November 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
I was woken at around 3am by tremors. The music was gone but was replaced by the howling of gale-force winds. I have no clue how fast it was blowing, but at times the wind was shaking our little cottage – hence the tremors.
I started to panic when I thought of the wind blowing up waves in the dam. The not-so-good swim on Saturday has rattled my confidence and I was convinced that I would drown if I had to attempt a swim in choppy, tumultuous water. So I lay awake listening to the wind and worrying until my alarm went off at 5.30. Time to get ready.
By the time we reached the race venue the wind has calmed down from hurricane to gale-force. The venue was also in a protected little bay, so although far from being calm, the water wasn’t too choppy either.
The bad weather cooled down the water from the balmy 22 degrees of the previous day to 18 degrees. Therefore wetsuits were allowed – which was no help for scantly-dressed me braving the water in no more than my Speedo, goggles and swim cap.
It was a swimming start and athletes had to enter the water at a certain point and bob around for a couple of minutes until it was time for the race to start. Great for those in wetsuits, not so great for me and scores of others just wearing swimsuits.
Minutes before the start of the race it started raining, and as the gun fired it really came down in buckets. But we were wet already, so whatevs… The beginning of the swim was very much, like I imagine, it might be in a washing machine on the spin cycle. There were lots of people vying for the same spot of water and you really have to keep your cool and remind yourself not to panic. I just tried to focus on everything Coach Lezandre told me in the training – arms wide, stretch them out in front of you, bum up, don’t stop kicking… Over and over again, all the way to the first buoy, then the second and then third and then the exit.
Then I found myself in T1 (or “transition 1″). That’s when you transition from swimming to cycling. It was time to dry off, put on shorts, a shirt, shoes, cycling helmet and off you go.
The cycle was wet and windy. The first 13k or so was into a head wind. A frickin’ gale-force head wind, I kid you not. It was pretty tough on my knobbly-tyre mountain bike, and people on road bikes with their thin, sleek wheels passed me effortlessly – or at least that’s how it looked, I’m sure they were also peddling their butts off in that wind.
On the way back, the cycle was, well, a breeze… at least until the sky opened up again and it started pouring with rain. I was soaked to the bone, and actually had a little chuckle at just how ridiculous these conditions were. The coaches did a hell of a job preparing us for the race, but they didn’t prepare us for doing it in a storm. What a crazy day!
Next up was T2 – changing from cycling to running. Jumping off my bike and running to the transition area was scary. My legs felt like they weren’t my own. They felt like jelly and were buckling under the weight I was putting on them. And the condition didn’t improve as the run progressed. My legs worked harder than I realised on the cycle and they were protesting. My calves cramped through most of the run, and on two occasions I had to stop and walk for a couple of meters. But eventually the finish line was in sight and I was inspired by spectators cheering me on, so I ran to the finish as fast as my tired legs would carry me – which really wasn’t very fast at all…
I couldn’t believe it was over. Three months of getting up early, training twice a day, six days a week, getting to know my team-mates, getting to know the limits of my own body, and how far I could push it. Everything culminated into 1 hour 51 minutes of racing. It felt… awesome.