At this point, you have heard a lot about my during-the-race mastery of body and mind. But what you don’t know is that before the race the only thing I have mastered is becoming a complete mess.
Here you are, behind my scenes. Saturday morning, 4:15 am. I am awake. Actually, I have been awake since the night before, 9 pm. At which point I decided I would try to go to sleep. But for some reason in Michigan the sun stays up until nearly 10 pm. So I lay there. The room is hot, the sheets are hot, my back is soaked in sweat. All that I can think about is the race, my plan, my pace, my nutrition, the timing, waking up, what to do, what to wear. I spend so much time thinking about being ready for the race I wonder why I go to bed at all because sleep just seems to be getting in the way.
10 pm, Chris decides to come to bed. If it were up to me, he would be in a different bed. I speak for "some" married couples when I say that the ideal place for your spouse is in a different bed. Two people are not meant to sleep next to each other night after night. Especially the night before the race.
3 am, I am still awake. Chris has decided to do his best impression of Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung. But for some reason I like Frank Zappa’s version better. 3:30 am, 4 am. Screw it, 4:15 am, it’s time to admit defeat and just stay awake.
I take a shower. It’s a pre-race ritual that I won’t let go. If you’re not going to get clean again until possibly 6 pm best you start the day clean from the get go. Afterwards, I boil water for breakfast and coffee and wake the boys.
4:45 am, we are driving towards Benton Harbor. I am in the backseat because honestly it’s the best place for me to quietly annoy myself rather than noisily annoy the others. Chris drives while I juggle a carafe filled with boiling water, a French press mug filled with coffee, Tupperware filled with oatmeal, and a bottle of water. I have enough beverage on board to float away. I try to tuck the coffee mug into the van’s cup holder but for some reason the mug is too big and the holder too small. After I wrestle it back out, I put it between my feet.
Foolproof plan, except if one said driver – Chris – presses a little too heavy on the brakes. Coffee has spilled, boiling water in carafe has tipped over, oatmeal teetering on the verge of spilt mess.
“Thomas,” I say from the backseat.
“Yes ma’am,” he replies. Got to love a man that replies with “yes ma’am”.
“I’m apologize, you are going to hear me bitch and moan for a moment.” I gave him fair warning because he’s not married to me therefore not obligated to hear this, and it’s before 5 am. With fair warning, I let a slew of curse words and complaints roll off my tongue as I sit there with feet covered in coffee and hands hot with hot water. At this point, Thomas is thinking why on earth did he choose to fly across country to travel across two state lines with this crazy triathlete couple. I don’t blame him. I have often thought the same.
Then Chris asks me to drive. Fine, I’ll drive. It will keep my mind off the beverage mess and the race. I sip my coffee as we drive and then Chris makes a mistake.
“Can I have some of that?” he asks.
My blood begins to boil. Almost as much as the water in the carafe. Can I have some of that he says of my pre-race morning coffee. Seriously? Are you kidding? This is a 12 ounce mug which is barely enough to open my eyelids let alone power me through 70.3 miles at close-to-mach speed. Can I have some of that? No. But what are my options. I realize we are married and the loving wife in me wants to share but the coffee lover inside of me wants to tell you to mind your coffee mooch of a self and keep your decaffeinated lips away. Alas, I give him a sip with warning I am not finished with that coffee. Not yet.
We finally arrive at the race site. Actually the snarled traffic mess before the race site. I get antsy, start to rattle of comments like we should have left earlier, what is with this traffic mess, if it gets any later you are going to drop me off. Thomas sits next to me quietly and hides his head. For a moment, I feel sorry for him. Not only is he sitting right next to me listening to me unleash a verbal mess of pre-race anxiety, jitters, and not nearly caffeinated enough to calm the nerves, but it is also 2 am for his Phoenix-based body. At second glance, I think he might even still be asleep.
Finally, we turn towards the parking lots and then realize we must take a bus. Warning: nothing good can come from a bus nor remote parking at a race site. Too many times I’ve watched time tick closer to race start while waiting in line for a…..bus? I cringe. But then we find a parking spot, the bus is right there, and 5 minutes later we have arrived.
At the race site I announce that I will be parting ways when Chris and Thomas look at each other like a small miracle has just occurred. I find my rack in transition and begin to set up my stuff. There is a place for everything and everything has a place when I realize that the place for all of my food – my Bento Box – was…..gone.
I will repeat my Bento Box - gone.
I want to scream. Instantly, I blame my husband for taking it off. When all else fails, it helps to displace your frustration on to someone else. Especially if they don’t know about it. Then I think it may have flown off from the rack on the back of the van. Then I think of how I am going to attach gels, bars, salt tabs, and more to my bike by way of black electrical tape. Right then, Chris walks up with the bike pump and I snap something about a Bento Box. Oh, he tells me, it’s in his bag.
All is right in the pre-race world again.
Finally my items are arranged and my stuff is set-up, so I walk away. Then I realize I dropped my gel. Then I had to use the bathroom. Then I couldn’t wait. Then I may have gone bathroom in a large pile of leaves. Then I decided I still had more to go and would still have to wait.
I am making my way towards the beach to start off on the 1.2 mile walk to the race start. In theory this sounds like a short walk. But 20 minutes later I am still walking. Barefoot, in the cold sand, trying to make it to the start before the sound of the gun. I could have done without the walk, but at the same time it keeps my mind busy before the race.
Finally, I am there. And I look across the sky. The sky is a mixture of light blue and rosy pink. The water rolls softly into the shore. Crowds of eager triathletes wait for their moment to begin their epic day. Their spirit is contagious, their energy fuels my day. And for all of the fussing, and moaning, and cussing in the pre-race hours, I have finally found peace with myself.