There is sunshine in the athlete meeting where hundreds of body-marked, fit looking, nervous folks gather to listen to a man on stage. Alcatraz sits in the background under a crystal clear sky. I lean on my sore wrist and squint into the sun. My bike sits close by, her and I having a close call with a car and cable car tracks earlier that morning in the Embarcadaro. My stomach clenches angrily. My jittery self shifts in the grass, unable to workout to quell the nerves rising during my taper, instead filling myself with water and carbohydrates and sleep despite the train screeching by the leader house in Berkeley every 75 minutes.
A very short sleep later I am crouched near a window on the San Francisco Belle along with 1,799 other athletes, the boat making laps of the Bay, waiting for the 8am horn and start. The man on the loud speaker continues to tell us it is a perfect day for the race. I breathe audibly. We sardine towards the doors as the pros jump off into the Bay, followed by nine athletes through three boat doors every three seconds. I jump into the water and pray I won't die or lose my goggles.
The salt water rips through my suit and I am reminded of the first time I learned to surf. The cold waters of Castlegregory shred me and my instructor laughed. I am reminded of the first triathlon I ever did in Stanley Park. I am reminded of the first time I boarded a plane to go overseas. I wonder why I can't get my thrills in other ways then extreme, dramatic, somewhat ridiculous statements of fear.
I kick and get kicked. I swallow mouthfuls of salt water. I stroke. 10. Breathe. Look. 20. Stroke. Change sides. I glance back at the boat that held us from 5:45am to 8:00am and it is bobbing in the water. The Rock. I glance to the Bay Bridge, red and gleaming in the morning light. I think of what lies ahead, the non stop hills on the bike course, the equinox sand ladder, the lengthy run. The Hard Places. I hit sand on the beach and see a man getting carried out of the water, hear the helicopter ahead and boot into transition. Alex and Jill cheer me on. I am so grateful I can hardly breathe.
Three hours and nine minutes later in the morning heat I finish. I am so delighted and proud of myself I can hardly stand it. I want to give myself a self high five. So I do a fist pump and then a self high five. A year and a half away from this sport and I forgot what a satisfying feeling it is to cross the finish line. Different than running. Different than cycling. Different than a rugby game.
Twenty four hours later and some very sore muscles later I arrive back at the place I sometimes (mostly) call home. A tall, handsome boy with yellow flowers is waiting for me. We have talks and music and celebration and laughs and cheesecake. I drive myself to Canmore and talk to the looming mountains. I plan and prep and ask and talk and visit and meet and eat and interview and forty eight hours return home.
It is time for some Holly Time. But it is also time to start planning another ridiculous event...
I live in Calgary where I own a small business, instruct fitness classes and call myself an endurance athlete. I am the proud owner of four bikes, an expensive wine education, and a strange fascination with the colour orange. I have a long-time love of football, baking, and coffee. I put my minor in creative writing to use occasionally both here and in other publications. I live with my tall, handsome and often-hungry professional triathlete husband.
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