Looking in the rear view mirror, I see smoke rising from the two cars behind me. It takes me a moment to register that we’ve been in a three car accident. Car 1 hits car 2 which hits us (notably the bike rack on the back). Thankfully, no one is hurt, if bike don’t count as people.
With the three carbon triathlon bikes showing minor damage (which is major because any damage to carbon makes a bike unrideable), this year’s Wildflower Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run), literally, comes to a crashing end.
It’s now 8 PM and someone (not naming names) makes a crazy suggestion — go home, get our second bikes (that’s why you always have more than one bike), and do the triathlon. Of course, this decision comes with a cost — namely sleep. Without traffic, it’s almost 6 hours from home to the start line. We are now a over 1 hour from home. The quick math tells us that we’ll be arriving into the race lot at 4 AM.
We make better time than expected and arrive at our hotel at 3 AM for two hours of blissful sleep (we decided to get a little sleep in a bed instead of going straight to the race lot). Including changing and prep time, we are setting up in transition by 7:30 AM. Let the race begin!
With the start gun, I wade into the clear cool water forgetting my lack of sleep. I plan on a long day and redefine my goal from time to fun. Plunging my head into the water I tell myself to relax — enjoy it. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t listen to my brain and I start swimming fast — to fast. I’m racing and losing by breath. Only the lack of oxygen slows me down and I am forced to remember — relax. With this adjustment, I take the first third in breaststroke mode before calming down into a slow rhythmic freestyle.
Coming out transition, I calmly start the bike ride. I’ve learned — relax. The first hill is steep and my climbing prowess inflates my ego. At the top of the hill, I’m in the drops maintaining a high cadence and fast pace. I’m racing again. For the first 25 miles I wage the race/relax war. I see a target and race past them. Then, I see the coastal oaks, golden hills, and green vineyards and I relax only to find myself speeding past another target.
At mile 25, I pull into a rest stop without a porta-potty line (only one person using it). Tossing my empty bottle to the rest stop worker, I kindly ask her to refill it while I race to the porta-potty. Then, Millie happens.
Close to tears, Millie pleads for help changing her flat tire. The partially inflated tube hanging out of the tire shows that she tried and failed. Since I was already waiting for the one person in the porta-potty, I walk over and help. While changing the tire, Millie tells me here whole bike flat story interspersed with about 100 thank yous. Ever grateful, Millie feels compelled to hug me then hops on her bike and rides way. In the meantime, the porta-potty line has grown to about 8 people long.
Back on the bike, I realize that I added at least 15 minutes to my bike spit. Relax. Should I be angry at Millie or myself for helping? Relax. I should have helped her after using the porta-potty. Relax.
When I finally catch up with Millie, she immediately confesses her regret that she didn’t bully the porta-potty line into letting me go first. Her next confession is apologizing for ruining my race. But then, my race was ruined hours earlier in the car accident. For the next few miles we ride together, tell triathlon stories, and laugh. Millie didn’t ruin my race, she reminded me of my goal.
Heading into the run, I’m really tired, but relaxed. The Wildflower run is a brutal, hilly trail run. With fatigued hamstrings and rising temperatures, I subsist on salt tablets fending off cramps. Purged from the racing temptation, I employ a “walk uphill – run downhill strategy” and meet lots of others in exactly the same condition as me — tired, but enjoying the moment.
Millie, thank you for getting me to where I should have been all along.