The rules said it was a deep water start, but how was my fledgling swim mind meant to translate that to something meaningful? All I knew from my swim classes was that you jump into water and off you go!
Over Friday drinks in office, a friend looking to put a team of triathletes together for an event walked over to me and asked if I’d be interested to join his team. He knew I had been doing cycling and running races. I was immediately enlivened. Yes I said. Deep inside I knew I shouldn’t be saying yes but my adventure seeking mind and my mouth were in sync. I had never swam before, well except for the times I jump into a shallow pool and acted like a dying fish trying to swim. So I took up lessons. They were going fine until my instructor asked why i was learning how to swim. I lost my instructor weeks later, after I told him the reason for learning was because I had a 1km swimming to do in a triathlon 3 months away. I came in one day and I was told he had resigned. I can’t say for a fact it had anything to do with me and my ambitions but I don’t know of another reason either.
Race day came. It was a very cold morning. My skin receptors immediately sent signals to my brain to initiate its warming tricks. Shivering, I walked towards the lake to see where I was going to be taking this death attempt. I looked to my side and saw a very enthusiastic triathlete, so I asked him to show me the swim path because all I could see was a massive body of open water. As I was shown where the buoys we are supposed to swim towards where, it occurred to me that the safety of touching a wall every 50m wasn’t here and the buoys seemed to be shifting away. My heart began racing immediately even before the race started. I talked courage to myself, beating my chest like an adult male gorilla who won’t back down from a challenge from an immature young gorilla.
When it was start time for my race category, we moved towards the platform next to the water. Athletes began jumping in, threading and moving forward. I thought to myself, this is it! Jump in and kick some ass. I jumped in and started swimming forward; But no one else is moving so I bump into scores of floating swim caps in the water. It then occurred to me that the race hasn’t begun yet; we have to wait here till the whistle goes off. Oh well, I’ll just stand in water then and wait for the start signal, I thought. Jesus! I screamed. Where is the bottom of this lake? My legs can’t touch anything, I am sinking! Guys around me ask if I am alright…hell no I am not. I need to stand! Then I remembered the FAQ of the race – if in trouble, raise your hand. I immediately raised my hand high up and a kayaking gentleman comes around. Are you alright? he asks….again I say hell no! Get me out of here! Do my eyeballs look OK to you? I thought to myself as I hung to the Kayak, being towed away like a dead fish.That was the premature end of my first triathlon attempt. I ended up doing a duathlon instead. The officials felt sorry for me and let me do the other two disciplines.
With a couple of successful races now, I laugh about that first experience everytime I have a race coming up. You get told how insane you are, when you tell people you are a triathlete, but no I am not. I have seen more insane things like a triathlete doing 30 consecutive Ironman 70.3 triathlons back-to-back in 30 days. I think it is like someone rightly put it: “It’s not about finding your limits. It’s about finding out what lies just beyond them.”
Follow the journey in pictures on instagram @sleen_