A Peek Behind the Scenes

When 4x-Olympian Sheila Taormina competed in her first drafting race, she came out of the water with a huge lead. She ran to the bike transition, slipped on helmet and shoes and ran for the mount line. Partway there, she looked down and realized she had picked up the wrong bike and gear. How embarrassing. Here are some of the crazy things I have done, seen or heard.

The Danskin race used to make a stop just outside of Baltimore. It was a sprint, not usually a distance I contest. But, since it was a hometown race, I signed up. Two days before the race, I contracted an eye infection which prevented me from wearing contact lenses. I decided not to race, since I would not be able to see on the swim. The day before the race, I rode a century with some buddies. I ran off the bike and then headed to the pool. A friend inquired about my plans for the race the next day and I explained that I would not be there. He was aghast. How can you not race? All of your friends will be there. You have to race and I will stand at the swim exit holding your glasses. Fine, I’ll race. The next morning when I showed up, I had been assigned to the pro wave even though I was still an amateur. After hitting every buoy on the swim, I managed a strong ride and started the run with another competitor. I got beat by 3 seconds. My coach never let me live that one down!

My first trip to St. Croix was in 1999. I had a very long layover in Puerto Rico. I sat in the tiny commuter terminal engrossed in a book. So enraptured was I with the plot, I missed my flight to St. Croix. Fortunately, there was one more flight that day. Later that year I raced on the island of St. Maarten. It never occurred to me to bring my passport since I did not need one to go to St. Croix (do you see the lack of logic? One is a US territory, the other Netherlands Antilles). When I showed up at the airport for my 6 am flight, I was turned away and had to come back the next day, even after I begged, pleaded and cried.

The ITU has an arduous ritual of lining up the athletes and marching them out before the start of a race. In Sydney, at the 2000 Olympics, this process started earlier than normal and took longer than ever. Fifty extremely nervous, wetsuit clad women stood lined up underneath the Opera House waiting for their name to be called over the loud speaker to commence the march out in front of the crowd. This is the conversation in the preceding moments. Me: “I’m so nervous. I’m peeing in my wetsuit.” Sheila: “Me too.” Forty-eight other women shouted out: “Me too.” I hope they sprayed down that area really well.

Early in my ITU career I raced the St. Anthony’s triathlon when it was a drafting race. One year I had an abysmal swim and came out of the water behind the lead pack. I was with one other woman, not too far off the group in front of us. I was pedaling hard, panting, trying to catch up. My legs were on fire from the effort and the rider behind did not come around to alleviate me. I yelled, “Pull through, pull through.” No response. Again, I implored, “Pull through. We can catch them!” Silence. Desperately I screamed, “C’mon, pull through.” Finally a response. “Maybe I can’t you f-ing bitch.” Well, ok then, don’t!

A few years later, at that same race, I heard another priceless declaration. The front pack was a dozen strong. We rode hard to stave off the chase pack which was comprised of many strong runners. A motorcycle filming the race followed us closely. The leading rider in the pack suddenly sat up and started playing to the camera. From the middle of the pack came this retort: “Stop waving at the camera, put your head down, and ride your f-ing bike”.

Wow, lots of potty mouth in the peloton.

What are some of the weird and wild things you have encountered?

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