On Saturday, May 30th, I woke up early. I went downstairs to heat up the skillet on the stove, and then I scrambled two eggs from the previous week's farmers market. Scrambled eggs, tortilla, little bit o' cheese, some spinach. Water and some gatorade to drink.
I got dressed silently in my room as to not wake the two children who slept in my bed. Spandex top. Spandex bottom. I looked at myself in the mirror. Ew. I kissed the two munchkins on their heads and grabbed my orange bag. On the way downstairs I stopped to kiss the other three, and then in the bathroom to grab a beach towel. Got the wetsuit out of the van and put it all in Darin's car. Sunglasses? Gu-stuff? Gatorade? Water? Helmet? Socksshoestowelsgogglescap? Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Checkcheckcheckcheckcheck.
A kiss for Darin, and I drove out of my neighborhood. I know this is cheesy, but the song which was just beginning on the radio was The Climb. (There's always gonna be another mountain, I'm always gonna wanna make it move . . . Ain't about how fast I get there, Ain't about what's waitin' on the other siiiiiii-i-i-i-i-ide. It's the Climb . . .) I sang at the top of my lungs. Followed the map to Salem, which is behind Spanish Fork. I saw a few volunteering teens holding signs, so I followed and pulled into a church parking lot and parked. Grabbed all my stuff and followed the crowds, on the sidewalk, over the footbridge . . . that's when I got my first look at the pond. So freaking gross. Green, slime and bugs on the top layer, ducks and geese. Sick.
I heard music, saw lots of people, tables, banners, bikes, smelled sunscreen. I checked in and got my number (211) and my time chip, which I strapped to my ankle. I was marked on my arms and calf by a girl with a sharpie (tickle-tickle!). Then I called Kerri -- Doug answered, and they were there -- I was/am so grateful they agreed to take my bike since I don't have a bike rack. Ker and I set up shop, fueled up and hydrated ourselves. We also used the port-o-johns but talked about how much time that would waste during the actual race; we discussed the pros and cons of peeing in the wetsuit before exiting the water.
Slowly we began to prepare. We borrowed some sunscreen from a girl next to us who joked about Being Old (she was in our age group) and Being Slow (she was maybe the most fit woman there). The first waves of racers had begun. We wriggled into our wetsuits and applied our yellow-standard-issue swim cap. I molded my ear plugs. Goggles in place.
When the time came for our wave (female, ages 30-34) to begin, we marched over to the starting area of the pond and entered. Slimy bottom, gross water. Feathers floated by. I mentioned to Kerri that I felt water at the small of my back, but didn't worry too much about it. When we got the word to GO! I began my swim. The water was cold on my face, and I worked extra hard at the exhaling because I did NOT want that gross water in my mouth or nose.
Shortly after I began swimming, I felt water rush down the backs of my legs. I didn't think anything of it, until I couldn't raise my arms to do the crawl stroke, nor could I breathe very well. Water had filled up the legs of my wetsuit, causing it to pull downward (on my body, not down toward the bottom of the pond). Quite a drag. (Get it?) I started alternating between breaststroke and backstroke so that I could breathe easily (and so I didn't have to put my face in the water). I saw the medical staff in the canoes, and I considered how easy it would be to just ask them for help. This was my toughest challenge. I kept at it and fell far, far behind.
Crawling out of the water, I headed for my station. As I unzipped my wetsuit, buckets of water poured all over the ground. I dried myself off and took the time to go to the bathroom (seriously, I TRIED to pee in the wetsuit BUT I JUST COULDN'T. Me: "C'mon, just do it!" My body: "No way! I'm a lady!"). This took some time, but I'm glad I didn't have to worry about it for the rest of the race.
I put on my socks and shoes, sunglasses and helmet, and put the packets of gu (or whatever it's called) in my pockets. I grabbed my water bottle and found that it didn't fit in the water bottle holder on my bike, so I just held it with my fingertips as I rode. The bike course was pretty hilly at first, and I had to walk my bike up the first killer hill. After that leveled out, I found myself thinking about food, followed by my wondering why I'd be thinking about food. Time to try the goop.
Have you ever had this stuff? Do you even know what I'm talking about? It's this energy goopy stuff that comes in foil packets. The one I had contained 25 mg of caffeine, so, yes, it DID give me energy . . . once I was able to down it. Seriously, like trying to swallow a liquid sponge. 'Banana-Strawberry'? I beg to differ. Luckily I was holding tight to my water bottle, so that helped get it down.
Riding along, I saw a woman standing on the side of the road. As I got closer, I saw that it was my good friend, b.! She cheered me on, and I told her it was nice to see her.
After rounding a few corners, I saw that a girl had fallen, as in, tipped to the right and was on the ground, bleeding. There was one other girl helping her, so I stopped, too. Poor thing, she was so frustrated, and clearly very hurt. Her right foot was still clipped into her bike pedal, and the other helper had to take her shoe off so we could untangle the girl's body from her bike. Other Helper assisted The Girl in sitting up whilst I moved the crashed bike to the side of the road. We noticed that the girls forearm was bleeding pretty heavily, so I encouraged her to hold it up as high as she could; it was at that point when I saw the flesh making its way out of her arm. A car had pulled over, and an ambulance had been called. Other Helper made her way back into the stream of racers, and I heard a familiar voice behind me.
Did you know that b. is a nurse?
So I told the injured racer, "This is my very good friend, b., and she's a nurse, so she'll help you and I'll keep going." I called a thanks over my shoulder and told b. that I'd be back: that while most of these other racers were on their second lap, I was only on my first.
On the second lap, I found myself mainly alone. Again I walked up that first killer hill, and when I reached the gradual hill, I began to get tired. I hopped off and walked. It was then that I saw the 59-year-old woman pass me (did you know that your age is written on your leg?), and I felt I'd be last. I so enjoyed the view during the ride, new mountains for me to enjoy. Time for me to pray and be grateful. Grateful for the earth. Grateful for my body. Grateful for a good life.
I approached a group of volunteers who, upon seeing me, stopped talking and watched me. "I'm last, right?" They shook their heads. But they stared. So I guessed they were told to not let anyone know if they were toward the end of the group.
As I reached the transistion area to stow my bike, and begin the run, I heard the announcer, "Crossing the finish line now, Kerrianne Burch! Let's hear it for Kerrianne!" Yes, that's right, Kerri finished the entire race before I even began the running. I was so proud of her.
I saw my good family as I began jogging, and they cheered me on. As I approached the footbridge, which was the beginning of the running portion, I was stuck behind people carrying their bikes; they were finished and were leaving. Luckily, I had some people behind me saying, "Racer coming through!" People moved aside as I heard, "Wow, she's still racing." It was great.
I'll be honest, I can't stand running. And after swimming and biking, you can bet that the LAST thing I want to do is jog. So I walked. I'd say that I walked over 90% of that 5K. I did see the woman who had passed me on the bike, and I gave myself the goal of trying to catch her, but quickly let go of that goal. Kids in their yards were cheering, "You're the best! You can do it! You're almost there! Keep it up!" I chuckled and thanked them and said, "Hey, somebody's gotta be last, right?" People kept trying to tell me that I wasn't last, but I more than got the hint when the Salem police officers directing traffic waited until I after I had passed them and then they picked up the orange cones and threw them in the trunks of their cars. Also, two or three times (I'm not sure), a police car pulled right up to me and the officer asked if I was alright.
The end was in sight, and I saw someone approaching me. I recognized Kerri, and she and I had a nice trot to the finish line, where I crossed holding the hand of my 5-year-old daughter. The announcer said, "And here we have another finisher, Jenna Eckton! Great job, Jenna!"
I was beat. I had sunburned shoulders, and I was near out of breath. Amazingly, I didn't take a nap later that day like I thought I would have. I guess the adrenaline was flowing.
Someone told me before I did the race that when it was over, that I'd just be glad to say that I had done it, but I found that when it was over, for whatever reason, I wished I was still racing.
Tomorrow morning I'm going to do it all again. A different venue, a different gross body of water, some different competitors. My goal is to be NOT last. We'll see.