Disappointment is a pretty powerful emotion. It sucks. That’s how the 106° West Triathlon felt to me.
After last summer’s target mountain bike race, the Laramie Enduro, I decided to dedicate this summer to racing in triathlons. A few friends of mine had registered for 106° West and its seemed like a great opportunity. It was the first time the race was ever being put on. It was in beautiful Dillon, Colorado. The swim was being held in freezing cold Lake Dillon, the bike was a strenuous climb through the Rocky Mountains, and a rolling run around the lake. The tagline for the race is: It’s not going to be pretty, but it will be beautiful. Man, was that accurate.
While my friends registered for the half-ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run), I registered for what they were calling a Quarterman. The quarterman is basically a made up distance, but it’s exactly that: a quarter of the distance of an Ironman (.6 mile swim, 28-mile bike, 6.5-mile run). It was set to be the longest triathlon I had ever done, but not crazy like a half or full ironman.
I think deep down, I knew I wasn’t prepared enough for this race, which is what made the outcome that much more frustrating. I had actually trained for swimming for than I ever had. Though I hadn’t trained with a wetsuit. A friend of a friend actually gave me a wetsuit (score!) the week before the race, but it was a smaller size than I probably should have had.
On paper, the bike didn’t seem so bad. It was only 28 miles and in road bike miles, that’s not very far. What I didn’t consider was how steep the climb was going to be. We drove the course the night before and for the first 10 miles or so it was a gradual climb that was completely manageable. Then it went was felt like straight up.
Then there is the run. I don’t particularly like running, but the good news is you can always walk. So I kept telling myself that as long as I could get to the run, I would be ok and that belt buckle prize would be waiting for me at the finish.
Unfortunately, I think I created so much anxiety for myself I set myself up for failure. The morning of the race I was definitely nervous. I hadn’t slept much the night before and there was a constant fear of how cold the water was and how steep the climb was. I squeezed (very tightly) into my wetsuit and made my way down to the water to try and acclimate to the temperature. The water temperature was in the mid-50s and the air temp that early in the morning was in the high 40s. I took a deep breath and took the plunge. It was truly breathtakingly cold. I could feel the wetsuit doing its job around my core, but it was pins and needles to feel the water on my face.
The pomp and circumstance around the start of the race didn’t help my anxiety. It was the first time the race had been done and were making history and it was a long time coming and it wasn’t going to be pretty it was going to be beautiful and we were making history and we have to thank the people of Dillon for allowing us to make history…you get the idea. For most people maybe it didn’t feel so long, but to me it did. I was ready to get going.
In my experience, swims start from either a run to the beach or an about knee deep in the water. This swim started from a few meters out, where you couldn’t touch. I think I was doomed from that point. I started out slow and steady. My breathing felt strong, which is not something I could have said about earlier races. I was still panicked, though, and I couldn’t get that feeling to go away. I started getting really dizzy. They have safety kayaks in the water so my goal was to swim kayak to kayak and take my time. Just passed the turn buoy, I was not only dizzy but frustrated that I was dizzy that I started to crumble even more. I’m not really sure what clicked in my head, but I knew this wasn’t going to be my race. I had one of the kayakers call over a jetski and they took me out of the water. I got to hang out with the medics for a while before the vertigo feeling dissipated.
Once the adrenaline wore off is when the disappointment set in: what did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? What if I had finished the swim? Hindsight is always 20/20.
I am on the fence about registering for this race next year. I know (actually following) my training plan would help, but how do you get used to swimming in 50-degree water when you aren’t actually allowed to swim in Lake Dillon any other day of the year? Good thing I have a few months to actually decide!