I’d say I’m not a crier, but that’s not true. What I am most definitely not is someone who cries during her biggest race to date.
And yet there I was, walking to transition from the swim, the arm of a kind stranger on my shoulder and my hand over my mouth as I cried.
I couldn’t control it.
I like to do hard things. It’s why I enjoy CrossFit and why I adore triathlon. I also like being faster. I don’t really even want to be the fastest. I just want to be faster than the person I just passed.
An hour and 15 minutes prior, I had jumped into the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee to swim my first ever 1500 meters for my first ever Olympic distance triathlon. For five years I had raced Sprints — this was my moment. I had trained since February, hitting the pool, visiting open water locations. I was ready.
“705!” They called out my number and – splash – I was in the water. I felt like a boss as I flew through the first 200 meters. I paused and waved at my husband and kids — I could hear them ringing their cow bells as they ran along the shore.
“Crossing the river will be the most challenging part of this race,” the race director said into her megaphone an hour prior. I could barely hear her. I didn’t really listen.
I turned tightly around the first buoy, heading across and slightly up the river. Stroke, stroke, breathe …. stroke, stroke, breathe. I raised my head to the side — and, wait. The buoys were now 50 meters to my right.
Stroke, breathe. Now they were 75 meters.
As the current pulled me and others down river, I realized I needed to pull harder and head straight for the shore. When I got to where my feet could touch I walked with others up the shore line, hoping to get even with where we were supposed to be.
I remembered the director’s warning. That was the hardest part, right?
But it was far from the hardest part. With a 900 meter, straight up river swim in front of me, I started what I felt was a powerful crawl, headed for the orange buoy in the distance. Things went OK until I got close to the bridge and realized that while I was working like I was moving forward, I was making very little progress.
“Why can’t I go forward? What is happening?”