Journal entry: Nov. 10, 2013 – Daytona Beach, FL
An hour before sunrise the sound from the parking lot was of an angry ocean – waves crashing, wind screaming – mother nature roaring its displeasure at the coming of the sun.
Karla was here to compete in her first sprint triathlon and the kids and I were here to cheer her on.
As the competitors gathered their gear, sand whipped across the parking lot, stinging the right side of my neck and biting my cheek.
A rumbling sound drew my attention to the beach. Somewhere close, still hidden behind a veil of darkness, lurked the churning ocean. I caught a shimmer of moonlight dancing atop an enormous white-capped wave.
When I think of that morning I think of that wave, at the peak of its power, cresting above a sand bar before racing out of view and smashing onto the beach. The violent crash still brings a shudder of fear as I think, “How are they going to swim in these conditions?”
The more experienced racers had gathered in small groups and were talking in hushed, excited voices. “It looks bad,” they agreed.
We mulled about as race organizers gathered away from the water’s edge, debating whether they should cancel the 400 meter swim and alter the race. Then in then end, it was decided that the event would continue and those who wanted too test their mettle could race.
The athletes were happy. This was a sanctioned event with prize money for the winners. A season-long points race hung in the balance.
Sunrise was spectacular, its deep hue’s of orange and pink and purple filling the sky. Then the whistle blew and the athletes ran into the sea.
And by all accounts the struggle during the swim was intense and personal and the fight with the waves and the current was very real.
The dangerous conditions had lifeguards on high alert, as they patrolled in well rehearsed unison, guiding weaker swimmers and encircling the pack until the last athlete was safely back to shore.
32 participants, including Karla, received notice: INCOMPLETE COURSE DUE TO SWIM PORTION HAVING TO BE HALTED BY DIRECTION OF BEACH PATROL
201 Karla Katon 1:54:33 1:01:03 2:41 40:06
Despite having been halted during their swim, all emerged victorious. Maybe not in numbers, but in self-discovery, as each had pushed themselves to the limit.
After catching her breathe from her swim, Karla gave the girls a quick hug and hurried into the transition area to gather her bike and continue her race.
For me the bike and run events were almost an afterthought, as the race was won the moment everyone emerged safely from the sea.
Photographs by Chris Katon