Now, it's not as if I cannot swim at all. During my two month or so sojourn in the Boy Scouts as a teenager, swimming was the only badge that I earned. And before that, both my mom and my dad would regularly make trips to what passes for a beach in Ohio. Nevertheless, I think I've been swimming less than a fistful of times since I became an adult.
So last fall I took a couple of rounds of swimming lessons at the county rec center. I got some good tips on form. I joined a gym with a pool so I could swim regularly. I pushed the distance I covered up to two miles worth of laps nonstop.
So when the local triathlon club offered a training race, I felt prepared to swim 750 meters in the Potomac. 750 meters is not a long way to swim. That's less than half a mile, a quarter of the distance that I swim regularly. I had not realized what a hard bitch Mother Nature was or how much she would kill me as soon she would heal me.
Waves, my friends, they want to kill you.
As soon as that horn went off and I pulled my feet of the muddy river bottom the waves started trying to push me under. Everything I knew about good form made a hasty egress from my head. I struggled just to keep my head above the water.
That half hour I spent in the water seemed to stretch out for a lifetime. The cohort of men that I had taken off with left me far behind. The horn blew again as the women began the race. They passed me by and left me in their wake. The seconds stretched out. I thought about giving up, about following the direction supplied at the beginning of the race, ``if you get into trouble, turn on your back and wave your arms, we will come get you.'' But I did not give up. I kept on plowing through wave after wave. Mother Nature was not going to make me her bitch.
And eventually, I made it back to to the pier.
The bike portion of the ride was far easier than I had thought it would be. I do not do very many long bike rides. Earlier this winter when the weather popped up into the sixties as if Old Man Winter stepped out for a drink at the bar and the Heat Miser showed up to see the weekend through, I did a 25 mile circuit from my neighborhood down to the national zoo and then up to Bethesda on the Capital Crescent Trail. It was nice ride. But I couldn't try to go fast. Being a warm weekend in the middle of an exceptionally cold winter for the region, the trail was packed with walkers, skaters, runners, bikers, strollers, and small furry animals. It was hardly a good test of endurance.
I actually caught up with a few people despite having a bike that is really too heavy for racing. On that fateful day last year when I was mistakenly told that the frame of my beater bike was cracked, I bought a steel frame road bike. It suits me well. I'm hard on bikes. My road bike gets me to and from work with aplomb. But on the way to the race when I stopped to pick up some other folks and hoisted their machines onto the bike rack on my van that their bikes were half the weight of mine.
The run was easily my best event. I passed up half a dozen people who were running out of gas. I would have passed up another half dozen but I missed a turn and, not having my hearing aids in, did not hear the other runners shouting at me to turn around. So I turned the 5k into a 7.2 k. Most of the runners that I had passed up found their way to the finish line while I was trying to find my way back to the course.
But eventually I did find my way back. Coming down the home stretch, I passed a guy coming the other way. The one guy who finished behind me had just started running when I had the finish line in my sights. That man deserves a prize for keeping at it.
After the race I was surprised by how much energy I had left. I was not as exhausted as I thought I would be. I was, however, too late to get much out of the open water swimming clinic that was held after the race. Between the late start of the race (go figure, an event in the DC area that did not start on time!) and my slow pace, there was only fifteen minutes left in the clinic. I passed.
Afterwards there was a picnic. Right before the food was served I started to feel nauseated and the tiredness came crashing down on top of me like one of the waves that had previously tried to drag me down into the dark depths of the river. I forced myself to eat and drink and hoped that I would not heave it back up.
I did not. Instead I drove the folks that I carpooled with home, I returned to my wife and daughter waiting back in our apartment, and I felt like a champion. I finished the race. I fought the good fight. Mother Nature can kiss my ass.
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