The morning had a very familiar feeling to it. My alarm went off at the usual grotesquely early hour, and I awoke with that familiar feeling of anticipation mixed with dread. I struggled out of bed, wondering how I’d gotten myself into this. I knew it was a bad idea to eat a lot before an event like this, but I was starving, so I guiltily ate half a granola bar. Then I grabbed the bag of gear I’d packed the night before, and headed out into the still-dark morning, knowing I was in for some serious suffering.
Unfortunately, my destination wasn’t some New England pond for the start of a sprint triathlon. It was John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, CT, where I had pre-registered for an appointment with a surgeon to repair the Achilles tendon I’d torn the day before. But I felt right at home, because the similarities to race day were uncanny.
When I arrived at the site, there was the usual long line at the registration table. Finally, I got to the check-in counter. When I signed in, they assigned me a number and handed me a bag of stuff, most of it useless. Instead of a T-shirt, I got a hospital gown – at least I didn’t already have a drawer full of those. There seemed to be a lot of chaos, people running around all over the place trying to get ready. A friend even offered to come along to show support – and ended up handing me little cups of water all morning long. The sense of déjà vu was overwhelming.
As usual, I was shocked when I saw the registration fee – just like triathlon entry fees, health care costs are spiraling out of control. But at least this time, I didn’t have to regret not signing up for early registration. And there was no one-day USAT membership fee either. Plus, ninety percent was paid by insurance, which gave me a really good idea for a new business: Entry fee insurance. Charge people a flat fee based on the number of races they think they’ll do in the coming year, discounted by 25 percent. Since most people get injured or lazy (or, in my case, both) and end up blowing off half the races they think they’re going to do, we’ll make a 25 percent margin right off the top. It can’t miss. The reason all those healthcare insurers keep losing money is because they’re betting against people getting hurt. The smart money is always on the injury side . . . especially when triathletes are concerned.
So anyway, after registration, we were sent off to the staging area, where I had to get undressed in front of a bunch of total strangers – again, was something I was pretty comfortable with. A body marker came by to write on my leg, just like on race day. Then someone else came by and actually shaved my leg for me, which I thought was a really nice touch. I asked her to do both legs while she was at it, but she declined. That would be a really nice addition to the pre-triathlon regimen, don’t you think: In addition to body markers, they should have body shavers.
Then it was time for the pre-event instructions. Like always, I was so geared up to get on with it that I didn’t pay much attention. I figured if they had anything really important to tell me, they would have told me by now. Finally, it was time to get started. As usual, after all the anxiety and preparation, the event itself was anticlimactic. I don’t remember much of it. But I do have one suggestion: Forget all the water stations and bike mechanics and clothing expos and that other stuff. All USAT-sanctioned events really ought to have an anesthesiologist stationed in the transition area.
After it was over, I was in some pain for a while and pretty much felt like puking, but after a fistful of ibuprofen I started feeling better. I was eager to get the results, but as usual they took forever. Finally, I went home, exhausted, and spent the rest of the weekend lying on the couch watching TV. Only this time, instead of taking the next day off from training, I had an excuse for the next three months.