I was watching the weather report all last week and it read something like “Gorgeous sunny fall weather every singe goddamned day except Saturday, when it’s expected to be cooler and maybe rain a little in the morning, but if you’re doing a triathlon for the first time you shouldn’t be worried or anything because we’re just saying chance of some showers, not like a torrential downpour of epic holy-shit proportions or anything, ha ha ha ha.”

Ha ha HA. So anyway, it rained on Saturday, like a whole fucking lot. It was pitch black and water was drumming on the roof when my alarm went off, and I know some of you are thinking, well, you DO live in Seattle, but I’m telling you it was like some kind of cosmic joke, the sudden appearance of miserable February weather in the middle of an otherwise perfectly lovely September.

I had put a lot of thought into my transition area but had failed to consider the possibility of everything being wet, so I kind of improvised with draping towels here and there and tucking my shoes under some clothes, but really, I shouldn’t have bothered. Everything got completely drenched, and it didn’t matter anyway because, you know, it rained on me the whole time.

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I was in the fourth wave for the swim and while we stood around waiting I was insanely grateful for the wetsuit, because while it wasn’t completely freezing out or anything, it sure wasn’t comfortable. We all watched the Elite swimmers—the nutbags who were doing the entire race twice—complete their swim in about five minutes, which was humbling and also sort of made me want to stick out my foot and trip them as they galloped by.

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Then it was my turn, and all us yellow-caps splashed into the water at once. It was . . . oh, let me get back to the swim part.

So! When I finally heaved myself back out of the water (spoiler alert: I didn’t drown) I knew I should be running at top speed to my bike, but uhh, there was definitely some walking at first. Also, some gasping and wheezing. Eventually I managed to force myself into a kind of half-trot and got to my sodden transition area, where I started peeling my wetsuit off, forgot the timer chip strapped around my ankle until JB—who was standing nearby—reminded me, got out of the damn suit and put on my helmet, shoved on my shoes, then almost forgot the timer chip again. Smooth move, Ex-Lax.

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I ran my bike to the mount-up area, jumped on, and thus began the easiest part of the race by far. I’ve never ridden my bike in the rain before so I was tentative at first, especially on turns and going through puddles of standing water, but overall it really just felt exhilarating and completely hilariously insane. Like, seriously, who rides their bike in a damn monsoon while wearing nothing much more than a swimsuit? Apparently I do! WHEEEE!

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The bike course was a 4.5 mile loop that we had to do twice, and I’m sure I was much faster the second time around after getting my bearings and not being so worried about hydroplaning or whatever. There was one hill that briefly wiped the smile off my face both times around, but I still felt pretty good—lots of people had to get off and walk, while I motored along with . . . well, not ease, but it was definitely doable. And thankfully, short.

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When I got back to my transition area (they call this T2, if you want to be all, you know, slangy and shit) I was like a drowned rat—my shoes, socks, clothes, everything was soaked and I had dirt and crap all over me. JB was there saying encouraging things and I blurted “I CAN’T FEEL MY FEET” because no kidding, I couldn’t. My feet were almost totally numb, and I don’t know if it was the cold or the wet or my laces or what, but when I started running I felt like I was hobbling on two dead stumps or something.

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My feet seriously felt like that for the first three-quarters of the run, which really sucked, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. The run was really short, only 1.5 miles, and when I was heading back in my feet finally woke up and my knees warmed up and my ankles stopped feeling like they were made of cement and I could take longer strides and it was just starting to feel like something I could actually DO when I realized it was almost over. I passed a volunteer who jumped up and down and shouted “EYE OF THE TIGER, BABY!” and I could feel this enormous grin stretching my face in half and I passed another runner and I could hear someone behind me and I passed John Curley who shouted, “You’ve only got 50 more yards to go! If you’ve got anything left in you, use it up!” (side note: he was enormously motivating and awesome during the whole event, and I take back every single time I have called him an annoying-ass doucheburger) and I sped up and I could hear the person behind me running faster and as we approached the finish line we were both sprinting to beat each other and she beat me by a stride.

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But I was the one with the massive blissed-out smile, so there.

My finish time was 1:05, and I was 94 out of 245 racers. In my age group, I was 10 out of 27. The numbers didn’t really matter to me, but I can’t lie, I feel good that I was in the top half.

I feel best about how I did during the bike segment. In retrospect, I wish I would have ridden the loop once just to be familiar with it, and of course I wish it hadn’t been raining, but I never felt tired or out of energy. The run could have gone better if my feet hadn’t felt so weird, but at least I didn’t slow down and walk. I’m glad I was able to pick it up at the end.

Sooooo, the swim. Yeah. The swim, frankly, sucked. As soon as I was in the water, I kind of freaked out, and I basically stayed freaked out the whole time. I couldn’t get away from people and find my own space, and some people flipped over right away and started doing backstroke so they were extra kicky and oblivious. I just could not keep my face in the water, no matter how hard I tried, and I don’t know if it was the stress or the exertion or the fact that it was so rainy and dark and creepy and the water felt like BLEAK MURKY DOOM (I couldn’t see a damn thing, and I know I’ve made a big fat deal about how I hate seeing seaweed and lake-slime and stuff but it’s so much worse not to see anything, oh my god), but all my training went flying out the window and I basically did a janky wannabe freestyle stroke with my head up the whole time. It wasn’t quite a dog paddle, but it certainly wasn’t efficient, and it was exhausting. I was breathing in short panicky gasps and twice I had to flip onto my back just to regroup.

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At least I wasn’t alone, other people were obviously flailing during the swim too. And I actually did okay overall despite how I felt—I ranked 14 out of 27 in my age group for the swim, and finished in 11:21. It wasn’t like I had to be rescued or anything, but I was disappointed that I didn’t perform better. Not that I didn’t go faster, but that I couldn’t do it with a proper stroke. I hated that I got so scared and had to take those rest breaks, because I can absolutely swim that far without any problems in a damn pool. I know it was all mental, and that pisses me off.

Well, I wanted to fess up to the partial swim-fail, but overall I feel positive about how I did. Physically I felt pretty strong the whole time, and I crossed the finish line giving it everything I had.

You guys. I did a fucking triathlon, you guys. It was both harder than I thought it was going to be (the swim, the rain), and much easier. It was fun, of all things. I didn’t expect that. I expected to feel good when I was done, and I did. But I didn’t know I’d be smiling almost the whole way through.

I can’t even say how grateful I am for all the support you’ve shown me on this thing, through comments and emails and Twitter. It made such a difference, in so many ways.

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And you know what? I’m committing to the Danskin, a sprint triathlon in Seattle next summer. 12 mile ride, 5K run, and . . . a half mile swim. I’ve got almost a year to get ready, and by god, I’m going to get over this water thing and I am going to be faster and stronger and I am going to kick ASS.

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NLB
NLB
12 years ago

Congratulations! I am so impressed and inspired! You are awesome.

Lauren
Lauren
12 years ago

YAY! Great job! You are now a triathlete, and you persevered through some very tough conditions to get there. I think you should get two medals for doing a race when the weather sucks. Your next race will be easier, mentally and physically.
If I might make a suggestion, though: the Danskin might not be the best race for your second tri. It is a HUGE race. There are several thousands of women who do this race, and the sheer numbers can make things a little challenging (crowded swim, crowded bike course). The Seafair tri is a month earlier, the same course, and less than half the people. However, the Seafair race is a little more competitive, while the Danskin is all about the experience and finishing. Just something to think about.
Anyhoo, CONGRATS!

d
d
12 years ago

way to fucking go!!! Awesome and inspiring. I love that youre smiling. this is such a great post. well done.

haitian american family of three

That so amazing! I got teary from the joy on your face as you ran and biked. Totally inspiring.

B
B
12 years ago

Kick ass. Strong, girl. Strong.

Philos
12 years ago

“I am going to kick ASS.”

You already do, Linda. You already do.

Amanda
12 years ago

SQUEE! Dude, you are such a fuckin’ inspiration. YOU ROCK!

Junni
Junni
12 years ago

You = The Shit.

Soleil
12 years ago

You are REALLY inspiring, Linda. Congratulations! Also, you look fantastic.

Corinne
Corinne
12 years ago

I love the finish photo! You made me cry with your goofy-ass grin. I’m so proud of you.
I wish I lived closer so I could internet-stalk you into some lessons, because I know we could work out these swim bugs. Two things come immediately to mind, which I now feel bad for not saying sooner, like it would have mattered, but still:
1. Don’t feel like you have to do crawl. It’s the most tiring of all the strokes (well, except butterfly, but let’s not be ridiculous). And although it’s the fastest, at this level you’re not looking to shave seconds anyway. How about getting a good breaststroke going? Efficient, fairly fast, and heads-up so you won’t be so panicky.
2. If you really feel like you have to do crawl, the number one mistake people make is in breathing. Be sure to actually EXHALE (blow some bubbles!) when your face is in the water. Everyone holds their breath, then does a big puff and suck when their face comes out. It’s so tiring and inefficient, to gasp like that. Try to make your breathing as close to normal as possible. Set your stroke by it. Learn to rotary breathe (both sides). If you get your breathing more relaxed, you will swim so much better (and not be so taxed when you get out of the water!)
You did soooo awesome!!! I’m super inspired and although I’m not willing to make any public pronouncements, my new shoes come tomorrow.

babs
12 years ago

OMG. You described my *exact* experience of doing the swim part in my one and only Danskin. (way back in 2002) And yet, you still made me want to try it again. That feeling of accomplishment at the end is the best… and your smile is priceless!

Jen
Jen
12 years ago

Delurking to say that you totally kicked ass. I felt proud knocking off my first 10K this year, but I don’t believe that the expression on my face was quite so effing joyful. What an inspiration! Woot woot! Think I’ll go for a run.

Jo
Jo
12 years ago

Good for you! My husband runs sprint level tri’s and I read your post to him. He says.. “Awesome!”. He’s a man of few words… :-) AND- for no good reason– he has run 6 or 7 sprints now, and he can never keep his head in the water, everyone is just too spastic.

louise m
louise m
12 years ago

Now you know what to expect in the open water part, so the next time you can be better “mentally” prepared. Congratulations, you did an awesome job!!

babelbabe
12 years ago

YAY YAY YAY!! I am so happy for you! Congratulations!

jessica fantastica
jessica fantastica
12 years ago

Way to go!!!

Meggish
12 years ago

Hero! Seriously, you are five kinds of awesome. And for the record, I don’t swing that way, but you totally hot in that swimsuit-shorts-whatever combo. No worries.

Meggish
12 years ago

Ahem, you ARE totally hot. Oh verbs, you kill me.

Corinne
Corinne
12 years ago

I’m feeling a little bad about my comment – I think I glossed over your awesomeness a little too quickly and dove into suggestions. Swimming is the only part I know anything about so I went straight to that, but I should have been more clear about how amazed and inspired I am by your tremendous accomplishment. Three cheers for Linda!

Lesley
Lesley
12 years ago

God, I am sooooooooo impressed. Especially your time. YOU DID THE WHOLE THING IN AN HOUR! Ack. That is beyond AWESOME. I think it would take me a half hour just to do the run, and to get through that run on numb feet is beyond admirable.

It couldn’t have been easy in the rain either because that just adds stress right off the bat, but you didn’t let that hold you back at all.

Now, you must go out and buy a kick ass backless evening dress because your back in that one shot is AMAZING. Whatever they are making you do at that gym of torture is working every muscle, obviously.

I have no doubt you will soon be doing Death Valley 85 kilometer marathons or something.

I have a question. What shoes do you have? Did they provide the support you needed?

Michelle
Michelle
12 years ago

You rock! I get all teary and emotional over people accomplishing physical feats…. way to go Linda!

Stacey
Stacey
12 years ago

Girl, you already kick some major ass. I would’ve died before I even hit the water.
You are a total rockstar!!!

Shannon C.
Shannon C.
12 years ago

Yaaay, congrats! I noticed it was very dark and rainy on Saturday and almost wimped out on doing my 25-mile bike ride (Kenmore to Marymoor Park on the Sammamish River Trail) because I didn’t want to get rained on, wah! But then I remembered that you were doing your triathlon and you had NO CHOICE but to ride/swim/run in that crap weather. So, I went. I got rained on. And I smiled the whole time! You inspired me, Linda, and for that I thank you.

Debbie
Debbie
12 years ago

If any post is worth coming out of lurkdom and commenting on, it’s this one. You are awesome, an absolute inspiration, and you look so amazing in those photos. It’s like all the strength and determination just shine through your face. You rock.

Meagan
Meagan
12 years ago

CONGRATS! The feeling of finishing your first tri is amazing. And I’m glad you decided to sign up for the next one! For what it’s worth, I totally freaked out during my first triathlon swim as well (like holding onto the kayaks and everything). The next one was better, the one after that a little better. After about three races, it was totally NOT a big deal. You will get this.
Also, you look awesome!

Lana
Lana
12 years ago

There’s something in my eye. Really.

You are amazing! And one of my inspirations.

Kari C.
Kari C.
12 years ago

Ok, I SO want to try a little triathalon like you just did. I am no where even close to being in shape, but you are SO inspiring and you made it look like FUN work! ;) And let me tell you, I HATE running, so much that I don’t do it ‘cuz the “girls” are too big and it’s uncomfortable, but damn it all, I am gonna start trying! Thanks!!! :]

Kendra
Kendra
12 years ago

Congrats! And you know what? You look like a total hard-ass in all of your pictures. You do!

Jen
Jen
12 years ago

You are awesome! I love your beaming smile in all the photos. Congratulations on FINISHING, and doing so well on your attempt.

(In other news, I was the poster a few weeks back who was all fired up to get a bike seat for my daughter, so I could start riding again. I found a bike trailer on my company’s FreeCycle site, and I’m Queen of the Road again! Thanks for the motivation!)

Jen

Janet
Janet
12 years ago

Wow, you totally kicked ass! I love the finish line picture, you are obviously the one having the most fun which is what it’s all (well, mostly) about!!

WOOT! Rock on with your bad self!

Ashley
12 years ago

YAY! DOUBLE YAY! TRIPLE FUCKING YAY!

Jess
Jess
12 years ago

So proud of you! you identified your fears, met them head on and conquered them. you are inspiration to so many and I hope that you realize this. way to go!!!

Ris
Ris
12 years ago

Yup, this totally made me cry. Also? You are SUCH a badass. Congratulations.

wordygirl
12 years ago

So proud of you, Linda! ROCK ON!!!

Ginger
12 years ago

You really are a badass, girlfriend. You rock!

Playstead
12 years ago

I gotta give it up to you: setting your mind to it and doing a triathlon is friggin’ awesome. The only thing I can get motivated for right now is the bottom of a bottle of Syrah and Say Anything on Starz.

Marshall Karp
12 years ago

Kudos, baby. It’s really a quadrathalon if you count the transition into the blogging segment. That probably took longer than the tri.

BTW, I always finish first in my age group, but that’s because all the other guys my age are dead.

Jessamyn
12 years ago

You rock!

Deb
Deb
12 years ago

YAY YOU!!!!!!

April
April
12 years ago

You are awesome Linda! You are a total badass!

Man. I really want to do a triathlon now.

Valria
12 years ago

Nicely Done Linda.
Good job! Good for you!

Jenny
12 years ago

I had a huge smile myself the entire time I was reading this. This is awesome and inspiring!

Lori
12 years ago

Congrats on getting out of bed in the rain.

Swimming in the race vs swimming in the pool is like learning to drive on a country road and then trying to negotiate your way around Manhattan.

Thanks for fessing up to the swimming trouble because most of us have similar experiences.

2 weeks before my first 1/2 Ironman I did a “little sprint” to get race experience. My swim went just like yours. I panicked. Every day for two weeks I drove an hour to a lake and practiced swimming.

I have now done 2 full Ironman races and won my age group in one. I have learned I need to get in the water and warm up, get used to the environment. Sometimes it takes 15 minutes but better I get calmed down before the race than spend 15 minutes during the race trying to find my rhythm.

Kristen
Kristen
12 years ago

You are so fucking inspiring! Congratulations!

KF
KF
12 years ago

If I EVER become a mom, you are one of the ones I shall try to model myself after. I know you’re gonna’ think that’s creepy – but you are a healthy, happy, neurotic example of everything that’s right with the world right now. Great work.
Way to kick ass!

kimblahg
12 years ago

Oh my God, you are already such the ass kicker. Great job, you are an inspiration.

victoria
victoria
12 years ago

Linda, you made me laugh when you Tweeted, “People with lobe-stretching earrings officially make me hyperventilate. Young MAN, you won’t be a funky barista FOREVER.”

I used to feel that way about all permanent body-modification (including tattoos). The only body modification I could tolerate was single piercing of the ears. I wasn’t allowed to pierce my ears until I was 18, but when I finally did have pierced ears, I got SOOOO much pleasure for wearing earrings! (My mother went to her grave with unpierced ears because permanent body modification for cosmetic disgusted her so much: “What are you going to do next,” she would ask, “put a bone through your nose?”)

Now, the only body modification that still really freaks me out is pierced ears on babies. Tackeeee.

Operation Pink Herring
12 years ago

Linda, this is so, so awesome. I am so proud, and I don’t even know you. And the photos are awesome, way to go JB (or whoever took them)!

allison
allison
12 years ago

CONGRATS! you deserve a whole week of grins :)

Rebecca
Rebecca
12 years ago

YOU ALREADY KICK ASS!