Instead, the city was under a flood watch and it was barely 50 degrees.
Every blonde hair on both of my arms was standing straight up and goose bumps covered my limbs. Typically, in this type of weather, I would be wearing long sleeves and a jacket. At that moment, I was wearing a Speedo swimsuit, swim cap, goggles and an ankle chip timer. Yikes.
It was the third annual triPATHlon at beautiful Chastain Park in north Buckhead. It had rained nonstop the entire day before, and seemed like it stopped just enough for us to get our swim, bike and run on.
Unfortunately, the bike portion was cancelled last minute.
“The race director [Jim Rainey from Georgia MultiSports] went out on the course at 4:30 a.m.,” said Jim King, chairman and president of Chastain Athletic Park, one of the three beneficiaries of the event. “There was flooding and two trees down in Buckhead apparently on the race course. It was a combination of that and safety being the focus.”
I remember secretly wishing the swim was cancelled, so I could avoid plunging into the freezing water.
Nonetheless, I stood with about 180 other teeth-chattering, eye-bulging triathletes, ready to do the darn thing.
About 58 percent of the 310 registered participants ended up coming out that morning because of the weather or perhaps the cancelled bike ride, said King.
“I heard the race director say there’s a 10 percent attrition which is normal, but we had extreme circumstances,” he said.
I laughed for a while with the joyful — yet hesitant — people around me, talking about how cold the water would feel. I also briefly prayed to God. (Keep in mind, I am a Florida girl.) Eventually, my time would come to plop myself into the water, and swim the 400 yards in the Chastain Park Pool.
“Everyone wanted to know the temperature of the water,” King said. “I kept saying, ‘The water’s warmer than the air. Get in the water and it’ll be fine.’ … It’s a mental thing.”
Despite my baby-like behavior leading up to the race and the initial shock to my body after swimming my first lap, it was awesome. As King suggested, the pool started to feel fine once I got into the groove, and before I knew it, I forgot I was cold, and was climbing up the ladder and running to the transition station, adrenaline firing.
I threw on some pants, ripped off my swim cap and pulled on my running shoes. I took off on the 5-kilometer course feeling strong, regardless of the fact that my feet were completely numb and felt awfully strange for at least the first half mile — nothing endorphins can’t cure.
The air was crisp but perfect for running, and spectators and race organizers were extremely motivating. I honestly felt lucky to be running, because I knew they had to be freezing their tails off.
I meandered through the course, which took me down the sidewalk on Powers Ferry Road and deep into the park, wrapping back around to the finish line near the pool. I was greeted by smiling volunteers along the way, who were helpful in making sure I was hydrated and stayed on course. To my delight, the course was mostly flat with some downhill portions and only about three small inclines, which was fabulous, considering Atlanta is one hilly city.
I felt a sense of peace during the race, which I attribute to my surroundings. Even on a gray dreary morning, the park’s landscape was calming.
And nothing can beat the feeling of a post-race runner’s high and the brand new medal draped around my neck. To my surprise, I finished third among female competitors. Plus, I racked in on some free bananas, oranges and a gift bag.
All in all, the triPATHlon was a success. King said the only changes to make for next year’s race will be a few logistical factors.
“It’s a great new tradition in Chastain Park,” King said. “I think that more people will try it each year. It’ll grow as long as the weather cooperates. Hopefully 20 years from now, we’ll all look back and it’ll be still growing.”