I entered the water as a sudden burst of excitement and fear hit me at the same time. Standing beside me were the other athletes in my heat, many of which were decades older than myself. We waited in great anticipation for the “beep” that would send us on our way, and for me, on my first triathlon.
I knew I had a tough challenge ahead: an 800-meter swim, 22.5-kilometer bike ride, and a five-kilometer run. But from the very first day I registered, my goal was clear. Finish the race, no matter what.
I discovered — the hard way — that a half-mile swim is a lot farther than it sounds. An official standing on the edge of the dock raised his megaphone and shouted, “Swimmers, you’re off in three, two ... one!” The beep echoed across the water and I began. My arms and legs followed each other in perfect rhythm but not before long I was out of breath. There was no time to think about anything but moving forward and getting to the first buoy. Kayakers offered support to those who needed a break, but I wanted to persevere on my own.
The second stretch came and fortunately I was going with the current; a perfect time to speed up. With the last buoy approaching quickly, I prepared for one final drive. The cheers from the spectators roared from the shore as I passed the buoy, but my face was being bombarded by the strong current that had had a change of heart. My ears only heard the sound of splashing and my mouth filled with lake water every time I gasped for air. But with the finish so close, quitting wasn’t an option.
“Keep going, don’t slow down.” My mind played this thought on repeat until my feet were greeted by the ground.