Pre Race Drama - Tattoos, E Coli and Missing Bike Racks, Oh my! - Buckhead Border Part 1

Tick tock, tick tock.  I didn't have a ticking clock, but it seemed like the minutes, which turned into hours just crawled by as I tried to get to sleep Saturday night.  No doubt it was the nerves that kept me awake for several hours after my typical "lights out time".  The anticipation of what the next day would bring was a lot to handle, especially after all of the time I had spent in grueling training for the event.  I felt as if my brain was racing down the audobahn at record speeds.  There was so much that could go wrong. 

The previous day my dad and I went to an informational session about the event.  Some of the communication up to that point had been a little sketchy, so it didn't surprise me when where I thought the meeting was going to be was not the correct place.  My dad and I made a mad dash to the actual meeting place and fortunately didn't miss much.  One of the first topics of discussion was the fact that they had tested the bacteria levels in the Ohio and in one place it was normal, but in another place it was not normal.  It was quickly followed by a statement that they believe they had a false positive, but it was up to us whether we wanted to swim or not.  I laughed to myself in my head.  I had been training wholeheartedly for this event and a little bacteria was definitely not going to keep me from participating in the swim. 

Semi-jokingly, I leaned over to my dad and said, "Don't tell mom any of this."

He nodded in solemn agreement. 

The rest of the meeting was a bit hum drum, but I was glad that I went.  I felt much better after hearing a lot of things I had already read in the informational packet.

Later that evening I made energy balls and lay out all of my necessary items for the next day on our kitchen table.  After I wrote a blog, I decided it was time to go to bed.  Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep.  I was awoken around 3:20 (more like 3:23 to be exact) by the sound of a car in my neighbor's driveway that was running and what seemed at the time like endless doors slamming.  After a time, I fell back asleep, or at least I think I did because I had dreams. 

Dun dun dana dun da dun da.  The marimba was playing on my phone.  It was too loud and too early.  I looked at my clock and it's bright red light said, "4:45."  The last time I got up this early was during my breast feeding days and then it wasn't by choice.  Resisting the urge to hit snooze, I turned my alarm off and noticed as text message from the Buckhead Border Challenge.  It directed me to my e-mail to find out information about e coli in the Ohio River.

"Splendid," I said to myself as I flipped to my e-mail.  I quickly located the communication, which in short told me that they had tested the Indiana side for e coli and it was normal, but they tested the Waterfront Park side in Louisville and it was higher than normal.  The re-iterated it was my choice on whether I participated in the swim or not, but they were not cancelling that portion of the event.  I kind of scoffed at the e-mail.  They wouldn't get me to back down from the mighty Ohio that easily.  I had an assuring feeling that this is what God wanted me to do and I would swim that day.

I got up and took a quick shower, even washing my face.  It kind of seemed silly at the time considering I was going to be swimming in muddy water in a few short hours, but it helped me clear my mind for the day.  When I was done I expertly fixed my hair so that it wouldn't come undone during the swim or the bike portion (and I wanted to look cute, even though I read a blog that said you shouldn't worry about that).  I quickly got dressed and made my way into the kitchen so I could eat a nutritious breakfast before my husband, my dad and I headed out.

My planned breakfast consisted of a banana, blueberry, spinach, coconut milk smoothie paired with a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, vanilla and cinnamon.   I couldn't taste anything as it went down with my mind so focused on the day.  As I was eating I remembered I need to apply my temporary tattoos with my number.  I quickly grabbed a wash cloth and drenched it, sticking on my first tat.  I looked at it's bright shiny black letters, outlined in white.  It was for real now.  I applied the second tattoo on my other arm and realized it looked a little strange.  It was upside down.  Crap.  I hastily googled out to get ride of temporary tattoos, raced around the house to find rubbing alcohol and eventually got the upside down 235 rubbed off of my skin, laughing the entire way.  This is totally something I would do, I said to myself.  I was as clumsy as most girls get.  When my husband came in the room I had him quickly write the number on my arm with a permanent marker. 

Nutritious Breakfast
The night before I laid everything out on the table before I went to bed.

And made a list, checking it twice. 
Me sans make-up at 5:15 AM

Shortly after I was all tatted up, we went outside to load the car.  (First I breathed though, according to my list.  It's a good thing I wrote that or I'm sure I would have forgotten)  The street was quiet and the dawn air was cool.  We headed down the street and in the dark sky there was a bolt of lightening.  I told myself that it we had well over an hour before the race would start.  Everything would be perfect.

The trip over to Indiana was a quick and quiet one.  A few more shots of lightening, but I still wasn't worried.  When we got to the parking lots just east of the second street bridge they were already filled to the brim with people of all ages, dressed in tight, spandex like clothing, pushing bikes and carrying bags full of transition gear.  I had already been to the bathroom several times that morning, but I ran over to the Sheratin hotel so I could go one more time before the race.  
The Louisville skyline at 5:45 AM
I found my husband and dad in line for the transition area (the place that holds your bike and any items you need to change into after your swim and bike).  All too quickly a man made sure my tattoos and bike was appropriately marked, a woman gave me my timing chip and I was ushered into the transition area.   I gave my husband a kiss and my dad a hug and was on my own.  Part of me wished they could have held my hand through the event, but I knew that wasn't possible.
I followed a guy who had a number that was close to mine, weaving in and out of the stalls.  Eventually I made my way to the stall that began with 250.  The stall before it ended in 199.  There was no place for bike 235 to be placed.  Again my response was to laugh.  There was no use wasting energy at getting upset about this.  I stood there, holding my bike, helmet, transition bag, mini cooler (trying not to drop everything) when a girl, who I recognized by her sleeve of real tattoos from the meeting the day before, came up to me.  I explained my situation and she told me that she would go and find someone to help.  After what seemed to be an eternity, they found the rack that my back was to be placed in at the very end of the row (out of numerical order).  As quick as I could I organized my gear and took another bathroom break.  I cursed as I could feel the effects of my interstitial cystitis taking it's toll (which I had been having problems with for several days leading up to Sunday).  I braced myself through the pain that went through my bladder and abdomen and exited the stall.  I wasn't going to let it stop me now. 

I tried to find my husband and dad in the mass of people.  I was a little disappointed that they were no where to be found so, I headed to the place where the trollies were supposed to pick us up at.  I had no idea what time it was, but was relived to see the tattoo girl hanging around talking to other women.  I headed in their direction to find that I had already missed my bus (because I had a red cap, which apparently was one of the faster colors) as a result of my bike rack debacle and would have to load with the orange caps.  I shook it off, telling myself that it wasn't a big deal and I would definitely not miss my start time.  She was really sweet and offered me some of her ear plugs, which she was handing out to the other women.  Remembering the e coli scare, I thanked her and practiced putting them in my ear.  I wasn't sure if you could get e coli through your ear canals but I wasn't about to find out.  Another girl walked up, who happened to be from Germany.  She had also put one of her tattoos on upside down and I really wished that I had left mine on the way they were because she looked way cooler than I did with my sloppy hand written numbers.  
They started talking about the weather and if the rain would hold out and that it was okay that it rained as long at it waited until the run.  Fortunately we had not seen anymore lightening.  I started to shift nervously in place.  I don't know why I felt the need to tell them I wasn't running, but I did.  I was really afraid that I would be met with a look of disdain or disgust.  Like they wouldn't think I was a real athlete.  Eventually the conversation allowed for me to tell them I was in a relay and not running for medical reasons.  Tattoo girl nodded and said that her brother used to run but had to quit and did relays as well.  I felt relieved that the judgement that I had expected wasn't there. 

Eventually the bus arrived.  They were supposed to run every 15 minutes, but they were a little behind schedule that day.  The girl from Germany and I loaded the same bus.  I sat in front of her and we struck up a very triathlete friendly conversation.  There was a guy sitting next to me, that had a Roger Sterling aura about him, entered the discussion saying he was born in Germany.  For the next 10 minutes I heard his entire triathlete life story and a bit about his family history as well.  He said that he was planning on starting antibiotics that night because of the e-coli.  "Antibiotics don't help e coli," The girl from Germany told him.  "You just have to let it run it's course."  This made me laugh.  He told us he had swam a race in the Hudson in New York, which was full of syringes, used condoms and all kinds of other nasty stuff so he was sure this wouldn't be too bad.  I couldn't help but feel a wave of relief as he told me this as I replied, "That's disgusting!".  Our bus parked in front of Tumbleweed on the Louisville side of the river and the guy wished me good luck as the other men on the bus graciously let me go first, being a lady and all.  
I quickly made my way to the dock where we were supposed to start at.  There were a few guys joking about the e coli in the water.  I chuckled along with them.  I saw a guy with a red cap running towards the dock and was afraid that I would be late for my start, so I ran behind him.  I was greeted with stands of people donning red, white, blue, orange, and pink swim caps.  It reminded me of my swim meet days back in St. Louis in high school.  I knew that this would be a bit different from that.  I hurriedly made my way down the steps as my bare feet slapped against the concrete surface.  

"Dorothy!  Dorothy!"  I turned to find a petite red head grinning at me from ear to ear.  I instantly recognized her the girl I met swimming the Wednesday before and returned the smile.  "Hi!" I said excitedly, totally not expecting to see someone that I knew.  She gave me a quick hug and said, "The river looks great today, good luck.  You are going to do great."  She gave me one final hug and I headed down to where they were sending off the first wave of swimmers.  

Excitement filled my body as adrenaline pumped through my veins.  I was not sure whether I was going to do great or not, but I knew that I was going to do this.  For the first time since I signed up for the race I couldn't wait to plunge into the dirty, dingy Ohio.  I just hoped and prayed I would make it out in one piece (preferably without e coli).


  1. I can't wait to read the next installment!

    1. Thanks Emily. I realize it is a little long winded, but I am a writer, so you know how that goes. 3 installments were definitely in order :)

  2. I can't wait to read the rest of your story! I want to find out how you did. :-)



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