Thursday, May 31, 2007

Going Short

aka Galena: "Suckfest" Defined

Friday, May 18

As I always say, my parents didn’t raise many foolish children. I for one swore I’d never do Galena, because of those damn hills. Hell, they’re painful to look at – as if I could actually bike up them? Please. And the sadistic bastard who designed the Galena course not only graced us with a very steep hill right out of T1, but another beauty directly out of T2. Sweet.

And yet…….once I signed up for IMOO, I realized that hills would have to become my friend. Or at least my frenemy. So there I was in Galena, FPOS ready to go having been fixed by my boys at GAG, something I had diligently tested out the day before with many hill repeats. Before racking my bike at Galena, I even became one of “those crazy people” who doesn’t conserve every ounce of fast-twitch muscle fiber the day before a race, and instead decided to test my hill climbing abilities out of T1. Not bad. Bike functional. I had FPOS in the right gears, so I didn’t even have to shift. We had even made a bright move by switching out my back wheel for a better extra one that Bridget had, so that I’d be even faster. Flying like the wind. No problem. (cue ominous music….)

Saturday – Race Day

Everything goes smoothly this morning, as the CTCers in our house manage to get ourselves to the race site in plenty of time. We hang out, relax. I even make the radical move of actually getting into the water pre-race start to actually warm up, something I’ve never done before. The water is pretty damn cold, and seaweedy, which doesn’t bother me, even though I get out of the water with a strand of seaweed draped over the top of my head, which a random guy kindly removes. And I manage to slightly cut my foot walking out of the water, when I step on the lone big sharp rock in the lake. But still. Now that I’ve been in the water, I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been before a race.

Our wave starts, and I start swimming. Breathing properly, long strokes, gliding, slippery, smooth, passing people, looking for spaces……..when poof, things suddenly take a turn for the worse. As in, I suddenly can’t breathe. WTH? I can only take these short little breaths, almost as if I’m hyperventilating, but without the wheezing drama that entails. I stop, tread water, figure I’ll rest for a second and catch my breath….nope, no dice. Maybe it’s this damn wetsuit? A possibility, even though this doesn’t feel at all like that typical “this wetsuit makes it harder to breathe than usual” feeling. I try to get it unzipped, but too much of my attention is on trying to get air – so when someone in my wave asks if I need help, I ask her to unzip the wetsuit, which she does. Many thanks, woman in my wave. But it doesn’t help. I yank the wetsuit down further so it’s not constricting my chest at all. Nope, still can’t breathe.

So, we have a conundrum here. I’m about a third of the way through the swim, and I’m starting to think my race might be over. Because I think the lack of oxygen is affecting my brain, and I’m feeling slightly panicky, like on the verge of hysteria, really. Which is a totally unfamiliar feeling, since I tend to be logical to a fault, and logically, there’s a guy in a boat about 20 feet away from me, so it’s not as if I could actually drown. I decide I’ll try doing the backfloating/backstroke thing, so at least I’ll be moving forward, albeit slowly. Maybe that’ll help me catch my breath. It doesn’t, but I’m going somewhere. Though of course now I’m one of those people who annoys everyone behind me, because they’re wondering why I’ve signed up for a race if I can’t swim. Sigh. But every time I try to swim normally, I suck down water because……you guessed it, I still can’t breath, and freestyle is nothing if not an exercise in breathing properly.

Eventually I reach shore, still gasping for air, and figure since my race is shot at this point, I’ll take my time through transition, so that maybe my breathing will calm down. And maybe my lungs won’t feel like they’re on fire.

However, as I’m setting out on the bike, I still can’t take a deep breath, but I decide breathing is overrated anyway, and press on. I start going up the first hill out of T1, the one I got up quickly the day before, but today I need to downshift…….and then I hear that dreaded sound. Click-clackety. Clack. Click-click-click. The sound of a bike that just...won’t...shift.

What Fresh Hell is This?

Yes, folks, here we are at the Galena tri, one of the hilliest courses known to man, and Little Miss Tasha is on a bike that won’t shift properly. Before it was the front chain rings that were giving me problems – now it’s the back. Every time I try to shift, I get the clackety-clack sound that I’ll hear in my dreams now until the end of time, as the chain just bounces back and forth from cog to cog, mocking me. I curse, and mutter, and curse some more. Several times, as this is happening, I yell “FUCK!” at the top of my lungs, then apologize to the cyclists around me, who are universally sympathetic. I debate just taking this bike and dramatically chucking it into a cornfield. This seems like a very attractive option, but somehow I refrain.

At some point, I decide I’m just not going to shift the back cogs. They don’t work anyway, so why make the attempt? Instead, I focus on strategery: going like a bat out of hell on the downhills, getting through the uphills as quickly as possible to get the agony over with. Now, while I’m not the best cyclist in the world, even my enfeebled mind sees the wisdom in maniacally speeding downhill, especially when there’s a godawful uphill immediately following. Apparently this isn’t a commonly held thought, however, as I wind up having to go to the outside of the cones to make sure I don’t crash at 43 mph into meandering mountain bikers, cycling all the way to the left of the lane. While wearing their iPods, so they don’t hear me screaming “on your LEFT!!!” My favorite is the guy who gets to the top of a hill, starts coasting downhill...while veering left and right because he’s putting his SUNTAN LOTION on.

And then there’s the huge JESUS SAVES sign, which one has to look at for an overly long time as it’s at the top of one hell of a steep hill. Bitterly, I mutter to myself “Saving WHOM, exactly? Cause Jesus sure ain’t saving my sorry ass on this ride.” Let this be a lesson to all of you – when they say, don’t change anything for a race, then DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING for a race! While changing the wheel to one with a different cassette wouldn’t have had an adverse impact on a normal bike, on FPOS it obviously turned everything majorly FUBAR, and this was where it got me. In some Groundhog-esqueian version of Hell, where I’m just having a bad race day over and over and over……

Just when I think I might make it through this ride, I get to the top of yet another hill, try to shift the front chainrings, which have been working somewhat – and yes, dear friends, now those won’t shift. At all. Stuck in the smallest chainring. And then, 3 miles from the end of the bike leg, FPOS drops a chain. I get off, and am seriously thisclose to throwing the bike off the hill, because, as god is my witness, I swear to never ride this bike again, as it is clearly evil. I kick him, having decided that the bike is a he, not a she. Because really, if you look at all the, umm, classic demon bikes throughout history, they’ve all been male. I get the chain back on, but something’s misaligned because the pedals won’t move. So, I now become Susie the Bike Mechanic, and flip the bike over to fiddle with the chain. As I’m doing so, I have the pleasure of seeing all the people I passed come toodling on by, including Mr. iPodwearingSuntanLotionGuy. Sigh. My hands are now covered in bike grease, and because I don’t want to beschmutzify my riding clothes, I just wipe it off on my leg. You know, to make it clear that I’m not JUST slow, but that I clearly also had a bike malfunction.

I get back on, and start composing haiku in my head, but somehow it all revolves around variations of “Bike, how I hate you so.” I then rename the bike Damien, as is befitting its evil, possessed nature, or perhaps Prince of Darkness. How about both? Thus, the bike is rechristened Damien, Prince of Darkness, or D-POD for short. As I close in on transition, I see a guy in front of me, who in my mind’s eye is wearing khaki shorts, Tevas, black socks, and a black t-shirt as he toodles along on his black mountain bike. In a fit of pettiness, I decide that he is NOT going to beat me into transition, so I zoom past him. Ha, that’ll show him!

As I go into transition, I see all the CTC people who’ve already finished. In fact, they probably finished so long ago that they’ve had time to eat, go back to the house, shower, knit a quilt, and then come back to the race to cheer us laggards on. Clearly, at this point my “race” is over, but I’ve accepted that as my fate. And while on the bike I had decided I wasn’t going to wear my creative headgear, because I wasn’t in a very fun mood, I now think – okay, so yet again I suck, I’m the slowest damn person to ever wear the Tri Club uniform, and yet again I look like I wouldn’t know a workout if it walked up and hit me in the face. This is a familiar feeling. It’s not pleasant. But, it’s also just a race, and if nothing else, doing these things can teach one a lot about perspective.

So, I put on my minty green lilypad swimcap and set off on the run – in the now blazing 88-degree sun. As I’m running, I see people coming back on the run course, and they look at the lilypad and smile, or chuckle. Which makes me happy. Because without the silly swimcap I would have been just another racer having a lousy day, with absolutely nothing to feel good about, but at least now I can comfort myself with the thought that I brought some entertainment to the rest of us BOPers. That was good enough for me.

I catch up with Marian, and we finish the run together, after stopping to get wee Dixie cups of ice water from the sweetest old man, wearing a John Deere hat and having a beer. To the good people of Galena: you put on one hell of a race, and I for one thank you all for your efforts. It’s a little concerning that after the race I keep hacking and coughing this deep raspy cough, while coughing up tiny amounts of blood, but I’m sure that’s nothing. Right?

The Aftermath

We all go to the Saturday night CTC party at one of the houses, where most people react appropriately to my tale of woe with a sympathetic “Man, that sucks.” Then I run into Tauryn, who has to try to get all Pollyanish and chipper with me – and those who know me know that I do not do “chipper” very well.

Me: Blah blah blah...sucky race.
Tauryn: That’s okay, everyone has a bad race day! Just think of your last race, I’m sure that was great!
Me: My last race sucked too. That was Pleasant Prairie.
Tauryn: So 2 bad race days – big deal!
Me: My life is all about bad race days.
Tauryn: Come on! You finished! You stuck it out!
Me: That’s because I’m an idiot.
Tauryn: Hey, now what would you say to ME if I had a bad race? Huh?
Me (frantically trying to think of a plausible lie): Umm……shit happens?
Tauryn: Right! It’s just one race! Things will get better! Yay, you finished!

As my head falls forward and hits the table repeatedly and I go to a happy place in my mind that involves lots of alcohol, I can still catch bits of words emanating forth from Tauryn: “..after all, tomorrow is another day…….rome wasn’t……what doesn’t kill you…makes stronger…..” I decide to go and actually find some alcohol before I take a butter knife to someone.