I couldn't get him to sit down and type this himself, so he's dictating it to me:
First here's a little background. I don't have much experience with swimming. I did take swimming lessons when I was a little boy, and I can remember overhearing my teacher telling my mom that I wasn't a very good swimmer. Fast forward 20 years, and I can confidently say that I haven't improved much. Granted, until now I haven't tried so hopefully with some coaching and a lot of practice I will become a much better swimmer...short of drowning I can't get much worse, that's for sure. I knew that the swim was going to be the toughest part, and I knew if I could survive that part I could finish the bike and run.
Somehow my age group, 30-34 y/o men, was the last wave into the pond. Maybe they thought this would be a strong age group so starting us last would be smarter than, say the 40> women's group....they were wrong. I tend to get a little panicky in the water to begin with, add that to race-day nerves and a murky deep pond, and you have one freaked out Richard. I actually felt good for the first 5 minutes or so, and stayed up with the pack. After I started to get tired, I fell behind and started struggling. Let's just say that I had a good 7 minutes in the pond by myself. Every other swimmer in the entire triathlon was already moved onto biking and I was still floating, dog paddling, and hating life out there for 7 minutes as the lone swimmer left in the pond. It was just me and the lifeguard in the kayak. I'm pretty sure he got a good hand of solitaire in waiting for me to finish. There was still a pretty good crowd around because the start and finish of all 3 events was in the one main central location beside the pond. This one lady would cheer for me really loudly every time I would start swimming, then she'd get quiet when I would flip over on my back and gasp for air, then she'd cheer again when I would start swimming again. As I FINALLY neared the end of the swim, the announcer says on the PA "Swimmer approaching, swimmer approaching" and the photographer puts down his drink and runs back over to take my picture. Thanks Mr. PA announcer for drawing more attention to the fact that I was still in the water. I drag my exhausted body out of the pond and jog to the bike...the only bike left on the racks except for the couple of bikes already back on the rack from the elites in the first wave who are already onto the run portion. I can barely breathe, that 0.3 mile swim was the hardest thing I think I've ever done in my life. Time: 21 minutes
Unlike all the guys in their nice tri-shorts, I swam in boxer briefs and normal beach swim trunks. For the swim-bike transition, I had to strip down to my undies, then pull on my biking/running spandex and then my running shorts on over them. I didn't anticipate how hard it would be to pull tight spandex shorts on when you're soaking wet. There I am, hopping around in my underwear on one foot because the other foot is stuck in the spandex and I somehow manage to knock the bike rack over. At that point I was very thankful there were no bikes on the rack. I got it set back up, got both pairs of shorts, shoes, socks and helmet on and started towards the bike start. Time: 4 and a half minutes
When I got to the mat, a volunteer says "You can mount now." I keep walking. She says "Sir, you can mount now." I'm like...I would love to mount now, but I can't physically muster the energy, give me a second. I take a Gu and drink some water, mount the bike and take off. The course had some loops and out and backs, so I saw a steady stream of bikers coming towards me but none going my direction. About 4 miles in I meet Amanda and tell her I think I'm going to die. Actually, my exact words were "I'm f*c^i*ng last and I think I'm going to die." I was so worn out from the swim that I didn't have any energy to move very fast on the bike. About 7 or so miles in, I go through an intersection and the cop that has it blocked off asks me if I want the good news or the bad news. I tell him to hit me with the bad first. He says "Well, the bad news is, you're in dead last place. The good news is, you're halfway there." Ok, halfway, I can do this! My goal was to catch up to and pass at least one other biker. After a few minutes I spot a bike in the distance and I start pedaling like crazy to overtake him/her. I will not be last! I finally catch this triathlete, and discover that it is a woman probably in her 50s on a beach cruiser with a basket on the front. As I speed past her, I simultaneously felt pride at no longer being last and disbelief that I had sunk so low as to be proud of passing this biking Mary Poppins. As I went back through the intersection, the cop hands me a bottle of water and asks "Did you pass the lady with the basket on her bike yet." I told him I had, and he starts packing his cones up in the car in anticipation of the last biker approaching. I finally make it back to the transition area and am ready to move on to the run. Time: 55 minutes
T2: Lots of people are milling around already finished, eating bananas, drinking gatorade, etc. I drop of the bike, and start running. Time: about a minute
Run: Suprisingly I felt pretty good going into the run, probably because I felt much more in my element. My goal was 35 minutes for the 5K, and I beat that by about 4 minutes. The funny thing was I was passing by the central area about a mile into the run, at the exact same time that Amanda was coming down the home stretch and crossing the finish line. Basically she was on a road, there was a median full of specatators, then I was on the bike path running parallel to the road. Some friends had come out to cheer us on in the median-spectator area, and they saw me and were cheering for me at mile 1 and totally missed seeing Amanda finish since they were facing the bike path and had their backs to the finish line. She just laughed and said she thought I needed the cheering more than she did at that point anyway.
Overall thoughts on the experience:
It was incredibly humbling, but I will definitely do it again.