Sunday, October 13, 2013

"go, stranger, go!"

This is Napa Valley, home of iconic California wines and vineyards.  It's also where I completed my first tri-athlon today. 

What actually happened isn't as picturesque as the above photo, taken today after the race.  Like many of my previous "races" I did this one without training.  It was an amazing shit show, and I loved it.  Here's the synopsis.

1) No swimming since August.  Period.  Not one stroke.

2) No biking more than 6 miles on any given day.  Seriously.  And never biking more than 18 miles per week.

3) Running:  okay.  I do this regularly.  I admit it.

4) Gear: bike--> single-speed Bianchi that hasn't been tuned up in years.  The rear wheel is out of true, so much in fact that one of the rear brake pads touches the wheel at the apex of each rotation.
The chain is gummy, covered in sand, city dust, lint (from my landlords' clothes dryer which blows in my bike storage area) and dog hair (duh).

5) Gear: shoes--> beat-up, old smelly track flats with a hole in the toe.

6) Plan: Marina text-messages me the night before:  "what are you bringing?"  I haven't really thought about it, I've been so beat down by my exhausting school and clinic schedule.  "Vaseline?  Sunscreen.  Chapstick? Water..."  I cant think of anything else.  All I can think of is how much I'd rather be sleeping at 5:30am and how much of a fool I am for continuing to put myself up to these silly races.  We agree to leave at 6:15 for a 2 hour drive to Napa, in order to have the bikes racked, etc by 8:45. 

Marina picks me up at 6:25am.  We get to Napa at 7:15 and think that we have an hour to kill, so decide to go to Starbucks for coffee/breakfast, even have the gall to sit down for about 15-20 minutes!  After our unusually leisurely coffee stop, we get back in the car, put "Lake Berryessa" on iMap, and realize we are still 1 hour away from Chaparral Cove, where the event starts.  Oops.

7) Nausea:  I have been afflicted with severe motion sickness since I was a child.  No road spares me.  I even make myself sick, as the driver, if the road is curvy enough. On curvy roads, my parents used to pull the car over to let me puke on regular occasions.  Today, as we leave Napa in a big hurry in Marina's Mini-Cooper (tight suspension: my worst nemesis), we immediately find ourselves on a serious roller-coaster, with the warning sign that I dread most: "next 23 miles, narrow, windy road."

8) Arrival:  we arrive at the event at 8:50.  My head is spinning and I feel like hell.  The pre-race meeting has already started and all of the competitors are lined up at the lake.  People have been here for hours.  They are warmed up and organized.  Let me remind you that this is my first triathlon, and Marina's first also.  We have no idea what to do.  We scramble to get the bikes off of the car and racked in the transition area.  We rally over to registration and get our numbers. Where does this number go?  This one?  We get naked in the middle of the parking lot, change into our Speedos, throw a bunch of crap like running shoes, Vaseline and my Albuterol inhaler down by the bikes,  and run down to the lake in time for the 3rd and final wave of swimmers to begin the swim.  Also, my nausea still hasn't subsided... 

9) Swimming:  Did I mention that Marina just learned how to swim?  Well, she is amazing and brave, and a little crazy (which is why she is awesome).  Just last week she got to the point (swim # 5 in her career of swimming) where she could swim 500 meters.  Good enough! So, off we go in a flurry of legs and arms and little wavelets and adrenaline.  I promised Marina weeks ago when she was second guessing her decision to do this race, that I wouldn't leave her side.  I guide her through her crazy backstroke zig-zag as she is gulping mouthfuls of water and panic.  I keep her on course, make sure I don't have to come home to San Francisco and tell our friends that we lost Marina in Lake Berryessa....  We round the last buoy with the oldest and slowest of the ladies...  She doesn't drown. This is good! We run to the transition area holding hands and laughing.... We are alive and glad to be on land.  Marina can barely breathe.  The Albuterol inhaler comes in handy.... 

10) Biking is amazing.  Having a single speed kicks ass.  The wet hair and wet Speedo feel amazing as we fly along the lake with the hot east winds already buffeting us as they soar over thirsty, golden, oak-covered hills.  We pass hordes of women and make up for our horrendous swim time.

11) Running is also amazing.  It is a hilly little run, which is perfect for me.  I pass more hordes, happy to be on my feet where I feel most at home and strong. 

12) On the home stretch I pass a spectator holding a sign that says, "go stranger, go!" which i think is cute and awesome.  Marina once told me about a race she ran where a person had a sign that said, "worst parade ever!" I sprint the last 1/4 mile and pass a few more folks, just for good measure.  For just these minutes, I forget school, laundry, debt, dying family members, the regular plummeting of my self-esteem....

13) I end up coming in 9th in my age group after all the nausea, poor planning, late arrival, etc, etc.  It is a good day to be alive in the world, and I am reminded of this.

4 comments:

Wave Farmer said...

My one and only triathalon was far different...
Finished among the front of the pack in the swim (Comp swimmer from 4th grade thru college)...
Got passed by many agro "HOLD YOUR LINE" yelling people (I should have)...
And then got passed by many, many more on the run (not that last old lady tho!)...
Didn't help that I pulled my hamstring brushing my teeth a week prior to the race (true story...when you drop the cap of your toothpaste, bend your knees to pick it up).

ranknovice.com said...

awesome! I'd love to crew for you at a triathlon some time if that would be useful. Otherwise, I can get drunk and chleer you on...

karmic voyager said...

you can "chleer" me on any day. or you could join me for one...
no dropping the toothpaste cap the night before though.

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