As someone once said, “I know worrying works because 99% of everything I worry about never happens.”
Saturday, 2:45am, dark, warm, muggy. I’d been awake for a while, trying to sleep but failing. My mind was not going to let me forget we face Armageddon this morning. Talking sense to it was useless. WAKE WAKE, EMERGENCY! it shouted in my sleep, until I finally surrendered and padded barefoot downstairs, firing up the Keurig. I looked out at the foggy night, details blurred into soft gold and black while I sipped strong hot coffee, cozy and comforting. Soft air gently wrapped around me, sound suspended and dampened, moving slowly through the thick air like the drawls of old Southern ladies visiting on Mississippi porches. Murphy looked about with me and seemed to understand. The world muffled to velvet, we moved slowly not to disturb that sweet gentle silence.
Can you hear it? Can you feel it?
I’d found an interactive site and created a check list personalized to my preference. Everything had been checked off three times, lined up in the hallway and kitchen; Hubs has done this so often his checklist is in his head. We loaded up the car and bikes. The hour long drive to Tunica seemed endless, of course, and I could not leg jiggle enough to expend the nervous energy I had. Hubs looked at me. “Are you OK?” Hell no I’m not OK, do I look OK? I’m hopping like a spider on a hot griddle in a front seat the size of jet fighter cockpit. But you are sweet and kind and loving and I thank you for your concern although I can’t actually speak right now.
You learn something new every day, so they say, and I learned something new about Fight or Flight: you body is going to jettison everything possible. Thankfully the Expo Center was nice and large and you can easily sprint through the foyer to the equally nice Ladies Room. I also noticed I didn’t seem to be the only person doing so.
There’s a lot of detail getting all that gear out of a car, into the Transition Area and set up properly, more than you need to know unless you have had a lobotomy recently and now want to do a triathlon; if that’s happened let me know and I’ll get with you. Otherwise suffice it to say that many surgeries are done with less preparation, although without a doubt they are more sterile, since I was soon to walk through fish sh*t and then drag that sh*t back into Transition and deposit it in my socks. Bleach. Just don’t think, and bleach.
For the fourth damn time in a row I put the damn wetsuit on backward. Next time I’m leaving it backward. If there is a next time. I got in the lake for a warm-up and paddled out to the first buoy where I stopped, my feet not resting on what can only be described as the un-bottom. There was nothing solid. It just sort of floated, a half-substance. The stuff nightmares are made of, the evil fog rising slowly through the cemetery enveloping the heroine’s feet…her ankles…her calves…rising, pulling, wrapping about her, slowly sucking away her life…
Damn, this sh*t is NASTY. Don’t think don’t think don’t think, just keep swimming just keep swimming.
We lined up for the swim by age group. Fortunately I was toward the front of the line with some older men behind us. They sort the groups randomly every time. Next time I could be right in front of the 20-24 males and get run over like a train. If there were a next time.
One of the ladies heard a couple of us commiserating over our first and possibly last triathlon. She gave us an invaluable piece of advice: when you get in the water, don’t kick. Just pull. This will keep your heart rate under control until you’ve had time to warm up and get the feel of everything. And then there I was, on the ramp, looking at my friend the photographer, praying her huge and hugely expensive camera would fail, nothing personal Donna, sorry, but I do not want to be forever remembered in that figure flattering wetsuit, swimming hair condom and goggles.
Not kicking made all the difference. I cornered the first buoy and realized that the wetsuit, my new BFF, made me buoyant enough that all I had to do was pull. Now it’s just another workout in the pool. With a deadly, life-sucking un-bottom, but you cannot have everything no matter how you try.
And then, I got pissed. I’m sorry, but I’m a bitch and it should just be acknowledged. I could try to hide it but it’s like trying to hide behind swimming goggles and a self-image crushing wetsuit: We know you’re in there Terri, no use hiding. The really nice lady right in front of me at the start was zig-zagging like a Singer sewing machine and I could not get around her. At first I thought it was me going crooked, but I realized that as I breathed I was sighting on the seawall, and it was always about the same place. So I went to the right. She was in front of me, again. Dammit. I swam to the left. BOOM. I went back right. Bang.
Oh, hell no. I stopped, deadly cloud of lake bottom rising to kill me. I watched, weighing time, enough time to sight her but not enough time to be completely sucked into a slow lake bottom death. She went…ri..no, left. I went right as fast as I could and aimed for the finish.
Not too quick in the transition (learning curve) I headed out on the bike. Nervous, I couldn’t clip for what seemed forever. We turned onto the highway and I got into a rhythm. Hey. This is nice. Mississippi is flat! The roads are coned off! No &^%%’s asking me if I pay wheel tax! I don’t have to stop at the lights! Cruising, I’m just cruising, me and Matilda, we’re just out, riding, having a good time when, suddenly, &^$#!!! that woman is IN FRONT OF ME.
Sorry, Lady, but yes, you do, and here’s your shirt.
Oh, hell no. I tooled along behind her for a few minutes, getting a feel for her pace. It was too slow for me, so I passed. No eye contract, I’m just out here, just out here riding my bike, me and Matilda, nothing to see here, Lady, just keep going slow, that’s good.
I kept a pace that felt a bit of a push but not uncomfortable since I had no idea what my legs would do off the bike. Next time, if it happened that I went batsh*t crazy more than once, I would know better how much to push it.
At mile 10, cruising, suddenly, what the $%#@!!?? She PASSED me.
Oh, hell no. I looked at my quads. Sorry dudes, this might hurt but it’s for your own good, and I knocked it into a higher gear and started stepping on those pedals. We went from the Beatles to some Highway to Hell in 13 seconds.
Coming in I heard Hubs, Becky and Heather yelling for me, although I didn’t try to see them, not falling over on the bike seemed more important, and at the dismount line there stood Killer, screaming for me! I looked at her: “I’m pissed now.”
“SHE’S PISSED NOW!” Cheryl screamed in triumph, “GO TERRI!”
This time transition was as fast as I could handle it, gear thrown everywhere, shoes shoved on and I’m outta here, running out of transition and around the corner where
OH. HELL. NO. She’s in front of me. Again. What?? She’s filming an Eveready commercial??? Dammit.
I waited, jogging behind her, getting a feel for her pace. It looked to me like she had one gear – a good one, but it looked like she was a pretty steady runner, so if I passed her she might not have a higher gear. My legs loosened up and got into a running rhythm. I passed her and I had no intention of letting it happen again. Somewhere in the last mile I stopped at a turn and walked a bit, looking at the field behind me. She was still in the same steady gear, and I took off again. I am never doing this crazy voodoo doodoo again, but if I did ever maybe lose all my meds in a tropical storm or something I would definitely push the bike a bit harder and I would totally want my run stronger, I thought, as I died on the turn into the last few hundred miles.
“TERRI!! ONLY 150 YARDS!!!” someone screamed.
Well hell yes, I can do that, I thought, and I hammered on home.
You want some REAL crazy voodoo doodoo?
So, next time, if I ever do this again, not that I will, but if I did, I know I can’t expect that kind of thing because the fast ones stayed home or – most of them – waited to do the Olympic distance on Sunday (not being modest, I just know who they are). But if there were a next time, I’d still do it differently, and I’d still find someone in front of me to pick off.
And that was a pretty awesome ending, if I do say so myself.