Meanwhile, more about the stress I can handle with a race recap: I was getting stressy but I was able to talk myself down before the race ("You only have to finish! You don't have to win! You don't even have to finish if you just don't feel like it! Just try and see how it goes!"), but the night before it was so bad I was worried I was going to wake up in a fog of exhaustion and just not make it out at all.
The swim was the hardest event. I had really misunderstood how cold 22 centigrade was for swimming and the cold was a shock to my body. I started out behind a pack of 50 women - it would have taken me two minutes to swim to the front if they had been standing still - and I was never able to make this up. In fact, I didn't try: it took me so long to get my bearings in the water that by the time I had, everyone had pretty much finished, and I was alone in the lake with a guard asking me if I was okay. I just couldn't deal with the murk, I never got into a swimming rythm, it was a problem for me that I couldn't see where I was going (I had to keep lifting my head out), and what I finally did was flop on my back and backstroke into shore, which got me there. Lesson: wetsuit for open water swimming; don't start two minutes behind the start line (this was probably even more of a problem because my "wave" was huge).
Then the biking - I made a fabulous transition because I didn't have to take off a wetsuit, but with the wind in my face I wasn't making any real speed. But this part was really fun, a lovely zip around a lake with sheep grazing on its banks, and even more fun when I got to the side that was out of the wind. I felt like I was doing this bit almost by myself - at least the women who were swimming behind me didn't pass me here. Lesson: go faster.
Finally, the running - this was the bit where I was left disappointed with the day. I didn't actually run the whole distance, even though I had regularly been running this distance three times a week for the last six months. It just felt like my legs had gotten really cold and I couldn't warm them up, and seeing so many other women walking in this bit (a lot of spectators had gone home so there were huge areas with no one watching at all) I just decided to bag it and walk two or three stretches. I was really unhappy that I didn't run all the way. No idea what the lesson was I should have learned here.
In all, I'm feeling like I can probably handle the stress of the race, but that physically I can handle the distances well enough to try a full sprint triathlon (750 meter swim/22 km bike ride/5K run) possibly as soon as the end of the summer. At any rate, I'm training for it now. Afterwards I can stop all of this nonsense, as I have a life I'd like to get on with and with theater, writing, and training, well, I really don't have time for all three, and while writing is taking the hit now, in the winter I think I will decide that this much physical activity is actually very boring, and as I've proven that I can do a tri, I can just let it go and not bother again.