Thought for the Day

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tempe International Triathlon

On Friday, I had no intention of signing up for a triathlon. But there was the Tempe International Triathlon, just a few miles from my home. All of my local Triabetes phrends were doing it, Kevin, David, and Julie. They all encouraged me to "give it a shot."
So on Saturday I went down to Tempe Beach Park, registered, and checked my bike in. I fretted about it Saturday night, getting my stuff together. I got up at 4 AM Sunday morning and ate a quick breakfast.
I went back over everything I had prepared for the race:
- chilled water bottles to go onto my bike, partially frozen because it was going to be a hot day.
- insulin and a syringe in my Frio, in case my infusion set came out during the swim.
- bike shoes.
- running shoes.
- new Giro helmet and sunglasses.
- bike gloves.
- socks strategically rolled up to be easily unrolled onto my feet after the swim.
I drove back to the park for the race. The start was to be at 6:30 AM for the first wave, and I was in the third wave. I got there about 5:40 AM.
I got my chip on my ankle, got my number and age written on my arms and legs, and went in and carefully laid out my stuff for transition. I had turned my basal rate down thinking I didn't want too much insulin on board during the swim. When I checked, I was at 200.
I didn't want to be too high. I remembered everything I heard from my diabetic friends who have done this was that the adrenalin at the start of the swim will always send your blood sugar up. So I bolused half a unit.
I met with Kevin, David, Julie, and other friends. I talked for a while with Aaron.
Then it was time to actually walk over to the water. I pulled on my swim cap, put my goggles on my head, and got in line.
I watched and waited while the other waves were starting. I kept a look out for other people who looked like they might be as bad at swimming as I am. I saw a few people who stopped and did a side stroke for a few feet before swimming again. I was a little encouraged.
But I was getting a little doubtful looking at the actual course. It is a long way. I knew it was farther than I had ever swum before.
Then it was time to get in the water. I was far back in my group as I could get. I got in and started treading water. I can't say that it wore me out. I felt comfortable enough at that point.
And soon enough the horn went off and we were swimming ahead.
I only swam for a few strokes, then I looked up to see where I was. I was right where I should have expected myself to be, at the back of the pack. I took a few more strokes, and felt compelled to look up again.
I could only bring myself to swim a few strokes at a time, and I kept feeling more and more uneasy. So of course, I was falling farther and farther behind my wave.
Maybe I was hyperventilating. I can't say for sure. It just seemed like I couldn't bear to just put my head down and swim and keep swimming.
I had some thoughts running through my mind, things like maybe I should have checked my blood sugar again, maybe I'll go low because it's so far, the next wave is going to swim right over me, etc.
But it really wasn't a decision I made because I thought about it. I didn't reason it out, weigh the pros and cons, and decide I should quit. I was swimming a little, then stopping, swimming and stopping. I was looking at the girl in one of the kayaks thinking, "Will she help me?" Then out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the little piers they have paddle boats parked at. I had been drifting closer and closer to the shore.
I saw an easy way out, and I took it. As I said, I didn't think about. It was more like how you'd expect me to react if I'd fallen in. I found the quickest way out.
All of the preparation, everything planned and set up for the race, none of it mattered. I didn't even consider it. I just wanted out of the water.
Once I had grabbed onto the pier, I thought about all of the people watching. Most of them hardly noticed me climbing out. They were watching other people in the race. Still, I was surprised that I wasn't mortified. I ought to have been more embarrassed, but there didn't seem to be any point. It was done.
I just got out and sat down. I thought about it for a while, then went to the finish line and turned in my chip.
I'm seriously shaken up by this wake up call.
I was embarrassed at the race, but when I think about it, I'm ashamed that I had the audacity to get in the water without doing the necessary work first. My friends who rocked at the race yesterday were able to do it because they had done the work to prepare themselves.
I don't blame anyone for "talking me into it." No one knew where I was better than I did. Both registering for the race and quitting were my decisions, right or wrong.
So now, after hundreds of races, including dozens of marathons, I've got my first DNF in my first triathlon.
I'm trying to take the best lesson I can from this experience and re-commit myself to training harder, especially in swimming.
After bailing out, I actually had a nice morning walking around talking to people and watching the race. I had breakfast with Sue at a creperie in downtown Tempe.
Then I got back down to the finish just in time to see David, Kevin, and Julie finish their successful races.
Congratulations, Triabetes Teammates!


Anne said...

Jerry I hope you aren't too disheartened. It sounds like you have a good perspective. The open water swimming in a race situation can cause a lot of anxiety, especially if you are worried about your BG's. I have been there before. So what is your next race?

Erin Spineto said...

even for someone who grew up always wet in the ocean, its easy to trip yourself out mentally in a swim. its not like running where you can always walk if it gets hard. i just have to keep telling myself that I will float if I stop, my wetsuit will float me, all I have to do is get myself forward. that usually helps. though, I have to say on my last 3 races I haven't been able to put my head under either, I swim the whole way like a water polo player, freestyle but head up. it gets the job done but its not that fast either.
don't worry, it will click for you and you'll blow us all out of the water.

Saci & Carlene said...

yesterday was my first time doing an open water swim as a diabetic. even though I'm relatively comfortable in the water, I really need to do some of these training swims in lakes etc so I can get a feel for how my BG is going to react. Diabetes is one aspect of it, the other is just the plain old fact that it's completely different swimming with a group of folks thrashing around you, then it is in the controlled environment of a pool. I've read some great articles that encourage you to practice open water swims with a training buddy who can be splashing you, pushing you etc to help you learn to focus on the task at hand. When I was first diagnosed, the concept of the swim and worrying about my BGs just seemed too overwhelming, but hearing others tips (gel in swimcaps etc), helped me realize that if I plan for it my sugar will be fine and I can just keep swimming one stroke at a time.

Sean said...

Like another wise man said in Tucson last November, each of my three disciplines is my WEAKEST! My swimming is easily the worst too. It WILL come, though... from personal experience, I promise you that! Keep that attitude you expressed and we'll all conquer this together!

Nancy said...

That first time is scary any which way you look at it! Then you add the bg issues, and that elevates the whole fear factor. Does it make you feel better that you could sign up last minute for a marathon and finish it...because I know I couldn't right now:) It's practice, practice, practice...get back on that horse! You can do it!

Mike Fraser said...

In a year you'll think nothing of it Jerry. For now look at it this way..."hundreds of races" and this is your FIRST DNF. You rock!

jpnairn said...

Thanks, everyone, for all of your advice and encouragement.
Sorry I've been such a downer.
I promise the next race report I write for this blog will have a happy ending. :-)

PJ said...

Like everyone else said, don't let it get you down! My first DNF came in a tri too. I also had my first last place finish in the swim portion of one of my first tris. It's a stepping stone, right? You'll use the learning experience to do better next time.

agent_nero said...


Great work getting into the water. The thing that inspires me more than your 49 marathons is your genuine desire to push the envelope and continue to learn at an age when most people are trying to figure out how to do just the opposite. Embrace it and keep fighting the good fight!