Actually, the pre-race for this event started five minutes after the start of last years’ race. I just didn’t realize it at the time because I was busy backstroking and trying to calm myself in the middle of the lake and working to get back to a water depth that would allow me to stand up.
It mostly sucked.
This year the pre-race was even worse. The anxiety I felt while swimming last year, along with the bitter taste of failure, have been with me for the past 365 days. I know it has driven Wifey crazy to hear me either whining about it or attempting to self-diagnose why swimming in open water scares the pants off of me.
Anyway, on with the story…
I took Friday off and got pretty much everything squared away. I wandered downtown and registered, nothing like doing it at the last minute. I even polished the Titus with Pledge to give it a nice shine and an orangey smell that might be soothing. The only hitches I was experiencing were these constant bouts with panic. I’d think about being clear out there, so far from shore and my stomach would lurch into my throat and my neck and ears would burn. Not to take anything away from those with an official diagnosis, but I think I was having post-traumatic stress from the panic of last year.
I started taking Xanax. It must have been expired because the shit did. Not. Work. Or if it did I can only imagine how much worse my anxiety could have been.
I had bags packed and everything laid out by 10:00 pm and was in bed by 10:30. But I didn’t really fall asleep until about 2:30. I don’t think it was the anxiety though. I think it was the large iced coffee I had drunk earlier.
Then I was awake at 4:30. And the panic kicked in again. And I took another Xanax.
I tried to gag down some cereal but that wasn’t working so I switched to Ensure. Liquid calories were about all I could get down. I did manage the morning movement, which is always a fear, needing to go when racing just sucks.
Load the truck and out the door about 6:45. I drove to T2 at Snowbasin and set up my run. Left the truck there and rode the bike down to the beach, thinking it would burn up some anxiety. It didn’t. But it was better than sitting on the shuttle bus and did allow me a little warm-up. I only thought about purposely crashing to avoid swimming a couple of times. But the whole way down, I kept telling myself it was a perfect day. Bright, sunny, not too warm. NO WIND. Puuurrrrrfect.
I arrived about 8:45, 15 minutes before the long-course start. I got my bike set up and put on the wetsuit, just trying to maintain what composure I had left. I found another cut in the calf of the suit. XTERRA brand suits must use the most fragile neoprene on the goddamn planet! Suited-up, I made my way down to the beach, and I noticed the first buoy was a solid 400 meters away, well over halfway across the lake. This was turning out to be a sick joke. Then I saw my friend Kevin. As we were talking and he was doing everything except bitch slapping and shaking to encourage me, the starting cannon went off to start the long course race.
I nearly shit myself when I saw the people go in the water and was right on the verge of a grand mal panic attack. I seriously thought about walking up to the parking lot, waiting for the sport-distance finishers to come in, and just riding and running with them. Fortunately, Kevin made a good point: stay to the right side, away from the people and near the boats. He knew I could do the distance. Then I saw fellow bloggers Nytro and Iron Benny. They also had some words of encouragement.
I made my way to the water’s edge and eased in. I started swimming to loosen up and I could not put my face in the water. I remember saying to myself that I wasn’t going to get it done like this and took the plunge. The water felt great. Perfect. I swam down the bank and back to the group. An old dude told me that we were about to start.
Next time: The Swim