20130801-223624.jpgThe week leading up to my first ever complete half Ironman (I did one last year in Sunriver, OR but they shortened the bike course to just 25 miles due to snow on Mt. Bachelor) was extremely stressful. But the morning of the race was glorious! My friends Amy, Heidi and I stayed at my Little Friend Lynn’s cabin at Donner. We woke up at 4:45, had a fabulous breakfast of Paleo “oatmeal” (recipe to come after I get through this damn “race report” and can start talking about important things like food!!) and headed down to the lake shore by 6:15. This is the fun time of race day. Everyone mingles around, shares war stories and swaps advice on everything from Gu to compression socks to peeing during a race. It’s almost for this one hour that I compete. I love people watching. I love the electricity in the air. I love the anticipation of a race about to begin.  At 7:45, my race did begin. And it began well… for about 300 yards. The water temperature was perfect, the lake was calm and my wave was manageable… not too many swimmers to make me claustrophobic. The swim course was one loop. We would first head for an orange booey that was so far away it looked about the size of a pencil eraser. We would turn left at that booey and head for a white booey on the other side of the lake where we would again turn left and head for shore. 20130801-223609.jpg

When the horn sounded, we took off like a gaggle of geese trying to get enough speed to take flight. Only we would remain in the water for about 25 minutes… at least that was my goal time. I made it about 300 yards when it happened. My lungs went from feeling fine to feeling like they couldn’t get a deep breath. I first flipped on my back to get them under control but that didn’t help. I next looked for the orange booey and it was now the size of a small gumball… I still had a long way to go. And I freaked out. Was this what my doctor warned me of? Were my lungs going into a full asthmatic attack? I had no idea but I knew I had to get some help. I lifted my arm and headed straight for a safety kayak. I pulled up on her bow and started breathing deeply. This cute young girl said, “Are you ok?” I said I wasn’t sure. I just needed a minute to catch my breath. I then looked ahead and saw another safety kayak about 100 yards away. I decided to swim to that kayak and see how things were going. When I plunged back into the water, I was filled with fear that 6 months of hard core training had come to this; a 5 minute race I had to pull out of. I asked myself how disappointed I would be if I had to stop. I honestly answered “pretty damn disappointed” so I told myself to keep going to the next kayak and reevalute at that point. When I got there, surprisingly I felt a bit better. I decided to keep going to the booey, make the turn, and again reevaluate. When I got to the booey, a miracle happened. Someone called out my name! I lifted my head and saw Amy swimming toward me!! “What are you doing here? I thought you were way ahead of me.” “I can’t breathe,” she replied. “Oh good! Neither can I!! Let’s stick together and finish this thing.” And we did. We got to the white booey fairly easily, turned left, and headed back to the beach. Time? 38 minutes. I guess that’s what happens when you hang out on a kayak for 10 minutes! Next up? The bike. I’ll get to the leg tomorrow. 


About Wendy D

I was born in San Francisco and ended up marrying a rancher in Reno, Nevada. I have a big city job anchoring the 5 o’clock news but come home to the country where my husband’s family has ranched for 5 generations.


  1. [...] and have always maintained a pretty decent fitness level swimming. Well, you all know how my swim leg went… so that didn’t bode well for the rest of my race. After getting out of the lake at 38 [...]

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