“There are bold captains and old captains, but no bold old captains.” For some reason this is the quote I was thinking about after being pulled into a pontoon boat a mere few minutes into the swim portion of the race.
The previous day I had spent a lot of energy contemplating the cycling portion of the race. It was a hilly 18 mile ride in the Pocono Mountains and it had been raining for the past 24 hours. The roads were slick and there were a lot of fast riders in this group. I was completely freaked out about the ride. I never even considered the swim portion. I am a swimmer that’s what I was bringing to the race. As we entered the water, I found my way to the front for a few minutes of treading before it officially began. I felt pretty good, pretty confident. I took off at the start and pretty soon after something happened to my body. It started in my chest and made its way up to my neck and I couldn’t breathe. I rolled onto my back to try to mitigate what was happening. I thought I got myself together enough to move on, so I began to breast stroke very slowly, I must have gotten kicked or pushed under or who knows, but next thing I know I was being pulled into the boat. I began to cry from relief and joy that I could breath and from frustration about what had happened. I can not remember a time in recent history that I felt so defeated and alive all at once. They started asking me questions like what day is today, who is the president. I couldn’t figure out why the hell they wanted to know this when I had a race to finish. Obviously I was not coherent! As they plucked a few more people out, I realized, oh- today is Sunday and Obama is president. Yes, I was pretty out of it I guess. It’s hard even now to explain this and have any perspective. When you are right in it, right in the moment, at the edge of it all, there is no thinking mind.
Since I was only doing the sprint distance, I was low man on the totem pole of race participants. In other words, once they saw I could walk and talk, I was released to do whatever I wanted. So, I made my way to the transition, got on my cycling gear and took off for the ride from hell. But a crazy thing happened along the way. The ride I had stressed so much about, the ride that had me tasting fear throughout the previous evening was no big deal. Yes, it was hard as hell and the hills were a bear and the rain was scary, but I could breath and I had a new appreciation for breathing! Once I transitioned for the run I felt alive and well and so grateful for my family being there, for my breath and most importantly I was grateful the race was almost over.
As I turned the corner and headed for the finish line my 3 boys ran along side cheering me on. Under normal circumstances they are an incredibly loud and boisterous bunch. It is not unusual for me to tell them to quiet down, but in that moment I was in heaven and their voices sounded like angels. Hearing their voices, feeling their energy, seeing their smiles and crossing the finish line was a moment I will never forget.
What I learned from this journey and from the experience I had in the water will take time for me to understand fully. On the surface levels I am reminded, yet again, the things we stress about usually do not ever come to fruition, while the things we don’t even consider can knock us under. This is a lesson I have been learning and re-learning for a while now. Perhaps this time it will be assimilated.
I embarked on this adventure to honor my friend Dan Schultz for all he and his family went through and for all of the courage and dignity they displayed and continue to display. An amazing group of people helped raise over $3200 for the awesome organization For Pete’s Sake. Isn’t that So COOL! I also hoped to inspire my kids to know that they can do anything they put their minds to. While I wasn’t smooth or dignified in this race by any measure, I survived it, crossed the finish line and feel stronger than ever before. I am planning on doing another one soon, however, I may choose one with warmer water next time so I can be bold and old!