Let me start by saying that superb athletic ability was not one of the job requirements when I applied for this internship.
Flashback to three weeks ago: Our photographer, Tim Hacker, asked me if I wanted to compete in a “fun mini-triathlon” with other members of the media and some politicians. I’ve been trying to get back into shape and I figured it would give me a good opportunity to start that training process. “Of course I would love to jump into a freezing lake, Tim! Sign me up!”
Flash-forward to this morning: When I arrived at Tempe Beach Park, I did not see a bunch of rag-tag journalists ready to do their first-ever athletic event (for some reason I thought everyone would be in the same boat as me). I did see a bunch of very fit men in wet suits. A lot of things flashed through my mind at that moment, mostly, “what did I get myself into?”
But I was already there. Ready or not, I had to jump into Tempe Town Lake, then ride a bike, then run. As we got close to the water, I could hear my mother’s voice in my head, “Isn’t that lake water super dirty?” I pushed the thought aside. I had a feeling I would be thinking a lot more about the temperature than the quality of water in a few minutes.
On your marks, get set, GO.
I’m in the water. I’m swimming, sort of. I’m moving my arms and trying to kick in my water-logged sneakers but I don’t really seem to be going anywhere. The water is so cold that at some point I stop breathing for a few seconds. I catch my breath and keep going. I get to the turnaround point and realize I’m at the back of the pack. I finally get to the steps and somehow pull myself out of the lake. I have a lot of ground to make up.
I run to my adorable pink flowered beach cruiser, throw on my helmet and start pedaling. I can do this. I rode bikes all the time when I was younger. I pass a few people and make my way down the course. If we could have ended after the bike portion, I would have been golden.
But we didn’t. We still had to run (Disclaimer: I just finished my first real 5k in early October). I‘m tired. I’m still dripping lake water. I’m still wearing my helmet. Oh, and it’s cold. But I’m running. Not super fast, but I’m running. I round the corner and I’m almost there. I know there’s at least one person behind me so I knew I would accomplish my goal — not to be last. I hear them announce my name, I cross the finish line and throw up my “ASU pitchfork.”
It’s done. I’m done. And I wasn’t even last. I was actually first place for women! (Of course, I was also the only woman to compete — what’s up with that?)
Maybe it’s because I’ve showered and I’m nice and warm now, but I actually did have a lot of fun. A huge thanks goes out to Mayor Mark Mitchell and the City of Tempe for the opportunity. After all, how many people can say they have swum in Tempe Town Lake?
And I guess I should start training for next year now. Right now. Watch out Arizona media folks — I’ll see you next year!
• Jessica, a junior studying journalism at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern with the Tribune this semester. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6548.