… to go back into the (open) water (in my wetsuit), I asked myself four questions:
- Why exactly did I think it was a good idea to test my newly rehabbed shoulder by swimming the relay leg for a half-Ironman triathlon?
- In what world would sushi be optimal race-fuel for my first 1,000-meter training race in said wetsuit?
- Why did I wait until the week before the race to test-drive the wetsuit?
- What was I thinking when I signed up for a 90-minute yoga class two hours prior to said training race?
Exercise of course teaches us important lessons about ourselves, and the answers came during my 26-minute, 59.5-second sojourn:
- A Half-Ironman – Really? The folks at Spooner Physical Therapy attributed my shoulder pain to hyper-mobility. How did they know it was hyper-mobility without taking an x-ray or doing thousands of dollars worth of magnetic resonance imaging? During my initial exam, my therapist Kevin was being shadowed by a trainee. He said, “Stacy has a classic case of hyper-mobility in both of her shoulders. Watch this!” At which point, Kevin proceeded to put my arms behind my head, the trainee gasped and I didn’t faint. Apparently this exaggerated range of motion is why I’m a pretty decent (though not fast) swimmer. So after six weeks of training with Kevin and Steven, my shoulders felt great. They’d made me better… stronger… faster… (but apparently not smarter). I had a coupon for half-off the half-Ironman race and that’s 70.2 miles of awesomeness. My triathlon teammate Kristi thought a 50-something mile bike ride sounded challenging, and we were able to persuade our friend David to run the half-marathon leg because he wanted to hear “Crossing the finish line for Team Hot Chicks with Douchebag – David P!” I figured if I swam 1,500 meters last year before rehab, I might as well go another 500, right?
- Sushi for a Pre-Race Meal? Less filling… Tastes great! It’d been a year since I wedged myself into my
fat suitwetsuit. I’d eaten at Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles since then. And I like sushi. It goes well with champagne… and Chardonnay… and Absolut Pears and club soda.
- Procrastination or Preparation? Actually I have a good reason for this. I took my first open-water swimming lesson in the Pacific Ocean the day after the Japanese tsunami. This little adventure almost caused my Dad to suffer a massive heart attack because a) I was swimming in the Pacific Ocean the day after the tsunami and b) my Mom let me do this and even watched me (yes, at the time, I was a 39-year-old adult). To extend his life-expectancy, I promised my Dad that I would not swim outside the presence of a lifeguard ever again. The Arizona Open-Water Swim at Tempe Town Lake on Saturday afternoon met that criteria – but it just happened to be one week before my big half-Ironman. Yes, there were other, organized open-water swims earlier in the season, but they were scheduled for 5 AM at Bartlett Lake. I prefer to swim after work because it is a) daylight and b) not 5 AM.
- But You Hate Yoga! I got nothing. When I signed up for the class, I thought that yoga would put me in a calm mental state so I would not panic when I hit the 64-degree confines of Tempe Town Lake in my shrink-wrapped, sushi-stuffed wetsuit. I thought it might be a gentle way to warm up the rehabbed shoulder before the big swim, except that this yoga class involved nonstop, shoulder-punishing push-ups and downward-facing dogs.
So about that calm mental state when I hit the water? Yeah… here’s a recap:
WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE!!! I’M SWIMMING IN AN E.COLI-INFESTED DENIZEN OF DISEASE AND VERMIN! I CAN’T SEE MY HANDS! I CAN’T FEEL MY FEET! I JUST SWAM THROUGH A HOT-POCKET OF SWIMMER-URINE… AND IT GOT IN MY MOUTH!!! WHY DID I WATCH THAT SHOW LAST NIGHT ABOUT THE PARASITES AND WORMS THAT LIVE ON OUR BODIES (even though it starred my TV crush Mike Rowe)!!!! OH MY GOD, WAS THAT A PINWORM THAT JUST CRAWLED OUT MY BUTT OR DID I JUST LOSE ALL BOWEL CONTROL? I’M TIRED OF THESE MOTHER-EFFING SNAKES IN THIS MOTHER-EFFING LAKE!!!
SNAKES CAN SWIM! THEY SWIM WHEN THEY ARE CHASING FOOD - OH THE HUMANITY! WAS THAT JUST A MANATEE? THIS DUDE JUST TRIED TO SWIM OVER ME – DUDE! WATCH YOUR LINE! THE MAIN POD OF SWIMMERS IS MILES PAST US! THERE ARE ONLY ABOUT 10 OF US STRAGGLERS BACK HERE - YOU HAVE 910,000 SQUARE METERS OF OPEN WATER AND YET YOU WANT TO SWIM OVER ME???
IF I SURVIVE THIS SWIM, I’LL NEVER LEAVE DRY LAND AGAIN! MUST… PUT… HEAD… DOWN… AND GET OUT OF THIS GUY’S WAY! DON’T PANIC! DON’T PANIC! WHAT’S THAT STRANGE CLICKING IN MY RIGHT SHOULDER? WHAT’S THAT SHOOTING PAIN IN MY LOWER BACK? THIS SWIM IS ONLY HALF OF WHAT I HAVE TO DO AT THE HALF-IRONMAN – HOW AM I GONNA SURVIVE THAT SWIM WITH REALLY FIT PEOPLE WHO KNOW HOW TO DO YOGA AND DON’T EAT SUSHI! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!
DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT PANIC! JUST KEEP SWIMMING. JUST KEEP SWIMMING. SWIMMING. SWIMMING. SWIMMING. SWIMMING. DUDE, SERIOUSLY, BACK THE FUCK¹ OFF OF ME! THAT DOES NOT MEAN CRAWL OVER MY BACK! I’VE WARNED YOU TWICE – DON’T JUST SAY YOU’RE SORRY, STOP SWIMMING OVER ME! LOOK WHERE YOU’RE GOING! YOU SWIM OVER ME AGAIN AND I WILL CLUB YOU LIKE A BABY SEAL – WE’RE IN A FREAKIN’ LAKE – IT’S NOT LIKE WE’RE SHARING A LANE AT PHOENIX MUNI. I’LL KICK YOU IN THE HEAD NEXT TIME AND I WON’T REGRET IT!
I AM PUTTING MY HEAD DOWN AND PUTTING IT IN GEAR! EAT MY WORM-INFESTED FOAM, ASSHOLE!² LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-BREATHE-RIGHT-LEFT-RIGHT-BREATHE-Left-right-left-breathe-right-left-right-breathe-left: HOLY SHIT!³ I’VE JUST COLLIDED WITH THE GIANT INFLATABLE TURN BUOY! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!
WAIT! THE TURN-BUOY! THIS MEANS I HAVE ONLY 200 METERS TO GO! THANK YOU JESUS! THANK YOU JESUS! THANK YOU JESUS! I PROMISE NEVER TO SAY ANOTHER BAD WORD AS LONG AS I MAKE IT BACK TO THE SHORE! LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-BREATHE-RIGHT-LEFT-RIGHT-BREATHE-LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT – WHAT’S THAT UNDER MY FEET? IT’S SAND! IT’S BEACH! IT MIGHT EVEN BE A BROKEN BEER BOTTLE, BUT I DON’T CARE! MY FEET CAN TOUCH THE BOTTOM AND I’VE HAD MY TETANUS BOOSTERS! I’M SAVED! I MADE IT! I’M ALIVE!
Staggering up the shore, I finished my 1,000 meter odyssey in 26:59.5. Starving and delusional, I stumbled to the post-race feed stand to stuff my maw with non-sushi nourishment while they called out the names of the age-group winners.
“First place in the women’s 40-to-49 age group for 1,000-meter wetsuit division: Stacey -”
Wha? I started bounding toward the awards podium.
“… Jarriel. Of Fountain Hills. Age 47. Stacey Jarriel. She finished in 16 minutes, 46.7 seconds!”
WTF? I applauded boisterously and slithered back into the crowd. Like I said, starving and delusional. I finished 18th of 20 women in the 1,000-meter wetsuit division – 36th of 40 total wetsuit-clad swimmers – and ninth of 11 in my age-group. The other Stacey also won the women’s overall 1,000-meter race. Of course, had I ditched the wetsuit, I would have finished third… of three people… and I would have frozen to death.
Discouraged, I slunk home and sent a facebook message to my Hot Chicks with Douchebag teammates: “So how married are y’all to the half-Ironman distance?” I whined about my shoulder. I suggested we switch to the Olympic distance event since I wouldn’t have to swim as far. I complained that I would be the anchor around the ankles of our half-Ironman team. And this is why I’m glad triathlon is a team sport: Kristi told me how hard she’d been training for the half-Ironman distance (David, not so much). I couldn’t very well let them down, so I steeled my resolve, iced the shoulder, gobbled down some Aleve and decided to sleep on it.
When I woke up this morning, I decided to indulge my curiosity and see how Saturday’s little open-water adventure compared to my races last year. Lo and behold: In my very first 1,000-meter open-water race one year ago in Tempe Town Lake, I finished in 36:30.7 – almost 10 minutes slower than Saturday. At my last 1,000-meter open-water swim in April 2011, I finished in 32:10.9. So maybe I really am better… stronger… faster… just still not a whole lot smarter.
¹²³ Yes, I gave up cursing again for Lent this year. I’m obviously writing this AFTER Easter, but I said these words BEFORE Easter, so I’m happy to say that A New Leaf will receive $107 from me ($1 per curse word). It actually was an improvement over 2011.