A Successful Race
A successful race
For me, the 2016 Nautica Malibu Triathlon was a very successful race. I had one goal for that race: finish the swim. That sounds a bit odd coming from a seasoned age-group triathlete who is rather competitive in the swim, but this race was different for me.
Motion of the Ocean
Ever since I can remember, I have had terrible motion sickness. Back seats of cars do it. Airplanes do it. Boats do it. Turning my head too fast can do it. I’m a basket case!
When it comes to the water, it’s not the choppiness necessarily that makes me sick. It’s the rhythmic swells: that side to side motion of a boat’s wake or the ocean beyond its breakers. Usually everything starts out fine. But after a few minutes of the motion, my head begins to throb, followed by a lot of empty stomach burping. Then the nausea creeps in. By that point, the head is in a full vise grip of a migraine and it’s not long until I start vomiting.
This is exactly what happened to me at the Nautica South Beach Triathlon in 2011. By 800 meters I was chumming for big fish. I used to worry about vomiting and swimming at the same time, because I was afraid I would drown. I didn’t drown. My race started on the beach and ended on a life guard’s surfboard. It was the worst race day of my life. After I reached the shore, there was more vomiting, disabling vertigo, severe migraines, and lots of misery. I even had a fluid IV in the back of the ambulance. It didn’t help too much and the world kept spinning around me.
Getting Back in the Ocean
Since that time, I’ve done one race with an ocean swim, but it was very short (350 meters). Other than that one race, I have avoided ocean swims completely which is a fine solution except for one thing: I have wanted to participate in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon for many years. Why? I guess because it is near my native birthplace of Pacific Palisades, California. So I had some reasons to “do Malibu.” 2016 turned out to be my year for Malibu.
My preparation consisted of swimming in choppy channel water and working with my swim coach, Perry Maxwell. She and I swam beyond the breakers one time and one time only, but that was enough to give me the confidence I needed. Her words were far more powerful for me than any style or techniques she could have demonstrated. She taught me not to fight the environment, because, with a problem like mine, you can’t just muscle your way through it. Instead, I had to work with the environment and ride the swells and waves to my advantage. The solution sounded more mental than physical, so I practiced visualizations as often as I could. I imagined every scenario I could think of and “saw” myself in the middle of them. That’s another thing I learned from Perry.
On race day (September 18, 2016), I was very nervous about the swim even though the water beyond the breakers was relatively calm. I watched the athletes before me get tossed around by the breakers which really should not have concerned me because I know how to get through the breakers. Regardless, I was worried.
So there I was: at the starting line and ready to go. The cannon sounded and we were off; actually they were off and I was hanging back. I jogged very slowly to the water behind the main group in order to prevent a situation that might produce a hyper competitive migraine. It actually worked. I stayed relaxed the whole swim without trying to “power” through any tough spots. Getting through the breakers was no problem at all. And once on the other side, I was surprised by the water. It was clear and didn’t taste as bad as the water off the coast of Wrightsville Beach. Every now and again, I started to feel a little dizzy, but that’s as far as it went. When I felt like I might be losing my focus, I counted strokes and meditated on my swim form.
The Best Part
By far, the best part of the swim was the last 50 meters. I could see people walking out of the water ahead of me and Perry’s voice was in my head. She was telling me to ride in on a wave. With each breath, I looked behind me until I saw my opportunity in a big swell that looked like it was going to break. Because I swam with ease for the length of the course, I had plenty of strength left to race the swell and catch its wave. I caught it at just the right point and rode it in with my arms out front. I shot like a torpedo past many of those in front of me.
The Rest of the Race
Everything after that was great. I had the fastest T1 and T2 in my age group. The average speed on my bike ride was 21.1 mph and my run pace was under 8:30/mile. But none of it mattered as much as the swim. My age group placing is not important. Neither is my race time. I conquered a fear and pushed myself beyond limits that had held me back.
Just Incase You’re Wondering
Swim: 800 meters
Bike: 18 miles
Run: 4 miles
Division Place: 8/95
Gender Place: 105/1039
Overall Place: 108/1577