Monday, May 12, 2008

oh the places you will go..

Where do I start? I arrived safely in Toulouse with uneventful travel. Uneventful, that is, until I arrived in Toulouse sans bike. Uh oh. I reveived my 70 pound oversize vault of a bag, but not the ever important bike and wetsuit. I needed my bike because, my new flatmate Pierre was picking me up from airport and we were driving four hours to Mimizan to race a triathlon the next day. No bike, means no race. This is not looking good. The lady at Lufthansa looks at me and says, "I do not know where it is. How do you is lost" Ummm. Ok. Is it lost in Toronto or in Frankfurt? "It is just lost" Great. Isnt the whole point of electronic baggage tracking to electronically track the baggage? C'est la vie. just go with the flow.

So I decided to go to Mimizan with Pierre and watch the race. Well, I did bring my racing flats just in case I found a bike. And a wetsuit. And a race suit. And bike shoes. And a helmet. We arrived at the race site after a quick 4 hours (I slept the whole way...Thanks Pierre!). When I arrived I ran into Sylvain Sudrie (he whooped me in South Korea). We chatted in Franco-English for a bit, and I told him about my situation. He pointed to a girl standing next to him. You could use her bike. Ok, I said. So I talked to Nadie and she said it was no problem. We would sort out the details tomorrow. Ok, You can use my helmet, bike, and shoes. What size soes are you? 44. Ok well my shoes are 42 (8 in the US). No problem, I said. I love it when my toes are curled into a ball at the end of the cycling shoes. I went and found Pierre and said that I found a bike for the race and showed him the piece of paper with her number. He looks at me and said. "What is this? You have only been in Franc for 5 hours and you have a phone number already!" haha!

We left the race site and went to the hotel to get some shut eye. Our race was at 3:00 (this is an age group race). I LOVE this place already. I just had to pick up the bike at 12:00 and find a wetsuit. The race announcer asked if anyone had a wesuit for me to borrow. Another woman volunteered and went to her car to ge the wetsuit. She handed it to me. Merci Beacoup! and grab the bike and off to the hotel for lunch and then the race.

The bike I was given was a 21lb giant ocr womens size small with a triple chainring up front and an XL women's saddle which does not fit my XS mens rear end, and some very un-lightweight wheels. The seat height was perfect though, and after lowering the handle bars a bit, it was ready to rock......ish. My wetsuit looked like swiss cheese. I am not even kidding. There must have been 40 holes in it. I think it was a 1990 circa Aquaman that had been hit 3 times by shrapnel. But it still would help with thec old. Sadly, I did not think it wad going to help my swim.

I stood on the start line with around 30 seconds of warm up in me, about to fall asleep. There were actually some very fast professionals at this race. I was not nervous, just trying to keep form laughing out loud at my situation. BOOM! The gun went off and all of the sudden I hade 100 French men sprinting next to me on the beach. Ok need to swim fast now. Body says, no friggin way! I stay on the three leaders feet for around 200m and then with my heart about to explode, I said enough. There was no way I was going to beat these guys anyway, so why kill myslef? So I just went my own pace for the rest of the swim, until a pack of 5 caught up with me. What the heck? These Frenchie age-groupers can swim. Everytime I took a swim stroke my swiss-cheese wetsuit would roll up my arms. Yes it was that loose. I had an ok transition.

Onto the bike, with my womens bike and too small shoes, I put down the hammer and actually passed 4 guys! then got passed by a few more from behind. This race was Olympic distance and non-drafting, so the bike was 40k (24.8 mile) Around the 10k mark, an official rode up next to me and started screaming at me in French. I screamed back in English that I was not drafting, and then realized that he was pointing at my number belt. In France it is tres important that you wear this at all times. My number was ripped of with my wetsuit, but I did not know it at the time. I tried in broken French, and he responded in non-broken French. After 5 minutes of arguing. He said disqualifique, non classement. Ok. Got it. I just got disqualified and would receive no classification for the race. Nice, first race and I dont even make it to half-way of the bike. I decided to ride the rest of the way hard on my Giant tricycle. It was going ok maybe 10th place at this point (all things considered) when I came to a literal fork in the road with no signs. Only screaming Frenchies and no cyclists in front of me. A little French lessson:

tournet a gouche = turn left
tournet a droit = turn right
tout droite = straight

These three words are very important when you have no idea where you are going. They screamed a gouche, a gouche (which I do know) but it didnt click in my brain and I went right. More screaming. OK, ok the stupid American went the wrong way. I get it. There was a huge median so i needed to go 200m one way and another 200m back. Nice. At this point i was 3 miles from transition and decided to just coast in. I was disqualified anyway and no there was no point in going hard. warm-down time. I pedaled into transition and jogged to my rack. I needed to put on my shoes so I wouldn't be barefoot.

As I was putting them on, another official runs over to me and says, "One minute penalty for the belt" What? I thought I was disqualified? Nope. No it is back to one minute now. Ok so now I need to run to make some money. But I am at least 14th or so by this time. Well I need a good 10k of running in my legs. I took off running strong and feeling suprisingly ok. I passed a lot of guys but had no idea where I was in the rankings. I decided just to run strong to save a little legs for my French Grand Prix Debut next weekend.

I ended up with the fastest run of the day, around 32 minutes (ahead of Bignet and Sudrie) and placed 9th! I got 100Euro for my effort (161USD) so it paid for the trip and my subsequent 8euro trip (13USD) to Le DoMac (French Slang for McDonalds--that one is for you Stephen!). Crazy Place, Crazy Trip, but crazy fun. It is Monday and my bike has still not arrived, but hopefully it will be here soon. Next week is a my first team race and very important for me. Hopefully I can be on the podium. We shall see. Sorry the post is a little long, but so much happened I didnt know when to stop. And I promise pic's of the shenanigans will be posted shortly.



Anonymous said...

ahahaah! How do you always get yourself in these crazy situations? Maybe you just race too much, so the chances that something crazy is going to happen are increased? Good luck in France!


Chris said...

That is an *awesome* story. Nice work!

I'm glad that my Korea flight is non-stop - very few chances for my bike to get lost! Although when I went to Mazatlan my bike didn't even leave Seattle with me...