52 degrees. That was the water temperature when we arrived at Natchez Trace, TN on Saturday to check in for the triathlon. 52 degrees in the water does NOT feel like 52 degrees air temp. This is some bone-chilling, hypothermia-inducing, freeze-your-face-off COLD WATER. This is why normal people don’t do triathlons in March! Most triathlons are in the summer.
The race website said that they reserved the right to switch everyone over to a duathlon if the water was below 55 degrees. Instead, they decided to just shorten the swim to 300 meters. Any distance more than that would have been dangerous. You also had the option to switch to a duathlon and do a run, bike, run course instead of swim, bike, run. My choice? The duathlon!!!!!!
Most people were determined to do the swim despite the coldness. I would say about 70% of our team went through with the triathlon. 300 meters is hardly a swim at all (and takes much less time than the first 2 mile run of the duathlon), so the making it through this swim had more to do with determination than athletic abititly. It reminded me of a Steve Prefontaine quote: “Most people race to see who is fastest…I race to see who has the most guts.” I sort of felt like I was wimping out doing the duathlon, but I knew I would be much happier if I didn’t have to jump in that water! Plus, I’d never done a duathlon before, so why not try something new???
My transition area set up:
The fuel: our team brought bagels and bananas for breakfast. I had a honey wheat bagel banana sandwich! (no picture )
I ended up having a very good race! The dualthon started with a two mile run — the first half mile was straight up hill (my ears popped!), but it was easy after that. Then I hoped on my bike, and did the 15 mile bike course, part of which went a gorgeous lake!!! The course was moderately hilly, but there were no killer hills. I tried not to be too scared of wearing out my legs for the last run, and I was able to push myself more on the bike than I usually do.
The last run was a 5k, and the first half of it was a trail run! So much fun despite the fact the my legs hurt tremendously from the bike ride. I decided that regardless of your running ability, the run is always the hardest leg of the triathlon because your legs are so worn out from the bike.
Since I am a stronger runner than I am a cyclist, I always get to pass people on the run. Normally, this is very encouraging, but in this race, I was passing all these athletic-looking men who had passed me on the bike and were now walking, limping, and stopping to massage out cramps. I thought to myself, “I’m in pain, too! Why am I moving?!”
So I developed a new running strategy. I basically started meditating, concentrating on my breathing, and imagining my legs just falling in front of each other effortlessly. My thoughts went something like this: “One leg in front of the other. Falling in front on the other. Breathing in and out….” I felt as relaxed as I do in yoga class! I able to completely separate myself from the pain in my legs, and I felt like my body was doing all the work, and I was just along for the ride. It was incredible.
Also, since there wasn’t as much competition in the duathlon category, I won my age group!
Before you get too impressed, this is 1st place out of only 5 other people in the age group (I just checked the official results), but I still got this awesome tile! I love duathlons!
I talked to the kids who chose to do the triathlon after the race about the swim, and I am so glad I opted out of it! Everyone agreed that the water was too cold to submerge your head or else you would get a terrible brain freeze. There was a lot of backstroke/doggy paddle going on. One girl told me she felt like she couldn’t breathe by the time she got to the first buoy …I’ve experienced this sensation in 65 degree water before! I also talked to the only guy crazy enough to do this swim without a wetsuit! He said he had to keep is body vertical the whole time because he couldn’t breathe when he completely submerged his chest!
Wow, this wasn’t supposed to be such a long post! In case you didn’t have time to read all that, here are the cliff notes:
- 52 degree water is crazy to swim in
- I did the duathlon instead of the triathlon to avoid the icy plunge
- Banana bagel sandwich = great pre-race fuel
- I discovered that yoga meditation techniques help you run through physical exhaustion!
- I won my age group
Question: What is your favorite thing to eat pre-race??