Friday – The Journey Begins
On Friday morning, I packed up all my triathlon stuff and hit the road. After a brief stop in Spartanburg to teach an adult ballet class, I was on my way to Washington, D.C. (for the first time!). The trip up to D.C. was uneventful, yet long (made even longer by my numerous stops to replenish my caffeine supply). I finally got to D.C. around 8 p.m.
Even with my GPS, I had trouble finding my hotel. The streets in our nation’s capital are insane! I still don’t totally get the concept of the roundabout – I went around one of them about 5 times before I could finally get into the right lane to exit (of course, the exit I took wasn’t the right one…). After much cursing the lack of roads that meet at right angles, I finally made it to my hotel and got directions to the parking garage. Couldn’t for the life of me find it, so I just decided to have my car valet parked.
It took just a few minutes to get all checked in and haul my stuff (including my bike) up to my room at the host hotel, the Washington Hilton. The first night, I had the room all to myself and got a pretty good night’s sleep.
Saturday – Race Prep and Festivities
After breakfast and some much needed coffee, I went down to packet pickup. This, as well as the expo, were held right there in the hotel. So convenient!!!
My first sign that this race was going to be unlike any other race I’ve ever done was the list of bib numbers posted by the waivers we had to sign promising not to sue the race directors if anything happens to us during the race (at least I assume that’s what it said, I didn’t read it). It’s not super clear on the photo, but that’s 60 sheets of paper, with each line representing one athlete!
The doors to the ballroom were closed and closely guarded by bouncers who kept all of us triathletes out of the area until 9:00. Once I got in the ballroom, packet pickup was easy. It – along with everything else about this race – was incredibly well organized. I got my packet with my race numbers, swim cap, and timing chip quickly. A volunteer also attached my athlete identification band onto my wrist. This band gave us access to the transition area at the race site. Then, I was funnelled into the area where we scanned our timing chips and got our gear bags (filled with a water bottle and product samples) and race t-shirts.
Just before the expo opened, the lobby was quiet.
Love my new water bottle.
After that, I was free to roam the expo. There were all sorts of vendors there selling shoes, swim suits, wet suits, bike insurance, apparel, and accessories, all at pretty good discounts. Since I was on a strict budget, I spent some time hunting down free samples. Scored some Herbalife and Larabars!
Some of the vendors at the expo.
Love the free goodies!
Then, I headed back up to my hotel room to drop all this stuff, and my roommate had arrived! Kathy was super nice, and we got along great. Before leaving the room, we put our race numbers on our bikes (without these numbers, we couldn’t bring our bikes into transition). Our first outing was to join some of the other members of the Team in Training Flex team in one of the meeting rooms for bike assembly. Not everyone on our team drove to event (some lived in California!), so they had their bikes shipped to the hotel. Our coach, Coach Liz, met them in the meeting room to help put the bikes back together. Kathy and I spent some time meeting our team mates and helping pump up tires.
Kathy and Coach Liz helping Matt put his bike back together.
Once everyone’s bikes were ready, we rode as a group down to the transition area. This was the most harrowing 5-mile bike ride of my life! Lots of traffic, pedestrians, delivery trucks, and bikes to avoid. And none of us were exactly sure how to get to the transition area! Eventually we made it. Once our bikes were racked, we walked around, familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the transition area and checking out the swim course. We spent some time figuring out when we would be swimming downstream and when we would be swimming upstream, until someone informed us that the river is tidal. No way to easily know what it would be like early on Sunday morning. Eventually, we hopped on the shuttles to go back to the hotel.
Each bike had a designated spot!
Our little group split up for the afternoon. I wandered around for a bit, grabbed an egg salad sandwich, attended a course briefing session, and found a new parking spot for my car. Kathy and I spent some time getting all of our gear ready to take to race: packing our transition bags, filling our water bottles, and checking on our nutrition. Before I knew it, it was time to get ready for our Inspiration Dinner.
All of the Team in Training groups – along with their friends and family – get together for this event. The food was your traditional pre-race fare: grilled chicken, pasta, and salad (with some cookies and brownies for dessert). The organizers were even nice enough to set out bananas, oranges, and pretzels for us to take for the next morning. After we ate, there were some presentations. We learned about a new treatment for AML that was funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and an honored hero spoke to us about living with multiple myeloma and how LLS has helped her. We also recognized the accomplishments of Team in Training participants. Some of the people at the dinner have raised more than $100,000 over the course of several seasons! Collectively, all of the TNT participants for this year’s Nation’s Tri raised over $500,000! That’s pretty impressive!
Following the dinner, my team met with Coach Liz in one of the meeting rooms for a pre-race briefing. Coach Liz went over some of the important triathlon rules (no drafting on the bike, no earbuds at any time, etc.). She asked us all to yell “Squirrel!” when we got out of the water the next morning. An odd request, for sure, but it made sense. Everyone looks basically the same in their swim caps and tri suits (especially since Coach Liz had just met us all for the first time that day), and she wanted to make sure that all of her athletes made it out of the water okay. At the end of the meeting, she presented us with gift bags containing an assortment of race essentials. How thoughtful was that!
Look at all the great stuff in our goodie bags!
I was pretty well identified for the race – with my RoadID, a Team in Training wristband, and a Nation’s Tri wristband.
After the meeting, we all headed up to our rooms to hit the sack. I had to set my alarm for 3:45 (an uncivilized hour, for sure)!