Yesterday, I competed, for the second consecutive year, in the Jim-N-I triathlon. However, last year, I only did the run portion. This year, I took part in all three events. To understand how that's possible/allowed, you need to know the background of the Jim-N-I. Luckily, Bill has blogged about that very subject (read about it here).
So, if you compete in the Jim-N-I, and finish any portion of any discipline, you are a finisher. And to be a finisher at the Jim-N-I is a very big deal--it gets you a one-of-a-kind tie dye shirt. So I set out to be a finisher.
First, the swim. I knew I was not going to swim the whole 1.2 miles. Not because I don't think I could do it (I could, with some breaks), but I didn't want to hold up the race that long--unlike in a typical tri, in the Jim-N-I, there is a group start to each event. Also, it was in open water. I'm *very* uncomfortable swimming in open water. So I decided to do one loop (which ended up being out 800 meters, information we have thanks to Bill's Garmin that I really want). We got in the water, and it was gross. The level was so incredibly low. All I could feel was nasty green slime up to my knees.
The muck, however, meant that, at pretty much any time during the swim, you'd be able to stand up. This was good news for me and Allen. We started off, and I let the fast swimmers go ahead. This left me and Allen, and we started at the same time. When my head went under, I was struck by how dark and green the water was. I could see nothing. This is the problem I have with open water swimming--I can't see. And this was the worst I'd ever been in. Within about twelve strokes, my goggles broke, and the nasty green water rushed into my open eyes. I stood up (gross!) and saw that the nose piece had come undone. I tried to fix it, and started swimming again. Then it broke again. And, for good measure, once more. Finally it appeared fixed, and I took off.
The swim is a loop. Out to a buoy, then back. Effort-wise, I felt fine. I felt completely comfortable...which is huge for me since this was swimming. The only problem is, I don't do well with sighting. In the pool, I don't need to sight. Out there, though, it's vital. I kept trying to sight, and kept noticing that I was not on course. I have no ability to swim in a straight line without the guidance of the black line at the bottom of the pool. My goggles broke one more time as I arrived at the buoy, and I stood up to fix them. I saw Allen swimming toward me, and I am telling you he's improved a lot! I fixed the goggles, started again, and realized there was something sharp in my right eye. I stopped and stood in the muck again, and attempted to get it out. I couldn't.
So I just decided to swim the rest of the way with my right eye closed. That worked for a while, until the goggle leaked again. I stood up again, and heard my name. It was Allen, from the rescue boat, telling me he was going to beat me back. What a cheater! Anyway, I made it back...and zig zagged the entire way. I finally, in the last 100 meters, figured out a way to sight more effectively. And I need to start practicing it in the pool. I got out, and my right eye was killing me. Luckily, Dr. Jimmy was there and flushed out whatever was in it--feels fine today.
Then it was time for the bike ride--50 miles. I had planned to do 30 miles of this ride since I wasn't sure I was up for 50. I'm building running miles, adding speed work, and simply not that experienced on the bike. You have to understand--most of the people with whom I train and certainly most of the people at this event--are very good cyclists and primarily train in this sport (at least in the summer). As I stood there, I knew there was no way I'd be keeping up with the main group (they planned to pace line--something a novice like me shouldn't yet attempt), and I was pretty sure I wouldn't even be able to keep them in sight. I decided I'd get to the SAG stop, then decide if I should head back in the car, or finish up with the remaining 20.
I ended up doing the former. The first 18 miles of the ride were actually good. I stayed down in aero the majority of the time, and I think I rode faster than I ever have. Then, the wind hit. I was riding completely alone, and it hadn't bothered me til now. It felt like someone had let the air out of my tires, or removed my quads. Despite very high effort, I was only able to hold around 15 mph--much slower on the uphills. I have no idea how to describe it other than to say it was brutal. Around 27 miles, my phone rang. It was in my fanny pack, so I couldn't reach to answer it, but I assumed it was Tim making sure I wasn't dead out there (he was ahead in the pace line). This let me know that he was at the SAG stop, which meant I couldn't be too far. I was suffering and really wanting this part to be over. It was hot, windy, and I was over it. Just when I thought I could take no more, I saw the SAG stop. I dismounted the Kestrel and made it known that I was done on the bike for the day.
Usually, cutting things short like that really bothers me. But it didn't--I knew I had to run 9 miles in 90+ degree heat, and I was already feeling it. I, as well as several other riders, caught rides back to the house. Tim and Scott (who did very well in the swim and bike!) headed back on their bikes. On the way back to the house, I was feeling a bit dizzy. I was getting dehydrated, so I tried to slam fluids in while waiting for the other riders to return. Still, though, when we set out on the run, I hadn't been able to pee yet. Not a great sign.
As we lined up for the run, I knew I'd be running it easy. It was really, really hot, and I was already dehydrated. We started, and Scott was off in the distance quite quickly. To try and keep up with him was futile, so Tim and I settled into a comfortable pace between Scott and the rest of the group behind us. I felt surprisingly okay on the run. Not great, but okay--and the run is indeed my comfort zone. Before I knew it, we were at the SAG station. These SAG stations are amazing. Ice cold Gatorade and water, fruit, cookies, etc. And sponges soaked in ice cold water. They make you feel elite at the Jim-N-I! I downed some more Gatorade, possibly too fast, because it upset my stomach. But I was trying to keep up with the massive sweat loss. Tim and I didn't spend long at the SAG, and when we started off Bill was with us.
Bill and I talked cross country, which made the miles tick by. Before I knew it, we were at the next SAG. This was one of those runs where I felt better as the run went on (which is quite normal for me--the last five miles of a long run are usually where I feel the best). At this SAG, we picked up Jimmy. So now it was me, Bill, Jimmy, and Tim for the last three miles. The runners behind us were looking weary from the heat, and some got picked up by cars. Not a bad decision given how stinking hot it was at this point.
Having Jimmy in the group led to more talking and joking, which made the miles go by even faster. We weren't running fast--around a 8:00 minute pace, but with the heat it didn't feel that slow. The last mile, we (actually, I think it was Jimmy) picked it up to around 7:20 range, and I finished just behind the row of the three guys. I was feeling tired in the last mile, but not trashed. We crossed the finish line on the drive way, and the work was done.
The Blacks (who host the event) are the most gracious hosts ever--they not only host this event, but they open up their clean bathrooms and showers to a bunch of sweaty athletes. I showered, and felt human again. Then we were treated to ribs, barbecue, salads, homemade ice cream, etc., etc. My belly full and my body clean, I felt pretty good, if tired, by the end of the day.
Tim played a few holes of Frisbee golf, but then we had to head home to Rowan. It was a great, if exhausting, day. Can't wait til next year! Thanks again to the Blacks for their hospitality.