The Underdog Races Again

Chasing away self-doubt to achieve progress: The value of practicing patience

Mary Chang Story Writer
Mary Chang Story Writer
10 min readSep 8, 2022
Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

I couldn’t sleep the night before the race. I crawled into bed at 1:13 am, my alarm chimed at 5 am, and I’d be starting the triathlon in two hours. It was low tide at Second Beach, Stanley Park, and the Pacific Ocean’s 18°C temperature was ideal for the 20th Annual Vancouver Triathlon.

The triathlon distance I registered for is called a “Tri-It,” which involves a 300m ocean swim, a 10km cycle around the park, and a 2.5km seawall run. It’s a distance designed for first-timers or triathlon beginners. This would be my second triathlon but my first race with an ocean swim.

A few months ago, I initially registered for the Sprint distance (750m ocean swim, 20km bike/5km run), but after I finished my first-ever triathlon at age 51, which included a 444m pool swim this May (I was the slowest swimmer in my age group and second slowest swimmer out of 255 racers), I backed out and switched to the “Tri It” distance. I was nervous then — my gut told me I didn’t have the physical endurance to swim 750 meters non-stop in an ocean race.

On the September 5th race day morning, I ate a small bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and drank a cup of coffee while waiting for my race to begin. I was tired but on a caffeine high — energized by the excitement of the other racers. I should’ve just gone ahead and stuck with the Sprint distance. I think I can do it! 750-meters seems doable on a beautiful sunny day like today.

Turns out my gut was right to stick to the 300-meter swim.

Swimmers on race day. Photo by A. Wicks.

A swarm of bodies in the water

Sixty-seven swimmers charged into the water when the facilitator announced, “Go!” We had to swim out to the orange buoy, then to a second orange buoy, and back to shore.

Holy F*CK. Swimmers were splashing within one to two feet of my limbs while the current rocked my body in the salty murky water. I tried to calm down my anxiety, but…



Mary Chang Story Writer
Mary Chang Story Writer

Finding shine through exercise, nature & people stories. Fueled by cartwheels, open water swimming & grit. Kid at heart, embracing & defying middle age.