Not Quite the Most Embarassing Day of My Life, but Almost

This is me, not really enjoying myself.

This is me, Sharkfest (Alcatraz) 2002, in better open water days.

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.


About katiekelly

I grew up in a parking lot.
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10 Responses to Not Quite the Most Embarassing Day of My Life, but Almost

  1. This reminds me of my first ever group Mountain Bike ride. A couple of young kids were in front of me as I watch them jump a revine effortlessly, and I thought to myself, I can do that. I was riding a old 20 inch hard rock specialized that weighed a whole lot with no suspension. I immediately did an endo slamming into the ground taking all the skin off my arms, stomach, and bloodying my face. It would not be the first time gravity taught me a lesson in humility.

  2. Kevin says:

    It’s funny how that big superman “S” does not translate from fantasy to reality!

  3. hernando says:


    i’ll have to dig out my story of tossing cookies all over the face of some 7 year old japanese kid at Kona.

    THAT was frickin embarrassing…

  4. LOVE the story. I look forward to reading the high heel one too. It reminded me of my days in manhattan when i was really cool – or so i thought. Many years ago, while wearing a pair of super long wide legged trendy pants with matching super tall platform heels i was sprinting down a street in midtown during rush hour to catch a bus. I missed the bus but the pavement caught me – face and knees first. Funny how it is hard to judge the distance to the floor on those things.

  5. Pingback: NorCal Cycling News » Blog Archive » run for the exits …

  6. lauren says:

    oh man, sand in the goggles.

    one time i was walking both dogs down the street on leash and we stopped at a stopped sign to cross the street.

    and then they both decide to go, fast, at the same time. and they pulled me off my feet i landed right on my face in the middle of the intersection.

    i think i was like 30 or something.

  7. Mark says:

    Great story. Reminds me of my youthful arrogance concerning how I would react after my rides. Seems chaps are not only designed for limited protection but they tend to act like those parachutes one straps on their back when training for speed. After a nice, nasty throw that landed me striaght in the middle of the arena, I figured out quickly 1800+ lbs of only-want-to gore-the-crap-out-of-you bovine fury is extremely hard to get away from in a recently tilted arena along with brand new pressed leather slapping inbetween your legs. Needless to say, the reminder was present that night and years to come as I strained to look at my beautiful ‘corpse sunrise’ colored back in the mirror. I imagine dirt is just as soft as sand when it comes to cushioning trampling hoofs as well as human feet.

  8. That’s awesome… Well, not so much at the time, but fun in the retelling!
    Don’t all athletic women have a story of high-heels and making un-expected contact with the floor, pavement, etc.? My first job out of college – we had a fancy holiday party. I got all dressed up: fancy dress, gloves, high heels. I was stylin’. For the 80’s. Anyway, I was with a guy I was trying to impress and walked up a few steps onto a raised seating area, looking for my friends. We were unable to find them up there, so we turned around to head elsewhere. Clearly I’d had enough to drink to forget the stairs I’d walked up, just moments before… It was like a cartoon: there I was, suspended in mid-air, feet frantically searching for ground. Ugh. Down I went. Fortunately for me: I landed on my knees and shins and didn’t tumble over exposing myself. Unfortunately for me: there were like 80 witnesses. The bouncer, and like 20 guys were reaching out to me to help me up, but in my embarrassment I blurted out: “I got here on my own, I’ll get up on my own. Thanks.”
    Why is it, when we do the stupidest stuff imaginable, there are ALWAYS witnesses? Looking forward to the high-heel story!

  9. katiekelly says:

    Holly, your story is brilliant. Mine is a similar plot, maybe even a similar era, but different scene. Take the 7th grade, Chemin de Fer jeans that restricted breathing and digestion, Cherokee platforms, feathered hair, a yellow school bus, and a loading and unloading zone seven buses long at the junior high basket ball courts. Add in some steps and a stack of books. Add gravity. I don’t want to spoil the ending though.

    You so said the right thing in that situation. You handled it with class and dignity. You let them know were on top of it. You are like a CAT, sister. They always take that shit in stride.

  10. Jill Gregerson says:

    you are a rad writer Katie!

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