yelled “I can’t get it off!” And Joe called back to me “Stay calm you can do it!” and so I ran and fiddled and ran and fiddled (transition was massive and the bike in had you run in, up, and around to the top left of the pen – my rack was down toward the bottom right). I stayed calm and what do you know “pop” the thing unclipped! Joe and Rebekah cheered and took off – I continued into transition. Then I heard the following:

“Buckle that helmet USA” “Buckle that helmet!”
“Shit!” I thought, and tried to buckle while running but that was doubly hard with one hand and numb fingers – so I just held it thinking that might work? Wrong.
“Don’t hold it USA, BUCKLE IT!” I heard another yell.
Grateful I hadn’t received any penalty right off the bat I stopped and managed to crush the clip together and then charged through the muddy grass back to my rack. There I tried again to unbuckle the helmet.

There is something about the action of squeezing that numb hands and fingers just can’t do. I tried, and I tried, and I tried. “I did it once I can do it again!” I thought, “stay calm!”. And the girls I had passed on the bike came and went and I was still trying – blowing on my hand to warm them, to regain function, and when none of that worked I tried to rip it off and found I could get the buckle into my mouth and I bit the damn clip to release it. Wished I’d thought of that sooner. But what happens in transition stays in transition or any part of the race for that matter. You can’t let mistakes or bad happenings follow you  – it’ll just weigh you down.

So on the run I just focused on the work I had to do, lots to make up for. But as my numb feet plodded along I felt dead. My head was pounding and my legs would just not move. I wanted the people to stop cheering – it was so loud. “What is wrong with me?” I kept thinking “I should be enjoying this!” But I just wanted it to be over. Focusing on each lap I did what I could (which was not very much). And finally it was the last lap. I rounded the bend – there were two girls barely ahead of me – I had very little fight in me all day – angry at myself for it I figured I would give whatever kick I had. Thankfully it was enough to pass them. And that was it.

I found Rebekah and Joe – still cheering wildly for me as I walked toward them. They were an unbelievable cheer squad – equipped with signs, smiling faces, and my brother’s booming voice. I gave my brother a huge hug and said “I’m so glad that’s over”. He just laughed.

My legs started to hurt immediately after finishing – which I thought odd because I did not go hard. My body felt unwell. And by the time we arrived home I was really ready to curl up in a ball. My body ached, head throbbed, bowels an utter mess, and I had spiked a fever of 102.

I’m not sure when I got sick. The morning of the race I woke with the trots (TMI?) a headache, and my skin felt sore and feverish. But I chalked it all up to nerves.
Perhaps I was fighting something and the race just brought it out.
I don’t know.

I do know that I’ve learned a lot about life from this race and this experience.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of all that I have taken from this: You can not take life too seriously. I’ve heard it a million times – probably even said it a couple times – but I think I actually understand what it feels like to live it now.

Some big changes are on the horizon, but for now I will just focus on feeling better and enjoying the remaining time in London with Rebekah and my brother.

A million thanks to all who have made this experience possible. There are too many to list here and I prefer to thank you directly.

-Rae

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