Thursday, September 20, 2012

I was just blown away...

I know I'm hard on myself. Part of it is due to my competitiveness and part of it is out of fear that if I don't keep challenging or beating myself up over each race performance, or lack thereof, I'll just end up fat and miserable again. Throw in that I hang with some pretty awesome athletes that podium often and there's the extra push to to try and get better/PR/place every time I get on a starting line. Its very easy to not have an appreciation or see what you've I've done when I'm so focused on the next race and getting better.

I've been beating myself up over the last few races and out of the blue I had a dear friend from high school, who I haven't talked to in ages, drop me a note.

"I admire you. I follow your posts and admire the hard work and dedication you have.You push yourself hard, set tough goals and don't give up.What's not admirable about that?...I see you accomplish great things, things that I know take tremendous daily effort and dedication, and you acknowledge your accomplishment while setting the bar higher at the same time. You constantly push yourself to be better...I just hope you look back every once in a while to see how far you have come and praise yourself for that, too. What I'm trying to say is: You are pretty stinkin' awesome!" 

That honestly, made me blush to read. I don't think I've ever been paid such a compliment, or one that meant so much. I was just blown away. While I think I've overcome a lot, I certainly never thought of my being "admirable". I just think "be the best you can be" before every training event and race. To have someone "outside" the circle of athletes notice and admire what I do and take the time to tell me...made my day...and means the world to me. Thank you LJ, words can't describe my appreciation for your note. I think I'm gonna put my feet up with a good cup of coffee and look over my race times over the last couple years...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Buzzard's Bay Triathlon...ya, the buzzards were circling alright

Since I live in New England, the triathlon season is coming to a close (read its getting cold up here and the water even colder) so I was hoping to get in at least one more triathlon. The Buzzard’s Bay Tri was the “last” one in MA and since I've been doing well I thought I’d register (normally I'd be doing Reach the Beach New Hampshire but I wasn't on a team this year), go all out and see how I fared.

1/3 of a mile swim -  11:55
It was an in-water start that we had to swim out to. “Great warm up swim” to the buoys said the race director…ugh. I figured that since I’ve been swimming well this season I’d finally get on the front of the pack. My thinking was the water would be calmer and I could get a better stroke in order to try and be faster. Great thinking…until the gun went off and I realized I’d have to deal with ocean waves. There is just something startling about turning your head to take a breath only to be met by a face full of salt water or at one point being lifted out of the water so high that when my arm came over the top I had no water for my hand to “catch”. I felt good, not great and I was having a terrible time staying on course. About half way through it dawned on me that I was being pulled of course by the waves and would need to compensate. Turning my body about 15 degrees toward the shore made it much better…and I started passing people in both my swim wave and the wave ahead of me. I didn’t want to get too excited, I just kept trying to maintain good rhythm and keep moving forward. Unlike other races I’ve blogged about, this one had nice big buoys evenly spaced throughout the swim so I could keep focused and not feel like I had 15 miles to swim. I was trying to have a strong stroke and kick. I was concerned I was killing my legs for the bike but I did want to go all out. At the last buoy it was a hard left turn for shore, lots of rocks on the bottom and then out of the water. I tried to shallow stroke as long as I could to stay off the rocks (of course with my luck I’d cut my feet or twist an ankle or something) and got out of the water as fast as I could. I felt good until I looked down at my watch to see I’d swum it in 11:55, 2 minutes slower than my last posted time at this distance and I thought to myself “if this is my all out effort…this is gonna be a long day”. Well, the best way to get over it is get through transition as fast as I can and get on the bike. My wetsuit was almost off as I got to my bike, quick shot of clean water in my mouth to wash out the salt water taste then on the bike for a T1 of 1:35. Not bad…not great either (are you seeing a trend?).  

14.7 mile bike – 44:01, 20.5 mph pace
I just wanted to get out on the bike, get a good rhythm and start hammering. As I was getting into a rhythm... a guy on ten grand worth of bike pedaled up beside me, said “nice bike” and then blew my doors off. Oh hell no! Did this guy and me bump in the water? Had I unknowingly cut him off coming out of transition? Really, what the hell did I do to this guy? Well, It didn’t matter because now I had something and someone to focus on. I stopped looking at my speed and just focused on him in the distance and keeping him within reach. I caught the guy at about the 9 mile mark just as he got out of the saddle to push up a hill. I rode by him, in aero, as fast as I could with just enough energy to say “how’s my bike look now?”. As great as that felt, it was short lived when I got by him and that pace caught up with me. I glanced down at my heart rate monitor to see I’d been in zone 5 (180-190 heart rate) for the better part of 30 minutes and I was feeling it…just in time to hit the “hill” at mile 11. L’Alpe d’Huez it was not but it was considerable when compared to the course thus far. Nothing to do but get out of the saddle and push through. Once I got on the other side I tried to catch my breath, enjoy the downhill and take the first drink of water of the ride. Yes, I know way too late but I was totally focused on the d-bag! I kept thinking about all the articles I’ve read about “ride off the front in the bike, eat the back on the run” and feared I’d just blown my chance at a good 5k. I stopped looking at speed and was just trying to not lose more time until I could get to T2. I got into transition, gassed, a little light headed…and made a rookie mistake. I didn’t know where to rack my bike. This multisport company doesn’t use the traditional hangar racks with your number on them (they use racks that your back wheel sits in) and I guess I was the first guy back from my rack because the other bikes I was gonna use as a guide weren’t back yet. Crap balls! There’s precious time wasted trying to get back to my spot! A rack of my bike, shoes and visor on and headed out of T2 in 1:36…not bad…not great.

3.1 mile run – 21:53 7:03 pace
I started off on the run and my legs felt like jello. All I could think was how I’d messed up this race because of the effort in the water and on the bike… just in time to see another guy in my age group pass me. I made the decision to myself that even if I had a heart attack he’d be the last person to pass me today and it was time to get to work. I hit the 1st mile marker in 7:19. Are you kidding me?! I didn’t feel great but 7:19? Ok, deep breath, let’s pick this up a bit. The best way for me to do that I thought would be to focus on and pick off the runners ahead of me. I kept looking for other guys in my age group too (might as well try to move up in that category too). I hit the 2nd mile in 14:40 (a 7:21 mile) and was incredulous. I was slowing down? How is that possible?! I actually felt like I was getting faster by passing runners. I spent the next 30 seconds hurtling a string of expletives at myself (in my head of course, don’t want to offend the decent folks around me) about how I needed to buck up and quit being soft. I haven’t been that upset with myself in a while. I took a deep breath (well as deep as I could being winded), leaned forward and decided it was a heart attack or the finish line for me. I kept passing people and a spectator yelled “looking good Polar (folks often refer to you by your number or gear you’re wearing at races and I was wearing my Polar singlet) way to finish strong”. Looking good? I was smashed, exhausted and should’ve looked like crap. If I looked good then I must not be pushing hard enough. I could hear the announcer at the finish and kept pushing…crossing the finish in 21:53 for the 5k with a 6:56 final mile. Why I didn’t I run that hard or harder to start?! That was my slowest mile splits and 5k time on  the season.

Ya, that face...
All of that equaled a 1:20:59 on the day (and after review, not a PR because of the 14.7 instead of the usual 15 mile bike leg), 12th in my age group and 114th overall (out of a field of 505). Granted the field was deep because it was the last event of the year, the race was recently featured in Triathlete magazine and there was a pretty competitive collegiate division but I was hoping to do better. I have no one to blame but myself. I should’ve watched my speed/exertion more closely on the bike and I should’ve pushed harder out on the run and there was that blunder in T1. I always try to focus on learning something from each race and this one gave me lots to focus on. Even with all that I did come out of the water in 176th place and slowly moved my way up to 114th by the end of the day. That is something positive to focus on and now I have some things to take into the offseason to spend time on for next year…or maybe I’ll find another triathlon around here somewhere to get this taste of this one of my mouth…

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Canal Diggers 5k...I was hoping for so much more

5k's used to be a staple in my racing diet but as I've gotten into longer distances and multisport events, I've not run many (only 2 thus far this year to be exact). Thus I needed to get one on the calendar. The Canal Diggers 5k is a local event put on as part of a local festival (and its one of a "triple crown" series) that has a good course and a pretty good turn out. Not to mention it has an 11 am start and is just 5 minutes from J's house (which equals a relaxed morning and no rush). I slept in, enjoyed easy race day rituals: eggs and pancake breakfast, OJ, few cups of good coffee and trips to the bathroom. I never cease to be amazed at how the nerves of racing are amplified by the nuclear bomb that is a caffeine in one's stomach that equal a non stop emptying of the bowel...(yes, a very nice way to say crap your head off. I am trying to be more refined). A quick throw on of race day clothes, my Polar RCX5G5 and off I went. Now I decided to not wear my usual Polar singlet for this event. I am always hesitant to wear sponsor gear at an event that will have serious/pro racers lest I be confused with a "real runner". There is nothing that chafes me more than seeing someone in branded gear at a race who looks like they shouldn't be in it or doesn't perform like they've earned it. Idiosyncrasy I know but this thought will rear its head later in this recap.

Luckily packet pick up was morning of, was smooth and easy, and it included a high visibility orange race tech tee. I LOVE when races do that! Last year they did neon green and it's so great to wear them while out on training runs because I know I can be seen from space. Putting on my number and looking around I saw all types of people: the competitors (to include the kid that won the series last year who averaged a 14 minute 5k and the Kenyans (yes you heard right...KENYANS), the 1st timers, the groups of friends running together for support, the crossfit-ters (can I just tell you how much I dislike them?! They don't need to wear crazy costumes or have funny saying shirts or wear backpacks at a race to make it "more interesting" or draw attention to themselves. Here's an idea, how about you just focus in running and show up on race day and try to PR like the rest of us! By the way, the fit guy who has muscles and is is me!).

We get told to head to the start where I see people holding up 5 and 6 minute mile corral signs and a guy on a bull horn saying that "unless you think you can win this race, you should keep walking back". I LOVE IT! Thank you so much that SOMEBODY finally said out loud what we all think. I have no delusions of winning a 5k but I know I run around a 6:30 paced race. If you outweigh me by 20 or 30 pounds and have a Camelback or fuel belt have no business standing beside me or front of me...before a race. Unless you also have a rocket stuffed in that back pack or up your butt, I'll bet a paycheck that you will be nothing more than a speed bump in the field of runners. How about being self aware and respectful of others?! Look, before I get flamed about this, I KNOW if I stood at the front of the field at a marathon all the racers would wonder "who's the fat kid thinking he's gonna be up here with us"?! Not to mention too that race officials would come up and tell me to move. There's no reason why smaller races shouldn't do this. I know I'd be a hindrance to faster runners (and take NO OFFENSE by the way) why can't others do the same? Ok, off my soapbox and back to the recap.

Now I don't know about you but I pick out people in front of me that I'm going to target to pass once the race is on. I don't dislike these people or think poorly of them, they're just my motivation to get through a race. It's my mind game to keep me going when I'm in pain (which if you've read this most of my racing). So...when I saw the heavy set guy, in the head to toe Asics kit, with racing flats, standing in the 5 minute corral...I knew I had my first target. A quick rendition of the Star Spangled banner and we were off.

The first mile of the race is relatively flat and comes back by the start. I have to admit I felt good (good enough to flash a thumbs up to J as I went by) and seemed to be in one of the front packs. We come up on the 1 mile time clock (can I just tell you how awesome I think it is that they have time clocks at EACH mile of this race!) and glanced down at my watch to see that I hit the opening mile in 5:57. Ya, I guess I did feel good and while I briefly entertained the thought that I would smash my PR on this pace I knew I was gonna pay the price for it at some point. There's a slight uphill coming off the first mile and when I looked up I saw the Asics acquired. I caught him at the 1 1/4 mile mark. As I passed him, he sped up to sit on my shoulder. This was completely unacceptable to me so I just kept upping the pace until I burned him off. I heard him "pop" as I ran away. It was a great way to keep me occupied but that only got me to about the halfway point of the race! Now I was looking for anything to take my mind off my legs and the ridiculous wind that was blowing through downtown. I was actually trying my best cycling "echelon formation" to use people I was passing to block the wind. I hit the 2nd mile at 12:18 (I told ya I was gonna pay for that pace) and had that fleeting thought that I could still beat my PR but that was cancelled out by the screaming of my lungs. I just kept thinking to myself to take smooth, deep breaths and it would all be over soon (sounds like a bad date night). Then the internal dialogue kicked in. I don't know if "real runners" ever deal with this but I always seem to have the "why the hell am I doing this" conversation with myself during a race and ask questions like: why aren't I still in bed? Why am I trying to run this fast (since I'm not gonna win this thing)? Why can't I just enjoy being fat? And of course the "if there is a God and he/she let's me get through this, I'll never race again". I mean every one has to have those thoughts right...right?! The last 1.1 miles of the race are a relatively straight shot with a bend left down hill and then a hard right uphill to the finish. For the first time I let go and let the hill carry me down because I needed to catch my breath and I knew the finish was coming. Bottom of the hill, right turn and time to start pumping my arms uphill to the finish. I saw the finish clock was just under 20 minutes but knew it took me about 10 seconds to cross the start line after the gun went off so I had that glimmer of hope that at least I'd get another sub 20 minute 5k. Crossing the finish line I glanced down at my watch to see I finished in 20:10. Not bad, not what I was hoping for but good enough for 40th overall (out if 1061 runners), 8th in my age group but 7 seconds slower than last year's race. I had run a 20 minute flat 5k at the Timberman Sprint Triathlon two weeks ago and thought a sub-20 5k would've been easy...not the case...not the case at all.

A number of folks have weighed in on my performance (or lack thereof) with the insight that I wasn't warmed up for the stand alone 5k like I am after a swim and run as part of a Tri and that makes total sense. Most cyclists spend time on the trainer warming up before a time trial and I see all the "real runners" out doing laps and getting sweaty before the race. Not to mention, a 5k is flat out speed off the start so there's not time to "warm up" like you can in the early miles of a 10k, 10 miler or half marathon. All said and done, another race in the books and another lesson learned...but I'm really looking forward to the 5k run leg of next weekend's triathlon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Mighty Merrimack Swim...I desperately wanted to be mighty

Ok, so this blog is entitled "Fueled by Iron" which in its origin (at least in my mind) was going to document my path to completing an Ironman Triathlon. Not just any mind you, I had planned on doing the Ironman in Kona Hawaii. I mean if you're going to go...go big! you glance through past posts you'll notice that there aren't a lot of triathlons and still no 70.3 or 140.6 Ironman events. That is not just some crazy coincidence. I can put together a 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run (the Half Ironman distance) and I know I can do the 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run (the full Ironman distance) events. Before people start saying "you have to do that after the swim and put them together as a complete race"... I KNOW but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm saying that I have full confidence and am capable of doing the aforementioned events/distances (and if you know me or read this blog, you know that once I start...I will finish those distance by either crossing the finish line or being carried off on a stretcher)...but the swim...well, that is a whole other story. I have had NO confidence that I could do a 1.2 or 2.4 mile swim needed for the half and full Ironman distances respectively. Subsequently, my fear (I say its hate but its really fear) has kept me from not doing triathlons, and without doing more triathlons I'm never gonna build the needed confidence to do the Ironman distances. See, see the circle here? So, I've been trying to get in the pool as often as I can and I've been singing up for everything triathlon I can find.
And this is when I got nervous

While I can find Sprint and Olympic distance races around here (more the former than the latter) and I do well in them, there is that magic number distance that sticks in my head... the1 mile swim. I have done a mile swim for time in the pool but that is not in a race. The stress, concern, conditions and field have nothing to do with a pool swim. I needed to do it in a race. Well the Mighty Merrimack swim seemed like a prime opportunity. I hemmed and hawed about registering right up until the last minute. I didn't really tell anybody I was gonna do it so if I chickened out no one would know. I didn't register because I knew it'd be open day of and it would give me one last chance to back out. I was going anyway to support J, and our friends Jen and PJ were racing too so I thought I'd just play it by ear. I'd pack up my stuff, see how I felt, what the conditions were like and make a game time decision. Standing in line with J for her to pick up her race packet our friend Jen said "you should race, you know you're just gonna regret it the whole way home if you don't". And...she was right. I had all my gear, I've swam a mile, there is no reason I shouldn't race. So I stepped up to the registration table and signed up. I was given my cap, timing chip, got my numbers on my hand and it was done. I had to walk back to my truck to get my wetsuit and goggles and glancing down at the race swim crap I had the "oh, crap...this really has to happen now..." moment.

Some nervous chatting, wetsuit and goggles on and then I could get in the water to swim a bit. Amazingly, swimming actually felt good. My stroke felt effortless, I calmed down and actually thought this would be no big deal. But...they were having issue with the buoys and then we were told that the 2 mile swim folks (yes, there was ALSO a 2 mile swim...screw that noise) would have to clear our turn buoy before we could start. This meant that we ended up starting 38 minutes late. That gave me LOTS of time to start doubting this choice. J and Jenn were just chatting and chilling since they both are legit swimmers and have numerous swim races and 70.3's under their belts and this is just another swim race for them but I was sweating bullets. I don't think I've ever been happier to hear the start countdown of a race! I tried to settle in, focus on a smooth stroke and full exhale-inhale breaths. I'm a unilateral breather that breathes to the right so I had the river wall to my right to help me as a boundary. It was kind of funny that I saw people sitting up on the wall, watching us swim by and realized that was me a year ago and now here I am doing the race. Well, trying to at least, it did just start. I knew I had an issue with "sighting" but it was made even worse at this race because there were no intermediate buoys. There was one at the 1/4 mile mark and one at the 1/2 mark/turn around. Swim in the water, and try to guide yourself on a buoy 1/4 of a mile away...and it feels like FOREVER until you get there. Smaller, intermediate buoys along the course at least give you something to focus on and keep you from going crazy when you're in the water for that long! I just kept looking for the damned green 1/2 mile/turn buoy. I tried to stay calm and smooth, focusing on a good kick and minimizing "extra effort" because muscling through the water does nothing but tire you out faster and I did have a mile to swim after all. And...and...and...I was passing people!!! For real?! I don't think I could've asked for a better push to get me to the turn. I hit the turn buoy at 17 minutes. Not bad, not great. I was a little concerned because I did a 1/2 mile swim the weekend prior as part of a triathlon and did it in around 15 minutes. I didn't think I was doing the swim any slower than the weekend before and I wasn't any more or less tired.

Maybe the course was long...maybe I read my watch wrong when I glanced at my watch...maybe I need to shut up and put my head back in the water because I had another 1/2 mile to go! I'm amazed that unlike running or cycling, once you get into a good swim groove you feel like you can swim  forever and with no intermediate felt like I was swimming forever. I can't get over how I have no sense of time or speed in the water. I know time is going by and I know I'm moving forward (well, at times I was moving at a left or right diagonal because I couldn't seem to maintain a good line) and without the buoys to sight on I just felt like I was swimming out in space. I focused on 'dragging my fingertips" instead of wind-milling my arms around, getting full exhales under water and breathing deep from a shallow head turn and kicking strongly from my hips and not my knees. Finally I could see the final turn buoy and figured I needed to pick up the pace and give it all I had...while trying to stay as efficient as I could. I started kicking more, picked up my stroke count and even caught a few more people. I finished the swim in  38:37...16th overall and 4th in my age group. Not only had I finally done an "official" mile swim race but I had done pretty well in my first outing! Well enough to flash a thumbs up at the end (oh, and as much as I'd love to have had that cute girl in the background be checking me out...that was my friend Jen being happy for me and trying to get out of the photo!). Of course me being me, I was bummed at having missed the podium (really, I didn't even think I could do it and now I was expecting bling?!) and had to look up final times to see how close I was to being third. Nothing to worry about there, I was over 2 minutes behind the 3rd place guy! Oh and J won overall women and Jen won her AG!!! Kudos to those ladies. We celebrated the race by stuffing our faces at this great Paleo place in Lowell! Great race and a great day. Now all that's left is to pick my first Half Ironman event...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It was no Chicago Triathlon but the Chicopee Check for Change Triathlon wore me out.

This past week was chaotic to say the least. Between coming back from the Timberman Triathlon Festival, a new job position to apply for some job and some serious personal matters to boot...I was a little frazzled. I wasn't able to go to Chicago for the Olympic Triathlon there. The folks at Lifetime Fitness Triathlon series were so understanding (they had offered me free entry to Chicago after reading the post about my horrendous experience 3 years ago) and offered me free entry to any of their races this year or next. I haven't had the chance to race one of their events yet but I'm already blown away by what a class act they are!

Even though I couldn't get to Chicago, I had to find some type of race for my sanity. I mean I've been training for Chicago and I could only do so much to address other stuff and a few hours of my being away racing wouldn't hurt the contrary it might be do me some I got on the interwebs and started looking for races. I found the "Check for Change" sprint triathlon out in Chicopee MA and signed up. Even though it wasn't an Olympic distance race, I'd been doing all this training, at least I was racing and since it was local I might have a chance at doing well...and...and...and...I figured its in MA so it should be nice and flat (more on that terrible assumption later). Race morning I roll out of bed at 5am to pack up my gear, snag breakfast for the trip and get on the road.

I get there about 90 minutes before the start. What? If you've ready any post in this blog You KNOW  I have to get there in time to register, setup transition, get in a warm up swim and just chill (don't judge me). So I get registered, get all my stuff, get all my numbers on everything, walk up the hill into the transition area (yes, it was a hill and it would feel even worse later, stay tuned) and get set up. I hate...hate...HATE people who have no idea how to set up a transition area. If the space of your bike and tri gear set out in transition is wider than 14 inches...YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! Buy a book, check out the interweb for pictures, or better yet...LOOK AROUND at how other people set up their gear! There is nothing I hate more than having to shoehorn my nice gear and my even nicer bike into a tiny space because someone just laid out all their stuff like its a picnic and walked away. Sonuva! Phew, deep breath...moving on...

With everything set up I figured I'd walk down to the water, throw on my wetsuit, swim out to the first buoy to relax and see how that water felt. This has become my ritual and what's weird is it has replaced the ritual of sitting on the shore and dreading the water like its acid. I was even comfortable enough with it to flash J a thumbs up before heading into the water. Weird...I know! So in the water I went, a couple trips out to the first buoy and then talking to the other folks in the water about how the course was laid out. Of course...I was looking for other folks in my age group and trying to identify the strong swimmers. Not to race against of course but to sit off their hips or feet and draft off of. I've gotten to be a better swimmer, not a great swimmer. I need all the help I can get.

0.5 Mile swim - 12:43
So we get lined up in the water...and we're off. Because I have this new found love of swimming, I've started to get up towards the front third of the pack at triathlons so I sighted on the first buoy and got to swimming. The guy beside me couldn't seem to maintain a pace or a straight line and kept bumping into me...which I've come to expect at a mass start swim but undoubtedly he wasn't comfortable with it because he kept trying to push and kick me away as I tried to get around him...but everything changed when he tried to punch me away. Dude, are you serious right now?! We're trying to get through a swim, people are stacked on each other in the equivalent of washing machine-like water conditions and you want to get angry with me?! Well, due to my new found comfort in the water, I changed my line, increased my stroke to try to get around him...and when my right hand come over the top, and even with his head, I made sure to catch the edge of his goggles. Not to pull them off of course but to pull them down...thus making it necessary for him to stop dead in the water and let me, and as I glanced over, a few other swimmers, get by this guy who thought he owned the water. I hope you learned the lesson buddy...lead, follow or get out of the way.

Once I got past the human speed bump, the swim was smooth sailing. The water was a little choppy and I was trying to be faster with my turnover so I ended up taking a breath every 3rd stroke instead of my customary every 6th. As I got out of the water I pulled off my goggles and cap (putting one into the other in one smooth motion, a nifty trick I read about on the interweb) and made my way into transition. Remember that "little hill" I mentioned earlier? Ya, I had to run up that in order to get to my bike. It was just long and steep enough to make take your breath away once you reached the top. As I'm trying to get air into my lungs, I finish pulling off my wetsuit, grab my bike and gear and get out of transition in a harried 1:33.

15 mile bike - 43:57
Getting out on the bike, I was so relieved I didn't have to pee like I did at Timberman. I felt good, my GPS was working and now it was all about settling into a good rhythm and making sure I was staying above 20mph on the course. The course was rolling and while there were no mileage markers there were volunteers and cops at every turn to make sure you stayed in the course. Normally I take a caffeinated gel once I get on the bike for some simple carbs and a little pick me up but instead I focused on drinking as much of the electrolyte drink I had on board. The course was hilly and I was exerting way more energy than I'd planned. At about the 12 mile mark I felt a little dip in my energy level and realized missing that gel was a bad idea. Well, nothing I can do about it now...just pedal faster and get this over. I made it into transition, dumped the bike, and was out on the run in a smooth 49 seconds. Yup, you read that right...49 seconds! I finally put together a good T2 and now I was out on the run.

3.5 mile run - 27:15
Remember the hill we had to run up to get into transition? Well, you guessed it, we had to run down it to start the run. It was so steep and I was running so fast that the gel I stuck in the leg of my tri-suit literally shot out and hit a spectator. Great, so much for a sugar/caffeine shot, nothing to do now but grit my teeth and focus on the run. The course led me out to a hill, which running up, I couldn't see the top...only to be rewarded with what I thought was the top being a false flat and I had to keep climbing. What sadistic motherf'er came up with this course?! I increased my speed, pumped my arms and once I hit the top...tried to not throw up or have my head explode! Thank goodness that was over, now to catch my breath and focus on a good rhythm. I ran the loop, down a hill to the bottom to which I thought would be the left turn to the finish line only to hear the volunteer at the water station say "great job #98, only one more lap to go". me?! I have to do that again?! I thought my heart would explode the 1st time I ran this loop and I have to do it again?! I don't think I've ever wanted to be done with a run so badly.

The only good thing was that on the 2nd loop I saw people to pick off and did so, one by one, in order to occupy my brain. Finally back down the hill a second time, I turned left into the finish, emptying anything I had in the tank, finishing in 1:26:13 and 35th overall. Not bad, not stupendous. I went to check the results and was surprised at the number of folks in front of me because I hadn't realized there were that many and noticed their times were considerably faster. Did I have a bad day? Was two weekends of triathlon racing too much? Even so, I was happy with the swim and bike times and the run wasn't that bad considering it was two laps up and around Mt. Everest! Well... seeing the "official times" posted online a couple days later I saw that I was 27th overall because (wait for it...wait for it...) some of the people who finished in front of me did only ONE LAP of the run course and got disqualified!!! Unbelievable. Part of me understands that it happened but a bigger part of me was relived to see I had run a competitive time and did indeed finished higher overall. No podium but still an effort I can be proud of and another race in the books.