Sorry for using such strong language to start a blog post. You see, I decided to do the Codorus Blast Triathlon for a bit of fun. My open water swims in triathlon have been an on-going challenge not for physical reasons but due to the twisted mass of grey matter between my ears. For some reason, despite having completed a couple Half-Ironman’s (including my best, most fun swim to date), my brain hasn’t accepted the fact that open water swimming is fun.
But I’m getting ahead of the story. The Codorus Blast takes place at Codorus State Park and is a bit of a celebration of summer. It features kids games, kayaking, boat rides, fireworks, dock dogs, cotton candy and all the things that make summer summer. Janice and I headed for Hanover, PA on Friday afternoon and found ourselves billeted in a pretty little campsite at the State Park. Codorus’ camp sites are notoriously un-level so we were pleased to only have to put down a few blocks to level up. We enjoyed a coule cups of “State Park Punch” and cheese and a small dinner, after which I went for a short, easy shake out run around the park.
It is not often in 2013 that you get to run by a grove of real American Chestnut trees. But the American Chesnut Foundation has a grove of trees on the main road in the park campground. The idea is to encourage the growth of blight resistant American Chestnuts and cross breed them with Asian or English Chestnuts & wind up with a tree that is 99% American Chestnut. If you have a few extra bucks lying around this would certainly be a worthy cause.
Friday night led to a good night’s sleep with the race on Saturday morning. This is an unaffiliated completely for-fun event. USAT rules were not enforced and you could even complete the bike or run if you didn’t quite make it through a stage of the event. That was all good, but I was a little less than impressed with the lax security around transition. There weren’t fences or racks or anything and nobody to really keep anyone from making off with your stuff. Fortunately I had no issues there.
Boy . . really jumping around on this one. Anyway, Janice and I drove over to registration around 8:00am when it first opened. It turns out there really wasn’t a reason to hurry. The event had a total of about 70 competitors including some relay teams. It would feature a 1/2 mile swim in beautiful Lake Marburg, a 12 mile ride with a couple hills but nothing intolerable, finishing with a 5K run (perhaps a tad longer than that) that culminated in a mile through the shaded woods. Read that as trail run . . not my favorite. That said, I had walked these trails before and decided long ago that if I were going to be a trail runner, this would be the place.
I set up my transition area using one of the few convenient trees. This was the most laid back transition ever. I could put stuff wherever I wanted. It was kind of like spreading out a picnic basket. Looking around transition there was every sort of bike to be seen. A couple tri bikes, a lot of road bikes, some mountain bikes, a cruiser or two, and a few hybrids.
I got set up and then spied my friend Danielle walking in to registration. I caught up to her and said hi and then headed back out to get ready to warm up for the swim. The race is billed as always wetsuit legal (again no USAT constraints) but the water would have been cool enough anyway, being in the high 60s. I donned my wetsuit and tinkered about paddling here and there.
Okay confession time. (Are you reading this Erica?) My coach had prescribed a fairly thorough and specific 15 minute warm-up. I swam out about 50 yards out and back about 50 yards. I realized I had my wedding ring on and got out and gave it to my wife lest it fall off in 50′ of water. I then went back in and swam a couple short laps up and down the shore and then got out. Not 15 minutes. Not the thorough warm-up with sighting practice I was supposed to do. The water jitters started before the swim. I didn’t want to have my face in that water any more then I needed to. (In case you don’t know it this is somewhat of an A HA! moment for me.)
We stood on the shoreline looking out trying to figure out the swim course. There were a couple distant, small, orange buoys but that was it. They weren’t very big. Hmmm. Soon the mystery would be unraveled. The organizers called the pre-race meeting to order. Indeed, we were to swim to the two orange buoys, conveniently located near the tip of a conspicuous island. Easy enough for sighting purposes anyway. It was a straight out and back swim. We got some additional instruction on the bike & run and were set to start. Men first. Then the ladies. Swim, bike, run. Simple enough. Right?
Right. Assuming I could get through the swim. This should have been easy. The water was cool and clean. No waves. An easy point of reference for sighting. I had covered 50 yards out in warm-up really quickly. No problem. Well . . maybe a couple.
Swimmers ready? GO! The chaos of the start. My mind churned. Damn. Someone’s legs. Crap, my right goggle lens filled with water. “Dummy. You took them off after warming up and didn’t try them again when you got back in the water”. Fix the goggles. Puff, puff. Swim, swim. Shit! I can’t believe my Road ID just came off. Just what I need. Grab it and now what!? Okay . . stuff it in your wetsuit and keep swimming. Damn. It’s about over isn’t it? 50 yards from shore and I already can’t do this. I’m on my back for my jelly fish crawl. Sonofabitch. Crawl, crawl, okay flip and 10 real strokes. Why can’t I just keep swimming? I don’t know buy my mind won’t let me and I can’t overpower it. Crawl, crawl, stroke, stroke, crawl. This went on and on until I rounded the buoys and began to be passed by the women’s wave. Slowly I made my way back to shore. Once again completely and utterly demoralized by my lack of willpower.
I left the water, head hung low and heard voices urging me to the timing matt to the left. Okay. Whatever. It really doesn’t matter. I crossed the matt and, this being an informal event, Janice walked with me up the hill toward transition. I turned to her and said “I’m not even going to bother with the rest”. She said “You’re stopping”? “Yes. What’s the point”? I couldn’t believe that yet again, I was unable to actually swim like I’m capable.
I moped my way up the hill and somewhere along the way decided, I may as well ride & run. I spent $70.00 to do this. I wasn’t in a hurry though. I was exhausted from scissor kicking on my back nearly the whole way through the swim. I stripped off my wetsuit forgetting about my Road Id tucked inside only to have the luck of velcro have it stick to the inside of the suit. I tossed my goggles, and swim cap in disgust, donned riding shoes & helmet and set out on the 12 mile bike loop.
I started off just pedaling and not caring how fast or how hard. It was like Saturday in the park. Okay, it really WAS Saturday in the park but you get the idea. As I cleared the park entrance and hit the main road, riding felt good. Maybe I could burn off some disappointment. I got down on the bars and started to move. At this point most of the fast riders were way out in front of me so passing people wasn’t all that difficult but I did pass quite a few. I passed a lot of people who would never have been in front of me if I didn’t swim like a floating piece of driftwood.
The first few miles of the bike were fun with good road and a few rolling hills but no major inclines or descents. We were basically circumnavigating the lake. But things got interesting around mile 5. We had steadily been climbing up and up finally reaching a long, fast descent. I started out down on the bars and was zipping speedily along down the hill around 40 mph when it occurred to me that I have never been on this road and I can’t see what is around that bend. I sat up and got my hands near the brake levers. Good thing because around that bend was about 2 inches of gravel washed across the road. “Holy . . . whew”. Wow. “Hey look . . railroad tracks at 35 mph . . that should be fun”. The bike course went downhill in the figurative sense from there. We turned off on a scenic back road that hadn’t seen a paving truck since sometime in in the late 1920s. We also crossed the railroad tracks several more times. I passed a guy with a mountain bike and told him he had the right bike for that part of the course. Finally, we got back to the main road and I could get back on the bars and get some speed back.
Within the last couple miles of the bike course I saw the lead runners telling them each “Great job”! I was anxious to get to the run myself. I made the turn into the park and had to contend with a bit of automobile traffic but finally made my way back to transition. Janice was still there. She had a boat to catch to get to the finish. I left the bike pulled on my Zoot Advantage shoes, grabbed my hat and took off.
It’s funny how those first couple miles feel slow. I looked at my Garmin and was reassured my pace was faster than I thought. I decided not to run by pace but rather by feel. The first 2 miles of the run was paved road and it was hot. The last mile was shaded trail. As I said, I’m not a trail runner but the trails at Codorus are nice and I felt confident I could run moderately fast without tripping and falling. The challenge would be passing.
About a mile or so into the run I saw Danielle just coming back on the bike. I yelled to her and kept running. I passed everyone I saw on the run. I don’t know how many places I picked up overall but I passed at least 8-10 people on the road and another 4-5 after making the turn on to the trail. I glanced at my Garmin well after passing the 2 mile mark and it showed 3.0something. I thought I should and hoped I would be getting close to the finish. The shade of the trail was nice but I missed the breeze that was blowing on the open road. Finally, after passing a few staff members who assured me it wasn’t far I cleared the woods, saw the Easy-ups of the festival and turned left to see the finish line. I crossed at something like 1:27:34.
I grabbed a cold bottle of water and sat in the shade and compared notes with Janice. I was thoroughly disgusted with myself and my swim. I couldn’t believe I had choked on that one. From where I sat I could see a bit of the lake and the cool, inviting, water. How could I not want to swim in that? I couldn’t help dwelling on what may have been.
We decided to wait for Danielle to finish knowing she wasn’t far behind me. Janice had seen her come in to transition and cheered for her as she left on the bike before catching the boat across to the finish. We waited. And waited. One person finished after another and still no Danielle. I saw people finish that I knew she was ahead of. I was starting to worry. I was just about to ask the timing guy if he knew if she finished when she came limping around the corner off the trail. Oh no! Her right knee was bloodied and she was limping badly on her left foot. She crossed the line fighting back tears and I high-fived her as she went by. I thought for sure she had caught a root or something on the trail but she said she fell before then and had soldiered on for the last two miles with a twisted ankle & bloody, sore knee. Way to get it done Danielle! I’m proud of you. I secretly decided it would have been really embarrassing if I quit because I had a crappy swim.
We left Danielle in the good hands of the medical folks there to help and her friend Joshua and headed toward the boat to make our way back to transition. Once there, I was a bit relieved to find my bike & other belongings still in place and got them loaded in the car and headed back to camp. A bit later, Danielle texted me and informed me I had won 3rd AG. Hmm. Go figure. I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if I had really swam.
We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the Codorus Blast, and watching fireworks that night. I put on a cheery face, but was pretty glum about the swim. I wanted so badly to have a strong, confident swim. I wanted to put the mental bullshit behind me. That obviously didn’t happen. I was bummed enough about it that I seriously considered giving up on triathlon. I certainly did not have fun at the “fun” sprint. I mean, I’ve moped before about my swimming but this morning I SERIOUSLY considered calling it quits.
There is only one problem. I really DO like Triathlon. I know I can do these swims. It is the shortest part of the event. I will figure this out. I should say we will figure this out. Coach Erica, myself, my friends, whomever I need to engage . . but I will win.