The best thing on owning a camper van is that as soon as you hop in the passenger seat the vacation has started (always avoid the driver’s seat for best vacation results). It’s quite unlike a plane where you don’t really feel like you’re on vacation until the travel is over. Plus you can bring peanut butter without fear of losing it to the TSA agents.
Last week on Wednesday we did just that. Packed up the peanut butter, the bikes, and other assorted triathlon gear and drove to St. George, Utah for a 70.3 Ironman race. The first night we slept in Monument outside of Fruita. It was our 3rd time there recently. We actually know the gas station lady where we get our morning cappuccino machine sugar drink to start our driving day.
Driving on Thursday put us in St. George by mid-afternoon. Oh my god was it HOT. And the bikes took forever to get set up. And it was HOT. …and I was cranky. I had to figure out how to put a new bottle between my aerobars which was fine except it required I use a straw. Because my mouth got so fucked up in the crash, straws are hard for me. And it makes me emotional. So it was hot, midday after driving, and I was reminded of how my face got fucked up just over 6 months ago. Not a bad day, just not my finest moments of the trip. Mexican food out in town was much better that evening.
Friday morning I started a short run but opted to hike in the Snow Canyon Park area where we were camping instead. Finally after 2-3 miles hiking through sandy trails I ran for less than 2 miles on the paved path. At one point between looking at the amazing backdrop, I saw a family whose 4 or 5-year old girl was throwing a temper-tantrum about hiking. That used to be me. I almost went over and consoled the parents that she might like the outdoors more later in life and similarly tell her that she would only feel this way temporarily. That was enough running so I went to read in the van and wait for Kennett to finish his ride. I kept thinking, “sounds like Kennett is back from his ride”. Turns out is was a squirrel eating a banana out of our paper bag outside the van. I figured this out once the squirrel decided to invite himself into the van. He poked his face and two front paws up. It was hard to be upset about anything except that the camera was too far away.
Then the shit show began. We had to go register, get 3 bags, sticker bags, drive to drop off bikes, drive around everyone to find a spot to park to drop off bikes, leave bikes to swim, struggle to put on the wetsuit, swim/bob in the water, struggle to take off the wetsuit. Go eat Qdoba…and frozen yogurt. We were saving Dairy Queen for post-race.
The race….go read Kennett’s blog and then replace the swim with the following thoughts, “It is really hard to pee while swimming but I need to pee before I get on the bike. Damn it. Why did I drink so much water, oh yea, because it is going to be 90 degrees out later”. Then take about 10mph off Kennett’s pace on the bike and instead of me passing everyone, imagine me passing everyone on the uphills only to have them pass me coasting downhill because I am still not confident riding down hills in my tri bike.
Now the run, I have to say that the finest moments were when the little kids handed me Otter Pops. Otter Pops serve several important roles. They cool your hands, hydrate you, and give you sugar. Also somewhat offsetting the sticky feeling in your mouth from forcing down a gel. With a mile to go I heard, “Nice job ladies” and I knew another woman was behind me. Similar to Kennett, I don’t like getting passed by someone who might be in my age group. I held pace with her and she was pushing us up until the final aid station. I kicked it up and she…got water?? On the finishing stretch I heard another spectator shout something along the lines of, “show the guys how it is done”. I kicked it up again and finished in 5:37. There’s a lot of room for improvement. I have to just keep remembering that I’m lucky to be racing in the first place. Kennett also has room for improvement. He finished 17th overall, ahead of all the pro women, ahead of some of the pro men, and top amateur. I mean really, if he had just tried a little harder on his first triathlon he’d have brought home the $20,000 prize purse!
I’m going to be serious for a moment. I had a conversation with coworkers yesterday about endurance events. One person said they weren’t fun and he’d rather enjoy racing hard in shorter runs, sit on the grass, and maybe enjoy a drink afterwards. Here’s my opinion on why I race longer distances most of the time:
Regardless of the crash, I struggle emotionally even when things aren’t going bad for me. I really like my job for what it is – a job. And while biking has become a passion of mine, sitting behind a desk isn’t fulfilling. Putting together a puzzle can be more engaging sometimes. When I race in long distance races I get in what the famous psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, calls “flow”. Suddenly my brain has one purpose and that is to make sure my body does the work. It still requires a bit of skill. I have to pace, know my nutrition, and how to overcome the hard moments. Being able to cross the finish line after a long event is where I get the endorphins that are my drug of choice for happiness. When I am so exhausted that I can barely do anything but sit in the grass and maybe enjoy a drink (if someone else brings it to me) – that’s when I feel accomplished.
So there isn’t much of a wrap up except maybe to leave you thinking about what makes you feel accomplished, happy, satisfied, or challenged. The trip was a success. From the amazing van ride to the finish line. And, the best part is, there will be more of it soon!