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May 3, 2012

The Weekend That Wasn't Rolex

Just 24 hours before the weekend went downhill, Beth Rasin was enjoying the "Rolex Ride the Course" event for press.

I’ve dreamed of it more than once: a clean, quiet hotel room with a well-made bed, fresh sheets, flatscreen TV, all to myself. No cell phone, responsibilities to husband, child or work, just the hum of the air conditioner and the pitch dark that leads to the best sleep.

It was all mine the weekend of Rolex Kentucky. A dream come true? Not at all!

I’ve gotten in trouble before for criticizing Kentucky food, so I won’t name any establishments, and I will take the blame this time. I’m the one who purchased a salad at a deli in the Bluegrass state and didn’t personally wash the lettuce.

On Friday night, while in Lexington to cover Rolex Kentucky, I lost my appetite a few bites into what seemed like an otherwise fine meal, so I packaged it up for the next day. Along with coworkers Kat Netzler and Sara Lieser, we then drove to Walmart, where Kat and Sara went inside to get drinks and food for the next day’s big marathon. Starting to feel less than chipper already, I decided to wait in the car, with the original idea to catch a nap. But when you’re in a Walmart parking lot in Kentucky, even a bit under the weather, you have to keep one eye open for “People of Walmart” sightings.

Kat and Sara came back to the car laughing, especially pleased with a near collision with the stomach of a man well over the ideal body weight who was removing his shirt and sweatshirt for a blood pressure reading just as they rounded a corner. Usually as pleased as anyone else by such a story, I was already noticing that I wasn’t actually that amused and that nausea was definitely setting in.

Once we reached the hotel, things went immediately south before I could even make it into the building. Let’s just fast forward, minus the graphic details, over the next 12 hours to Saturday, when I don’t even remember my two roommates getting up and heading out for the day. I’m guessing they at some point ascertained that I was still alive, but I have no memory of such kindnesses.

Instead, since Kat’s computer had gone on the fritz the night before, she helped herself to mine, probably assessing at a quick glance that it would be of no use to me. They did put the four crackers that happened to be in the hotel room within my reach. I guess you can’t blame two photographers who were gearing up to fight the Rolex cross-country crowds for positions for being less than nurturing. You can’t have your game face and your nursing face on at the same time, after all.

I couldn’t have cared less. I was, surprisingly, still alive. I don’t think I’d missed a Rolex cross-country day since 1996, but there was no getting around the fact that if I was going to be anywhere besides the dark hotel room, it would only be the hospital.

I believed that at some point in the day I would make it to the Horse Park before cross-country ended, but when I attempted to watch an episode of House Hunters International and couldn’t make it through the whole thing, I knew I wasn’t going to be driving or standing upright long enough to watch anything. (You can, by the way, get an amazing home in St. Maarten for less than $250,000. Why don’t I live there?)        

When I sat up later in the day and took stock of my situation, I realized I had finished the Sprite Sara had brought me in the middle of the night before. I didn’t want tap water, so I went in search of a soda machine, which was not on my floor. Unwilling to care enough to put on shoes or take the elevator, I collapsed back into bed and slept, dehydrated, as people around the world bought great homes, unbeknownst to me.

Later that afternoon, Carl Mullins did show up with some supplies. He’s not just the Chronicle’s publisher, he is also someone who will bring you crackers.

By Sunday, I was determined to escape my prison. Weak and tired, I was also too sick of the room to stay there any longer. Yes, my dream had turned into a nightmare. It did remind me: “I like doing things better than I like not doing things.”

I finally ventured out on Sunday before the jumping started, partly because a coworker called to see how I was doing, and I could hear Rolex going on in the background. I couldn’t miss it completely.

When I made it to the pressroom on Sunday, every time I took a few steps, someone was asking me how I was feeling. Such a wonderful thought that 100 of your closest friends know you spent the last 24 hours vomiting. All well-intended wishes, just not a conversation I wanted to pursue (except, yes, I did just blog about it).

Later that night I thought I could maybe advance from saltines to rice. How delicious it would be to have something hot and cooked. Sara went out to drink with friends, and I knew that wasn’t going to be part of my itinerary that night, so I shuffled over to the Cracker Barrel where they proudly serve no alcohol, hating my life. 

“We had rice yesterday,” they said un-helpfully. What was I supposed to do with that information?

As I returned to the hotel empty handed, hating the Cracker Barrel even more than usual, the parking lot was mostly empty, the duallies and cars with eventing stickers on them cleared out for another year, everything feeling like the day after the big party. The crowds had come to Rolex, cheered on the riders, who experienced some of the most vivid moments of their lives out there that day while I wasted away. It made me think about a tree falling in a forest….I wasn’t there to hear it, but Rolex went on without me.

I got 24 hours alone in a hotel room, but I’m now careful what I wish for: fate sometimes has a surprise when you’ve got other plans.

Beth Rasin 

Read about the experience from Sara's perspective.

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