Meanwhile, caring individuals in my world were trying to encourage me to not go, worried that I may contract pneumonia. Emphatic may be describing their attitudes mildly. But, I had determined to go and at least try.
Sarah and I scoped out the race course the night before and dipped our toes in the cold water of the lake. Sarah kept saying, "The water is really warm..--...really." I looked at her with true doubt in my eyes. But, I gave her points for chipperness. They gave a race clinic so you can understand how to transition from one activity to another. It was exciting to hear and I secretly hoped that I would not come in last place.
We chattered all the way home, talking about what to eat, what to wear, how to prepare the bike etc. We got semi lost on the way home, but the company was good and we got directions to point us in the right direction. It was an advantage that we traveled there the night before--got our bearings. We did not have to worry about getting lost in the morning which was a helpful thing with all the excitement.
Sarah came over to my house and we loaded our bikes up. We ate an egg, toast and a banana ( I ended up with egg all over my leg since I was trying to drive and eat at the same time). The eggs came from my chickens and were delightfully runny --encased in an easy over pocket. Yum. Anyway, my leg was a little crunchy under my long johns from the yoke bleeding through. Speaking of bleeding through, my monthly visitor decided to arrive on this particular morning. What else could try to dissuade me?
We show up on the scene where women were gathered,-bikes and helmets in hand. Supporters were kissing their loved ones rooting them on as they prepared mentally for the task before them. Sarah and I looked at each other excitedly as we were greeted by race officials to get our chips that would track our times between events. Tagged like birds we walked around drinking in all the hype and energy.
It was 20 minutes before the race and we needed to make final preparations. We placed our bikes on the racks, put our clothes underneath and took a bite to eat before heading down to the lake. As we left the transition area a drizzle began. I was in a decorative swimsuit -you know the kind with flattering neckline, pokadots etc. and realized that everyone else (and I mean everyone) wore official athletic suits. Hmm, I wondered why I was getting looks. So, me in my girly suit and Sarah in her athletic suit headed down to the shore. Goose pimples protruded on my arms as the rain decided to come down in earnest.
I said a silent prayer of thanks to God, knowing that the water would warmer than my skin and I would easily welcome the opportunity to jump in. No toe dippin, inch forwarding for me, full throttle run!
We were asked to line up according to our speed times for the swim. Those who could swim in under 3 minutes up front and so on. I figured I definitely would need to be in back, but I did not want to be last. Even though I knew my time would start when I crossed the start line, I still believe their can be a psychologically negative funk that comes with the perception of being last. So I nestled comfortably in the middle back and found a partner. We were lined up 2x2 and pairs were released 5 seconds apart.
Sarah was in the 8th or so pair and did very well. It was fun to cheer her on and watch as she stroked passed others. That girl can swim!
My partner and I, after many pairs ahead of me, approached the start. The race official said the "Go" and I plunged into the water. It was warm! The objective was to pass 4 buoys to my left and exit the water. 250 yards is a lot farther than you may think. The water was over my head, so there was no stopping and to my surprise, I passed 2 people as I traveled the course. It was still slow going because my breathing was overactive and I was getting tired but I knew I would make it though and I reminded myself, "This is just a swim in the park". I was so happy.
The race official warned that going from horizontal to vertical after the swim can prove a challenge. As I exited the water I went slowly and took my time up the hill. My lungs were in overdrive and I needed the breather between. At the top of the hill, they had pans with water to wash your feet. One sand granule, can ruin your day, so you take the minute to wash.
In the transition area, I ate a bite, drank some water and put clothes on. Next I donned my helmet and walked my bike to the mount area. They do this so folks don't literally run into one another. I was off--second leg!
My breathing was still labored but it was a welcome thing that I was on the bike. It did not help that mucous seemed to be my friend. However, my legs were working well and the air was cool. I noticed Morning Glories intertwined with corn stalks along the road as I rode and happily welcomed each turn in the road that indicated I was successfully traversing the course. I was passed by other cyclists and found that I passed few as well. I wondered if I looked pitiful, everyone who passed me encouraged me-- you know things like, "Keep going, you can make it." I am not sure I liked the encouragement at that point. A simple wave or "hi" would have sufficed. But then I was faced with what to say when I passed others. I decided a smile and a "hi" was good. I hope they did not think I was being smug.
In the last stretch there was a steep decline and the bike and I were booking. The road was slick, so I felt the need to brake a bit, just to feel a sense of control. But, as I rounded the bend, there was an equally or maybe more drastically steep hill going up. (Oh, no!)I had to be in my last gear and I was worried that the bike might topple from lack of forward motion. I pressed on and was successful but my legs were burnt. It was then that I saw Sarah up on the ridge of the dam running her heart out. I waved and said, "You go girl!" She was sooo far ahead of me. I was beaming with pride. (Yep, that is my buddy up there!)
I dismounted the bike and hung it up on the rack and realized that I had to pee. Pee?? In the middle of a race??? Come on! By the way, if there was a race for peeing, I probably would be the winner --I'm just sayin'.
With that out of the way, it was time for the run. Now those of you out there who don't know me, I must confess that in all my years, I have not been able to run. My asthma has prohibited it. So, this is quite a feat for me. Since returning to Ohio, I have been on a new medicine (Advair) that has increased my lung capacity and has helped me to overcome physical hurtles like these. I never thought I could become a runner and here I was running.
Well, maybe I should admit-- fast walking/running. My legs after that last hill, felt like logs. Thankfully, my legs, after a 1/2 mile of robot walking, stretched and recovered and I was able to run in earnest. There were race supporters with water in cups and it was then that I realized that I am not capable of drinking water and walking. So, I pushed on. I saw Sarah again as she was returning and we did a high 5 in passing. She was almost home. I was headed to the dam. Once I made it to the dam, I would be halfway done with the run. As I approached, I saw 4 turkey vultures circling at eye level. They were not going to get the best of me. (Vultures eat carrion and I did not plan to change my status-- so I kept moving-- they kept circling).
Home stretch-- I was on the return trip--more water--passed others and could see the finish line in the distance. I decided to run hard. I lengthened my stride, picked up my pace and focused on crossing that line.
Sarah was on the sidelines screaming my name and the announcer welcomed "Erin Sprouse" to the finish. It was exhilarating. I really did it and of course, I cried. Sarah was ready with a hug and we went down to the pavilion to scarf down some pb&j.
What a great time! Thank you Sarah--for fostering crazy ideas!