Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Once out of the water, there was this "wetsuit stripping" station, which was where a group of volunteers would quickly, and sometimes violently, "strip" you of your wetsuit. A mass of arms, legs, skin...frantically stripping off the top level of their suit, only to plant down on the ground to let the other people strip the rest off your body. I'd never witnessed this type of behavior at John's other triathlons, so I was fascinated and even a bit shocked by this event. I thought for sure that each time people yanked down a suit, I was going to see body parts that I shouldn't be seeing. Erica and I had to hold our spots near the fence, as this was where John had instructed me to be in order to get his wet gear...after again changing "the plan" from leaving the gear to be transported to me taking it with us. Of course, we had no idea whether or not Brad was aware of this change in plan (he was not), so we needed to be prepared to get both sets of wet gear. Before long, we were surrounded by bodies jostling for a position to see their loved one as well. It was hard to stand there for an hour holding position. John found us, handed his gear over the fence, then headed for the exit. Though we tried, Brad did not know we were there, and remained hidden behind a tent in the transition area during his time there. Erica did not get a chance to talk with him or take his gear, and I know that must have been hard. Once we saw Brad leave the area, we slipped out between the other people still waiting, and began the slow walk back to our car.
Imagine a river full of bodies...yellow caps, red caps, green caps...trying to find your husband...who is wearing a black wetsuit...in a river full of other black wetsuits. Erica and I made a good attempt to tag them in the water by their cut off wetsuits and maybe their swim stroke, but to be honest, I really never watched John's "swim stroke" enough to be able to find it in a river of bodies, and after incorrectly identifying a woman and two other men my "husband", I gave up trying to find him on the river.
Hence the shots that Erica just managed to get of the guys getting out of the river...nearly impossible to catch. Thank goodness for race photographers at the water line who were able to get great shots of them as they exited.
From the cars, Erica and I sent the guys on their way with a kiss goodbye, not wanting them to waste another moment in trying to get down to the river. Would I see him again down there by the water? Would he know where I was, that I was there? Would I kiss him again today, before it was all over? Was it going to be okay?
It was still dark, and they hustled off down the road, weaving in and out of other athletes also trying to make it down, as well as family and other support hurrying to gather at the river. The scene that greeted us down on the river's edge was just as chaotic as you'd expect. We tried and tried to find the guys amidst the sea of wetsuits, swim caps, goggles, and crowding. DId they get settled in the transition area and make it to the water? Were they struggling or calm? Could they see us, but we couldn't see them? Were they already in the water? Were they together? It was so hard to stand there, straining to find them just one more time.
Then John found me, came over, spit out his gum into my hand (cuz that's what good support wives do!) and had me pull up and zip his wetsuit up for him. Just like that it was okay. It was going to be okay. He looked great, he sounded great, he gave me another kiss and sealed the deal. This was it. It was really going to happen. And I watched him walk down through the inflatable starting line and down into the water.
I wish I could have been in John's mind on that dark, misty journey out to Johnson's Beach. I'm hoping he might find the inspiration to write his story down here too, but I won't hold my breath. He is much too private. Due to darkness, we could only imagine the sweeping vineyards we were passing through, but there was some comfort that although a little behind schedule, others were in the same shape. I can't remember what was spoken on that drive out. I was focused on not losing the bagel that I was praying would somehow see me through the long morning. There was this overwhelming sense of "ill", nerves, adrenaline, worry, excitement, stress, pride...amazing pride. We followed the caravan of cars into a big, grassy lot on the other side of town from the river. It was dark, and time was flying by, and no one wants to be late to set up your stuff in the transition corral...but that was what was looming for us as the guys put together their bikes and filled tires in that parking lot.
Brad went through his own transition practice in his corner of the the hotel room the night before. Interesting enough, we all shared one small queen size room, and somehow managed all the gear.
Tight tri shirt? Check
Swim cap? Check
Starting position? Uhmmmm...wrong sport!
After a long day of race preparation...and more than a little psyched out by the bike course we'd just toured, we decided to fuel up at Food Network' Guy Fieri's restaurant, Johnny Garlic. This is Erica and I admiring the plate of shrimp. Don't we look excited, thrilled, full of life?
The bike course tour was brutal...cracked, rutted and root chomped, debris all over, tight, steep curves, and Chaulk HIll....the table was somber that night...nerves, worry, all the unknowns of the coming day.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
All throughout Napa and Sonoma there are literally hundreds of wineries dotting the landscape. As you drive along, it's almost like every driveway leading out into the land has a sign announcing itself as a winery. After a long day of Expo-ing, which included registering and a pre-race meeting, we did manage to sneak in this little winery stop. It also happened to be along the bike route for the race, so as we scouted for a winery that was open, we were also keeping an eye out on the deplorable conditions of the roadway leading out into wine country. It was interesting to talk with the wine-selling guy (nice title, huh?) about the race the next morning-that he knew nothing about. He seemed a bit scared for our guys, as he noted the drive would not be friendly for cyclists and cars of wine tasters loaded up on tour adrenaline and fine vino...oh, this did nothing to make the roadway look any better!
We wanted to pick out a special wine for those amazing people back home watching out kids, and this winery fit the bill. They do not distribute, you have to be there on property to taste and buy their wine. I didn't want to buy a bottle that I could find in my hotel or local grocery, and believe me at one point that afternoon I thought that would be the case for us. However, this winery saved us.
Johnson's Beach was where it all began. Beautiful, wooded scenery, fabulous little town....a very special place to remember as the beginning of Ironman. These pictures were taken on our "scouting mission". The sun was out, the beach was calm and relaxed. Nothing like the crush of race morning, and I'm so thankful we had this time to enjoy Johnson's beach together as the guys planned and tried to get their strategy on.