After the race I'm a little bereft. I'm here alone, so there is no one waiting to hear how it was. There is also no one to pick me and my bike up. I am to ride the shuttle back to the parking garage by Qwest Field and then drive my car back to the park to pick my bike up. I knew this going in and it doesn't really bother me, but now I have a concern: my bike numbers, like many others, have disintegrated in the rain and come off. The bike trail was littered with them. Now I am expected to leave my bike, sans any identifying marks, in the transition area for nearly an hour, during which time any other participant could claim it as their own.
I want seriously to believe that no other woman would do this to me, but I have a dim view of humanity in general and dammit, I just got that bike. Although it's just an off-the-rack entry level bike, I still couldn't really afford another one. And when I look at the gate very near to the rack my bike is on, I am unimpressed with security there. In fact, there doesn't seem to be much. If any. I ask yet another Wrong Volunteer and she is at a loss as to how to address this issue. I leave the transition area full of anxiety and doubt. The farther I walk, the more uneasy I become, and at last I stop at a volunteer tent and tell them of my concerns. They really want to help me but can do little more than offer me a sticker ("Hello my name is... ") to write my bike number on and stick to my bike, which doesn't really appease me much, but they also give me a ziptie. I can attach my helmet to my bike. My helmet has my numbers on it. At least it's something.
When I return to my bike -- by the way, it's a big park and I have walked a LOT since the end of the race, and no end in sight -- my fears are not assuaged. The gate attendant is not in evidence, and the gate is just a big opening in the fence that opens right onto the street. I put the tag on my bike and ziptie my helmet to it and then decide to take it up to the other gate, where several volunteers are posted and appear to be checking bikes to riders as they leave. I tell them why I'm moving it and they try not to make the "cuckoo" hand signal to one another. I can tell they think I'm being paranoid. But my spidey sense is tingling... At any rate I feel better now.
Once again I make the long hike up to the other end of the park where the buses are, and haul my damp and lake-smelling self onto the bus. After another twisty, lurchy ride back to Qwest Field, I face a huge flight of steep concrete steps up to the parking garage. The bus ride has given me a chance to chill a bit and also to stiffen, as I discover when I start up the steps. But, I am surrounded by people who have either just finished the tri themselves or at least know that I did, so I have to put on a show. I muster what surely must be the last bit of adrenaline within me and bound up the steps in a sprightly fashion. ....Okay, fine, if you want to be a stickler for the truth, I walked up them at a normal, even pace. But it took a lot of effort! Vanity, thy name is woman...
Fortunately I have a few miscellaneous plastic bags floating around the car and I use these to cover the car seat so I can drive back to the park without saturating it with lake water. Despite my waterlogged fatigue I did notice throngs of Mariners fans milling in to the Safeco Field area (immediately adjacent to Qwest Field, I have no idea why there are what look like two stadiums side by side in downtown Seattle, but there it is) so I know that I must now negotiate game traffic to get away. I manage this and fortunately have just enough time to retrieve a note off my windshield that I had not noticed until just before the freeway on-ramp. If I were some kind of non-lazy person I would scan the note but instead I will just type it out for you:
Great Job, Vancouver Woman!
Congratulations on getting yourself up here & completing this grueling event. Never mind the short distances, this was a difficult & dangerous event today. YOU ROCK!
On your way home, will you be thinking about the next thing that you'll do for the first time? You're amazing! You can do (nearly) anything!
This note was from the woman who parked her car nose to nose with mine, also doing the tri, who obviously was no stranger to it what with her wetsuit and all. We had chatted on our way in the shuttle. I didn't see her again once we'd entered the transition area. I thought it was a very kind note. Oh, and I had to look up html commands to learn how to do the strikethrough effect. :)
So, I drive on to the park, retrieve my bike, which is safe and sound where I left it, stuff it in the back of the car and then set about to finding my cellphone which I had thought I must have left in the car but still hadn't been able to find. In a sudden flash of memory I recalled putting it in the pocket of my tri bag... my sopping wet tri bag that sat in the rain for three hours... I locate the phone right in the pocket where I'd left it. It is waterlogged but miraculously, it still functions. I call my better half and check in, and off I go.
I decide despite being cold and damp to get out of Seattle a ways before stopping to change. On the south end of Tacoma I spot a Shari's and have a leisurely lunch there after putting on dry clothes. Fine, I still smell like an aquarium, but at least I'm dry. When I get up from the table to leave I find that the backs of my knees are sore.
Traffic is fairly heavy and gets very bogged down an hour or so down the road, right about the time true fatigue sets in, so I stop at a rest area and doze in the car for about a half hour. Once I get some gasoline and a soda at a gas station down the road a ways, I feel pretty awake and make it home without further incident.
I spend the evening putting the baby to bed, washing my smelly tri clothes, and blogging. Oh, and taking ibuprofen. The backs of my knees are killing me.
So let's just take inventory:
Entry fee: $80.00
Hotel for two nights: $200.00
Tank of gas: $32.00
Finishing your first triathlon just before you turn 40: Priceless.