Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Inferno Race Report: Part III: T1, Oh Europe

In most Ironman triathlons, you exit the water and find an army of volunteers waiting to strip off your wetsuit, hand over your bag of cycling clothes, and guide you to the changing tent. It's in this tent where you strip off your sometimes icy swimwear, throw on your bike clothes, perhaps grab a snack, and then head out to receive your bike (which is handed to you by another one of those great race volunteers). This is exactly what I'm envisioning will happen at the Inferno, although as I exit the water and begin to feel my chilled legs come to life again, I see that there is no army of volunteers to strip off my wetsuit, hand me a gear bag, or guide me to a changing tent. What I see is my bike, my gear bag laying where I left it the day before (right under my bike), and a handful of naked butts catching the sunlight like prairie dogs popping in and out of their holes. Yep, this is Europe -- no place for good old-fashioned puritanical American modesty. Apparently the changing tent is ... well, open-air.

So, with fans a clappin' and snappin' photos and with my only coverage a partially-filled row of bike racks, I stripped down, laughed out loud at memories of Seinfeld, and greeted my new homeland in my birthday suit.

Now you triathletes out there will get this I'm sure -- for the rest though, you see -- triathletes can be a bit obsessive-compulsive. One of the things we're really good at is visualizing and worrying about every single detail of a race starting months before the starting gun is fired. Now I had envisioned this transition many times and never in my visualizations did I think through the feeling I would have standing in an open field surrounded by a hundred bikes, a dozen athletes, and more onlookers than I care to consider, approaching the whole disrobe, dry off, re-robe transaction. Had I actually visualized this, I'm sure that I would have thought through the impact of recently cut grass, an early morning sun angle, the right towel coverage technique to facilitate a clothing swapperoo, and I don't know ... maybe the best direction to face during the whole episode or whether or not I should go for a full towel-off or just hastily slip on bike shorts while still dripping wet. Since I never, ever, ever, thought about this scenario, I just had to stand there for a minute thinking "Is there really no changing tent here? Am I about to make a fool of myself by stripping down in the open only to find out that in Switzerland there's some rule that you have to walk your bike out of the transition area before you enter the changing tent?"

Well, you only live once and with more than a dozen hours of racing ahead of me on this day, I made the best of it, plopped down on the grass, and did what had to be an even less graceful move than the "whale dance wetsuit re-zip" to get my clothes on and off. In hindsight, I think I should have also done the naked dance and ran a couple laps through the transition area to air-dry off. My modesty got the best of me though and before I knew it I was out of T1 and starting off on the first of two bike segments.


Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

yeah,,,I am so happy to read about your race!!

i8chocolate said...

Well, if I had known, I would have wished you a Happy Birthday! I mean, you said you were wearing your b-day suit....... Well done in a sticky situation:)