It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, it was nearly dawn, but you never would have known it by the dark cloud cover, driving rain, and the dramatic thunder and lightning.
I was restless, so I got out of my car to take a look around. (Okay, truth is I had to use the restroom…)
Soaked to the bone from the rain, but much relieved after locating a Port-o-Potty, I slogged my way back to my car, mud and dead grass sticking to my shoes and ankles.
A low voice came from the shadows: “You got a car?”
I looked over my shoulder and saw two darkly hooded characters lurking under the eaves of the non-descript brick utility building to my right. Both held bags under their arms.
“Beg your pardon?”
“You got a car? My husband just dropped us off. We’re getting soaked. I’m Joanie. And this is Mimi. We’re a mother/daughter team.”
“Oh… Well, sure. I have a car. An SUV. There’s plenty of room. Come on.”
Ordinarily I’m not nice enough to randomly provide refuge to lurking strangers wearing hoods. But this was last Sunday at the site of the Athleta Iron Girl Triathlon. Joanie, Mimi, several hundred women from all over Texas, and I were waiting for the weather to clear so we could finally do this thing. For some it was just another athletic event; for me it would be a first. I was both excited and anxious.
Cars, trucks, minivans, and SUV’s filled with lycra-clad, carbo-loaded women of all ages began rolling into the park at 5 a.m. I’d been up since 3:30 a.m. Earlier actually. Sleep had eluded me as I checked the weather radar every hour, noting that storms would be rolling in just in time to create problems. Darn it!
We’d already been notified of delays and changes to the transition set up. Our bikes had been thoroughly soaked as they sat on their racks through the night. The temperature had dropped and so had the pressure in all our bike tires.
Would this ever let up? Were those white caps out on the lake? Was that another strike of lightning in the distance? Come on!!!
There was little else to do but wait. Joanie, Mimi and I sat in my SUV doing what women typically do when in close quarters and about to embark on an adventure together. We bitched about the weather and the delays, for starters. Then we began sharing stories of our triathlon experiences (or lack thereof), our philosophies on how we’d approach our races, and what we did for a living. Mostly we laughed.
Not surprisingly, this time together was a gift. It was helping me relax and pass the time. I joked about turning it into a blog, especially given the “You got a car” line that started it all.
“Not my best opening line,” admitted Joanie. “We were getting desperate.”
I also found that I really liked these two former strangers. Joanie had just retired from teaching art for 30+ years. Mimi works doing digital photography for the BET television network. Both were sweet, smart, funny, and appreciated both the shelter and the company. And they were adorable together, like moms and daughters should be. I particularly loved Joanie’s story about her first triathlon and how she didn’t sweat the transitions. At all. (Transitions are the “rests” between the swim, cycling and running segments where you switch to a different set of gear, hydrate, and eat something — if you don’t feel like puking). The serious athletes make it an art form to breeze through transitions in seconds. Not Joanie.
“I dried off… fixed my hair… grabbed a snack…put on some lip gloss…” she said. “I couldn’t figure out why everyone was in such a hurry!” I really liked this about her as I’m always torn between trying to kick everyone’s ass (not realistic at my age) and just going with the flow and having fun (more my speed). I also liked that Joanie had written on her helmet the names of all her friends who were fighting, had survived, or had lost their lives to cancer.
Forty five minutes later the weather still was not clearing and the winds continued to scream off the lake in gusts. Even for me, a seasoned swimmer, it was frightening.
We noticed movement and decided to venture out and get ourselves marked with our numbers (on our shoulders) and ages (on our calves). A decision would soon be made on when (and whether) the swim would proceed. The lightning, rain and winds persisted. White caps were still rolling across the lake.
“Are they really going to put us in that water?” we asked each other.
“Looks that way,” said one buff participant who looked as if she’d still be in on the action even with the possibility of a hurricane rolling in. Oh brother.
“They’ve got to be kidding.”
In contrast, we noticed several experienced triathletes swiftly unracking their bikes and gathering up their equipment. One who walked by us noted, “If this is your first triathlon, it won’t be a fun experience. These really aren’t safe conditions. Not even for the biking segment. This wind will knock you right off your bikes and the roads are slick. This is the worst weather I’ve seen out of all the tri’s I’ve done.”
My stomach clenched. What were we going to do? I’m not a quitter, but I’m also not crazy.
“Let me use your phone.” Joanie said. “We’ve just made an executive decision. We’re outta here. This is nuts.”
Long story short, Joanie, Mimi and I were among a good number of participants who I’d like to call “The Sensible Women.” We decided that another triathlon on another day (preferably a prettier and calmer one) was more what we had envisioned. I’m not a gonzo athlete. I just like to stay fit, set new goals, and have a fun challenge on the calendar and a reason to train. An accident or injury today would undo all the work and sweat I’d put in so far.
Feeling a little sheepish but also relieved, we turned in our timing chips and said our goodbyes. “You two were obviously reason I was meant to be out here today,” I said. “You made getting up at 3:30 a.m. worth it.”
“Same here!” said Joanie. “Call me!”
And I probably will. No triathlon Sunday, but two fun new friends who like triathlons.
Turns out the swim was cancelled and only the cycling and running portions of the race took place. We didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
I was sad and disappointed as I drove home, but the minute I walked in the door, I went online and signed up for another triathlon on June 30.
Kinda hoping my new friends Joanie and Mimi will be there.
Wow; great story, Patti, and congrats on training for the triathlon, even if it didn’t happen this time!
Thank you, Christine! Fingers crossed for another try (or “tri”) at it June 30. Can’t give up now!
Engaging, chatty and well-written. Your first triathlon experience made me smile and feel like I was right there with you, Joanie and Mimi. For me, one lesson learned from your story – know yourself so well that you can discern when it is time to step back and try another time. In any life situation. Thank you Patti!
Thanks, Lynn! That was definitely one of the lessons. Another is this: you just never know how, where or under what bizarre circumstances you will enjoy a good conversation and make new friends.
What a great story. Worthy of publishing.
Thank you, Peggy! It was quite a morning.
So impressed that you signed up for a tri. Was it a full tri or sprint? I do quite a bit of cycling and some jogging (slow) and have considered a sprint, but haven’t done one yet. I even took swimming lessons, so maybe I’ll set a goal to do a tri this summer. Riding MS 150 in Oklahoma in September in honor of high school classmate.
Thank you for sharing your experience so candidly! It is wonderfully refreshing. All the best to you and Joanie and Mimi on June 30th!!
Submit this story somewhere, anywhere. One of your best, Patti.
Great story! I was thinking about you this past weekend!!
Thank you, Teneaha! Those remedies you gave me for my head and chest cold were amazing, by the way. Felt great by Thursday!
Love this story! Yes, you were in the right place at the right time. Eager to hear about your next triathlon experience soon.
Be sure to write about June 30, Patti. You not only hooked me with your first line, you kept me hooked,and I want to know what happens next.
Thanks Julie! Oh you bet you’ll be hearing from me! (No pressure or anything, right??)
“Hey, you got a car?”….Mimi just found this blog you wrote and I must say, it is accurate! hope you got to do the other triathlon and had a great experience. Love to have coffee and talk about what’s next in the world… Thanks for such a wonderful writing of what could have been a horrific day..joanie
Joan, I just today (November 7) saw your comment! Yes, I did the Skeese Greet tri successfully — missed you and Mimi though! 😉 Would love to have coffee (or whatever beverage suits you). I’ll email you to schedule that. Remembering the day we met fondly. Smiling.