During dinner with more than 25 friends at a Racine, Wisconsin restaurant, my companion Sue received a voice from our hotel back in Kenosha. “Call us in the next ten minutes or we’re giving away your room,” the caller said.
The caller was a young man named Troy. He was managing a busy desk at a hotel jam packed with triathletes readying for the Racine Half Ironman the next day. Every room in the region was booked. Our friends were forced to drive back to Gurnee and Illinois to find lodging.
Sue swung into action calling Troy at the front desk of our hotel. The kid had no backup, it seemed. Such is the state of modern society. When everything’s run on a shoestring, it really hurts when the shoestring breaks. Certainly triathletes can relate to such circumstances. That why a good athlete spends time prepping every aspect of their preparation. A busted shoelace or a forgotten set of swim goggles can seriously mess things up. Yes you can often improvise solutions. But that’s now how you want to go about things all the time.
We weren’t really fond of the idea of sleeping overnight in the Subaru. And likely we could have found a room with friends at the race. But it was getting toward evening and all Sue wanted to do was check in, go through her gear and wind down in time to get to sleep by 9:15 or so.
We arrived at the hotel by then and gave them a card to check in. Troy glanced nervously at the small stack of papers on the counter next to the phone. Apparently he’d promised our room to someone else and now it was gone. Hotels all over the area were overbooked and overpriced. There are indeed times when greedy commerce, supply and demand can really screw things up.
“I’ll take care of that,” Troy informed us about the other couple’s paperwork. As if that were our problem. That’s the other side of business that creates interesting situations. It’s funny how often someone else’s problems become your own. That potential guilt you feel at having taken back or taken away an opportunity for comfort from someone else is a strange phenomenon in this world.
Indeed there is an entire world dynamic based on that very premise. That it’s okay to move on with your life even when others are inconvenienced. But when you legitimately made a hotel reservation and gave the correct information to a hotelier that wrote it down wrong, it really is not your problem to fix.
Another of our friends booked through an online hotel discount website and arrived to find there was no record of her reservation. Still others booked the wrong weekend by mistake and had to punt of their own accord. Tarsnakes abound.
It really is a war of errors out there. Fortunately for us the Battle of Troy was resolved with little bloodshed. He was quite sheepish and apologetic once we arrived in person.
The next morning as we began to relate the Battle of Troy to a triathlon club teammate, he chuckled and said, “Oh that was you? We were standing at the counter and wondered what poor person he was talking to?”
We all had a laugh at that because we were already rested and fed and ready to drive up to Racine so that Sue could check in and get the body going for the race. Had we been ditched from our room and forced to sleep on some floor in another hotel it would not have been so funny.
It would have been an ugly interruption of a rather serendipitous weekend thus far. We’d gone to the beach for a pre-race swim on Saturday only to find a massive storm swinging in from the southwest. Sue and I ditched that plan and headed up the lake for a drive and a visit to the lighthouse when the tornado sirens sounded. We stole some photos first at a wedding site and then headed over to the Wingspread home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The docent came running out with an umbrella and a worried look on his face. “Come inside,” he said, “There’s a tornado warning.”
Those of us that have visited enough FLW architecture realize there may not be that much comfort in hiding during a storm. The homes all seem to leak, and who knows how well they might stand up to a tornado? But that’s not the point. They are simply beautiful in so many ways, and this last construction of a residence by FLW is a masterpiece of space and economy. Plus it certainly beat sitting in a car during a rainstorm.
But that was Saturday. Already it was Sunday morning, and we pulled up to the park where the race is held. Sue pulled her Tyr bag out and departed for the transition zone. I sat there a moment in the car and watched as another vehicle pulled away, leaving a parking space right at the corner of the street. I could not believe it was legal to park there. But I pulled the car up and looked at all the signage. Sure enough, it was good to go. I got out and chatted with the women parked in front of me. “Are we sure this is legal?” I asked.
“Count your blessings,” she replied with a smile. “We just got lucky.”
And that set the stage for a rather relaxed day on my part. Sue swam just over 30 minutes, biked in just about 3 hours and ran for a couple more, and the race was over. She’d rehearsed her Ironman pace on a somewhat hot day and emerged with a smile on her face.
I hung with friends on the lip of the lake and got a little sun. The water was 61 degrees but I joined a pre-teen child of my friends for a swim in the cold water. We hung out like buds telling fishing stories and laughing about how crooked I swam when we raced. The teen girls made sand castles blissfully forgetful of their true age and the demands of being young women in this world.
It was July, the height of summer. The brats from the beach food stand tasted good after an hour run in the morning sun. There were showers to wash off the salt and life was good. The rest of the world’s cares had to wait outside the park. There were families sprawled all over the grassy hill overlooking the tri-course. Babies and moms and young couples were busy enjoying their smooth skin and lack of years. The triathletes came piling out of the bike zone to run their hot half-marathon and people cheered with earnest good will.
Everyone knows that the race is hard. But smiles predominated even the faces of the competitors. A yell of encouragement was most often greeted with a “Thanks” from a passing runner. The entire world of that venue seemed integrated. People of all races and ages mixed as dogs sniffed each other and children came tearing down the hill with abandon.
The Battle of Troy was long forgotten. The day wore on and athletes finished up their travels with joy and relief. The wind was a bitch on the bike, and the roads always suck around Racine. But one could not argue with the hospitality of the place, and my multiple trips to the car for my own triathlon of running, swimming and eating was made far easier by a parking space delivered by the gods of such things.
By the time we left Suzanne turned to me and said, “I’m happy.” And that’s really the goal and the point of all this, and life itself. What better words can you hope to share under a bright sun and such warm air.