ka-PLOW! Championships call for CANONS, not guns.
The frenzy-- so many bodies!-- the cold--
THE COLD. #GASP!gasp#GASP!gasp#GASP!gasp#GASP
Okay, it's okay-- just calm down. You're excited. Just breast stroke and get your breath back. Put your face back in the water..
My breath isn't coming back! What is this? Altitude? The cold water?
I try my face in the water again--##GAAAAASP!!!## Is my suit tightening up? What is this feeling?
The field charges away. I am the lonely duckling-- gasping, back stroking, wondering what is happening, digressing, surviving, focusing, breathing. Volunteer kayakers take a special interest in me and paddle alongside. One suggests I swim more horizontally.
Panic suppressed, I approach the shore for the first time just as the pro field laps me. Their greek bodies are born from wetsuits. For the first time, I am able to put my face in the water without gasping and I swim the second lap as I wished my first had gone.
Then, thankfully, the swim is done. I wobble up the boat ramp to the transition area.
Bike rack lane one, two.. my bike should be riiiight.. riiight.. WHEREISMYBIKE?!
DAMN IT, whereismybike?!!
Oh, where is my bike? Please--
Oh. Yes. I am in the wrong section. My bike is over there-- all alone. Clearly-- there is my bike.
Dry feet, pull on socks, shoes, spray sunscreen, food in mouth, drink water, helmet/glasses, stuff food in pockets, Camelbak, gloves, get out of there!
Oh, thank goodness I'm on my bike. I know how to ride a bike. I can breathe on my bike. I pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal. I pass, get passed, pass, get passed. There is climbing and single track, double track, polite competitors-- "can I pass whenever it's safe?"
Rocky, dry, double track climbing. The forest closes in-- single track climbing, white barked trees, red leaves sprinkle the ground like a contrived painting of fall, but it's not contrived-- it's REAL and it's ridiculous. Climb, climb, climb. Thousands of feet we climb.
Oh my goodness! A downhill! SWOOP, SWOOP, SWOOP. I love mountain biking. I am glee, I am zone, I am mountain bike.
Oh my goodness, we're climbing again.
Climb, climb, climb, climb, climb.
I can hear the music from the transition zone! I am close!
No, I am going away.
The sounds disappear.
And I am climbing.
Climbing, climbing, pushing-- I am pushing my mountain bike.
I am exhausted and I am CRASHING my mountain bike. For no good reason, I crash me and my mountain bike. Twice.
I am stiffly, cautiously, drunkenly steering through switchbacks and I am surviving my mountain bike.
Please, please, please, let this leg be over.
And then, TRANSITION ZONE!
OHMYGOODNESS! TRANSITION ZONE! I AM SO EXCITED! ADRENALINE!!!! TRANSITION ZOOOONE!!!!
Whip on my shoes, Oops! shoulda drank more water, I prance out of there and--
I alternate: jog, shuffle, march. Jog, shuffle, march. Oo-- pretty butterfly. Jog, shuffle, march. It is GORGEOUS up here. Jog, shuffle, march. "Trail running is fun, even when you're slow," I think. Jog, shuffle, march. #FALL!!# Jog, shuffle--
I finish. In four and a half hours.
Beat, but alive.
I feel alive.