I began to turn myself around. The kayaker in the yellow kayak pulled along side of me.
“The water is getting choppier. Blame them.” She gestured to the 32 foot pleasure boats drawing close to the race course. Even with motors off they were creating waves that were knocking me back and forth. I could taste diesel fuel in my mouth.
“I’ll stay by you for a bit.” She began to paddle. I put my head in the water and tried to start swimming again. Almost as soon as I began I could hear jungle drums of fear and discouragement beating in my head. It was too hard. I hadn’t even made it to the second buoy yet. I hadn’t even seen the second buoy yet. I want to be done. I want to quit.
I forced myself to stroke 100 more times. 100 times and I could stop again. As I breathed I could see the yellow kayak beside me. At least I was going the right direction.
I stopped again (I stopped many, many times which I’ve never, ever done in a race before. I could kick myself for that now. I wasted a lot of time). I scanned the horizon. Still no second buoy.
“Are we almost to the next buoy?” I couldn’t help myself from shouting the question to the kayaker. I looked at my watch. I’d been swimming for an hour and as far as I knew I was somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3rds of the way done with the first mile. I made it to the first buoy in 15 minutes but had spent 45 looking for buoy #2.
“I don’t know. It looks like the buoys all floated away, except that first one.” The kayaker scanned the horizon, shading her eyes with her hand. “I’d guess you have less than a mile to go to the finish.”
Hallelujah and thank the sweet baby Jesus. I was more than halfway.
From there on out, things got a little easier. I stopped looking for buoys that didn’t exist. I stopped less often. At one point the kayaker complemented my “nice strong stroke” and I remembered that I was a decent swimmer, even if I was getting beaten by almost everyone.
Finally I began to see sand beneath me and could make out the finish line and people standing on the docks, cheering.
Oh, I can’t even tell you how glad I was to be finished. After I got my timing chip taken off I found my friends and begged them to unzip me. It felt like such a relief to have the wetsuit off (I have a pretty nasty chafed spot on my neck now. That suit really wasn’t lying quite right on my neck).
And, as per usual, almost as soon as I was done I started getting the post race amnesia. During the whole race I kept thinking that I’d never again subject myself to this particular breed of bullshit hard work but by the time I was dried off with a cup of cider and a donut hole in my hand I was already thinking about what I could do differently, better next time around.
It is a sickness, this racing thing.
Next up: a sprint tri next month. Guess I’d better start running.