The air was buzzing with thick, nervous energy, though it may have been the impending lightning and the light rumble of thunder in the Naples, FL sky. Ironic, because local news stated that it was the first time in weeks that the beach city was projected to get rainfall, much less the 11-20 mph average winds and thunderstorm that came with it.
The irony stems from the fact that out of all days, it was HITS triathlon series’ half and full iron races. The half iron distance race consists of swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and then running 13.1, totaling 70.3 miles. The full iron is double the amount: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run for a grand total of 140.6. Yours truly was scheduled to participate in her first full iron, and I would be damned if any part of the race was cut short due the inclement weather. There was too much money spent, too much time put into this and too many sacrifices made for a cancelation to occur.
While I and hundreds of other triathletes gathered on the beach, we received notification that the swim was indeed not cancelled or cut short. My excitement was barely containable as a grin leapt onto my face, hurting my cheeks. After the go ahead, a mass start of all athletes proceeded toward the 65-degree water.
With my feet no longer touching the sand, I proceeded to swim in a freestyle motion. The sky was a dark grey and the water was extremely choppy. Turning my head to breathe, I swallowed two gulps of salty water. My throat burning, I began to breaststroke, noting a building on my right hand side.
Minutes later and legs slightly burning, I looked again to the right to spot. The building was still there ― I hadn’t moved. Panic settled in, and I switched back to freestyle, then breaststroke, head out of water freestyle, and, desperately, doggie paddle. More gulps of water ensued, I still wasn’t moving, my goggles were foggy, and there were people all around me.
Right then and there, I wanted to quit. Finishing a mile swim only to proceed back in the water to do it again was not worth it to me. “If I stop now, this could be over,” I thought to myself. “It would be so easy to get out of the water, quit and go home.” Interrupting my thoughts was a lifeguard on her board: “Miss, do you need help?”
To continue reading Natalya's First IronMan Story visit: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/i-completed-my-first-ironman-distance-and-this-is_n_589db8f4e4b080bf74f03b00