Cuba journal - race day

Well, THAT was an adventure.

This morning I woke up with enough time that I figured I'd check on Uday before heading to the race site. For some reason I agreed to take a ride in a car that had its hood up (one of the two fellows involved was explaining to me that he had just washed the car; didn't mention what was going on under the hood). Two guys gave it a good, hard push and the driver clutch-started it and we were off.

The driver asked if I could pay before the completion of our ride, and pulled into a gas station. Fine, fine; it's Cuba - I paid him, we put fuel in the car and off we went.

All of the cabbies here seem to want a permanent relationship with you - they will give you their card or write down their telephone number for you, asking that you call them any time you need a ride anywhere. These two characters this morning wanted to wait for me at the hospital and then drive me to the Marina (where the race was) but I had had enough of that chapter of my trip and I thanked them and walked in to the hospital.

Didn't get very far though, as Homie in the chair by the front door explained that it wasn't visiting hours, and I couldn't visit. I had no idea that there were places that still took that seriously. But rules are rules and I turned and left.

Got a ride in a proper taxi after that and we got pretty close to the Marina but they had the roads closed for the race, so I walked the remaining 2 km in.

Found my people and headed out to the transition area, eyeing the sky with suspicion. Lots of lightning was flashing and I was pretty sure that there would be no swim in our race - the female pros had gone first, then the men; we were watching the men.

A proper squall line came through and thoroughly soaked EVERYTHING. I had had the presence of mind to pack some of my things (fancy new camera, iphone, wallet) in plastic bags, but it got downright cold and everything was soaked. By and by the worst of the weather passed (no more lightning!) and we went through body marking.

I guess there were about 90 athletes. I haven't done a sprint since my teen years and had not realized how very little territory you need to host a sprint, especially with a four-lap bike course.

We jumped down into the water (after being told to jump far, as it was really shallow), then were beckoned back to the wall for our start.

This race reminded me that I'm not a sprinter.

I felt like I had a good swim (just not a really fast one) - a pretty quick T1 and off I went on my bike. It had begun to rain again while we were swimming, and on the bike there were times that it was just a downpour - but mercifully there was no wind. I had a water bottle on my bike but didn't use it at all; for one thing, the race was hardly long enough to get thirsty, and (b) I actually found that I could open my mouth wide and stick my tongue out, and I'd get enough water for what I needed.

One of the women in our group (Jessica Rossing) did really well on the bike - well ahead of me, and widened that gap - and had a great run as well, passing me as I neared the end of the first of my two laps on her way to the finish line. Turns out that she won the race (she was the first female to finish our race). What fun for her; fun for all of us, really.

It was pouring as I started my run and my shoes felt like they were twice as heavy as usual. I was thinking about how cool it was to be doing what I was doing, where I was doing it, and I think I ran the race that I was prepared for. Had a fun finish and the U.S. crew was all over on the right, cheering people on. It's GREAT to have a team to give you some love on the way in. Makes a huge difference.

Afterward we went into the Marina's yacht club for the awards ceremony, thinking that Jess was going to get something (turns out that they only had a ceremony for the pros) - and among the pros, the US had some men and women who did well and received medals. They played the national anthem of the various countries and I'll be honest: it was an emotional moment for me when they played the Star Spangled Banner, there in the yacht club in Havana.

I pedaled back to the bike rental shop, returned the bike and took a cab to the hotel. Spent about an hour rinsing everything off (was not just wet, but dirty) and now I have about 15 minutes before I want to head out to meet up with the crew for the night's escapades. We're meeting at the Nacional at 7:00.