I did this race last year, a couple of weeks after ironman, and enjoyed a lovely tour of the reservoir on the feet of one of my swimming buddies. I think I saw someone mention the race on Facebook a day or two before it and, well, I love swimming, that's really all that needs to be said, of course I was going to sign up. My goal for this race, however, was not to mosey around and sing songs while the sun rose. Rather, I wanted to race until I was shattered. Secondarily to triathlon, this year I've been poking about a bit in the world of open water swim racing. I learned quite early on that I had no idea what it meant to actually race in the water, so what I wanted from this one was to go hard, every moment.It was lovely, as it always is, to roll out of bed and into the car and arrive at the race all in a twenty-minute window. I pulled out my most ridiculous swim cap because God forbid I ever do anything that could be accused of taking myself too seriously, plugged in my ear plugs and yanked the freak up into my crotch. A couple of minutes of a warm-up in the whirlpool and then I worked my way into the water and up to the front.
There was a bit of a delay waiting for the ambulance to show up so the race could start, and I chatted with someone I know from Rally and peeked around at all the fairly-well-known pro triathletes that were splashing and arm-swinging right next to me. It's Boulder, it's crazy, but this is how it goes, you race whoever shows up. And despite knowing that I was surrounded by people that were going to put quite a bit of time into me when the day was said and done, when the gun went, I went with all of them like I belonged there too, straight off the front.
I didn't think, because thinking while racing is generally my downfall. I know that I swam, hard. All the thousands of yards that I put down the week before the race (got a little excited about being back at masters) made me groan for a second, and then I shoved those thoughts right on out. I stayed with the pack all the way to the first turn buoy, scrabbling at the back, hanging desperately onto the feet of someone strong and straight. Then we made the hard left turn and I breathed for just a second and they were gone.
I dug in as best I could (fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck) and tried to latch back on, but it was too late. Another turn, I spent the back stretch watching the flailing arm of whoever dropped me pull slowly away, first five yards, then twenty then about a hundred. And I swam alone, all the way across the back, digging for whatever I could find. A few times I caught myself thinking, can I swim this hard and still swim another loop? and then I would mentally shake myself and reset my thoughts to, is this the hardest I can swim RIGHT NOW? I didn't care if I blew up, or positive split the race by twenty minutes, I wanted to go searching for the bottom of my swimming well and I was going to find it if it killed me (which fortunately it did not).
Starting the second loop was tough, quite a few swimmers broke off and finished (there was also a 1.2 mile option) and once I got past the finish arch there was no one out in front of me. We were swimming directly into the rising sun and I couldn't find the buoy, I felt like I was sighting off of nothing and was a bit afraid that I was heading into nowhere at 900 swimming watts. I never caught anyone on that second loop, but the fear of someone catching and passing me kept me hauling, that was the only thought I really had for those 29 minutes and it kept the pedal all the way down to the floor.
When I made the last left turn to finish up, I thought I caught sight of someone right behind me and it gave me one last shot of adrenaline. Hard to the shore, I was breathing every stroke, I was thrashing and falling apart and water was going up my nose and all I could do was keep on stroking, hard and strong and wide. I finally felt my hands touch the ground, I stood up and staggered through the arch, my eyes found the poet and I managed to get the top half of my wetsuit off and then stood there, panting and spitting and completely shelled (and with an excellent beard of sludge from the reservoir).
When I got my eye on the race results later that afternoon, I found that I swam an hour - just about flat - and was completely slaughtered by three pro triathletes but managed to stay out in front of the rest of the women's field. Like everyone says, that's Boulder. And that doesn't really matter, what matters more is that I absolutely emptied my tank in the water. Empty. I was so wiped that I could barely stay awake while we waited for our table at brunch, I couldn't even hold myself upright.
The next morning I went out for a bit of a ride, and I felt flat and exhausted and ended up rolling home at 39 watts. Later in the day, I was outside and my sinuses started to itch a bit. I chalked it up to allergies and popped some claritin, but Monday morning I woke up and my head felt comically clogged, sinuses swollen to bursting and throat sore from all the drip. I put myself straight back to bed with only a little bit of, uh-oh, 70.3 world championships are in six days...