Saturday, June 10th: Race Travel
It’s a shame to be this far away from home and not do something touristy in Baltimore. So, before we hit the road towards Cambridge/Chesapeake Bay area, we drove to downtown Baltimore and spent a couple of hours at the National Aquarium observing sharks, squids, fish, penguins, turtles, frogs and other mammal and amphibious creatures in their “not so natural” habitat. I couldn’t help but think about how I’d have more space to swim the next day than they would. Little did I know at that point that I’d wish for a smaller space to swim! We cruised briefly around the outskirts of Annapolis at the Naval Academy, but didn’t even park the car for a couple of reasons. #1) I woke up feeling pretty awful that morning…sore throat, stuffed up and runny nose, sinus congestion, etc. I felt pretty terrible and it was all I could do to muster the energy to sight-see. #2) I was starting to get a little anxious about getting to the Race Expo that afternoon. The race was the next day and we still needed to grocery shop, go to the expo, get our race packets, assemble our bikes, make sure they worked, check them into transition, attend the mandatory race meeting, find a “safe” place for dinner and then drive the extra 40 minutes to our hotel and attempt to get a good night’s sleep. Needless to say, I was starting to get into “race mode.” I will say that if the event would’ve been on Saturday, I probably wouldn’t have started it. I was feeling that bad at the time.
I’m so glad it was just me and Shawn because he’s such a good balance to my internal anxiety. If we would’ve been traveling with other athletes, I know I wouldn’t have been nearly as relaxed as I was that afternoon. Other than feeling crummy, I was in good spirits. After stopping at the Food Lion for the necessities of peanut butter, bagels, bananas, Gatorade, pretzels and the like, we made our way towards the race area.
Saturday, June 10th: The Race Expo: Out of Our League
The nerves started to build the closer we got to the Expo and Race Site. Why? Because you could see other bikes mounted on cars and SUVs, no doubt headed to the same destination. Why is it that everyone else’s bike seems so bad-ass? I’m intimidated by these machines even though I’m proud of the recent performances of my Kestrel. This was my first long-distance race on this bike. Would it hold up for 56 miles? Please God…History says, “No.” At Buffalo Springs in 2004, I went through 4 tubes and 1 tire (thank God for SAG vehicles). At Vineman in 2005, I flatted again and blew 15 minutes changing my tire. I hoped beyond belief that this bike would end the bike bad-luck streak. It had been good to me in training and racing up to this point. She only had one major performance left. Just get me through the next day with no mechanical issues.
We got to the Expo, took care of our numbers and strolled around the vendor booths for a bit. At this moment, I was feeling “out of my league.” The insecurities were loud and clear. “You don’t belong here.” “Look at those REAL athletes.” “You don’t have the right body for this event.” This was, afterall, an Ironman KONA and Ironman 70.3 Qualifying Race. The best of the best were in attendance. In fact, the best of the best was next to me in the form of Natasha Badmann. She was sitting on the staging area signing a few autographs for those that noticed or cared to. I admired from a distance in that 3-year-old who sees Santa Claus kinda way. She is the pinnacle of this sport for women. How cool is that? Not many young basketball players will ever get to converse with Shaq and here is our Champion hanging out with all of us. Part of me wanted to do the whole photo/autograph thing, but I opted not to. I had enough to be nervous about.
We began putting our bikes together in the parking lot. Let me just say that the weather was absolutely superb and predicted to be even better on race day. Sunny with highs near 80. In the past, it had easily surpassed the 90 degree mark so there was definitely a sensation of relief among the athletes. Other than heat, Eagleman is also known primarily for its windy conditions. Well, Mother Nature would win this “rock, paper, scissors” battle. We’d get good temps, but she’d get the gusts that she wanted, upwards of 30 mph in certain spots.
I got an empty pit feeling in my stomach as Shawn was taking charge of assembling my bike. Why was it squeaking so much up front? It just didn’t seem to “fit” and I couldn’t see why. The back brakes were rubbing slightly, but what the hell is happening up front? Did I get my handlebars adjusted correctly? Who knew? I was more concerned about what was happening to the front tire at the moment. Shawn looked more closely and it appeared that my wheel hub was rubbing against the fork. We surmised that the fork bent a little during shipment. It wasn’t noticeable to the eye, but there was definitely a change. I wanted to throw up, cry, throw the bike, laugh, walk away, whatever. I immediately got the, “Why does this always happen to me” self-pity lament. We headed over to the bike mechanic area to see what they could do. At this moment, I wasn’t sure if I was racing or not.
THREE WORDS YOU NEVER WANT TO HEAR A BIKE MECHANIC SAY: “That’s Not Good.” That was the general reaction of the first mechanic before he directed us to another tent. Turns out he was working on the elite athlete bikes. Of course, it made me feel even worse knowing he was working on pro bikes and had that reaction when looking at mine. It’s like a doctor looking at an open wound and grimacing about how gross it looks. We took it to the next tent and the folks from http://www.tri-speed.com/ put this powerless woman’s mind at ease. He spent time with the Mango Blur (as I like to call her when I like her), made some tweaks and adjustments, filled her up with air, tested the gears and pedals to make sure there was no rub and sent me on my way. To this moment, I have no idea what kind of Harry Potter spell he cast on my bike to put it back in alignment. I’m just thankful and relieved that it appeared ready to ride. We hopped on and gave it a test ride to the transition area and all felt and sounded well. No squeaks, no rubbing, handlebars felt good, pedals felt tight. It was out of my hands now. The nauseous feeling was passing only to be replaced by normal pre-race anxieties about not being properly trained, hydrated, fueled, etc. Guess what?? There was nothing we could do about it except eat some pasta! We found a local Italian/Greek Restaurant (your guess is as good as mine as to how those two go together) who was having a pasta buffet. Upon inspection, it all appeared bland enough to consume. As much as I love pizza and cheese, it was hardly what I wanted or needed. I settled on a couple of servings of rigatoni, pasta salad and greek orzo.
After a long-day, this little sicky needed some rest so we drove to our hotel is Salisbury and eventually made it to bed around 10:30pm and awaited the 5:00am wake-up call. I hoped that I would feel better on race morning. I popped a Claritin and Advil Cold and Sinus and hoped for the best.