#142 – Ellisville Independence Day 5K

5kmThis was a first-time race for me, despite it being in my own backyard.  I’d been wrestling with running it, largely because I believed it didn’t have medals at the end, and I like getting “paid” for my runs.  🙂

I signed up during this last week, and got up early this morning to make the short drive to the race course.  After yesterday’s amazing run, I really was gunning for big things.

The weather was supposed to be amazing — rain and low 60s — and I was really looking forward to that.  As Mother Nature does sometimes, she took a left turn, and I ended up with low 70s, no rain, and a crazy humid airmass with occasional fog.  Blecch!

I got to the race course, and talked with the packet pickup folks.  Last year, this race had about 300 entrants; this year, only about 100 for the 5k.  I got kinda excited, thinking that maybe I could end of up with an age award.  Three deep across each decade of ages… yeah, that would help push me higher in my age group, and maybe the math would favor me with a top-three age group placement.

I was about to find out that math today and a great run yesterday wouldn’t ensure a medal for me!

The race started on time, and I trudged along a trail in Bluebird Park that seemed to wind downhill forever.  And much like the sidewalks yesterday, the trail was slick as snot.  Where I shoulda carried some speed downhill, the slipperiness kept me reserved, taking careful steps as I climbed downward.

I’d never run this course before, and it was nice to see a part of my town that I’d never seen before.  I passed through neighborhoods, with the occasional driveway of folks cheering us on.  It was clear that I was losing the biggest part of the pack, and that I was well on my way to being dead last in the race.  I don’t race to come out on top, I race to challenge me, so that was ok.

Lumbering through the neighborhoods, I’d occasionally catch a glimpse of the golf cart that was trailing the last runners in the race… and I wasn’t all that far ahead of them.  With about a kilometer to go, I reentered Bluebird Park, and started climbing up all the hills I’d carefully descended at the beginning of the race.

I came up the last big hill, and turned left into the staging area for the race.  Folks cheered as I came through the finisher’s arch, which was cool.  Perhaps they were afraid that I was really ol’ St. Nick, and they wanted to stay on the good side of the Big Man.  Regardless of the reason, I enjoyed a few seconds of cheering, and ambled over to the ice cold water bottles to start cooling down.

This was a fun little race, but much more hilly than I’d expected.  And, I wish it’d had a finisher medal.  But, it was close, early, and done, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

This race benefitted Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Race Course

#141 – Freedom Run 5K

5km VirtAfter a weekend of busted runs, I finally got out yesterday and put some miles behind me before a family shrimp boil.  As you can see in the course info below, it was cool, and rainy.

And that was perfect.

I really started out to just walk.  It was wet, and the sidewalks here get snotty slick in that kinda drizzle you get around the edges of a storm, so I figured I’d take it easy.  But then something cool happened.

I started running.

It was one of those weird runs, where you look at a landmark down the road — a telephone pole, a driveway, a road sign — and you just run to that point.  And every time I got to one of those landmarks, I’d spy the next one, and make a deal with myself on how I was gonna attack the next chunk of distance.

This was one of those rare runs where I’ve gotten in a wonderful rhythm that seemed like it would never end.  In this case, though, it had to end, as I had that shrimp boil waiting for me.  However, despite cutting it short, I knew that this was a foundational run for me, one where the mental benefit likely outweighed the physical one.

And that was perfect!

This event benefitted Homes for Our Troops.

Race Course

#140 – Orlando United 5K

5km VirtMuch like the shootings in Paris last year, the shootings in Orlando hit me hard.  Orlando is the city of my birth, and frankly, it was once again on home turf.

A day or so after the attack, I got wind of a race being held in Orlando to help raise funds to help folks in the area who were affected by this awful event.  That was June 15th.

In just about 24 hours, all the “live event” spots — 1300 of them — were sold.  Fortunately, they also had a virtual leg to this race, and I quickly signed up.  So did about 2000 other people.  I’ve never heard of an impromptu race going from concept to sell-out so quickly.  It certainly props up my faith in humanity, and once again, makes me proud to count myself as a part of the running community.

Yesterday was hot here in Da Lou.  Really hot.  I know the map below says 90°, but what I saw was closer to 95° with a heat index close to 105°.  Frankly, it was stupid to be out in that, but I knew I needed to get this one done, so out I went.

Pretty quickly, I knew the heat was on me, and I realized I was gonna finish, but it’d be ugly.  On my way out of the neighborhood, I came across a neighbor who is a much better runner than me.  He told me he only made it two miles before having to head for home.  That didn’t bode well for me!

The route I’ve been enjoying lately has started to undergo some construction, so I played around with my route a bit.  Yesterday probably wasn’t the best day to do that.  And, by the time I’d gone a couple of kilometers, my dogs were barking, with the sense that I was growing a blister on the back of my right heel.  This has been an ongoing problem over the last couple of weeks, and I haven’t yet been able to track down what’s causing it all of a sudden.

I slogged through my route, and worked through the pain, coming closer and closer to the end of my route.  As I turned back into the neighborhood, that same neighbor was driving out of the neighborhood, and stopped to talk.  I told him how far I’d gone, and was I pleased that I was able to keep my feet on the street longer than him.

As it ends up, I probably shouldn’t have done this run yesterday.  The sun really affected me, sapping my energy for the rest of the day, and having some significant physical impact from all that heat.  Normally, I feel great after a run, but yesterday wasn’t one of those days.

Still, I got it done, muscling through the discomfort and the sweaty St. Louis summer day.  I’m proud that I have found the mental strength to learn how to pound through conditions like these — that’s not to be confused with the wisdom, however, to be smart about getting out there in the first place!!!!

This event was sponsored by Final Mile Race Management and benefitted the One Orlando Fund.  Last I heard, over $110,000 was raised by this event for the fund.

Race Course

#139 – All American 5k

This race is billed as “St. Louis’ Fastest 5K!”  I get why… there’s a bunch of downhill grades as the race starts in Kirkwood, travels through Glenwood, and finishes in Webster Groves.  And it was fast.

Today's Objective!
Today’s Objective!

My splits in the first two kilometers were way under 10min/km, which is my yardstick for good, bad or ugly paces.  As it ends up, three of my four splits were sub-10, the last one was ten on the nose, and the the split that included the water stop was just over ten.  Really good race for me.

This course meanders roughly east, with the river lying many, many miles in the distance.  But, with that gentle grade toward the river comes some gentle uphill chugs to earn those beautiful downhill gliding opportunities.  The gentle hills are in the second half of the run, which is why my first two splits were so fast.  There were definitely times where I had some fast sprints in the second half of the race, but the uphills slowed me down.

This race course runs through some nice, old neighborhoods, and there’s always folks outside, cheering us on.  One couple was sitting in their driveway, enjoying their coffee, and I noticed their sprinkler was on, feeding their lawn.  I shouted “Can I run through your sprinkler?”  They cracked up, and said sure, and I proceeded to make aircraft wings out of my arms, and ran dead center across their lawn (and their neighbors).  Folks in the race behind me were cheering, and I suspect I wouldn’t be the only person to take that little detour.

Another thing that was interesting was a couple that passed me about four kilometers into the race.  The guy had a race-style bag on his back, with a loud stereo of some kind in it.  There was this giant Caribbean sound emanating… and they were dancing and skipping!  I was behind them most of the last kilometer, and they carried that groove to the end.  I was blown away!!!

Flying!
Flying!

I got toward the finish line, and could see that the clock was about to cross fifty minutes.  I knew I wasn’t near fifty, as it took me almost two minutes from the time race started until I crossed the finish line, but there’s still that crazy mental thing that happens with finish lines and timing.  I looked up, and the clock was at 49:47.  The announcer was cheering on folks to finish ahead of the clock crossing fifty, and I kicked in some kind of crazy afterburner.  I ran faster than I think I’ve ever run, and crossed at about 49:58.  🙂

Finished!
Finished!

Once again, this was a fun race.  Last year, the morning was full of electrical storms, and rain through the whole course.  Today was cloudless and hot, more than ten degrees hotter than last year.  Even with that dramatic difference in conditions (to the worse, for me), I was only 45 seconds slower than last year.  I’ll take that.  🙂

Race Course

#138 – Father’s Day Virtual 5k

5kmYesterday, I knew I needed to get out before the heat got too bad, and I had a virtual race burning a hole in my pocket.  This race was supposed to be run today, but I had a “live” race that I’d signed up for, so this Father’s Day race got an early slot on my calendar.

Da Lou has been sweltering awful for the last week.  I thought if I got out early in the day, I’d beat the heat.  Unfortunately, my plans didn’t quite go like that, and it was closer to lunch before I headed out.  As you can see in the image of the race course, it was 84°, which is still in the melt me into a puddle range for me.

I got going on this new course that I’ve discovered.  It’s all sidewalks, with no major road crossings, and is pleasant enough, even with the heat, due to a pretty fair number of trees around.  That’s probably the only thing that kept me from deteriorating into a puddle o’ goo.

And then there was the lemonade.

Wren Trail, which is the big east-wester on my course, has a bunch little neighborhoods that back up to it, and on one of those, there were some kinds with a lemonade stand.  Brilliant!  Hot day, captive audience on the trail, and some ingenuity.  I bought my cup for 50¢ (along with a little tip — I don’t carry change when I run), and guzzled it down.  It wasn’t the tangiest lemonade I’d ever had, but it was there, and so was I… a match made in heaven!

There’s not much to talk about typically for these virtual events, but in this case, the key takeaway is that kids really should be manning lemonade stands during the summer on running routes.  It makes the run so much nicer!!!

This event benefitted the National Park Service.

Race Course

#137 – We Run for Flint 5k

5kmYesterday, I woke to the news from Orlando, and yet another apparent reminder that evil lives among us.  I needed to put some miles under my feet, and put this out of my mind for a while.

I’d had this event on my calendar for a while.  I love running topical events, especially when there’s a charitable leg to them.  There’s something about looking at my medal shelf, and seeing reminders of not just my successes, but also events in the public eye.  This race, of course, brings focus to the awful situation in Flint MI.

Once again, it was hot.  There was some promise of pop-up thunderstorms with the heat, so I waited as long as I could before finally heading out into the neighborhood around 7pm.  The rain never came, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was hot, and I was well on the path to becoming a puddle.

I took the same route as I used on Friday.  I’m growing to like it.  There’s just enough shade to make these sweltering days a little more bearable, and the distance is just about exactly what I need for a 5km distance.

Much like Friday night, there was nothing spectacular about my walk.  However, I did a lot of reflection on the day’s events, and tried to get my head around why something as senseless as a massacre could happen in the city of my birth.

This event benefitted the Catholic Charities of Flint.

Race Course

#136 – Freedom Run 5K

5kmFriday night, I decided I needed to put some miles under my feet, so I headed out into the late spring swelter.  It was well over 90° — despite what Garmin says! — and was miserable.  I chose a flat neighborhood course that was right around 5km, with a little extra to get my distance in.

Did I mention it was hot?

As I’ve mentioned many times, I melt in the heat, and when it’s above 90°, the chances of me doing anything closely resembling “running” quickly approach zero.  I walked.  Slowly.  But I got out there, and put some miles in the books.

As this was a virtual race, there’s not much to say about it.  So let’s talk headphones.  🙂

For years, I have used Bose earbuds for my runs.  I love the feel and the sound… but not the cord.  I’ve tried a variety of wireless earbuds, trying to find something that works well with my gear, and can stand up to my sweaty self.  I’m sure some of those sounded amazing, but I had all kinds of trouble getting anything to fit in my ear as well as my trusty corded Bose.

A couple of months ago, I broke down and put some Beats Powerbeats2, and was pretty well blown away by the fit.  They actually fit in my ear holes, and stayed in place.  In fairness, they have hooks that go over the ear, which is a little interesting as those compete with the earpieces of my glasses.  Not a huge thing.

I do wish the sound was a little better with them, though.  I know that earbuds are gonna struggle with good sound reproduction — there’s just not enough room in them to make “big sound” possible.  It’s a trade off, and for the convenience of cordless sound, I’m cool with that.

Last week, after years of my lamenting Bose not having wireless earbuds, Bose announced a set.  Grrrr.

I’d love to try a nice cordless set of Bose for my travels, but in reality, the Beats are doing the job, aren’t too uncomfortable, and will likely last me for at least a few seasons.  When they die, Bose will have their chance!

Race Course

#134/135 – Hospital Hill 5k/10k

5km10km
This weekend, I ran my third Hospital Hill race weekend (second time for the 5k/10k re-run.  Two years ago, I challenged The Hill, and it was one of the hardest races I’d done up to that time.  Last year, I did the re-run for the first time, and was just pummeled by the 5k.  The heat was crushing, and it was all I could do mentally to go back out on the course for the 10k the next morning.

I’ve run 100 events since last year’s Hospital Hill, and I was determined to not only be a little faster than last year, but to enjoy the experience.

Friday

I drove out to Kansas City Friday morning.  I-70 is a relatively quick, albeit kinda dull, drive between here and KC.  Three-and-a-half hours after leaving the house later, I was pulling into the Sheraton Crown Center.

This is the host hotel for Hospital Hill, and I’ve really come to enjoy my stays there — the expo is right there, and the race start/finish is just a couple of blocks away.  Perfect!

I checked in (early, even!), dropped off my stuff, and headed to the expo.  Specifically, I was looking for Lifespeed Sports, but unfortunately, they weren’t there this year.  However, there were plenty of races represented, and loads of vendors selling their wares.    Aside from picking up a buncha flyers for races I’ll probably never do, I really didn’t walk out with anything aside from my bibs and shirt for the event.

This race starts at 7pm, so I always have time to burn between packet pickup and race time.  Just hanging out in the room added to the tension of the upcoming race, but I did get to nap a bit, and I’m sure that wasn’t a bad thing.

I got myself together, and wandered downstairs and to the start line.  Like last year, there were loads of folks enjoying the pre-race festivities… stuff for kids, a great fountain, and some clouds.  Yes, clouds.  This was gonna be a night with cooler weather than last year!

We got corralled up, and in short order, we were released onto the course!  As I’ve mentioned before, the 5k course starts out with a ginormous hill, almost ¾km in length, and pointed kinda straight up.  I’d strategized that this year, I was gonna walk up the hills, and run the downhills and flats.  Previous years had seen me running up the hills — especially the first one — and burning myself out.

My plan worked pretty well, and I enjoyed churning through the course, running through sprinklers, speaking to anyone who’d listen, and generally making the best of my race.  I scooted back down the big hill, and continued my run to the finish line, finishing three minutes faster than last year.  Woot!

I gathered up my post-race goodies, including an ice cream sammich and a carton of chocolate milk.  Those are absolutely the best things ever post-race, and really oughta be required at every race!!!

I headed back to the hotel, grabbing some Jimmy John’s on the way, and changed back into street clothes.  One of the challenges with a race that starts at 7pm is that by the time you get settled down after dinner, it’s already at least 9pm, and the clock is already ticking down to wake-up time for Saturday’s 10k.

Saturday

Typically, I awoke before the alarm, and had time to kill — my favorite! — before heading down to the race site.  I nibbled a little breakfast, and headed down.

The scale of the Saturday race is enormous compared to the Friday race.  Saturday has both a 10k and half marathon, with about 3500 racers combined.  The field stretches for almost two blocks, all lined up by pace.  I’d placed myself at the back, knowing that I would be slow, slow, slow.

I started talking with three ladies — a mom and her grown daughters — that had also lined up near the “Walk” pace sign.  We chit-chatted a bit, and I found out that this was the youngest’s first official 10k.  It’s always fun to kill my nerves with some small talk, and frankly, the older I get, the more I hear my father’s voice in mine.  He never met a stranger, and I’m beginning to see that same trait in me.  Not bad for guy who was a total wallflower as a teen, eh?  🙂

The gun fired, and almost four minutes later, we crossed the start line.  As it ends up, these ladies were walking at the speed of my trot, so I eased into a walking stride, and continued talking with them.

And we talked, and talked, and talked.  Quickly, we were a mile in, and then two.  In fact, the course just seemed to melt behind us as we chattered about a little of everything.  In short order, we were headed down the final hill, aimed toward the finish line.  Suddenly, we all hit a big gear, and ran across the finish line in the same stride.  It was awesome!

That’s the first time I’d had someone to chat with through a race that long, and it really made a difference.  Obviously, I need to find me some folks to run and walk with.

It was a great weekend, and I nabbed three more medals for the wall — nothing wrong with that!  I survived the heat of Friday night, and had a great 10k race, meeting some new folks along the way.  It was a great race weekend!

This race benefitted Unbound, Heartstrings Community Foundation and the Love Fund for Children.

Race Courses

5k

10k

#132 – Honor Flight 5K

5km VirtAs I’ve written before, I’m a sucker for events benefitting patriotic causes, and this one, benefitting the Honor Flight Network, is as patriotic as they come.  If you don’t know who they are, check out their website, and their mission.

This was my first run since the St. Louis Triathlon last Sunday.  I know that it’s suggested to rest quite a bit after a long race — marathon, etc. — and I took that suggestion to also include the tri, which was my longest race of the year so far.

It’s really surprised me how little soreness I’ve had from the triathlon.  I was exhausted after the race, and felt that a little bit on Monday, but I really had no muscle soreness to speak of.  In fact, the only soreness I had was at the back of my head from where my noggin (ensconced in its bike helmet) tapped the ground in my stunning zero MPH bike wreck.  I was really expecting some upper body muscle stiffness to set in from the long swim, but that never materialized.

In truth, I really wasn’t feeling the run yesterday.  I’d intended to get up early, and get my feet on the street, but I didn’t sleep very well at all, taking a fair amount of coffee and breakfast to get me moving.  Unfortunately, by the time I got out the door, it was already 10am, and when running in Da Lou this time of the year, that means heat.

I melt in the heat.  Maybe not literally, but I feel like it.  My perfect running conditions are either rainy or temps around 40-50°, and yesterday had neither.  When I got on the Greenway, it was about 72°; when I hit the Jeep at the end of the run, the thermometer in read 83°.  Those are pretty extreme temperatures for me, and usually I don’t do well in them.

Despite the heat, this run felt pretty good.  It wasn’t the fastest I’ve ever run, but it was around average speed for me, and that’s a huge surprise, given the heat.  I had plenty of energy — and maybe that’s because I gave myself a good long rest after last weekend’s tri — and it helped make this a very comfortable run for me.

And that’s the reward.  On those days when it’s tough to get my feet pointed to the street, I’m usually rewarded with good runs, and a sense of accomplishment for having gotten myself out there.  Yesterday was no exception!

This weekend, we honor those fallen heroes who have helped keep our country safe and free.  Their sacrifice has made it possible to do what I do, and I can certainly honor their memory with a little fundraising to support our heroes.

This event benefitted Honor Flight Network.  From their website:  Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Race Course

#131 – Inaugural St. Louis Triathlon

TriYesterday was a massive milestone for me, and if you’re a tl;dr kinda person, just read this.  I AM A TRIATHLETE!

I’ve had this race on my calendar since last year.  I don’t know how I heard about this race, but I started thinking about challenging myself with it, especially coming up against a price increase at the end of the year.  I got on the race event’s Facebook page, describing my current skills, and just asked a simple question… Would I be able to finish this?

I got an amazing outpouring of support from seasoned triathletes, every one of ’em encouraging me to go for it.  With that of encouragement, it wasn’t hard for me to sign up, and begin this crazy journey.

I knew I was lacking some of the gear that would make this kinda event reachable, so along the way, I bought goggles for the swim, a wetsuit, and a mount for my Garmin 920XT for my bike.  Of all that, the Garmin mount will be the most useful long-term, but I kinda dig having a wetsuit.  I have no idea when or how I’d use it again — maybe swimming/snorkeling in the Caribbean?  Regardless, I have it, and can haul it out again for some future need.

As I mentioned here, I had a chance to meet Rich Adams, the Race Director for the event just about a month ago as I was gearing up.  Putting this event together was obviously a passion of his, and his enthusiasm helped fuel me as I practiced some duathlon events to get the feel for that part of the race.

But there was also that swim.

Now, I love being in the water, and can stay in for hours.  There was a lot of chatter about open water being much different that pool water, but I love being in open water.  When we’re vacationing in the Caribbean, I can go out in the water and stay out until I’m a prune.  But that’s a lot of bobbing up and day, laying on my back in the water and just paddling about.  That’s way different than swimming for distance and a finish line.  If I underestimated anything in this event, it was the swim.  More on that later.

Saturday, Becky and I headed to Hollywood Casino to pick up my packet, drop off my bike, and attend the race course talk.  We got there just before lunch, and the lines were long — although I’ve seen worse at other race events!  To me, it seemed like there were a several stops to get your race materials, and eliminating that could be a time saver at pickup time.  For example, having the race number and age tattoos already in the race envelope with the bib could save time — of course, that means that there’s a packet stuffing party for the volunteers before the packet pickup took place!  🙂

My Lonely Bike
My Lonely Bike

After I had my packet in hand, we drove over to Creve Coeur Lake to drop off my bike.  The stands that had been constructed for the race were perfect, and my big ol’ bike fit nicely on an endcap.  Mine wasn’t the only “big” bike there, but I bet if you added the width of al the skinny tires there, they wouldn’t have been as thick as my single hybrid tire thickness.  Man, there were a lot of bikes!

I listened to the course talk, and soaked up everything about the event.  And while I expected this to get things put into “ludicrous speed” for me, I really didn’t get too freaked out by all this talk about the race.

Sunday morning came, after only an “ok” night of sleep.  As I have for the last couple of weeks, I awoke a lot, with the swim on my mind.  I knew that would be my weakest element, and my brain was pounding me over it.  We got up, went through my regular raceday routine, got in my wetsuit, and headed to the Lake.

We got parked, and I hauled my little bags of race stuff to my bike staging location.  Then we waited.  Someone suggested I should dip my toes in the water, and I was amazed at how good the water felt.  The air temperature was about 55°, but the water was closer to 66°, making it very nice.  I looked out at the buoys for the swim, and they didn’t seem all that far away.  Some of the nerves started to fall away.

(BTW, while standing next to one of the police vehicles, a cop was walking up to it, when his phone rang — his ringtone was the theme to Hogan’s Heroes.  Cracked me up!)

There was a little traffic problem getting everyone to the park, so all waves were delayed by fifteen minutes to give folks a chance to get parked and set up.  No biggie.  When it was time for the first start wave to go, I headed toward the starting corrals to see how it was going.

It looked like folks were having some trouble getting into the in-water starting corral, which was causing some delays between waves.  My original starting time was 7:43am, moving to 7:58am with the traffic delay; as it ends up, I didn’t get in the water until 8:30am.  Unfortunately, all that time gave me too much time to think about what I was getting ready to do — stupid Colin trick — and the anxiety began to build.

Ready to Swim
Ready to Swim

I slipped into the water, trying to avoid the rocks that were slowing everyone down, and got in place.  I saw Becky on the shore, waved to her, and heard the countdown… and then we were off.

I knew that this swim was gonna be tough, and folks had indicated that novice swimmers should be able to knock out the 750m in about 30 minutes.  I exceeded that… by a lot.  I was in the water almost 54 minutes, and fighting for every meter I could get.  I knew that if I needed to rest, I could just flip over on my back, and float — one of my favorite ways to relax.  When you do that in an event, however, it gets folks excited, and so I had a bunch of folks in boats and paddle boards coming by to make sure I was ok.  And of course, I was.

A Short Swim in the Park
A Short Swim in the Park

As it became clear that I was just about the last person on the swim — and I knew that from all the radio traffic I could hear — I ended up with a couple of guys in boats and boards going along with me, making sure I was ok, and giving me floating rest stop, if needed. Full disclosure — I did take them up on that twice, but mostly, I just kept moving, talking with the folks who were making sure I was fine.  By this time, I was doing the breaststroke, slowly but surely, and continued to chatter as I made progress.  This kept my mind off the distance and what was left.  And I be lying if I said I never thought of having someone haul me to shore.  This swim was the hardest single component of any race I’ve ever done, and I just tried to keep it in consumable chunks, going from buoy to buoy to buoy.

Last Ones in the Water
Last Ones in the Water

There was another swimmer — Jessica — that was also taking the course in chunks, 25m at a time, with rest stops in between.  We cheered each other on, and knowing someone else was out there made it much more bearable.  There was a guy named Phillip atop one of the boards that stayed with both of us most of the segment.  I know he made a huge difference for both of us.  But really. all the folks on the water were amazing to both of us, ensuring we were never alone, and that we’d both finish this swim.

I Was Never Alone
I Was Never Alone

And we both did.  As I approached the shore, I heard a ton of folks calling out to me, cheering me by name — I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!!!  I crawled up the sandy boat launch to get to land, saw Becky, and was checked by a medic — I think they were a little worried about me — and was cleared to continue on.

Transition was a bear.  I walked to my bike, and folks were finishing the bike leg, getting ready to start their runs.  That was really a punch in the gut, knowing that I still had two full segments to go.  However, I marched on.

Cue the Stripper Music!
Cue the Stripper Music!

Getting out of the wetsuit wasn’t a problem — someone on the boat launch unzipped the back for me — and I got into my clothes pretty quick.  I dried my feet, removing the little sand and gravel from between my toes… and then started to put on shoes and socks.  I don’t know if I was just that tired, or it was just that tough, but it took me forever to get them on!  I finally got my self assembled, and walked my bike to the start of the bike course — fifteen minutes in transition, some of which, I’m sure helped me regain some strength.

I started the bike course, and quietly, a guy named Chris rode up beside me.  He had a volunteer shirt on, and said he was gonna ride the course with me.  It’s at this point, I knew I was the last person on the sprint course.  Happy to have company, I introduced myself, and started on the ride.  We chit-chatted, and I was astounded that he was gonna accompany me the whole way.  As it ended up, it was good that he was there.

I made a turn early on the course, and found that my left shoelace had gotten tangled up in my pedal.  I hollered at Chris, and he offered to help.  I stopped my bike next to a curb, and tried to put my left foot down.  Since it couldn’t go down without the bike going with it, me and my trusty steed fell to the ground with a soft thud.  Chris quickly came to see if I was ok.  And so did a race coordinator for that intersection.  And one of the police officers.  And I was just laying on the ground, straddling the median, with my head in the road, bike atop me, cracking up.  Only I could slo-mo wreck like that! Chris got me untangled, we all had a good laugh, and I continued on.

One of the nice things about the course was that it was generally flat, with only a few rises here and there… and it was closed to vehicular traffic.  I didn’t have to worry about any cars.  Chris was happy to stop along with me when I needed to drink — since I’d already proven I could wreck a bike when it wasn’t moving, I didn’t need to try to drink and ride! — and rode ahead at the intersections so we knew where to go.  It was like having a personal spotter along the way.  We even avoided a little black snake on the road.  🙂  And someone along the way, someone in the opposite lane hollered from a car, “You got this!”  Really made my day!

I was aware that there was a car following us to ensure our safety as the roads were being reopened to traffic.  We pulled over with about 2km to go, so I could refuel, and then I realized just how much the race team bent over backwards to bring the last rider home.  Behind the race staff vehicle were easily twenty cars, all being held to my crazy slow cycling speed.  When we pulled over, I told Chris that we should just stay on the shoulder until they all passed.  Refueled, and the traffic jam gone, we headed toward the finish line for the cycling leg.  I thanked Chris, and headed off to the porta-potties to take a quick break before starting the run leg.

Back from the Ride
Back from the Ride

I dropped off my bike and helmet, slathered on some sunscreen, and Chris found me, saying he’d catch up with me on the run course in just a few minutes.  Whaaaat?

As it ends up, I think he was tasked with ensuring that the last guy on the course, finished.  And that last guy was me.

I got on the run course, and run as fast my tired, rubbery legs would go, and once Chris caught up to me, I started walking.  I was spent.  However, just chit-chatting about life, the universe, and everything, made the time go by, and in no time, we’d hit the turn around, and were heading toward the finish of the event.

Homestretch!
Homestretch!

He told me I was gonna run the last little bit to the final timing mat, and once he said “go”, he split off, and I cruised through the finish line!  There were folks cheering for me, and I quickly found Becky.  I hugged her, kinda fell into her arms for a moment, and began wandering around the finishing area.

I saw Chris again, and thanked him profusely.  Obviously I could do the last two legs, but having someone keep me safe while I gutted that out made sure that I did complete the last two legs.  And despite anything he said about his small role in my finish, it was huge to me.

TRIATHLETE!!!
TRIATHLETE!!!

I gathered my pilsner glass, filled it with some kinda red beer, and sat on the grass while age awards were being handed out.  I didn’t get one, and that’s no surprise — my award was finishing! — but it felt good to just sit on the grass and relax.  For the first time in three-and-a-half hours, I wasn’t moving, and that was a good thing.

When the awards were over, I found Rich, and thanked him profusely for his work on the race, his support and the support of this team.  After a big ol’ bear hug, Becky and I headed to the staging area, where there were no longer very many bikes, gathered my stuff up, and headed home.

Thinking about the race today, with a much clearer mind, I realize this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I know there’s no way I could’ve completed this without the amazing support of Rich, his staff, my dear sweet wife and so many friends.  As far as I’m concerned, this was a team win!

There were definitely some takeaways:

  • The best stroke for the swim leg is probably not the breaststroke.
  • Tuck your shoelaces into your shoes on the ride so you don’t crash your bike while standing still.
  • Transition is a great place to rest, but you’re not resting if you’re struggling to get your socks and shoes on.
  • Swim shoes would be a big help if there are rocks in the swim entry zone.
  • Crawling out of the exit chute for the swim is completely acceptable.

I haven’t yet decided if there’s another one of these out there for me.  I loved the event, but it might be good to try something at a shorter distance.  Regardless, my swimming has to get better before I can try this again.  That swim sapped all my strength, and was the toughest part of the course for me mentally.

But to say it again — ’cause I’m still not believing I can say this… I AM A TRIATHLETE!!!!

Race Course

 

can·a·peel (noun) ˈkan-ə-pēl – A meal with a lot of variety, where each participant finds and cooks their own food.