It was a nightmare come true. Really. I’ll get to what actually happened in a second, but first the actual nightmare I had one night…It was one of those silly anxiety dreams, like before the first day of school you dream that you show up to school and forgot to put pants on. It was one of those but in a triathlon setting. I’ve had these in the past before a season begins, with things like showing up with no bike, crazy courses with waterslides (fun!), and running through buildings. Because it’s my first year racing in the Open division, part of the dream this time was starting in a small wave of Open athletes, we end up spread out on the bike course, which is a new course that I don’t know, and at some point on the bike there I am by myself…lost. More things happened after that, but the bike fiasco is the pertinent part of this story. At the Pinehurst International, I lived my nightmare and was lost on the bike course.
The Pinehurst International has been one of those races that I’ve heard much about and wanted to try for a while. “It’s beautiful. Challenging, with rolling hills and curves, but beautiful.” Great, sign me up! Due to the postponed entry thanks to a hurricane in 2015, I moved from Age Group to Open for the race. As it turned out, only three Open Females and a handful of Masters Females were registered for the May event. Race started. We take off. The women were pretty well-matched in the swim but with enough separation that by the time we were on the bike leg, I only saw one other woman in the beginning. After that point, the curves and hills took over and I had no idea where I stood with my competitors. It was just me out there. Here and there a guy would pass me, but for the most part, just me and the open road.
Volunteers and officials were stationed at the major intersections and turns. However, at one particular pass towards the back end of the bike course, I had a miscommunication with the large orange foam finger. I went left. It should’ve been straight. But I didn’t hear any correction at the time and had no one racing around me to verify. I had a funny feeling at first but was trying to analyze as I kept pedaling. The hills dipped and rose and curved. I thought maybe there’s someone in the middle of the valley when I’m on a peak and vice versa. It started to feel eerie. I almost panicked, thinking of the anxiety in my dream and that here it was actually happening. A driver responded to my frantic hand waving and was able to confirm my worry- they had not seen any other cyclists on their drive on that stretch of road. I turned around and rode back the couple miles it’d taken me to realize the error.
On the ride back, I knew my time was shot. Any chance of a top overall finish was blown. So what do I do? During my remainder of the bike leg, my mind pondered what to make of the situation. I decided to go with focusing on the up-sides. The list I came up with is as follows:
– My next time on this course will look like an AMAZING improvement.
– At least no thunder and lightning too, as was in the original forecast. That’s a whole new level of nightmare material right there.
– I won’t get lost again when I get back on course since more people will be around by then.
– It will be a good lesson someday for my twins about perseverance.
The list could go on, but you get the idea. By transition, I had decided that the run deserved my best effort despite the diversion. At the end of the race, I was proud to at least have had a decent swim and better-than-expected run considering the circumstances and course. The detour on the bike was further confirmation of why we want to drive the course and be familiarized before race day. Having an idea of what to expect and what the turns look like is a boost for confidence. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t swing it for this race (too far to pop down in an afternoon and too close to go down the day before).
Next time Pinehurst, I’m ready for you. See you next May.