ironman 703 puerto rico bike
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Relaxing on our recent visit to Puerto Rico.

Bad things can happen anywhere, anytime!  I’ve learned this the hard way, seriously.  But, when bad things happen when you travel, it can be a bit unnerving.  Unfamiliar surroundings and unfamiliar people, made worse when you’re out of the country…like on our recent trip to Puerto Rico.  But, I won’t let these events stop me from doing what I want and traveling to where I want!  Here’s what happened…

This past Sunday, my husband raced along side 1500 triathletes at the Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico.  We arrived the Thursday before and got settled into our rental home in Old San Juan.  After 2 days of visiting Ironman Expo and the bike shop that unpacked and built his bike, doing an open water swim, and dropping off his bike, it was feet up and rest for race day.  Our daughter and her friend arrived from New York.  Lucky ladies –  their college spring break was the same week…

Race morning was uneventful, except for the fact that we, for the first time ever, decided not to stay at the race hotel for race night.  Our thought was, its “only” a half, his come back race, Texas full is 2 months away, and we’ll be here for 11 days.  So, we rented an awesome penthouse right in the heart of Old San Juan.

Plus, they said there are taxis 24 hours a day at the stand 2 blocks up.  Well, NO!  It took us 3 taxi stands – the clubs still hopping at 4:15AM; 6 police officers radioing each other; a shared ride with a drunk bartender who once ran a 5K; a walk across a very scary park; and lots of giggles.  But, we made it to the race on time and wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Part of the adventure…

The rest of the morning went off without a hitch and shortly after the swim start, the girls arrived.  We jogged alongside David on the long trek to his bike.  All seemed normal.  He was off on his bike and being an out and back, we knew we had about 2.5 hours to chill.  So, it was off to the host hotel for some breakfast and a bit of a chill by the beach time.

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Off on the bike and looks relaxed and happy…

Knowing David’s splits, we headed back out to the bike in, run out hot spot.  We ended up sitting with a wonderful group of locals who were all set up with a tent; cheering and had so much energy.  We were happy.

Then, my phone started going crazy.  Man, it started buzzing and buzzing, with lots of people asking, “Are you okay?  Is David okay?  We just read about everything there.  Please call.”  Well, then I panicked.  What had happened?  Was David okay?  Where were the girls?  I had just let them walk over to the beach to get a few pictures.

I asked our new friends what had happened and all they had heard was 2 triathletes were shot.  Then, like wildfire, the news spread from spectator to spectator, yet everyone remained pretty calm.  The athlete tracker was not working well, so was of little help.  Waiting patiently was all we could do and the girls stayed by my side.

It’s funny what happens to your thought processes in that moment when bad news hits.  In this instance, I looked for a safe way out with cover, just in case gun fire erupted – never thought I’d EVER have to make that plan.  We were in a good spot with the locals and bikers were coming in and runners going out, so I felt some comfort and we did what we do best – cheered.  Yet it still felt weird not knowing what had happened.

After the race, we gathered David and his bike and headed to the bike shop and found out the whole story.  The bike shop has a team and members, including the shop owner, were racing.  Just about 8AM, the same time the girls had gotten out of their taxi on the other side of the park to walk over to meet me, 2 triathletes, including one from the bike shop, were caught in crossfire between two cars.

The cars were not on the course, but the bullets traveled across the course.  The bike shop team member was shot 3 times, but no major organs were hit and the female triathlete from Wisconsin was hit once in the calf.  Word on the street and from the local police officers and a bartender was the shooting was gang related.  These poor triathletes were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Of course, everyone was talking.  Some families that had traveled down here for the race said they would never come back.  Another wanted her triathlete to not do the run and tried to get him to stop.   Yet, I felt different.  I know from David being hit by a drunk driver on his bike at 11:30AM in Austin, Texas, that bad things happen everywhere.  You can never be 100% safe.  Come on, SHIT happens!  Look at the Boston Marathon!  People went back.  You can’t control other people and no matter where in the world you are, bad stuff happens.

I would go to this race again in a heart beat.  The people in Puerto Rico are so unbelievably kind, fun, and grateful to have the race in their community.  The more you learn about the world and its people, the more you can appreciate each place you visit and/or race.  We continued our vacation – visiting sites, enjoying each other’s company, hitting new restaurants, and discussing what had happened – all while throwing out good thoughts to those who weren’t as fortunate…

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Enjoying the sites of Puerto Rico after the race…

As a side note, for a few minutes I was mad at Ironman, like really mad.  Why did they not have volunteers with information?  Why did they not spread the news that all was okay?  People were talking about it and people were worried.  But, then reality set in, and I realized they were in an awful situation.  Do you announce what happened over the speaker and risk panic or let it go?  I can only hope they knew the situation and made a judgement call based on this knowledge.

The only thing that Ironman may want to consider is a text message system like schools and colleges use, that people can register for in areas like San Juan where internet and cell can be tricky.   Text messages seem to work better and are more reliable than anything else and I see that in my travels a lot.  For the rare occasion of an incident like this, it may be helpful.  Just a thought…

 – DANA