I've been training for a triathlon for the past month or so. My main goal is complete a half iron distance triathlon by October of this year. For those of you who may not know, a half iron distance triathlon is composed of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run. Since it's been almost two years since the last triathlon I've done, I decided that I needed to do at least one this summer to get back in the swing of things. I picked the Tri Latta sprint race. The sprint distance is the shortest type of tri. This race consisted of a 750 meter swim, 17 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. I was thinking this would be a piece of cake, I would soon find out that it would not be.

I prepared all my stuff the night before the race. I pumped the tires on my bike, oiled the chain, packed all my gear and practiced clicking in and out of my clipless pedals. This would be the second time using them out on the road.

I woke up at 3;45am. The race was held in Huntersville, about an hour away from where I live. I arrived around 5am. After getting my timing chip, body marked, and the necessary trip to the Port-A-Jon, I started setting up my stuff. I racked my bike, set out my shoes and all the gear I would need for the race.

When the time came near, I walked down to the lake. There were people warming up in the water but I decided not to. They soon called the first wave. As soon as the gun went off, I walked over to the waters edge, knowing I was in the next wave. The water was surprisingly warm, reports said it was 88 degrees. The countdown was on, I had five minutes until the gun went off.

There were thirty to forty people in my wave, the red swim cap wave. When the gun went off, it looked like a free for all. I saw nothing but arms, legs, and water splashing all around. As I got further out in the water, I felt less and less comfortable. This was my first official open water swim. I've always heard that swimming in open water is so different from swimming laps in a pool and I was quickly finding that out.

Not being able to see under water, my instinct was to keep my head above water. About a third of the way down one side of the buoy, I was already feeling very tired. I was trailing far behind and I soon realized I was the last red swim cap, everyone else was already making the turn to head back to shore. It was at about that time that I realized that the next wave was coming up behind me. I had a swarm of thirty to forty people swimming all around me. I started to panic. I had never felt like that in my life. The only thing I knew to do was to stop and tread water until I felt the anxiety pass. I thought about calling one of the lifeguards over but was a afraid of being disqualified from the race. It was at that time that a lifeguard on a kayak called out to me to try to make it to his boat. I managed to swim over there and grab on. He told me I could hang on and catch my breath for a minute. He then asked me if I wanted him to call the boat over to take me back. I thought about for a second but decided I was going to keep going. I thanked him and I started swimming again.

I made it to the halfway point but felt even more exhausted then I had before. I really didn't think I was going to make it. It was then when another lifeguard came over and told me to catch my breath while I hung onto her boat. She asked me if this was my first triathlon, I told her that that this was my first open water swim and that I can usually swim long stretches in the pool just fine. She then asked if I usually swim with my face in the water. I said "yes." She told me to swim like that. Even though it did not feel right, I need to swim with my face in the water because swimming with my head up and out of the water would wear me out much faster (I found that out pretty quickly). I told myself that I would give it one more try and if I felt like I couldn't make it, I would call the boat to get me out of the water. I thanked the lifeguard, put my face in the water and started swimming. I made it back to shore. Even getting caught up with another group of swimmers, I did not feel panicked. It took me 32 minutes to complete the 750 meter swim. That's more than twice as long as it takes me to swim the same distance in a pool. As exhausted as I was, I dragged myself out of the water and made my way to transition.

In transition, I drank a good bit of water and scarfed down a granola bar. I threw my bike shoes on and rolled my bike out of transition. I did not feel much better on the bike at first. My whole body was so exhausted from the swim that the first half of the bike ride felt very sluggish. The second half of the bike ride was when I was starting to feel better (maybe the granola bar started kicking in). I felt faster and stronger.

I made it back to transition in a little over an hour, which is about right for me. I usually ride at a 15 to 16 mph pace. I was excited to get my running shoes on and go. Running is my thing. As I got out on the trail, my calves felt like they were going to cramp up for the first quarter mile. As soon as that went away, I was able to pick up the pace. All of the people that passed me on the bike course, got passed on the run course. I did the 5k run in just over 29 minutes. I consider that pretty good considering how fatigued I was for the first part of the race.

My overall time for the race was 2:18:33 (including my transition time). As upset as I got at myself for having such a bad swim, I can say that I learned a lot. I learned that I need to trust my training. The first thing I did when I got out in the water was try something I had never done before. Race day is not the time to try something new. I'm glad I had the experience and that it happened in a sprint and not a longer race.