Thursday, October 22, 2009

Carb Loading Gone Bad

So this past weekend was supposed to be a monumental day for me. It was my third triathlon but my first in 22 years, and my first since losing 75 pounds of desk-jokey voluptuousness. I have been looking forward to it for a long time. I have invested a lot of money on a personal trainer, new clothes (a 75-pounds change is three wardrobes), and a carbon-framed road bike. And a lot of sweat.

And the day began with a really auspicious start. I walk out of my bedroom in the morning and there is a crate-paper finishing line with all kinds of inspirational messages on it. I get to my car and there are home-made cards with fun messages from my boys--chiefly "Break Someone's Clavicle" from the Will Ferrell movie "Kicking and Screaming."

This is really a contextual joke--you need to see the movie, but don't waste your time if you don't have kids in soccer. Premise is Will Ferrell is a wussy dad who gets pinched into coaching his kid's soccer team. One of his steps in "manning-up" out of wussidom is becoming addicted to caffeine and coffee. The former wuss then gets so hyped up for soccer games he starts soliciting aggressive behavior from the little ankle bitters, including: "Break someone's clavicle--that's what the medics are for." In our family, it's a humorous version of "break a leg." Anyway, I get into my car to make the six-hour journey for the race, and I've got all this great motivational stuff from the kids waiting for me. I'm feeling pumped.

Speaking of pumped, here's my bike on the back of the car as I pump gas for the trip. Specialized Roubuix Pro. Looking good. How could anything go wrong.

Upon completing the long drive to the event location, I checked into my hotel and asked the desk clerk where I could do some substantial pre-race carb loading. He suggested the only "Italian" restaurant in the small town, and I got a table for one.

My first indication of a non-compliant experience should have been the appetizer--instead of delicious artisan bread and a lovely olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce, I got a bowl of un-shelled peanuts. No matter, kitsch is ambiance when it comes to small-town dining--besides, this is the pinnacle reward of all the months of training and salad eating. It's carbo loading. I decide to pass on the peanuts and double up on the pasta--I order heart-attache-on-a-plate: aka fettuccine alfredo (added chicken to mollify my nutritionist psyche). And to keep with the life-style changes, I felt obliged to add a trip to the salad bar.

This is where my mind left me. The greens looked good enough, but I forgot the small-town diner salad bar credo: never get a salad at a small-town diner, and if you do get a salad, never get a cream-based dressing. I got creamy parmigiana dressing. Hey, I'm carb loading, right. As soon as I paid the bill and stood to leave, I felt heavy--more heavy than even alfredo-soaked pasta should make you feel. Before I started the ignition in my car I began to perspire.

The sign in front of this bar adjacent to the "Italian" restaurant where I logged the pre-race meal sould have been another indication--had I been in tune with the warnings being placed in my path. The sign reads: "$655 worth of Rudy Mann's Bad Check on Sale Here. PMT Plan or Trade." Kitsch meal and kitsch humor.

I spent the entire evening--until my 5:30 AM wake-up call--steeple chasing between the toilet and the wall-mounted register-style heater. Cold sweats had me testing the limits of the heater, and I hurled a religiously significant three times. All sleepless night long I kept telling myself I was simply going to have to scrub the race, but when the wake-up call came, I realized I had trained for months and driven six hours to get here. I had to make an attempt, pathetic though it would be.

I placed my bike and other gear in the transition area around 6 AM, and went back to my hotel to see if I could sleep. Race time was not until 9 AM. And that's the rub of having the race in one time zone and the only available hotel, just five minutes away, in another time zone. I recall from the pre-race packet pick-up meeting, the race director said we would be on "local" time. I assumed that meant the "other" time zone. When I returned to the starting area around 8:30, with what I thought was 30 minutes for me to leisurely put on my wetsuit, I found my Olympic distance event was just finishing the swim leg of the race. I had missed my wave starting time. I confirmed this with some of the volunteers, and I stood there watching my competitors changing into the biking leg of the race.

After the events of the night, it seemed a consistent setback in a series of setbacks. I found the race director and asked if I could participate in the Sprint version of the triathlon. He agreed but said my race time might not get accurately recorded as the last wave of the Sprint race had just started the swim. I lathered up with body glide (a necessary step if you want to peel yourself out of a wetsuit in under ten minutes), slammed on my wetsuit, and dove in the water.

About 200 yards in I vomited the small breakfast I ate around 6 AM. As luck would have it, my purging occurred right next to a spotter/helper guy in a kayak. I looked up at him, but for some reason couldn't say what was on my mind, couldn't say, "Hey, isn't it fairly obvious--I'm done. Come save me before I drown." He just looked at me, and I couldn't manage to express myself. So I decided to go a little farther. And I just kept pushing. Other than the vomiting episode on the swim, I didn't stop again. Didn't set any kind of old-dude triathlon record, but I completed the race I trained for when it seemed universal forces were against me.

The great irony of all this is that this town or this place, Lake Powell, keeps kicking my but this year. Just two months ago, our vacation got whacked, first by my youngest son getting such a massive infection in his jaw that he had to have an intravenous antibiotic.

And then secondly, just two hours later, we had to endure the area's biggest storm in 15 years and watch our houseboat get battered on a beach and witness our friends ski boat sink (while anchored on the beached). This place owes me a spectacularly good time--or more likely, this year was just my time to ante-up for years of unforgettable good times spent with family and friends on a lake that should be the ninth wonder of the world. Prior to this year, I've never had any bad karma here.

I captured a few videos on my phone of the trip down, and I'll post some next...

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