At the end of July, I competed in my 11th triathlon, the Music City Tri hosted by
. This is my second year doing this race. You can read last year's recap
. This year was extra fun because in addition to racing, I was also managing their
The swim portion of this recap is loooong. If you know what happened, or if you've already heard me tell it, then feel free to skip ahead to the bike portion.
Photo courtesy of Team Magic
*400 m swim: 22:31 (5:38 per 100/m pace)
This year I opted for the sprint distance, which should have meant a shorter swim. Should have... At this point, every triathlete in the area knows that this swim went terribly wrong, and that only 25 sprint-distance triathletes completed it. Guess who is one of those 25? Yep. I was of the last racers they let in the water. You line up and start in numerical order. I was #221. I had two friends in the 230's and they didn't have to swim. At some point right after me, they cancelled the swim and quit letting people in the water.
Oy vey. What happened? Well, I still don't know. I heard the Army Corps of Engineers didn't shut down the dam soon enough, which meant we were swimming in a 1.5 mph current. What does that mean? I don't know, but it felt like (and looked like) swimming in an infinity pool. Everyone that got pulled into the current, quit moving and swam in place until they were rescued. How did I swim through it? I have no idea. Here is what I remember.
The Olympic distance racers swam first, so we were able to watch them while we waited in line. It was obvious that something was wrong. A friend of mine came out of the water, saw me and said, "don't get in there." Well, shit. Right before I jumped in, one of my swim coaches, Ashley Whitney, walked by and I asked her what to do. She said to stay out of the middle of the river; to swim the Olympic course. The Olympic course was a big square. My course was a triangle and was primarily in the middle of the river. She told me that when I hit the current to kick like crazy and pull left, using the Pedestrian Bridge to sight off. That was it. It was time to jump in.
I swam to my first point and then, instead of crossing the middle diagonally to get to the second point, I swam straight across to the other shore. I was in race mode and not paying attention to how I felt or who was around me. When I got to the other shore, all these Olympic-distance swimmers were standing up. It was shallow and they were exhausted, they were standing up to rest. I kept swimming, using the bridge to sight off, and swam to the third point. This is where it got real. The current was so strong, I couldn't swim around the buoy to make my last turn. Also, I had been swimming alone up until this point, but now I was in the thick of it. A mass of swimmers were hanging on to the buoy and swimmers were being rescued all around me. I switched to breast-stroke to get my bearings. I could see the dock, which was the swim exit, I just had to swim to it - across the 1.5 mph current.
I was swimming as hard as I can swim and I was going nowhere. In fact, every time I looked up, I was getting pulled off-course back to the middle of the river. I wasn't scared, I was tired. I remembered that Ashley said to pull left and kick, so that's what I did. I got back on course and could see the dock and swim exit again. I was about halfway to the dock when I heard a female voice above me telling me that I looked good and to keep kicking. That was weird. You typically don't get talked to in the middle of an open water swim. I heard her again, so I flipped over and she asked me if I was okay and if I could finish. I said I could and she said I was doing good, that I was almost done, to keep kicking. She was on a paddle board and stayed beside me. Then all of a sudden, a man was in the water and told me I could stop, that the swim was over and he was going to swim me to the finish. He asked if I could swim a little longer and I said I could (I was pretty off-course and back in the middle again). He told me to stay on his feet and he was going to swim me in. I was okay once I got out of the current, so he let me swim to the dock on my own and he went back out to get more swimmers.
When I got to the dock, everyone from Team Magic and NAC recognized me and yelled my name, not out of excitement, out of relief, which scared me. Remember, I didn't know anything was wrong at this point. I just knew I had been swimming way longer than I should have been. I had to hang onto the dock for a long time as they pulled us out one by one. While I was hanging there, a female swimmer not too far away was bobbing up and down off-course and every time she came up for water, she yelled, "Help! I'm drowning!" The OEM boat was going towards her, but she was in trouble. She was going under for longer and longer. People were swimming towards her trying to help her, but you couldn't get anywhere. The people on the dock were crying, it was terrible. The boat got to her and pulled her out and she was fine, but apparently that was what the entire swim had looked like.
I got pulled out of the water and Chris McPherson, my swim coach, grabbed me and hugged me. They told us the swim and T1 were cancelled, to take our time, rest, calm down and our time would start again on the bike. I talked to people for a few minutes trying to figure out what happened and then I made my way to transition and got ready for the rest of the race.
There's no way to know how far I swam. Based on time and exertion, I'm guessing I swam the Olympic distance, which is 1500m. Had I only swam the 400m, it would have taken me 8 minutes.
Photo courtesy of Team Magic
Again, they cancelled our swim and T1 times, so no time for this first transition from swim to bike. But hey, here's what my transition area looked like!
13.67 mile bike ride: 52:14 (15.7mph pace)
In hindsight, it's impressive that I did anything after that swim. I have so much adrenaline during races, that I don't feel or think until afterwards. Plus, 13 miles is a short ride for me, and I knew the course. I don't remember having a strategy. I think I decided to ride hard and if I had to walk during the run, so be it. All I remember is that I rode HARD.
Mile 1: 14.8 mph
2: 15.8 mph
3: 18.0 mph
4: 13.5 mph
5: 14.1 mph
6: 15.9 mph
7: 20.7 mph
8: 13.1 mph
9: 13.1 mph
10: 22.0 mph
11: 21.7 mph
12: 20.6 mph
13: 16.5 mph
This should have been a faster transition. I try to keep T2 to 1 minute. I will say, my transition area was on the opposite end of bike in, so I had to walk my bike a lot further than I do in smaller races. Also,
Photo courtesy of Team Magic
3.1 mile run: 35:06 (11:39/mile pace)
I actually felt great starting the run course. I ran past Daniel Hudgins and jumped up and gave him a high-five. The first mile of this run is uphill, which sucks, but what are you going to do? I ran pretty easy the whole time. I was running a consistent 11:30/pace, which felt good. I caught my friend Rebecca Appleton coming back across the bridge and we walked for a minute. Then Jim Schwan, her boyfriend, passed us and yelled at us to run, so we ran the rest of the way to the finish.
Mile 1: 11:35
Total time: 1:29:44
I love this race. Having done the longer, Olympic distance last year and the shorter, sprint distance this year, I think I prefer the sprint. This race is held on the last weekend of July and it's usually around 100 degrees, give or take with the heat index. That's too hot for me for a long distance race, but it's fine for a sprint. And it's fun to race in the middle of downtown Nashville. There are a ton of spectators and you feel like a badass.
What happened with the swim course is not Team Magic's fault. I've known Faye and Therese a long time; Faye taught me how to do my first triathlon, and they care tremendously about the safety of their racers. They would not intentionally put anyone in danger. The second the swim course became unsafe, they stopped it. And they publicly apologized, which I respect. I almost exclusively compete in Team Magic races and will continue to do so. They're outstanding women and they put on good races. Shit happens.
I had planned on doing another triathlon this summer, but the one I was going to do got cancelled and there aren't any more local races this year. It looks like I'm done for the season, which I'm a little sad about, but it's okay. I don't have any races, running or otherwise on my calendar right now. I should probably do something about that. To be continued!
Music City Triathlon
Total time: 1:29:44
15th Age Group (35-39)