I arrived in Dexter just as twilight was fading into dark. I knew nothing about Dexter prior to my arrival, but passing feedlot after feedlot it grew quickly clear that I was in dairy country. I had wondered why it was called the Milkman Triathlon. Now I understood.
I saw the little green sign indicating the turnoff to the lake just a second too late. I made a U-turn a little way up and this time turned in the right place. There was a parking lot to my right and some campers ahead. I could see the lake beyond the parking lot. There were tents pitched here and there and people sitting out on the piers. I followed the road around the lake slowly, to get my bearings and to see if I could find a better place to park for the night than in the parking lot, but in the end the parking lot seemed to be my best bet. That turned out to be a good decision because the next morning I found myself right where I needed to be: packet pickup, body marking and the bike corral were mere yards away.
A family parked next to me was setting up a tent in the grass just beyond our vehicles. We chatted a little and it turned out we were from the same city. The husband looked like a veteran triathlete to me and I didn't find out until the next day, when they were passing out finishers cups to all first-time triathletes, that it was his first triathlon as well.
I didn't want to be rushed in the morning, so I set my alarms for 4:00 AM and went to sleep. It was my first time sleeping in the back of this particular vehicle and I wasn't sure how it would be, but it wasn't bad! I awoke in the morning feeling rested and clear-headed... and surprisingly calm! Again, I think because Milkman was not the race I had been preparing for and I therefore had no expectations, all the pressure was off, which was really nice. I got dressed, ate breakfast, paid my registration fee (a very kind volunteer named Britney had allowed me, upon hearing my sick kitten story, to register by phone even though it was last minute and to pay the morning of the event), picked up my packet, wrote out step by step instructions for myself for T1 and T2, organized all my transition stuff on a mat next to my car, racked my bike and moved my transition instructions and stuff to the transition area. Several terrific volunteers answered my many dumb newbie questions:
So, OK, how does this chip thingy work? You put it on your left ankle like this. Make sure you can fit a finger in there to start because your leg may swell as the event progresses.
I have my race number, so what's this for? That's your bike number. It goes over the top tube of your bike, like this.
Do I put all my transition stuff to the right or to the left of my bike? Doesn't matter, whatever your preference is.
I was back at my car, sipping water and killing time until the pre-race meeting when suddenly I thought I saw... GeekGirl, of Athena Diaries fame! She is friends with and a fellow Outlaw of my childhood friend Pirate with whom I reconnected last year basically through GeekGirl's blog and I met her and her husband, S. Baboo, last September when Pirate wisely suggest that I come volunteer with the Outlaws at the Elephant Man Triathlon in order to get a better idea of how a triathlon works. Anyway, I tracked her down at her car and reintroduced myself, then tracked down S. Baboo, who she had told me was officiating, and reintroduced myself to him as well. I told them both that it was my first triathlon and they were both super supportive and encouraging and S. Baboo patiently answered more dumb newbie questions about bike penalties and how to avoid them.
Eventually the pre-race meeting started and then it was time to report to the wave clerks. My wave consisted of all the 35 to 39s. We had to line up by number in front of a little sign. The two people behind me were also from my city. The woman had done a couple of triathlons but this was going to be her first open water swim. The man was doing his first triathlon. We had all been jealously eyeing the Triatomics' awesome red uniforms and semi-resolved on the spot that we really do need to do something about the lack of a local triathlon club, a conversation I had again the next day with the first time triathlete whose family's truck was still parked next to my vehicle. USA Triathlon has helpfully posted a guide to starting a triathlon club and I think we're really going to do it!
But I digress.
The gun went off and the first wave took off. Then another gun and another wave, another gun and another wave and finally it our turn to walk out on the pier and hop down in the water to wait for our start. While looking for directions to the lake on Friday I had accidentally stumbled on the fact that the water is only about 4 feet deep, which instantly took away any fear I had of the open water aspect of the swim, and they repeated this information at the race meeting. That left only the water temperature to worry about - the pool I train in is kept at 86 degrees, I wonder what 75 degrees feels like? - and in fact it felt quite chilly upon hopping in. We all stood there shivering with one hand on the pier waiting for the one minute warning, then the 10 second warning, and finally...
TO BE CONTINUED