Monday, April 18, 2011

San Juan 70.3 Race "Sherpa" Report

While I like to think of myself as spontaneous, I am also a HUGE planner. When we did personality testing at work, my strongest trait is "Structure". I LIKE IT! I have pre-typed packing lists in my computer (hey-whatever works when you are packing for three people). There is one for trips to Florida to see the "Greats", one for the annual trip to Nags Head, one for my annual nursing get the picture. So after a rough few (six) months, one of my awesome Trakkers Teammates invited me to join her in San Juan for her 70.3 race. It went something like this:

Andree: You should join me in San Juan, no pressure though
Me: My passport is expired
A: Puerto Rico is a US territory, I don't think you need a passport
Me: Oh, good point [Checking my work schedule, weighing the pros and cons]
Three days, twenty-seven checks of airtran flights later, one conversation with my EXTREMELY supportive husband, and an early birthday present from my grandparents later, I was IN! My kids were awesome- they helped with the dogs and drew awesome pictures for me to take on my trip.

A note to readers- while Andree and I email often, we have never actually met in person. This might be sketchy if we weren't Trakkers teammates and didn't know lots of people in common. Of course I showed my husband several pictures (since Andree is pronounced the same as Andre- didn't want him to think I was pulling a fast one).

I arrived in San Juan on Thursday at 10pm. I was a little nervous about catching a taxi that late, but my friend Hector (from Mid Maryland Tri Club) assured me that I would be fine. I felt even better when I had a female taxi driver. I arrived after 11pm. There was a key for me at the desk. Andree was sound asleep (as she should be), so I crawl into bed. We both woke up around midnight, and chatted for a while. Again....we still hadn't officially met.

Friday: Andree and I finally met on Friday morning. Our room had a view of the water and the sun was shining (meanwhile 30 degreees at home). While Andree did her pre-race routine, I checked out the resort. It was BEAUTIFUL, and in an ideal location for the race. Pools, swim-up bar, ocean, gorgeous views, and walking distance to swim start and transition. They had several restaurants in the hotel, and the pool bar was the site where the Pina Colada was invented. Yum! The hotel gym was really nice, with a view of the water, so we got in a great workout.

We checked out the expo, and hung out with Doug from Recovery Pump. It was fun to chat with him about the medical science behind the recovery pump. We also got to hang for a bit with Trakkers Pro Amanda Lovato. For lunch? Mahi mahi tacos (and a mojito) for me. Yum. Andree had some mechanical issues with her bike after her flight (thank you, TSA). To ensure her gearing was ok, she took a spin in the hallway (I ran interference).

For pre-race dinner we ended up going to the Italian restaurant in the hotel (I told Andree it was her race and her choice...I can do some sympathy carb-loading anywhere). I might have exaggerated slightly when I told my husband "It was the worst service EVER." The Puerto Rican people were so welcoming, and so kind, but there was definitely an island attitude toward service. One great thing about Puerto Rico- an island feel but cell phone service at no extra cost. It was great to stay in contact with my family while having a great trip.

Saturday: This was the first time EVER I have attended a triathlon I am not racing and not volunteering. It was also my first "Ironman" event. I love Rev3 events, so I already know that if my body ever lets me complete a 140.6 race it will be at Cedar Point. That being said, I was looking forward to seeing what the hype is about. I got up with Andree, and hung out people-watching at transition. I was so excited to see Hector (my tri club friend from Maryland and a native of Puerto Rico). Transition was in an old sports stadium. It added to the race-day atmosphere. Walking into transition, you had to walk the gauntlet of body markers. I have never seen so many body markers...all smiling at 5:30am.

The walk to the swim start was a hike from transition (the run from the swim finish to transition was quite a HIKE). I met up with Andree, who was not feeling well. (You can read her race report here). She said she would do the swim and see how she felt. I got to know her husband at this point, texting him. He told me she would finish if she started (a girl after my own heart). We saw Hector before the swim start, and he looked totally hyped.

As soon as the pro gun went off, I race-walked the mile+ from the swim start to transition. Whew! This sherpa stuff isn't easy. It was fun to cheer for Trakkers pros Amanda Lovato, Richie Cunningham, and Chris McDonald (I got a few crazy looks when screaming "Go Big Sexy!"). When Andree and Hector came through transition, I yelled like crazy!

T1: T1 for me meant breakfast (breakfast #2 since the Starbucks was open at 4:30 am- awesome!). The breakfast buffet was outstanding, and the service impeccable. They even had fried cheese (I steered clear of that one, though). I finished breakfast and made it back in plenty of time for T2. I didn't know the area well enough to be out on the course, so I figured transitions and the finish would be good.

T2: I never realized how hard it is to keep track of the athletes when spectating. I was trying to tweet about the pro race, and sometimes you can't see the race number, or it has rubbed off their arm. New respect for the people who do this on a regular basis. The fans were great..especially when there were Puerto Rican athletes going by...they cheered like crazy. My favorite volunteer? A twenty- or thirty-something woman who had her T shirt tied in a knot and low-slung pants. Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" came on, and I swear this woman could give Shakira a run for her money. She was cheering and dancing like nobody's business. She embodied the spirit of the volunteers there. I was surprised by how quiet the crowd was at times, though.

Once again, I cheered on the pros and then Andree and Hector. Watching the pro finish was really cool. I'm usually hours from finishing when they cross the line. Important spectator scoop for this race- there is a local bar just feet from the finish. When the clock struck noon, I purchased two bottles of water and (very large) pina colada. (All for $9). Definitely a nice spectator perk. I can be a bit chatty (you think?), so I met several people, including a man who went to high school with my Mom (small world!). The biggest bummer to me about the finish was that people kept getting sternly reminded that they would be DQ'd if they finished with their children. Finishing with my daughter was my favorite moment at Rev3 Cedar Point.

Hector finished waving the Puerto Rican flag, with a huge smile on his face. It was really a neat moment. His father, who had never seen him race, was there. The whole family had "Team Garcia" shirts.

Andree came to the finish looking tired but determined. I cheered like crazy, then ran to the "catch" area of the finish. When she came through the crowd, she was being supported by two volunteers and saying she needed to go to medical. (Keep in mind that feeling like crud she finished in the time it would normally take me to finish...she is one tough cookie). The benefit of bringing a (bossy) nurse practitioner with you to your race is that she will recount your medical history in the medical tent. I was texting Andree's husband, getting Hector his stuff, and crossing my fingers that IV fluids would work. After just a little fluid, she looked like a different person.

For the rally of the century, Andree hung at the pool bar with me later that afternoon. We caught up with Kelly Williamson (pro triathlete, winner of Rev3 Costa Rica and San Juan 70.3, and Recovery Pump athlete) and Recovery Pump Doug. Kelly is very cool (and a crazy fast runner). I'm always amazed by how down-to-earth most pro triathletes are. We might have (allegedly) sampled the mango mojitos (or was it classic mojitos??). The post-race party that night was probably the biggest disappointment of the evening. The ticket cost must have gone toward the entertainment, as it was a cash bar and no food. The bar inside was actually much more entertaining (there we met up with Doug, Team Trakkers pro Amanda Lovato, and some other age groupers).

Sunday: Recovery day. Lots of time by the pool. It was overcast, but relaxing. We ran through Old San Juan (beautiful, and lots of restaurant choices to explore next time) in the morning, and saw a rainbow over the old fort. If my body cooperates, I would definitely race this myself (and make it a diving trip for my husband). I am very thankful to Andree for letting me tag along!


  1. oooooh how fun! Hopefully we can me REV3 costa rica a girls trip in the near future!

  2. You were the best cheer leader ever! It was so nice to have a Maryland friend there. I appreciate all your support and help on race day. Thanks for keeping my stuff save and being a good friend. You can have a pina colada on me any time!

  3. I sooo wish we were back there. 2011 for sure-and both healthy :). You were BEST support crew!!

  4. Great report Kier! Being a sherpa is sometimes harder than actually racing! Sounds like you had a great time and I know that Andree enjoyed having you there!