I knew before that Sunday morning that I am a naive person; until 8:30am I always assumed it was just to an ordinary extent. We were to seed ourselves for anticipated swim times and select a corresponding coloured cap. In spite of my club's long, intensive swim sessions, and my diligent winter weekday mornings of drills and laps I kept my ego in check and opted for a purple cap: 29-31 minutes to complete the 1500m.
Milling on the beach at about 8:15 I chanced upon another club member, Monique, and as we chatted I hardly noticed the horde steadily gathering around us. When the PA system announced "one minute" and folks began cheering we broke off our tete-a-tete and I turned to face the lake. To my horror not only was I dead centre in a throng of 622 entrants on this small beach, but my purple capped mates were sprinkled everywhere; I'm sure to an airplane flying overhead our mob resembled a backpack of M&Ms dumped at the water's edge.
I tried to squeeze through the greens, blues, yellows, pinks, reds and whites to reach a clutch of purples, as if this would gain me some sort of security. Instead, it appears my movements incited those around me to surge forward. As if on cue the PA declared "10 seconds..." A hot pang of dread stabbed my core as it dawned on me this will not be the genteel tea party I imagined a seeded start to be, and clearly there was to be no going back.
Then the horn blared.
They say Canadians are polite to a fault. That fault was breached when we waded deep enough for the water to strike our crotches. The swim began in earnest, and by swim I mean the anti-government riot I was somehow swept up in when in fact I was just a tourist strolling through the market on my way to buy a baguette. Above and below the waterline was a flurry of hands, arms, feet, thighs, glimpses of caps (none of them purple), and the occasional buttock past the face. My months of dogged lengths, honing my form under watchful coaches' eyes, were washed downstream as I dog-paddled, stacked and layered with countless others like a plate of flailing deli meats.
I was surprised to find people were even yelling at one another. At first it sounded like perhaps a couple was heatedly discussing the weather, the woman saying something about the "sun on the beach" but as my right ear resurfaced after another stroke I only heard the man hollering back, I think, something about "duck!" I was very confused until the woman then repeated herself, this time yelling at the top of her lungs and it was then clear their swim experience was unfolding quite similarly to mine. The oaths and complaints increased as our aquatic mosh pit fitfully orbited the first buoy and it would have been laughable to hear the arguments between out of breath people if I weren't so out of breath myself.
It was so tempting to see the wide open water beckoning from further out of our circuit where seagulls were bobbing in the waves; I recall trying to half-heartedly swing wide but it would have entailed crossing over perhaps ten lanes of frustrated triathletes and after a few diagonal overlapped strokes and kicks I reverted back to my slot in the melee. Fortunately by the time we started our second lap it was possible to find some elbow room, catch one's breath and begin enjoying at least a partial bilateral rhythm. The final 500m or so were fairly tame, and I staggered onto shore several minutes shy of my goal time but much wiser for the experience. Lesson Learned: a chaotic swim that includes treading water, while much more interesting than pool laps, uses up far more energy to get from Point A to Point B.
Swim: 34:30 - 32/38 AG
T1: Thanks to the advice of Joe from Neworld Runners I took a moment after the timing mat to stop at the foot of the grassy hill up to the racks to remove my wetsuit early so I could make the long and warm run as easy as possible. Thanks, Joe.
Bike: A very sobering affair, chock full of rollers and shorter steeper hills, windy (gusts to 40kms/hr, 25mph) and 4-5 abreast at times. Note to Self: don't give up on the swim training - you must come out of the water above the 10th percentile if you want to avoid traffic like this! It was a nice, challenging out-and-back course all around. And it humbled me: I'd always fancied myself to be a cyclist first and foremost, but this event put me in my place (1:13:30 - 12/38 AG, to be exact)
T2: Smooth and uneventful. I expect it will get messier as I try get faster; for now I am going for smooth and de-stressed.
Run: Very satisfying, given I had no prior experience with this length and only one standalone 10k behind me. It was hot and peppered with small hills but I paced myself well enough to finish strong (strong being a relative word for me!) and within ~ 2:30 of my standalone time. Note to Self: practice, somehow, taking drinks at Aid Stations. Most handoffs worked well enough, but I made a mistake at one, my first, by zeroing in on a young, left-handed helper - hardly ten years old - set up as the lead thirst-quencher. He was grasping the cup entirely in a back-handed side-arm grip. This meant my desperate grab at the drink only resulted in slapping the back of his hand, sending the Gatorade flying across the course and no doubt traumatizing the youngster. Now I not only had thirst but guilt as well. Luckily the Endurolytes I'd taken beforehand must have helped as I only felt slight twinges in my quads in the final two kms. I'm hoping this was a sign I was pushing myself as much as possible without blowing up!
Run: 46:18 - 9/38 AG
Total Time: 02:40:12 - 16/38 AG, 208/625 OA
This event, as is typical of the Subaru series, appeared to be well-organzied, staffed by friendly volunteers and I am looking forward very much to doing this again next year, starting off on a better foot, said foot being further back and to the outside on the swim start!