Disclaimer: Not all events in the story below are factual.
“So this is where Coach lives.” Rod scanned the familiar surrounding landscape as Austin nonchalantly made a U-turn with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on his cowboy hat while screaming “Yeeee-haaawwww,” gracefully parking the Tacoma truck in front of a series of quaint, mission-styled condominiums. Silence ensued. Rod turned to Austin and queried, “Ok I get the hat, but why the green speedo?” As it turned out, Austin had a speedo for every occasion. This one just happened to be his road-trip pair.
The two friends unloaded the car and looked around the quiet neighborhood, completely unsure of which residence belonged to Coach Mateo. As they walked further and further west, they began to hear the faint sound of the voice that shadows them even in their dreams. “SMASH IT; NAIL IT; BOP IT; TWIST IT.” They followed the noises until they arrived at the source. Just as the two expected, their Coach was motivating LC through her sixth workout of the day: a mean game of Bop-It. “Alright LC, good work! Now go eat the house down, you animal!” Coach turned to the boys and told them to throw their stuff in the car and come inside after for some bladder alleviation and water.
Austin and Rod sniffed around the ground floor of the pad as Coach cleaned up Luna’s poop outside. The home had everything they imagined it would: hand sanitizer around every corner, a bookshelf stacked with literature on sports psychology and training, a sink, a prized bowl from the Ironman World Championships, a framed picture of Rod running when he was 10 years old. Finally it was time to depart on the seven hour journey to San Diego that, in hindsight, could only be described as _________.
Ten minutes into the ride and Coach was starving. “Boys, I’ve only had nine eggs, two pounds of pasta, a Chipotle burrito, and six glasses of milk today. We NEED to get some Gel-a-to.” The car exited the freeway and stopped in front of a small shop. The three men commandingly entered the store and were instantly stopped in their tracks, overwhelmed by the mixture of odors of Italy, waffles, and sweetened cows. Rod was facing a deep internal struggle:
“I just remembered I’m lactose-intolerant.”
“I just remembered you’re a loser,” Coach rebutted.
“Yeah, you suck,” Austin chimed in, hoping to feel included.
In an effort to fit in and prove his peers wrong, Rod boldly indulged on three baseball-sized scoops of Gel-a-to, one of which being pistachio flavored, the “dankest” according to Coach Mateo. The remainder of the car ride was filled with intermittent explosions of flatulence from Rod’s rear-end that one-third of the car would describe as symphonic, while the rest would demand repulsive.
Time on the road was killed chattering about training, goals, teammates, relationships, and addictions. In fact, the three musketeers developed such a close trust in the few hours that they went in a rotation, each revealing their darkest addictions. Out of respect to the individuals, they cannot be revealed, but Austin’s was online speedo shopping.
Traffic was unforgiving and Coach was in desperate need of a bathroom and assigned Rod the daunting task of finding one “just off the exit.” Most people would crack under the pressure Rod was faced with in this situation, but he saw this an opportunity to make his Coach cry tears of fulfillment. He remembered Coach Mateo confessing from earlier in the car ride when the three of them were sharing their lifelong dreams, “One day I want to see the UCLA campus. Not just see it, but feel it. Feel it by visiting any old bathroom on the campus, even if it’s at a Chevron gas station, unzipping my denims, and urinating. YEAH!” Austin, of course, wanted a Speedo for every day of the year.
“Exit now!” Rod yelled so loud that he saw a drop of blood shed from Austin’s inner ear. Austin and Coach wondered where they were going as Rod navigated the car through the busy streets of Los Angeles. “University of California Los Angeles”, a sign read. Coach Mateo screamed at the top of lungs, “ROD, WHAT THE HECK!” Rod knew he made his Coach proud. The car took the long way around the beautiful campus, slowing nearby the stressed-out students for Austin to poke his head out the window at and harrass, until it arrived at the Chevron gas station Coach only imagined existing in his dream.
The car was back on the road again and the next few hours were filled with stories from Coach Mateo’s days as a Jersey shore lifeguard with a majestic head of hair who could catch any fish in the deep blue sea (innuendo intended). Austin and Rod countered back with stories of their own very recent “experiences”, reminding their Coach of what is was like to be an alpha male in his twenties. The bro-talk was finally interrupted as the three agreed it was time for dinner. Rod used his expert navigational skills to pinpoint a Whole Foods in Huntington Beach where the travelers would experience laughter of the ninth degree by using the restroom and making salads.
“Go right,” Rod ordered, as the car turned away from the Whole Foods on their left. “Okay, now make a U-turn and go straight.” The kid was known for never taking the shorter route anywhere. The car parked in the Whole Foods parking lot and Coach Mateo, Rod, and Austin power-walked quicker than their warmup shuffle pace on track days to the bathroom located at the far end of the market. Two urinals and a stall. Coach and Austin scurried to the urinals as Rod waited his turn. Austin did not know the stall was occupied by someone other than Rod and let out a ten-second-long fart that would resonate back in time and knock over a dinosaur, ultimately changing the whole course of the future. Austin looked back and saw Rod’s still face in shock. The two looked each other in the eyes and began uncontrollably giggling like first graders in love. Not that they were in love… It was just funny. Coach Mateo could not hold in his giggles either and the three of them burst into laughter in the confined restroom while an innocent middle-aged working man was left uncomfortably witnessing it all in the safety of his stall.
The laughter continued as the three mature men exited the restroom and grabbed boxes for their salads. Forgetting they had to pay for their food, the hungry squad piled the vegetables into their boxes. It was the beginning of the end when Rod spotted the densely-packed guac. He shoveled spoonfuls into his box and hardly got it to close. It was time to pay and Rod handed over his box to the cashier whose eyes became wide open as he could hardly lift Rod’s meal. The scale read 39 pounds. “That’ll be $35.89,” the tattooed cashier chuckled. Rod began to riot and created an uprising. “This place is corrupt!” he screamed. No one had his back so he ended up paying.
It was Austin’s moment of truth, although before entering the line to pay, his peripheral vision caught something he would later call “the most valuable thing in his life”, and it was not even a speedo. No one would have guessed a Whole Foods Market would carry Oakley sunglasses, but this one did. Austin found the pair he had always asked for on his birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Groundhog Day but never received. Justifying the $250 purchase, he reasoned, “The shades make the racer,” as he also paid an additional $26 for his meal. Coach threw down big bucks as well and the three complained in the car about how the salads “weren’t even that good” while simultaneously continuing to receive an abdominal workout laughing about the restroom debacle.
Just as they were about to leave the parking lot, Sophia and Julia who had left Santa Barbara an hour after the manmobile, were spotted entering the Whole Foods. They were signaled to come over and hellos and hugs were exchanged. Austin, ecstatic about his latest eyewear purchase, showed his sweetheart his new Oakley’s. “They’re okay. I don’t really like the lenses,” Sophia commented. Austin was confused, but brushed it off. The girls went inside the store and the men were back on the road.
The final hour and a half of the car ride was filled with music videos of Jay Z and Kanye West, Coach singing the entire soundtrack of The Muppets Movie, the first ten minutes of Austin’s favorite movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” rewatched four times, and speculation on the performances of individuals on the team racing Draft Legal the next day. Coach asked Rod and Austin how they thought Gordon would do in the field with professionals. “Gordon just needs to keep his heart rate under 202 on the swim so he won’t drop dead,” Rod joked. The others chuckled along, knowing that this was indeed a ridiculous statement. No one can survive with their heart beating that fast for that long. Austin then asked how they thought Sean would do. “BIG SEAN HARRRRRYYYYY!” Coach responded. And that was that.
The talk resumed with speculation on the girls race. “I just want Sophia to have a good race so she’ll let me wear her speedo tomorrow,” Austin inputted. Rod and Coach Mateo looked at each other and exchanged confused looks. “Okay, how about Jenn?” Coach asked. “She’s been smashing the swim and the bike lately.” Rod and Austin both agreed that if Jenn went full-mermaid on the swim, she would be in a prime pack on the bike to pull her to a great time.
Of course, there was also Konnor, Emme, and Savannah to be accounted for, but before the three travelers knew it, they had arrived in front of the Angela manor in San Diego.
“Wow. What a trip boys,” Coach Mateo exclaimed as he patted Rod and Austin on the back. “Remember my three rules. I’ll see you guys in the morning.”
Rod and Austin would never forget Coach Mateo’s three rules.
Day 1 – Draft Legal:
4:30 a.m. PST
The ring of “Carry on my Wayward Son” stirred the racers, although most were already awake. It was a restless night of sleep, yet the racers felt alert. Perhaps it was nerves, but more likely just anticipation for the race to come. Austin was slow to emerge from the cocoon that was his sleeping bag, but the smell of oatmeal reminded him that his growling belly needed nourishment. As he crawled out, Konnor noticing all Austin was wearing was his pink speedo and asked, “Austin, do you always sleep in a speedo?”
Austin responded, “Pretty much, yeah. But I only bust out my pink one when I need little extra luck. It’s the best way to guarantee a good day. And I know today is gonna be a good day because I just bought these sick new Oakley’s and I’m stoked to finally get to wear them,” as he showed off his brand new $250 Oakley’s.
Some food in the belly, and desperately needed coffee to fuel their caffeine addictions, left the racers feeling sharp and ready to go. As they stepped out of Angela’s house the chill of the early morning could be felt, but the racers knew the day would be plenty warm. Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody could be heard blasting from Jenn’s car as they peeled out towards the race. Konnor, Jenn, and Emme belted out the lyrics, “Bismillah! No we will not let you go - LET HIM GO!” Momentarily all nerves were gone, and the racers didn’t have a care in the world.
6:30 a.m. PST
“Alright racers, this is the draft legal race in case you didn’t know what you signed up for,” the head official started. “This a three lap race. You can choose either karts or bikes. After all, this isn’t the classic race. Only standard power ups will be allowed, including banana peels, shrooms, and shells. Good luck and watch out for blue shells.”
Mateo turned to the racers and said, “Alright team, you’re ready to go. We’ve put the training in and I know you’re gonna crush it. Every single one of these racers are shaking in their boots, and I expect total annihilation. No pressure. But seriously, total annihilation.”
Coach was interrupted by banging in the distance. A line of anxious athletes were pounding the bathroom door with a fallen tree. Several hours later, Rod emerged, shaken. He said to Austin, “Dude, I seriously can’t poop...That gelato was not a good idea.”
Gordon looked over at Sean as they walked down towards the water, “Sean, I just realized I forgot my wetsuit.” Sean responded, “Ah shucks, Gordon! Lucky for you I always bring an extra. Wait no, that's just my blow up dolphin that I bring an extra of. I think it’ll work though.”
Meanwhile, while the girls were out jogging warming up, Sophia noticed that the pink speedo Austin was wearing was her swimsuit. “Austin! Why did you take my bottoms?” Austin responded, “Don’t worry baby cakes, here is some race nutrition to make it up,” as he handed her some jelly beans to stick on her top tube during the race. This only fueled her fury, as Austin should have known she hated black licorice flavor and that was all he gave her. Swelling up in an awesome rage, Sophia grabbed his brand new Oakley’s off his face yelling, “WOINK!”, proceeded to drop them and gave them one good stomp. “Ooops, Sorry. Gotta go get ready to race…”
6:50 a.m. PST
As the men’s crew started their swim warmup, Gordon commented, “Guys, there’s a lot of algae out here.” Sean responded, “Gordon, those are Jellyfish!” Konnor added, “Jellyfish are a lot bigger than I remember,” as a 400 pound jellyfish could be seen gobbling up one of the lifeguards. Sean warned Gordon, “If a jellyfish comes after you, just try a love ballad. They seem to like that.”
As the racers lined up along the start line the remaining life guards continued to try to push the racers back as they kept wanting to creep further and further forward. A faint toot could be heard. Sean looked over at Jon disgusted and yelled, “Jon, I told you not to get extra beans last night.” Jon responded, “That wasn’t me. You know I’d claim it if it was.” All of a sudden the racers realized that sound was in fact a measly air horn signifying the start of the race, and they were off in a mass of splashing and kicking.