Knowing that my years of open water swimming would give me an advantage over the competition, I thought I would save the other ladies the humiliation of being passed, if not pummeled, by me in the water by situating myself at the front of the starting line at whatever triathlon that was in Santa Cruz in 2003.
I’ve blocked most of the painful details out of the entire race since then, but I did write a race report for it, which I sent to the Berkeley Bike Club. Most who read the report said it was lively and entertaining, but Scott Saifer, who is a professional coach, said it was a text book description of what not to do in a triathlon.
For example, it is probably not so smart to practice on aerobars for the first time the night before the competition. Or it’s probably smart to actually have done some running in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the event. Things like that.
But I knew my swim would at least give me a head start. So I pushed my way to the starting line, explaining as delicately as I could that I was a swimmer, that my advantage was almost unfair, so let’s all just do ourselves a favor and let me start at the front, okay?
What I wasn’t expecting, and this is after years of competitive open water swimming in rivers, lakes, and even the Pacific Ocean, was a starting line comprised of an open ditch carved into the sand, and then a mound of sand immediately following it.
This unforeseen obstacle sent me careening headfirst into the sand at the whistle’s blow, in front of thousands of spectators. I could hear the other ladies giggling at me as they ran on top of me.
Even worse, climbing up from this face down position in the sand was close to impossible. What made a wetsuit optimal for warmth and buoyancy was hindering the movement in my lower limbs. And moving to a more upright, two-footed position was not as simple as I would have imagined.
Once having scrambled back onto my feet, sand covering my face and filling my goggles, I saw that the rest of the field had already disappeared into the ocean.
This was going to be a very long race.
Coming soon: the time I fell off the bus in high heels.