It was about three in the morning. I knew I would not be able to sleep. I had all my stuff ready for the morning and went to bed around ten, a couple of hours before I usually do. Here it was five hours later and I was still awake. I would describe my state as excited. Not the kind of excited that one feels before Christmas as a child, no this was the excitement of going into something new and not knowing what to expect … whether one would succeed or fail. This excitement can take the form of anxiety or enthusiasm depending on the state of mind, and my mind was fluctuating between the two. In about three hours my alarm clock would go off and I would be off to my first Olympic distance triathlon. I’ve done a few smaller ones throughout the year, but I was not certain I had what would take to finish one at this distance.
You know what the mind can do, I guess to entertain one when the excitement is keeping one awake? Mine makes up stories. This following story was one such story my mind made up that night. No, this did not really happen, only in the imagination of an excited mind:
It was my first time swimming in the Bay in a wet suit. I had every intention to get out and practice a little before today, but as fate would have it, I did not. I just picked up the rented wetsuit the day before, took it out to the bay and jumped in for a little practice. I only stayed long enough to know that I would be able to move in it, but I did not swim, for I had left my swim goggles at home.
Here it was now on race day. It was ten minutes before my wave and we were allowed to get into the water. There I was bobbing up and down with 100 other swimmers in my age group waiting for the starting gun. Wetsuits do make one more buoyant and I did not have to tread water to stay afloat. Perhaps the next time I’ll wait other five minutes before I get in the water to avoid all this bobbing.
Finally, the gun went off and we were off. I keep towards the back because I know I’m not fast. There were six legs to this 1 mile swim. As usual, the first few hundred yards were tough as I get used to my new environment. I like to joke with myself that for the first few hundred yards that I feel like a fish out of water. Anyway, I made the first two legs and was well into the third when it happened …
I was just kicking into gear when I felt a disturbance in the water forcing me to the left shortly before an intense pain of several knives in my abdomen. I was completely out of control with pain and this force that has pushed me far out of my path.
I remember from a Biology class that I took one year in college about the phenomena of flocking. When animals flock it increases their individual chances of surviving a predator’s attack. I don’t remember the exact figures, but it goes something like this: if an animal is alone and a predator attacks there is a 75% chance it will be caught. If the animal is in a flock the chances go down to about 1 or 2%, I guess depending on the size of the flock. The remarkable other side to this statistic is that flocking also increases the chances that the predator will catch something. Their 75% will go up to about 95%. What an incredible phenomena then, flocking is to the world of nature. It increases the chance of survival on both ends.
So, I figured, out there in the bay that day, in a flock of triathletes, the probability of that shark catching one was rather high … especially considering there are not any man eating sharks in the bay and until just now there has never been a shark attack on a human in the bay. So what was the probability it would be me? Perhaps I should have played the lottery today instead. So the shark quickly let me go once it realized that I was not the tasty morsel of a seal that it thought I was, but that did not change the fact that I was not going to be able to finish the race. The life guard was quickly by my side pulling me up on their handy surf board, and paddled me back to shore and off to the hospital I went.
And that was how I DNFed on my first ever Olympic distance triathlon.