Reflections on an unfinished race: Lessons Learned

As I mentioned a few days ago, I planned on completing my first sprint triathlon since my surgery. It was not meant to be.  I didn’t finish because I panicked in the water.  I did complete the bike, however.  I still count it as a celebration and I will explain all of it, the good and the bad.

When things go wrong

Things happen that we can’t always control.  It’s just part of life. Friday night I took my bike to Geoff, the bike mechanic from Bike Link who was taking care of our bikes, and he discovered a broken spoke on the back wheel. As  I think about it now, it may have happened when I was riding on Thursday night because things did not feel right coming back. I thought it was just because I was heading into the wind and trying to work through various shifting combinations. I was certainly glad I had him look at it Friday night instead of Saturday morning but the bike couldn’t be fixed until Saturday morning.  It stressed me a bit but I really tried to put it out of mind because I knew they would take care of me.

On Saturday morning the person who had the spoke had a flat tire on the way.  There was an alternate plan though.  Joe had an extra set of wheels that could be put on my bike for the morning.  It was pretty close to race time but I thought I was still ok with everything. The bike was ready.  I was set up.  I still felt pretty ready to go.

My week has been busy and I have been pretty tired.  The past couple of days I have not been feeling great.  None of these are meant to be excuses for what happened.

I really had not worried about the swim at all since my swim has just been getting stronger and Friday morning I had my fastest 500 time ever. Since I swam 2600 Friday morning and I was feeling a bit tired I did not go in the water Friday afternoon.  Mistake one. I should have yesterday or this morning, but I didn’t.  (One of my friend Lisa’s rules that I try to follow.)  The swim start went pretty fast and there were a few people missing in my group so I was in the water slightly before I figured I would be.  The start was also a little different than I remembered last year. As soon as my face hit the water I felt it – panic.  The water was much warmer than I thought it would be this morning. I still think of lakes as cold and I guess I need to get over that. I began swimming but felt like I was not even moving so I flipped on my back and swam for a bit.  I flipped back over to site since it is kind of hard to see on my back and felt the panic again.  I am very glad that Sam made me spend the time in the deep end of the Aquatic Center pool treading water.  At that point I knew I needed to get to the buoy or the kayak.  I kept going to the buoy while trying to signal the kayak that I needed help.  We finally connected.  Most of the swimmers had passed me by this point but there were a few people left. Jennifer, who was in the kayak, offered to paddle along next to me so I could finish and maybe I should have tried but I felt like I was done.  It didn’t seem like it was meant to be so I held on and went into shore.

Coming out of the swim to transition

Those of you who know me well know I don’t give up easily.  At that point I was feeling pretty bad because I really had not expected any problem with the swim.  I had done this swim before but I haven’t done any open water swimming since last summer. I walked back up to the transition area knowing that I was going to see my coach, other people I knew, and the guys who helped me with my bike.

Moving on

When I reached the transition John, Eric and Karen were near the fence. They were so supportive and encouraged me to go ahead and do the bike course even though I would not have a time.  I hesitated but then went ahead. I think I didn’t realize I could go ahead and bike anyway.

One thing I have not mentioned yet is that I had paid for a VIP pass. It was a very good decision.  On Friday we had driven the bike course as a group and John gave us advice for various sections of the course. Like the swim, I had ridden the course last year but I had a hard time with it.  I rode a good bit of the course with John last weekend before I had the bike fit this week and that went fairly well. Today I had a bike that fit me, I understood how to use my gears and shift, and I had borrowed Zipp 101 wheels. It was a good ride.  I made every hill, up and down, without much trouble. A couple were a bit slower than I would like but I know with practice that I will get faster. I completed the course 10 minutes faster than last year.

The most difficult thing on the course was the crash I had to go around.  As I was going out emergency vehicles began passing me which was a bit unnerving.  By the time I reached the crash site, there were a number of vehicles and emergency personnel working with the person who had crashed. One lane was closed and a number of cyclists had stopped and were helping direct traffic, bikes and cars.  The cyclist was taken to the hospital and my understanding is that he will recover but had some serious injuries.

Oak Mountain is a challenging course. There are hills and cars to contend with on the road as well as the rest of the cyclists. Some of the hills are a bit deceptive and others are not.  Of course, what goes up has to come down and vice versa.  I am feeling a bit better about speed now though looking down at one point and seeing 30 on my bike computer was a bit much. I slowed down at that point.  I will just keep working on control on the bike and learning how to improve getting up the hills.

Positive outcomes

As I mentioned, I paid for a VIP pass for this race. The support from the coaches from e3tri, Jennifer and Kelli, and the support from Bike Link were all fantastic. The other triathletes who were in the VIP area were all great as well. I enjoyed meeting everyone.

One of the best things was meeting Laura and Lyndsey who were on the ADA’s Team Red Alabama team for Tour de Cure. It is always hard to get the whole team together at that event since everyone bikes different routes and we begin and end at different times. I so appreciate all the team members though and am always happy to actually meet people.

Karen, me,Brian, Laura, Lyndsay

Another very good thing that resulted was meeting Kelli Eldridge.  We had  a long discussion after I finished the bike. She told me about her experience being pulled off the bike course in a half Iron she had trained for for a year and a half. We shared our personal stories about weight and health issues.  I have found a new friend and someone who I can train with in the future. Her story inspires me.

Other people shared stories as well.  Brian Darr, a friend from Tuscaloosa, told me about one of his experiences. Karen Doehrman, one of the e3tri coaches, told me about a friend who just kept trying in the swim and completed the Florida Ironman this year. Everyone was very supportive and encouraging.


My next open water swim is July 21 at the Wet Dog Tri.  I plan on conquering it.

There are a few more things that I want to write about but this is getting long and I have some homework to do tonight.  I finish up tomorrow.

About millie jackson

I am a librarian, a yoga teacher, a storyteller, an athlete.
This entry was posted in Achilles Tendon, bikes, challenges, e3tri, injury, John Hanna, progress, races, swimming, triathlon and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Reflections on an unfinished race: Lessons Learned

  1. Kelli Eldridge says:

    Absolutely an honor to meet you yesterday, Millie! You are on an epic journey, and you have no idea how much greatness is in store for you in triathlon! The highs and lows, every part of the JOURNEY, shape you, sharpen you, and provide you with the experiences you need to keep moving forward. Savor all of them! Look forward to training with you, and learning from you!

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