The fall: Wheeeeeeeee!!! I suddenly found myself skid on the road and fall off my bike on the highway. It was a Tuesday evening and I was out for a short ride-my last practice before the Olympic distance (1.5 km swim, 40 k bike, 10 k run) triathlon which was that following Saturday. I was shaken up for a moment when a car pulled up behind me. Two concerned men came out and asked if I was fine. I nodded and asked him to check if my bike was ok. He lifted my bike and answered in affirmative. “Do you want me to call an ambulance? You are bleeding. I can drop you off somewhere?” he asked. I got up and saw that my right knee and arm were badly bruised. Not the first time, as 6 months ago I had fallen in the middle of a race and still reached the finish line in a strong manner. Fortunately, there was no sprain so I decided to finish my bike ride and go home. Looking appalled at my statement, the 2 men reluctantly went ahead. I couldn’t seem to clean off the wound once I reached my apartment which made me go to Palo alto medical foundation emergency care. After checking me thoroughly to ensure there was no sign of a fracture, the doctor cleaned the wound and gave me a go ahead for my upcoming triathlon which was the mermaid series triathlon. “As long as you are feeling fine.” she said.
Rest before the race: I rested for the next few days, applying antibiotic cream on the wound and wrapping it up with a bandage. Maybe God wanted me to rest before the D day I thought. I was a little tensed as doing an Olympic distance triathlon had been on my bucket list since last year. No way was I giving this event a miss. What would hurt more than the actual wound was not doing this event after training for it for months, ever since I landed in the USA. I collected by bib on Wednesday evening as I examined the ingredients inside. There was a timing chip to be worn around the ankle, a small bib on the helmet of the cycle, a bib around the cycle and a bib for the tee shirt. A wristband was tied around my wrist which was my entry ticket inside the transition area on race morning. “If you lose this band, take your ID card with you and the volunteers will give you another one on race morning.” said the race director. “Got it,” I replied.
Pre-race prep: Wearing my tri suit and partly my wet suit, I set off to Capitola beach on Saturday morning. My hubby and daughter accompanied me and were to hang out at the beach until I was done with my event. My race started at 7:20 am and the transition area opened at 6:00 am. It was chilly in the morning but the weather was predicted to be warm later that day. The transition area was situated up Depot hill which was at least 800 m from the beach. I assembled my bike, laid down my towel on the left side of the bike with things that I would need post my swim which comprised of my helmet, goggles, GU gels, shoes and T shirt. Zipping up my wet suit, putting on my cap and goggles, I set off to the beach.
The mermaid feeling: The Olympic distance participants were already assembled on the beach and taking a dip in the ocean which was unexpectedly warm. The sand on the beach was colder than the water, we joked with one another. At the count of go, we set off. Entering the water, we began swimming our strokes. There were paddle boats and jet skis hovering around us in the ocean-volunteers who were to come to our aid in case any of us faced any difficulty. We were allowed to hold on to the boats, in case we were out of breath. The ocean was a little choppy as compared to the other day when I had attended a swim clinic. Considering it was a full moon day, I wasn’t surprised. The other women (this was an only women’s event) were faster swimmers and went ahead of me. Initially I began to panic wondering if I was doing something wrong only to remind myself that the others practically grew up near the ocean and were probably swimming in the sea since childhood while this was only my 4th time. I decided to just go with the flow, savoring every stroke against the mighty waves. At one point, I was the only one left as others had finished their swim. Having the entire ocean to myself was an incredible feeling. By the time I got out, I glanced at my watch to see I had taken lesser time to swim a mile in the ocean as compared to the pool. My legs felt wobbly as I ran to the transition area. The volunteers clapped and cheered for me all the way.
Transition one: The hardest part was to get out of the wet suit which is why body gliders are highly recommended. These are to be applied before putting on the wet suit and it helps in getting off the suit for your next division. Slipping my tee over my head, buckling my helmet and putting on my shoes, I steered my cycle to the blue line where I was to mount my bike and ride ahead.
A hilly ride: It was a rather steep hill that greeted me in the beginning which compelled me to get off my bike and walk it up to a point when I could start pedaling. The route was a tough one comprising of rolling hills all the way. It took us through some beautiful woods. Other fellow bikers kept egging us and cheering on saying “you’ve got it, you are getting there.” That kept me going and while coming downhill, I was extra careful as I did not want another fall. It was a two-loop course where volunteers were cheering us throughout. While coming back I got a glimpse of the pristine blue ocean on the left. It was unbelievably a hot day which made the biking part quite challenging as we had to battle both the hills and the heat.
Transition 2: Dismounting from the bike and placing it on the rack, I popped a GU gel and went off to complete the last leg-the 10 km run.
The heat run: Brick training becomes an essential aspect while training for a triathlon as running even a measly 10 km post a 40 km bike ride becomes an arduous task. Thankfully I had practiced some brick workouts as incorporated by my friend cum coach Viv Menon which came in handy on the D day. It was a hill that once again greeted me in the beginning of the run. The sun was out in full flow, exuding heat in a fierce manner. I ran past the cliff which overlooked the ocean below. Spotting the high tide waves and surfers, I longed to jump inside to escape the heat. However I had to keep going. While running, I spotted some of the Olympic distance participants on the way and found myself overtaking them. We hi-fived each other. The last lap towards the finish line was right on the beach. Running on sand in the middle of noon was no easy feat. However, the locals hanging out at the beach kept egging me on and I soon found myself crossing the finish line in style. I felt goosebumps on hearing the emcee announce saying ‘she’s from India, currently at Stanford and this is her first Olympic distance.’
The moment of joy: I was officially the mighty mermaid as the Olympic distance participants were called. It was such a wonderful moment having completed something on my bucket list. The medal was carved in a shape of a mermaid and the most beautiful one that I had ever seen. For some reason, I was always intrigued by these legendary aquatic creatures since childhood. It’s an old folklore that mermaids are associated with ill fortunes but this one managed to bring me a sense of accomplishment and immense joy as I posed with my country’s flag near at the finish line!
Vote of thanks: Thank you Viv! Don’t think I could have achieved this without your guidance and training! Aditya Sahu-another person who always saw potential in me even when I didn’t. Ashok- for always being supportive. Amit and Samara-for being there for me always.