So. The triathlon. Otherwise known as “the day I almost went gently into the light while wearing a bike helmet and a discount sports bra.” It was no bueno, people. No bueno at all.
The big day began last Sunday at 4 a.m. when I woke up and checked my email. I was touched to see that one of the women in my neighborhood had sent my entire team a message saying that she’d “prayed for every one of us to do awesome.” Of course, it’d soon become glaringly obvious that Jesus must have been in the warehouse taking a smoke break when my name came up, but still. It’s always nice when Heaven gets a heads up that you’re about to run a 5K.
I was definitely nervous the few days preceding the blessed event, but I was also filled with loads of delusional self-confidence. (Just like when I recently thought I could pull off a Meatloaf song during karaoke night. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” I can’t quit you.) While I hadn’t ever done a 12 mile bike ride and a 5K run on the same day before, I’d still trained enough to where I could cycle 8 miles, then run 2 miles without hurting myself. That, plus my three days of “hydrating” like a rabid chihuahua, led me to believe that I’d be just fine.
What a dumbass.
Because after standing around for 2 1/2 hours in 100% humidity—in air so sticky that even the birds were chirping, “Holy crap, man. Where’s my frickin’ inhaler?”—I was already feeling a little woozy. But even so, I chugged some Gatorade and hopped on my bike as soon as my relay partner finished her swim. I figured the cycling bit would be easy. I figured wrong.
The first part of it was okay; I actually passed people and zoomed up hills that others had to walk. But around Mile 6, I started to feel major chills throughout my head and body. It was like I’d just slammed a jumbo Icee and had brain freeze, only it was all over. Even so, I forced myself to keep on peddling until the end just so I’d be able to take off my padded bike pants before I collapsed. The last thing I needed was someone posting my picture on Facebook with the caption, “LOL!!! Big Ass Roadkill, Y’all!!!!” (Even during a triathlon, it’s important to manage your online reputation.)
Once off the bike, I was ready to call it quits, but decided I’d try to just walk the last leg of the race. I was still having chills and not really sweating (obviously some kind of heat exhaustion), but I really wanted to finish. And I did, finish, but let’s just say it wasn’t exactly graceful. Here’s how the 5K went down (cue theme from “Chariots of Fire”):
Mile 1: Stagger off bike and enter the running trail looking like someone fleeing a collapsed building. The three people standing on the sidelines cheering on the racers spy me and immediately change their chant from “You can do it! You can do it!” to “You can…do…wow. Jeezus H. Should we call 911…? Or airlift….? Well, bless her heart, I guess.”
Mile 1.5: Stop at water station and pour cup over my head to cool off. Now look like a ferret in a rain barrel.
Mile 2: While tromping on the trail through the hot, muggy forest, come to sad realization that if I’d been a soldier in Vietnam, I probably wouldn’t have earned the Purple Heart after all. I’d have been handed over to the enemy for complaining about my chafing panties.
Mile 2.3: In perhaps the best, most validating part of the entire race, get passed by a 300-lb. wheezing Grandma. And her 10-year-old granddaughter.
Mile 2.5: Water break. Ferret.
Mile 2.8: Shuffle past a crazy looking spectator on the sidelines who’s clanging a cowbell and screaming. She looks right into my face and blares, “SMILE!” My weakened state is the only reason I don’t cold-cock her with a bike pump.
Mile 3.0: Finally seeing the glimmering finish line, I gasp and zig zag toward it like a junkie running into his favorite crack house. I notice my team standing on the sidelines, all but recovered from the race they finished an hour ago. They scream my name, then one of them trots over and says, “Let’s run!” I’m too tired to protest.
Mile 3.1: As I slowly jog to the very end, I pass my husband and two boys who are there cheering for me. I’m so happy that they see me cross the finish line and get my triathlon medal, it doesn’t even matter when I come in behind someone in a walking cast.
The next few minutes are spent in the medical tent where they load me up with Gatorade and ice packs, then finally, mercifully, I go home, take a shower and pass out on my bed until dinner time. It’d been one of the longest, most exhausting days of my life, but—I still made it through without uttering the word “motherf*$#er” even once.
And for that I’m very proud.
(And I’d like to thank everyone for the funny comments and words of encouragement last week. You’re all fantastic.)