When we left off I had just started for the race site.
I was ready. I knew how to get there. This directionally challenged girl was up for the challenge.
I was fine until I hit the cones. I didn't literally hit them, but they blocked they way I needed to go. I stopped the car on the side of the road and stared. I had to go that way! That was the way to go! Sadly, I steered my little van down the wrong exit. I had no choice; the correct way, the way I knew, was blocked off. So much for preparation.
Time for plan B. This plan usually works when I'm lost before a race (and trust me when I tell you, I am often lost before a race). Here's the strategy: find a car with a USAT sticker or a 26.2 sticker or a 70.3 sticker or a 140.6 sticker or... you get the pictures--and FOLLOW THAT CAR! I drove around aimlessly for a bit. I found a police officer hanging in his cruiser on the side of the road and I asked him where to go. He didn't know, but assured me that three other people had asked him the same question. Great.
And then I saw it. A car with a USAT sticker! I skidded away from that cop (probably not smart, I know...) Follow that car! The car was a zippy SUV. The driver was MOVING! I wouldn't lose him. I wouldn't lose him. I wouldn't! We hit 50, 55, 60. We weren't on highway. Was this guy trying to lose me? I would not lose him! I would not stay lost! And then I saw a sign for Triathlon Parking. Hallelujah! I had made it!!
The Tweedledee and Tweedledum parking attendants ushered me kindly into the Dopey (appropriate placement for me, eh?) parking lot. When I stopped I took careful note of where I had parked my car. Second row. Second spot. Next to a white Volvo. I would not fuck this up. It was 4:30 a.m.
I got out of my car and got my stuff. I chatted the white Volvo man who had parked next to me.
Did you have trouble with those cones? I asked.
What cones? he said.
The cones blocking the road?
He looked at me strangely. No, he said. I just came the same way I did yesterday.
Oh, I said. Right. Of course you did.
Little voice: Is there something wrong with you Mary? Yes, there is. We know this, Mary. Covered Ground. Move on. Then a bike shoe dropped out of my bag. He picked it up. Then the handle of my bag got tangled on a car we walked by. He untangled it. I might have to stay away from you, he said. You're not having a lot of luck this morning.
I tittered. He moved away from me, and I didn't see him again.
Whatever, I thought. I made it here, Dude. I made it from Boston to Orlando to this race site, and I did it by myself. You have no idea what an accomplishment that is for me. Plus I will probably beat you today. So there.
I did all the stuff you do before a race. Pumped tires. pee. Set up area. pee. Fill bottles. pee. Lube everywhere. Pee. Check tires again. pee. pee. pee. pee.As I prepared I looked around me. Everyone had such nice bikes! Everyone looked so fit! How could I actually believe I was faster than all of these tanned, slim, strong women with killer bikes?
Negative thought. Alert! Exit Brain!
At the swim start I watched the pros loosen up and jump around. I didn't recognize any of them, but they were universally chiseled and compact. I ate a gel. I stared. I looked at the water, placid and dark. The sun was still not up. I wished I could pee, but I didn't have a wetsuit on, and it would be a little too obvious to do so. I'd have to wait until I was in the water. I shivered.
I was wave 6 out of like a billion. The pros and the older athletes started first. I guess I am now old, because the 40-44 year old women were included in this OLD mix. When they called us to the water I went in and sunk to my knees in the shallow water and peed. No shame. I know. Then I moved out again. It was a running entry, not a submerged start.
At the GO! I ran in and dolphin dived. and then again. and again. and again. Would I ever reach deep enough water????? And then I was swimming and I was latching onto a fast girl's feet. We moved away from everyone else. There were three of us. This continued until we hit the orange caps (men 18-24 (okay, yes, they're young) and W45-49). We swam through them. As we did, I lost my feet. Damn! After several more minutes I was swimming through the blue caps (M 55+ and W 50+) and then again, there was the calm water. I continued to see orange and blue caps sprinkled throughout--and here and there a green cap too--(the paratriathletes, wave 3) but for the last 10 minutes of the swim it was relatively calm swimming. I never did find my two compatriots from my AG. I had no idea if they were with me somewhere, or ahead of me or behind me. I knew I would be one of the first AG women out of the water. I did know that. The only other waves ahead of us were the sliver and pink caps--the pros.
Stats: 33:03. 3rd out of the water in AG. The fastest woman in my AG was 31:45. The second fastest was 32:20--so those two women I was with in the beginning did finish ahead of me. The swim was long and slow. The fastest pro of the day was only a 24+, which tells me it was slow because of a lack of wetsuits, but also because it was simply long.
It was a longish run to T1. I passed a 46 year old woman in the chute. At my rack I noted that there were no other women around me. Good sign. As I put on my helmet a girl zipped in behind me to her bike. I fumbled with my Garmin. I took off my glasses to see what I was doing because they had fogged. The woman who had come in was leaving with her bike. GOD DAMN IT! I am a SNAIL! I grabbed my bike and ran after her. I forgot my glasses on the way out. DOUBLE DAMN! A 56 mile ride sans sunglasses on the unbearably white roads of Disney in the hot sun of Orlando in May? TRIPLE DAMN and FUCK TOO!
On the bike.
Often when I ride a song comes in my head. When it's raining I may started humming "Here comes the rain again, walking on my head like a memory..." or " Blame it on the rain, yeah yeah." (yes, I am an 80s girl.) When it's hot I may think "Some like it hot and they sweat when the heat is onnn. Some feel the heat and decide that they can't go onnn ..." I
And for this ride? Click here.
Theme of this ride. Theme of this trip. Okay, pretty much the theme of my fucking life. He moves into a Rachmaninoff stint in the middle. Rachy is also the theme of this race--and my life. Right, Andy?
So I was alone on the bike. This makes sense. On the swim I passed the bulk of the people in the waves ahead of me. The pros were WAYYYY ahead, and the young, super fast men and women were behind me by a lot--having started more than 20 minutes after me on the swim. I did realize that the 40-44 year-old female fasties would be on me if I didn't ride well, and that helped to motivate. It was hard to ride in fear, though, because I actually wanted them near me. I wanted to do battle with them.
So the bike was lonely and involved quite a few 180 degree turns. Executing 180s is not a honed skill of mine, unfortunately. Think I lost a bit of time there! Still, Florida is relatively flat and so the course is fast. It's not as fast as Clearwater, but it's fast. It would have been faster if I had seen a living soul and been able to chase or catch up to anyone.
Stats: 2:38:06. 21.3 mph average. Came off the bike in 3rd position in AG, but my split was only 9th fastest in AG. There were some women right on my ass coming off the bike, that is for sure!
It happened. Nothing exciting to report. I glared at my sunglasses.
As is often the case, for the first mile I felt AWESOMMMMMEEEEE. I was relaxed, I felt smooth and I knew I was running too fast. I slowed, reluctantly.
At about 1.5 miles we hit the grass.
I. HATE. GRASS.
I didn't before this run. But now I do.
This grass was not clipped. not mowed. not pristine. This was trail grass--straggly, dry, crackling, loose dirt and ruts in the ground grass. It was twist your ankle grass, out in the hot open sun grass, crispy central Florida wilderness grass. I slowed more. Damn it Damn it! The course was three loops. The grass portion of each loop was a little under 3 miles. That is nearly 9 miles of grass.
I didn't feel the blisters coming, but they were soon there. I needed trail shoes, and I had on light trainers. Fabulous. At mile 6 the blister on my left foot burst and blood soaked the side of my shoe. The other blister stayed closed. Here she is!
What a beauty. I snapped this photo in the airport. I'm sure those around me were thoroughly disgusted.
Onward. Also at mile 6 I lost control. Of my bladder. I dumped a cup of water over my head and I immediately began to pee. I have a history of "stress incontinence" as it's called. Having three babies--hell, having one baby--does that to you. You get working hard, break a sweat--and then you pee. Your muscles just don't work down there. It's one of five billion unfortunate consequences your body must face after having babies.
I preceded to take in water and then pee for the next 6 stops. I'd drink, dump water on my head, and then urine would stream down my legs. I was a vision with my sweat soaked shirt and shorts, my red chapped face, my bloodshot eyes (remember, no sunglasses on the bike), my sunburned back, my urine soaked socks and legs and my bloody sneaker. lovvvvveeeeelllly.
Fortunately, I'm pretty sure no one cared or noticed my appearance. Everyone was focusing pretty hard on not expiring. There was little chatter among the athletes. It was a bit of a death march. I'd say 50% of the athletes were walking, and with every mile, more stopped. It was just so hot and the grass so difficult to run on. I didn't think much on this run except for the mantra Just Keeping Running. Just Keep Running. Don't think. Just run. I did emerge from my deep focus when a tiny, tiny woman passed me with such tight little prance I had to notice. As she trotted on I saw the name on her ass--Loeffler. She didn't look anorexic, but both of her butt cheeks were like the size of one of mine, and her legs looked like extremely muscular sticks. And she was moving like a gazelle. I wanted to be her. Actually, I wanted to be anyone but me or anyone who was suffering as bad as me on this run.
I knew I was pretty out of it starting the third loop. I was really working through the pain, refusing to slow down but slowing nevertheless. I realized at mile 10 I hadn't yet taken a gel as I had planned to (at ummm, mile 3), and the thought of taking one made me immediately nauseated. But I did take one. It was okay. And for a few moments I actually felt better.
At mile 12 or so--very close to the end now, I felt my skin and noted I was no longer sweating. My skin was dry. Wasn't this a bad sign? But I couldn't think. Just keep running. Also, my vision was fuzzy and was doubling and I was starting to feel very disconnected from my body. But it was okay. I just needed to hold on and I would get in in just over 5 hours. Just Keep Running. Just hold on. At 13 I looked for the turn. It was coming. It was coming. The turn I wanted so much should be right here. But it wasn't... where was it? I ran. Where was it? Finally at 13.45 I stopped. I swayed a little when I stopped.
Where is the end? Where is the end? And then I was shouting out loud, Where is the end???!!!
I was delirious and panicked. I shouted. Where is it?? !! Fuck! Where is it!! People stared at me. They were quiet. It is three loops! a woman said nicely. You need to keep running. She was behind me. I turned to face her. I've done my FUCKING THREE LOOPS! I screamed. WHERE THE FUCK IS THE FINISH! I was spitting. I was hysterical. I was waving my arms. She looked at me. She took a step forward and took my shoulders and she turned me. Go back the other way, she said gently. You will see it. The finish is back there.
I began running again. Everything was fuzzy. I could tell my gait was not steady. Just keep running.
After a few minutes I found the turn. I was crying as I ran. I was crying as I hit the blue rug that was rolled out for the finish. I cried as the photographer snapped my picture crossing the line.
I clicked my watch. 5:06:45. A quick calculation told me I had added nearly 5 minutes to my time with that mistake. Nearly five minutes. I had just kept running--and I had lost five minutes to show for it.
A volunteer asked me if I needed medical help.
No. Yes. No. I think I'm okay, I said. The tears dried up. Do not be stupid, Mary. Do not.You are fine, Mary. You are fine.
I saw a small woman in QT2 outfit standing with a man. I was still sort of fuzzy. I knew her. Did I know her? She had passed me on the run. Her bib read Stacey. I said, Hi. Did you win? She looked confused. I realized I wasn't being quite coherent. Did you win our age group? I asked. I knew she was 40. I had noticed, of course, when I examined her leg for the tell-tale mark when she passed me on the run. I don't know. Maybe I did, she said. Did you have a good race? I didn't cry again, but I'm not sure what I said in response to her question. I'm fuzzy on that too. Later I looked her up in the results. She is a girl I have raced with before. I made a mental note to find her on FaceBook and explain that I was slightly delirious when talking to her. (*I did this and found out she is doing IM CDA. So I found both a new friend--and my competition....! Ekk! She seems very cool and friendly.)
I saw Keish and Kyle, two of my teammates, as I went to leave the finish area. I didn't make it out of the finish area though. I was fucked up enough so I decided I had to sit on some cases of water bottles in the shade to try to get my balance. Keish and Kyle talked to me as I sat there. They were surprised I had missed the turn. No way would I have missed that! laughed Keish. I wanted to go down that chute so bad!
So had I, I thought. What the hell is wrong with me?
I couldn't find the way out of the parking lots on my bike.
I couldn't make the turn because of cones--cones that no one else saw but me.
I missed a turn that I ached to make and that was an obvious turn--totally well-marked.
Am I more than directionally challenged? Is there something literally wrong with my brain? For real?
I thought all this as I tried not to throw up and as talked with Keish and Kyle.
After I collected myself I went to the lake. I knew we were not allowed in--you know, the alligators and all. But I soaked there. I just soaked. A few other atheltes joined me. We didn't talk, we just soaked. Then a ranger came by in a boat and told us to leave.
I said no.
The others got up to leave. I stayed. NO.
You need to leave the water, Ma'am, he said.
I lifted myself out of the water and slowly, slowly made my way to the TriBike tent.
On the way there I talked to Michelle Joaquin, who was down visiting some family and had come to cheer some of her athehltes on. It was great to see a familiar face She was encouraging about my race. She had seen me go on the 4th loop, but thought perhaps I was still on my 3rd, so didn't try to correct me.
I hung with Carolyn and Nancy and then the TriBike Transport Teammates. We took a picture.
And then I had to fly--so I could catch my flight. Before I left I found out that I had placed 5th and lost two spots to my mistake. I tried not to care. I tried to let it go. But there was no chance of that.
I chatted with Andrew on the way back to the parking lot. It felt a huge relief to have a friend with me. I was sad to say goodbye, but when we got there, we said our goodbyes and I went to my car.
Except my car wasn't there.
It wasn't next to the white Volvo. There was no white Volvo.
Tears flooded my eyes. I could not take it. I couldn't take it--not again.
I searched the parking lot for 15 minutes. The pavement was steaming and my blisters were on fire and I was sweating and parched.
Then I realized my mistake. I saw I sign. I was in Goofy.
I needed to be in Dopey.
I was one parking lot off. Goofy didn't house people like me. Only Dopey did.
I found my car, turned on the AC, sighed, and prayed to Heaven Above that I could just get to the airport without making ONE MORE GOD DAMNED FUCKING MISTAKE.
My next mistake was not being able to find the elusive EZ car rental. They sneakily put themselves on the third floor of the garage. Oh, and I also was in the wrong terminal when I dropped off the car. When I got to Terminal A, where I should have been, I nearly ran into a man as I headed for the restroom. Watch out for the marathoner! another man shouted at the man I had nearly careened into. I smiled. I'm sorry, I said. I'm not quite with it. And that is a massive understatement, I thought. Massive.
On the flight home I played those final minutes of the race over and over again in my head. I simply couldn't let it go. I was in a daze--hair still wet with sweat and lake water, smelly, body marking smeared over my arms and legs. After a half hour of rubbing my temples and swearing at myself I STOPPED. I pinched myself, opened a new book, and shut off my brain.
I got into Boston at close to midnight.
Okay. That's the end of the RR. It got sort of sad there at the end, huh? Or maybe just REALLY self-pitying?
Two days later I'm LIKE SO OVER IT.
(ha! whatever. I'll never get over it.)
But really. I had a great swim. I had a good bike--even if it was a lonely ride. And I had a good run. I pissed and sweated and focused my way through the 90 degree baking heat on the grass.
And I fucked up big time, but I still finished relatively well.
And I will not fuck up again.
Or, I should say, I will fuck up again. I am forty and I haven't yet experienced a long stretch of time without making a mistake of one kind or another.
But I will not make a mistake at CDA. I will not.
Final stats: run 1:50:43. 7th fastest run in my AG. A 1:45 would have given me the 3rd fastest split. And I would have been 3rd overall in AG.Both times are slow for me, but I am forgiving myself for that. That run is just not fast. It is a hard, hard run.
WITH my mistake I was:
35/627 for women including Pros
23/615 for AG women
The End! Thanks for reading this novel!