That little voice at the back of my head didn’t seem so little. It was screaming at me. What the heck was I doing? In 100m my state of mind went from confident athlete to survival mode, bordering on panic. No matter how much swim training I had done, it was all out the window in these conditions. I had warmed up but my lungs were still shocked by the cold temperature of the water. It was windy and the water was choppy, making it hard to swim straight and even more difficult to breathe. I wasn’t remotely in my comfort zone. In fact, I was 1400m away from my comfort zone and completing that distance felt impossible.
The swim course was 3 laps of 500m. I had to take the first lap stroke by stroke. I knew I was physically able to complete the course but it took all my mental fortitude to overcome my feelings of panic and doubt. When my fingertips hit the sand the first time, I was filled with relief but then instantly filled with fear. There were two laps to go. I sprinted back into the water.
The second lap was exponentially better. Although it had it’s drawbacks, not being in pack was one less thing to worry about at this point and it helped me relax…a tiny bit. I managed to time my breathing with the waves (most of the time) but, as much as I sighted and attempted to correct my path, the wind was blowing me off course. I zig-zagged my way around bouy by bouy. It wasn’t until the third lap, when I knew the finish was close, I thought about racing. Up until then I had been in survival mode but when I realized I was kind of alone in the water, I was convinced I was last. I gave the last 200m all my body could give to stay within shouting distance of the swimmers in front of me. When it was too shallow to swim any more, I bounded out of the water as if I couldn’t get away fast enough. I knew I had done the best I could, especially having never swam in such conditions, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed with my performance.
I was never so happy to see my bike. Transition went fine and during the long transfer from transition to the bike course, I had plenty of time to refuel, relax and refocus. I knew if the rest of my race was going to go well, I couldn’t let my bad start get to me. The bike course was flat and windy in places but I felt stronger and stronger each lap. Despite having to pull brakes for a cheeky Canadian goose meandering across the road, I found out later I clocked the fastest women’s split.
It wasn’t until I was through the second transition and well into the run course I realized how hot it was. It was mid-day and with only one aid station on the 3km loop, I started shouting out my need for, not one but, “two cups of water please” to the helpful volunteers. One over my head. Another one over my head. The technical course had bumpy pavement, narrow corners, muddy sections, grassy hills and a cement incline which all made holding pace a game of acceleration. The constant pace changes and the heat definitely took their toll but I was motivated to balance out my bad start. I had something to prove to myself. It wasn’t the best run of my life but, in the moment, it was everything I had and when I crossed the finish line as the winner of the women’s race I knew I had bounced back from my bad swim start like a badass.