Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gulf Coast - pre race

I’m still shaking sand out of my transition bag… and thinking about Mary (who tried to pack sand into her hair, so that upon her return to NY, she could shake it out and remember the beach). I’m also missing Marit and her French Press. This race report could use a cup of good coffee.

You’ve seen the pictures. You know what we did leading up to Saturday’s ½ IM… the typical tri-girl activities; however, I must admit this particular trip gave a whole new meaning to the word skank. Evidence:
- my decision to drive from Greenville, SC to Panama City Beach sans air conditioning (choosing to open windows just blew in more dirt/sand/stink. My car still doesn’t smell right)
- the hotel room floor upon my arrival. Not only did I opt to go air con free… Mary and Marit had planned the same for our room. Listening to the waves = fantastic. Slipping and sliding on a humid/salty/sandy floor = ewwww. My crocs stayed on the entire weekend.
- Which leads me to our shower situation. Again, I left my crocs on… as if I were in a locker-room.
- I know that at some point during the trip, we each used a towel that had been on said floor.
- Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever used a dry towel. Probably a result of the aforementioned open air hotel room.
- Thinking a bomb had gone off every time Marit let the wind vortex SLAM our door shut (yes, having your balcony door open will create a wind tunnel strong enough to suck a human out the opposing door)
- Mary and her infamous red board shorts. Hey, I might win the award for “smelling worst upon arrival.” But, Miss Mary gets the award for “wearing the SAME shorts 4 days in a row.”
- Our trip to HOOTERS for souvenir t’shirts. Panama City Beach Hooters, enough said.
- The “kitchen” set up. So, it was actually the sink… but, you’d have thought Juan Valdez himself was staying with us – and unloading his burro near our bathroom. Hair, toothpaste, chamois cream, makeup, coffee grounds. Sure, typical bathroom mess.
- Hey wait – I drank coffee prepared in that kitchen. Augh.
- To Mary, Marit, and I sucking on nuun tablets. Marit and her priceless face - like a girl eating sourpatch kids for the first time. I could see it coming, and then she sure did reach those fingers into her mouth and pull out a half-disintegrated nuun. The nuun went from her hand right into Mary’s water bottle. And then I watched Mary drink the water. Does anyone else think this is gross?!
- On race morning, I found myself frantically searching for a microwavable container for oatmeal preparation. What did I find first, a dirty coffee mug. Hum, quick rinse. Don’t mico-waves kill bacteria? Whatever, I needed oatmeal and it was 4:00 am. I don’t think straight at this hour.
- Other gross foodstuffs: the jar of natural peanut butter that remained out for most of the trip. I saw many plastic knives dip in and out of the jar. However, the peanut butter was not being spread on anything… the “dipping sticks” were going into mouths, licked clean, and then dipped back on in. At this point, I’m sure Marit and Mary swapped enough saliva to constitute a full on make-out session.
- Alright, I’ve sufficiently grossed myself out.

On to the pre-race story:

Friday was packet pick up and bike check in. I think this was the day it hit me… hit me that this was a BIG race. 69 girls in my age group alone. The line to check in was long enough that we all got our Expo Shopping in by rotating who held our spot in line. I waited while Marit and Mary looked around… and when they came back I set off to buy a spare tire.
Finally, finally we made it to the packet pick-up tables (which were manned by some seriously snippy retirees, btw). #366, a silver wristband, some swag, t’shirt, etc…

We went back to the skanky room to rest. 3 tri-girls lying with their heads at the end of the bed – legs propped up on the wall. I found my iPod and switched on the tunes. Just as I drifted off… our other guests arrived. So fun to meet Donna and Joanna (FL residents, so I can only imagine they’re used to having sand everywhere).

Later in the day, we got our bikes together and drove them to transition. Nerves hit again as I looked at the number of bike racks. I was going to need GPS just to find my spot in the transition area. Well, I racked her up and said goodnight.

We turned in early that night. Normally, sleep comes easy for me… but, this race was different. I could hear the waves crashing on the beach just outside our room (this was my 1st ocean swim tri). I remembered that I hadn’t started in a wave of more than 20 competitors since 2005. Due to cooler temps in SC, I haven’t gotten in much hot weather training. I don’t think (until this race) I’d ever ridden for more than 20 miles in aero… actually, to prepare for this race I’d had to find a road to do FLAT repeats. How was my body going to respond to 56 miles of flat? I tried to turn off my brain and trust the training.

Whoa, 3:45am came quick. There were 5 girls moving about in the room… it was a nervous/quiet atmosphere. Everyone went about their pre-race rituals, and somehow we managed to work around each other. Aided immensely by our 2 WBS’s (world’s best sherpas). Marit helped coat me in sunblock; I filled and mixed 4 water bottles; somehow choked down a mug of oatmeal; I had a minor panic attack while looking for my bike; I went over my mental check list for the last time; and we were off.

We got to the transition area in plenty of time. It reminded me of the trips I’d made to PC for IM Florida. But, this morning – I was racing. A whole different day was ahead of me.

As I set up my transition area I tried to calm down and take deep breaths. Like Marit had reminded me… I was going to race my race. Did it matter how many people were racing alongside?! No. It didn’t matter if I was out there with 30 or 3,000 other people. I knew my plan.

Tires pumped, all my stuff ready and waiting on a towel by my bike (thanks to the girl next to me who didn’t show… it was like I had the emergency row transition spot, lots of extra leg room). Then I made some mental notes, tried to spot anything that could help me locate my rack quickly. Later realized that a right-curving palm tree is not a significant point of reference ;)

Grabbed for my cap (red! Sweet), goggles (brand new – I was going into this race Jen Harrison style), wetsuit… and found Donna and Mary. Of course Mary was all cheers & smiles, while Donna and I were still fighting some nerves.

We made our way toward the water. WBS’s did a great job keeping pre-race conversation light. I shiver to think about what I would have been like w/out Marit and Mary there to calm me down.

Wetsuits zipped up, cap on, goggles down and into the water for a quick, quick “remember what the waves feel like” warm-up. Oh right, I’m going to be beaten up and thrashed around for over 30 minutes. Grrreat.

They called everyone out of the water, the countdown began. Wave 1 was physically challenged athletes; the Pros went next; then 2 waves of women (including Mary); I was in wave 5 – the red caps (with Donna who got an orange cap because she’s special… or they just ran out of red).

As they corralled our wave into the starting area, I gave serious thought to running back to Marit, handing her my chip, and telling her to go for it (busted back and all). Funny thing, she probably would have done it. Which is what ultimately kept me motivated. There are those who can’t race. Not because they don’t want to – but, because doctors tell them they are not able. Who am I to chicken out because of some little waves?

For the 2nd time out of 2 triathlons this year: Eminem’s 8 Mile started right before my wave. It gets my blood pumping, my nerves on high, my energy focused. In true rap spirit, I extended my fist to Donna. She laughed, fisted me back, and we said "good luck." The announcer counted down and I looked off toward the 1st buoy. The gun sounded and I (along with over 100 other women) tore off into the waves…

Tomorrow I’ll actually tell you about the race


BriGaal said...

Great report so far! I felt like I was right there with you guys. I can't wait for the race tomorrow :)

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

HILARIOUS! Oh my gosh Ashley - this brings back SO MUCH from last weekend! I miss you SO MUCH! We really DID have a great time.

I think one of the neatest things the night before the race was you and Donna chatting about the race in bed.... ;) I was SO tempted to join in - but figured as you two were the ones racing, it would be special for you.

Yes - the Nuun tablet was wrong and disgusting. But hey - I wasn't the one who drank from the water bottle. Eew. And Peanut Butter - well, what can I say? :)

I am on the edge of my seat, waiting for tommorow's report....

Love ya!

Train-This said...

I just laughed my freaking butt off sister. And yes, there is still sand in my hair. And the shorts.... washed.

Sally said...

Love the lead-in to the race. Sounds like you all had such fun. Love, Mom

Mendy said...

Awesome so far! I am reading backwards (trying to catch up), so lucky for me - I get to read your next one right away. :-)

I love the Eminem music at the beginning. Jeremy did it for Clemson too. I know what you mean about pumping you up. Hope it continues!