Can’t Have it All

My post Ironman Boulder recovery got off to a bad start when I didn’t take my own advice and celebrate the night away with alcoholic beverages. Instead, I went home, showered, and laid down until it was time to go back to the finish line to hand out medals and watch an athlete I coach cross the line. Adelaide and I brought a pizza home from Papa John’s after sitting in a parking lot for 10 minutes trying to decide what to do for dinner. I ate my whole pizza but felt slightly ill and nauseous the rest of the night, and went to bed at 8:30. I got poor sleep, and would get poor sleep for the next night as well.

The sick feeling I had that night worsened over the next few days and turned into a full blown cold; the forced rest that it required meant that I got great recovery—I barely moved for about four days. I wasn’t too worried about missing workouts for Coeur d’Alene though, which was three weeks after Boulder and is this coming weekend, since the sickness never fully moved into my lungs. I began training again seven days after Ironman Boulder, starting out with a fairly hard run on Switzerland trail at 8,500 feet elevation. Probably not the best idea, but I figured it would either make me much, much worse, or better. It made me better, miraculously.

By mid week last week, 10 days out from Boulder, I was feeling decent enough to do a few hard sessions back to back over a two-day period, including a hard masters, a moderately long (3.5 hour) ride with some low cadence intervals, a tempo run off the bike, a group ride with some intense climbing efforts, and an easy open water swim. I felt better than expected for all of the workouts, and thought I was on track for a good race at CDA, which was 10 days away at that point. Then, disaster struck the day after pushing too hard and I relapsed with the sickness.

I rested for three days straight hoping that it would go away, then planned to do a few test workouts to confirm that racing CDA still made sense. The first of those test workouts, which involved 3×10 minutes upper threshold intervals on the bike, was planned for today. And I failed. Not wanting to allow time to change my mind or continue see-sawing back and forth about whether I should race or not, I cancelled all my travel arrangements the moment I got home from that ride this morning.

It probably doesn’t make sense for me to go to races with the mindset of “at least make your money back” anymore. That may have been a primary goal in the past, but I feel like I’ve reached a level in this past year or two where the goal should be to do a race fully prepared, and toe the line with the mindset of winning or performing at my own personal best ability. I need to go to races fully prepared and committed to doing everything possible to have my best performance—something that I struggled with in bike racing because there was always another big race a week or two away, and training through a race or racing with a lingering illness was normal.

My next two races will be Boulder 70.3 and Santa Cruz 70.3 before heading to Kona, where I’m truly starting to believe that a top 10 is within possibility.

 

 

 

Ironman Boulder Race Report

I was hoping to pull a Chris Leiferman and win my first Ironman attempt, but I fell short by one spot. I came closer than most people probably expected, though leading up to the race I really did think I was capable of winning, which was most likely delusional as I had no clue how anyone else would feel on race day, and there were at least three or four guys that had the results in the past to be marked as true contenders for the win, unlike myself. I’m still sore as hell on Wednesday, three days after the race, and I have a nice head cold to add to the misery. Definitely worth it.

The Swim

Despite spending a small fortune on a new wetsuit, I swam the same speed as I did last year and the year before. I did the swim two years ago and the swim and the bike last year for training, not attempting to finish the race either year. Both those previous years I was in the 54 minute group. I figured this would be the case again for me, as in the past there have only been three swim groups—the leaders, who swim sub 50 minutes, the main pack that swims 54 and change, and stragglers who were part of that 54 minute group but fell off after the last turn buoy. I have not been working that much on my swim, with the main reason being that I knew I’d be in the 54 minute group no matter what I did.

The first few minutes of the swim were exciting; I was on someone’s feet who quickly charged to the right and momentarily got behind Brent McMahon (I think). Then we got dropped, along with just about everyone else, and the pace drastically died down. A large group of 7-10 guys formed, with Justin Daerr, Matt Hanson, and Tyler Butterfield all taking pulls at the front from what I could tell. I sat a few lengths back, glued to Sam Long’s feet, hoping that my clawing wouldn’t give him a staff infection. I consider a stroke to be succesful only if I take a chunk of skin out of the person’s feet in front of me. Kidding aside, I do like to get up real close and personal. The most efficient position I’ve found is to get so close that my head is about five inches from their feet, which requires that I take wide strokes on the outsides of their legs. It’s a risky position to be in since if I run into their feet I’ll get my goggles kicked off.

The Bike

As I predicted, we came out of the water in 54 minutes, though I didn’t know it at the time. The only thing on my mind was to quickly get on the bike and begin executing the plan that Sam and I had hatched a few days earlier. Whoever got on the bike first would ride steady and wait for the other person to catch up. The person behind would ride extra hard to close the gap quickly. Then, we’d take pulls evenly, with each pull ended by a hand wave for the other to come around. The person in front would get to sit up and soft pedal for 20 seconds as the person from behind made an easy pass. First, I needed to speed up in transition because Sam had just grabbed his bike and was running for the exit.

Because of the cold air temperature, I had planned to wear socks and cycling gloves on the bike. This may have been a mistake, because 45 degrees doesn’t actually feel cold when I ride hard, and I immediately lost 40 seconds to Sam fumbling to put on my cold weather gear.

I hit out moderately hard for the first few miles to close the gap down. Sam and I exchanged a shout at the first turn around at mile two or three, letting each other know that the plan was still on. Around mile eight I caught up to Sam, who took the first long pull. Over the next 20 miles I could tell he had good legs, as did I. My average power at 40 minutes was 295, significantly higher than I had planned to hold for the duration, but we were focused on creating a gap to everyone behind, in addition to quickly slashing the gap to the leaders, which was more than four minutes out of T1.

We passed Jeremy Jurkiewicz quickly, then it was just Brent McMahon and Tim O’Donnell up the road, who were riding separately. By mile 20 or 30, Tim already had a minute or more on Brent, which was to our advantage since neither would have anyone to work with.

For those who aren’t familiar with the bike course, it’s mostly flat with a few rolling hills. There is just under 4,000 feet of elevation gain, making it a fast course. The roads are wide-open, blanketed on the green and gold planes just east of the Rocky Mountain foothills. Last year the race was held under sweltering 96-degree conditions. Today, it was windless and cool. Perfect for riding fast, and then later running fast.

One of the few hills.

Sam and I cresting another hill. These two photos are by Andrijan Smaic.

Photo by @beanmachinetri

After the first lap, my average power had settled down to 286 and I was still feeling good. McMahon was minutes behind us by then and the gap to O’Donnell was about 2.5 minutes. Our initial progress on him had been rapid, but it was dying off now. We discussed what to do on a pass, and agreed that O’Donnell was over biking. That, or he was just a beast. Either way, it would be unwise for us to ramp up or pace.

On a few of the hills that second lap, I distanced Sam unintentionally. Sam had just raced, and won, the previous weekend at Victoria 70.3, and was understandably starting to suffer. I sat up for him on a few descents so he could catch back on as soon as possible. I was starting to feel a bit tired at mile 95 and, having dropped Sam a little ways back on a climb, rode moderately easy until he caught up six or seven miles later near Hygiene market. We took steady, easier pulls from then on out. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to run well if I continued riding hard the last 10 miles, so I was content with our easier pace. Unfortunately, it meant that our gap to Matt Hanson, who was just two minutes behind us, never really changed much on that second lap.

I came in at 4:07:59, which was the fastest bike split of the day and the bike course record for Boulder. I averaged 275 watts, with a normalized power of 287. During those 4+ hours I consumed a shit ton of calories. I think I had seven Clif Blok bars, a Snickers, two gels, two Gatorades, and 600 calories of drink mix for a total of 2,250 calories.

The Run

Everyone loves to say that you bike for show and run for dough, which is an idiotic saying. I think a more accurate saying is you bike to drain and run for pain. I was tired after the bike, but of course the real pain doesn’t come until the run.

Yet, by mile four the pain didn’t seem too bad. I was hammering out a pretty solid pace by then, just having reached the bike path that 95 percent of the course would follow from there on out, and feeling better and better. Or, at least I wasn’t feeling worse. My memory quickly reset itself multiple times during the marathon, and there is a chance that the first mile sucked and I just don’t remember.

The time gaps I was hearing regarding O’Donnell’s shrinking lead were encouraging. He had a 2:40 lead on Sam and I off the bike but I had cut it down to 2:00 already in the opening miles. Sam had been close behind for a few miles but was feeling the full affects of racing back to back weekends and had dropped well out of sight by mile five. Since I don’t have eyes on the back of my head, I guess that’s a dumb way to explain how far back someone is.

Anyways, I thought I was alone at mile six but was suddenly passed by a flying demon in red. Matt Hansen. Fuck. Moments earlier I thought about how I was going to win. Now? Just hold on! This was my first thought. I picked up my pace, which was already really fast. I’d been averaging 6:16 per mile, which was fast even considering that the majority of the run had, at that point, been slightly down hill.

Despite still feeling okay, increasing my speed to 6:00 pace now, my fear was that since I had no idea what I was capable of in a marathon, I could easily blow sky high if I tried to stay with Hanson. Even for just a few miles. Instead of sticking on him, I just tried to minimize the gap he was pulling out on me. I stayed relaxed, continued eating a gel almost every mile, and focused on catching O’Donnell. The course bended west, leaving a formerly industrial area of Boulder that’s now populated by prairie dogs, and entered the heavily shaded part of the path that winds alongside the Boulder Creek. The course was still sparsely populated with spectators, though that would eventually change the deeper into the race we ran.

I caught O’Donnell at mile 11, fumbled and dropped my gel flask at special needs, cursed, went back for it, and hammered downhill on the creek path after Hanson. By mile 15 I was still averaging 6:18 pace—way faster than I had ever hoped for—and the gap to Hansen was still between 80 and 90 seconds. It had been there for at least five miles at this point, since the only time he had built his gap was the first few miles after he came around at mile six. Confident that I would hold off O’Donnell and everyone else behind me, I decided it was now or never to start chipping away at his lead.

Over the next few miles I wavered between trying to catch him and just trying to focus on my own running (AKA preserving my 2nd place). I knew the last 45 minutes of the marathon would be the hardest, and the final three miles were almost all uphill. I didn’t quite have the confidence in my endurance to make an all out assault on Hanson, who was still a minute and a half ahead of me despite my half hearted efforts to close the gap.

Then at mile 18 I was suddenly stopped by the head race referee and told that I had to stand still for one minute as a penalty for failing to put on my race number in T2. I remained surprisingly calm during those 60 seconds, admitting fault and that I had simply not seen it when I dumped everything out on the ground. I looked back around the bend in the bike path to see if I could spot O’Donnell, but couldn’t. I had at least three minutes, probably more, on him at that point and one minute wasn’t going to change anything.

When my 60 seconds were up, and my bib number was securely attached around my waist (the refs had brought it from T2 at the reservoir), I took off after Hanson once again. I shaved a few seconds off his lead over the next two miles in a fit of excitement and anger. But it was a futile attempt. I began fading, gradually realizing that it would be impossible to catch him unless he had to start jogging for some reason. Maybe if I had never let him get a gap on me, had remembered my bib number, and had an extra 1,000 mg of caffeine I could have stayed with him at least until the last few miles. Maybe. But he may have just sped up even more if I had attempted that.

By mile 23 I began suffering. The next three miles became a death march as my muscles gave out. My legs had nothing left in them despite eating a total of 17 gels during the run. In the last two miles I began running in a weird way by swinging my legs out wide and keeping my knees as straight as possible in an attempt to save my quads, which were wrecked. Those last few miles were excruciating, and I was still worried that I’d get caught even though I had a six minute gap now to O’Donnell. The fear of getting caught kept me pushing as hard as I could.

With a mile to go, I was gnawing away at the insides of my cheeks—an old habitat that I do when I’m in serious pain. Once I start to taste blood, or see it on my finger if I do a swab inside my mouth, I know I’m putting in a good effort. I downed one last gag-inducing gel and let out a groan of desperation. My entire focus was just to be able to stop running. Get to the finish line. Just be done as soon as possible so you can lay down, I thought.

Much of the creek path navigates cross-streets above, which means there’s a bunch of underpasses that have a short downhill one direction and an uphill on the other end. I refused to walk up any of the small little hills, fearing that if I walked even one I wouldn’t be able to start running again.

Finally I approached the last few turns and could hear the finish line announcements and commotion. My excitement built—excitement to be off my feet, which were barely holding me up at that point. Coming into the finish shoot, I gave my brother a high five and took a flowered lei neckless from my sister in law, Joslynn, not realizing that its purpose was to signify going to Kona, which I hadn’t even decided upon yet.

I crossed the line in 8:01, 4.5 minutes slower than Hanson, and collapsed at once. Looking back, it would have been awesome to go under 8:00 in my first Ironman, which is right about where I’d have finished if it weren’t for that minute penalty. Of course, none of this was going through my head as I lay on the ground. Entering the finish line shoot and the five minutes I lay motionless were just pure blissful relief of being done and hanging onto 2nd place.

Drained of everything. It was a good thing Adelaide was there. I was incapable of doing anything myself for the next hour. Photo by 303 Triathlon

Previous four photos by 303 Triathlon.

Stumbling through an incoherent interview where I thanked my wife and my dog, in that order.

Adelaide trying to get me up off the ground from earlier. Photo by Jeff Malin

Sam, who came in 5th, was a huge ally that day. Photo by Adrijan Smaic

My brother and I. Photo by Joslynn Corredor

It would appear that I’m about to throw down here with the head ref for giving me that penalty. Of course that wasn’t the case. I was probably just going in for a sweaty hug. He was a real nice guy.

 

Ironman Boulder was a great experience, and one that I’ll hopefully remember for a long time. There were so many friends and people I knew out there cheering for me, which felt amazing and really did help at times. My brother, Joslynn, Jeff, Adelaide, and I all hung out on the grass afterwards eating pizza in the sun as the accomplishment slowly washed over me. Thank you to Adelaide, my friends and family, training buddies, the volunteers, Ironman staff, A-Squared Bikes, and Vision Tech USA for helping to make this possible for me.

 

The Final Count Down

The last week of real training for my Ironman Boulder build was accomplished without getting sick or injured, which was the main goal. I toned things down quite a bit from my original plan, cutting the hours back significantly due to time constraints and deciding to be smart.

Monday was Bolder Boulder. I already discussed this since I included it in the previous week’s training block. For those who haven’t had the privilege of seeing the race photos, behold the degradation in run form and general poise:

 

Tuesday was a recovery today. I did a short bike commute to Spruce pool, where I swam approximately 22 minutes, getting out early because it was super cold.

Wednesday was also easy—a 2 hour endurance ride and a 15 minute easy run. I was still recovering from the previous week, the race, and the post race outings on Monday afternoon. At mid-morning, Adelaide and I drove to Denver for the Vulnerable Road User bill signing, for which she had testified before congress twice in the past few months.

More info about the new law here. And a video of Adelaide by Channel 7 News here—click the right arrow button on the image on that page to make the video play.

Thursday: A little over 2 hours on the bike again, this time with 2×10 minute upper threshold intervals. I had planned to do 2×20 minutes but mid-way through I buckled and convinced myself that higher power would be better than going easier for longer. Later I did 4K at masters. I also had the pleasure of doing an interview with Kenny Withrow from 303 Triathlon, who also took a bunch of great photos. I also started sauna training today, and did it for the next four days as well, ensuring I’d be well prepared for the forecasted, sweltering race temps of 45-65 degrees.

 

Friday: Easy three mile dog jog in the morning, 4K masters, and another 2.5 mile run in the evening. I had planned to do a hard run in the morning but got sidetracked working on my bike, then didn’t have time in the afternoon. Another easy day was probably for the best.

Saturday: Adelaide and I did a track workout at Centennial middle school, which is a mile and a half from our house. I completed 4×800 and 4×400, all roughly at 5:00 pace—less for the 400s. My legs didn’t feel good, but I didn’t push that hard either, which meant that I must have at least been on an okay day given the relative ease of the speed. Early that morning we both did a hard 4K+ masters.

Sunday: Chris and I rode 5 hours fairly hard up in the mountains. The descents are the most challenging part of the ride when I go with Chris since he’s always in the mood to hammer down hill (as am I), and he corners like a demon in the aerobars. Many times when he came around to take his pull I found myself pushing all out to get back on the wheel. After the ride I did a short hike with my mom and an easy 2K swim.

I might as well delve into this current week since I don’t plan on writing another blog post between now and the race.

Monday: Easy bike commute and a 4K masters—just shy of 4K actually. My mom and I also did a short mountain bike ride that evening.

Tuesday: 2K open water swim at the Res, one hour easy on the bike, and a 25 minute run with Adelaide and Maybellene. The highlight of the day was getting my first ever pedicure along with my mom and Adelaide.

My feet felt amazing for that afternoon run. I’m not sure if it was placebo but it felt like I was wearing shoes made of clouds lathered in Vaseline and fed a steady diet of pillowy mounds of mashed potatoes.

Wednesday: Bike commute, a fairly hard 3.5K masters, and another track session, which was comprised of a mile of corners/straightaways, 2×800, and 4×400. I felt pretty shitty at the track; my lungs were super tight for some reason and I wasn’t able to get enough oxygen into my legs. Better today than on Sunday.

Thursday: 75 minute ride with 5×2 min VO2 intervals. 2K easy swim.

The race will be shown live on Facebook. Got to ‘Ironman Now’ to watch, or just use the normal Ironman race tracker if you don’t want to watch the video coverage.

 

 

Eight Days On

This was the last big week. I thought I’d be more relieved than I am about backing off now that most of the work has been done, but I ended up not getting as tired as I thought I would, and I’ve really enjoyed the training and seeing some good gains in my running. I think that the easy week in Colorado Springs made things a lot easier, both mentally and physically, and I’ll incorporate a similar strategy for my next full distance race if things go well in two weeks from now.

Monday was a fairly typical recovery day with one hour easy on the bike, a 3 mile run, and a 4K masters.

Tuesday: The snow didn’t keep any of us on the treadmill today. At Kathy’s run group we did 1K’s followed by a set of progressing hills on a super steep incline, avoiding the slush that was quickly melting from the previous nights’ storm. I completed three sets of 1K and 3 hills for close to an hour of hard work, including recovery jogs. The snow, or wet roads I guess, did keep me from riding outside later that morning. I did 2 hours really easy on the trainer, which is not normal for me but has become routine in the last few months of uncalled for late spring blizzards. I’d blame it on not wanting to get sick, but part of it is just having zero desire to ride outside in sub 40-degree wet conditions.

Wednesday: 4.75 hours on the bike with Chris at easy endurance, followed by a solid 7 mile run off the bike at 6:07 pace on part of the Boulder run course. I would have gone even faster than that, as my breathing was controlled and my legs felt good, but I had a mini bonk at the half way point and had to down a gel and pause for a few minutes to let it soak in. I got back home quickly and chugged two sodas. My soda count for the entire week was probably a dozen or more.

Thursday: The weather sucked again today so I scrapped my planned long ride and did an easy 8 mile hilly run. Maybellene kept me company and we both came home muddy and hungry. Before that I did a hard 5K masters in the morning.

Friday: Our run group did a short taper workout with a few 400s and some 200s. Adelaide and I shortened things even more by cutting out the cool down so that I could get home to ride. I ended up doing 4.5 hours with a few 30 minute intervals. I wasn’t excited about any of it though, and barely managed to stay out there as long as I did. 6 hours was the original goal, but that would have meant I’d be riding until 5:30.

Saturday: Adelaide and I did a solid 5K masters workout in the early morning, then she went off to do a big hike with our friends, Abby and Tarak who were visiting from New Orleans, while I set out for my last long run of this training block. It was my first high altitude run (Magnolia) of the year and the conditions were perfect. I had a personal best on Mag with an average, controlled pace of 6:45, then did an easy spin a few hours later.

Sunday: 4.5 hours with Chris up to Estes Park, sitting on his wheel as he hammered up the base setting a Strava KOM. Both of us were feeling good at times, so the miles went by quickly. I followed the ride up with a very short, and cold, swim at Spruce, which just opened again and is one of the best summer pools.

Monday: I’m going to count this week as 8 days long since today wasn’t a rest day, but more of a continuation of the previous week. Our friends in town, Abby and Tarak, got Adelaide and I entries into Bolder Boulder a few months ago, so the four of us lined up early Monday morning with 50,000 others. I surprised myself with a time of 33:48—40th overall in the citizen’s race. During a short warm up my legs ached from the previous few days and I wondered if I’d end up having to just run tempo, but once the gun went off I felt fine. The race was a lot of fun and we had a fantastic day seeing a bunch of friends and spending time with Abby and Tarak out on the town until the early evening.

I’m ready for an easy day today, Tuesday, and then it’s back on for the next four days until the true taper begins. Since I’ve never done a full distance triathlon I have no idea if what I’ve done is enough, or if I’m leaving the taper too late. Maybe both of those worries are legitimate.

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Week #4 and #5 Easy—Hard

I realize I’m late with both of these weekly training reports, and I know that you’ve been anxiously awaiting an update, refreshing your browsers non stop for many days. Alas, my training secrets are revealed!

A few months ago, someone reserved our condo on Airbnb for some big bucks the weekend of April 10th. We accepted the reservation even though we had no plans to get out of town that week. It took us well over a month of planning on where to go for the three nights our home was to become a college graduation crash pad, and after many sleepless nights of  excited wonderment regarding our extravagant destination, we landed on Colorado Springs.

Week #4 started out with shitty weather as per usual, during which I didn’t do much training other than a group run, an easy swim, and an easy ride or two. We packed for the trip to the Springs and cleaned the house, which took most of Thursday morning, then drove south to our cheaper Airbnb. But first, we stopped at the Manitou Incline for a quick run up and run down preview for the following day’s speed attempt.

The Manitou incline is a 0.9-mile-long stretch of railroad tie stairs that starts out at an elevation of 6,500 feet and ends at just over 8,500—2,000 feet in under a mile. For math wizards, that equals a 45 percent incline, which I guess is probably normal for a set of house stairs. Some sections, though, are 68 percent.

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Mid way.

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Maybellene at the top.

Friday: I chugged up the Incline in 21:00 flat, missing my goal of sub 20 minutes. I think if we came down in the summer I could knock off close to a minute since the top two-thirds of the stairs had an inch or two of snow on them. Better course knowledge and visibility could get me the rest of the way there. Adelaide has a high altitude trail marathon in August, so our plan is to come back and do the Incline again, and some high elevation trail running, in July.

Anyways, after the Incline I ran down the backside to meet Adelaide and Maybellene. From there we hiked up to 11,000 feet on Pike’s Peak. If we’d gotten an earlier start we would have done the whole thing, but it was still a good 6+ hour journey. Despite being April, the entire route, except for the very bottom, was snowy. A thick layer of freezing cold clouds hung between 8,000 and 10,000 feet, meaning that we had to eat extra candy bars to stay warm. Breaking through the cloud layer, we finally got a glimpse of the sun, and stripped down to T-shirts in the 55-degree bliss.

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Adelaide smoking ice. Get it?

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I got really into cereal for a little while. I’m back on the bread diet now though. Cereal was so last week. 

Saturday: We did a shorter hike and I went out for an easy 75 minute spin on the bike path afterwards.

Sunday: I didn’t have any motivation or energy to run my planned 22 miles. I got in three, then called it quits and walked back to the car as Adelaide finished her run. We drove back home after that. Not a very productive training week, but at least it meant that I would be fresh and hungry for the next three big’uns.

Week# 5

Monday: Hour easy spin. 4K masters swim. 3 mile easy jog, followed shortly by another 4.3 mile trail jog with Adelaide.

Tuesday: Run group at the track. I did 10×400 at 70-73 seconds (1 min rests), then a 6 minute jog, followed by 8×150 fast with 50 meter walking rests. With warm up/cool down it was a little over 10 miles as usual. I got on the bike after that for a little under three hours of endurance riding in the hills.

Wednesday was a big 6 hour day in the saddle, which started out with 3×20 minutes threshold. I did a peppy five-mile run off the bike, re-thinking my secret pie in the sky goal race pace of 6:30 for the run portion of Boulder Ironman, but still feeling strong.

Thursday: Hard 4K masters in the morning, which destroyed me, and then a 2 hour endurance ride later. I had planned on 4 hours but I had nothing in me so cut it short.

Friday: Another run group morning with Kathy Buttler’s squad. We did 5×1 mile on the hard part of the Bolder Boulder course. My average pace was somewhere under 5:30 I believe, holding back a bit because I was recently warned about running too fast the three weeks before an Ironman. I headed out for another 4K of masters after that.

Saturday: 5K masters with Adelaide at East Boulder Rec. Center in the morning. Then, a 4 hour solo endurance ride with a 6-mile run off. I didn’t feel horrible on the run but didn’t feel great. The ride went better, with the first 48 minutes on my road bike exploring all the steep roads up on Linden while the Di2 batteries on my TT bike charged in the garage. I swapped out the roadie for the TT bike after the climbing and spent the rest of the day up around Carter Lake, putting out what I felt were decent watts. Nothing spectacular, but good enough.

Sunday: Adelaide and I didn’t feel like running on pavement so we spent the rainy, gloomy morning slogging up and down the trails surrounding Eldorado, with Maybellene of course. The gloom of the overcast, gray, drizzle-ridden city was replaced by serene green forests, magnificent fog-shrouded granite cliffs, and empty rolling hills of gold. Maybellene and I got in 21 miles at a slow pace because of the mud, tough terrain, and my mushy legs that just didn’t want to work hard, or couldn’t. I was ravenously hungry mid-way into the run and afterwards, so Adelaide suggested we stop at Taco Bell (or maybe I did). I got two bean and cheese burritos in the drive through, spending $2.18 with taxes, and in so doing saved at least $20 at Sprouts on our way home. Our grocery bill ended up being super high despite dulling my hunger with those two burritos.

Later in the day we got to the pool for 3K of endurance.

Week 5 was a great success. I finally broke 60 miles of running in a week and it didn’t feel too hard. It was also the first week in a long time that I got over 20K in the pool, and I can feel my swim form rapidly coming back. I was happy with my threshold intervals on the bike, and the overall volume I got in as well. The weather finally cooperated, though that didn’t last very long, and I’m still looking forward to the next few weeks of training.

Week #3: Maybellene is Getting Fit!

Monday: Didn’t do much today. Tired and not happy with the bad weather. Just did a masters swim, which was probably fine since Monday is supposed to be an easy day anyways.

Tuesday: Luckily I had the run group in the morning, as it snowed the night before and there was no way I was going to do a hard ride outside. By the end of the long fartlick, our group of eight was coughing heavily (some of us were dry heaving heavily), proving the effort we’d just put in. Adelaide and I did an easy 2 hour ride inside afterwards.

Wednesday: I delayed getting outside until late morning because I had no motivation to do anything at all today. 15 minutes into the ride, while I was deciding whether to do 2 hours or 3, a ‘fitness-level’ rider passed me and helped make up my mind: 1 hour it is! In fact, it wasn’t even quite one hour. Later that afternoon I had enough motivation and energy to do an easy swim with my brother and Joslynn.

Thursday: Justin. Justin Daerr and I did a 12 mile run in the morning with Maybellene, then I managed a 3.75 hour ride. My back and sacrum ached quite a bit in the last hour, neither being used to running long first and then riding after. However, I assume this will be how I’ll feel 3.5 hours into the bike leg for the race.

Friday: Another group run with some hard hill repeats in the morning, then a 4 hour ride in the mountains on my road bike. I didn’t have a power meter so I’ll never know for sure, but I felt strong, especially considering I had run hard right before. My route: Sunshine to Peak to Peak, to the closed gate on Brainard, then down through Raymond to Hygiene. I felt great all the way to my garage door.

Saturday: I did not feel great on Saturday though. 5.5 hours up Big Thompson to Estes Park, then a 30 minute run off the bike with Maybellene. I had no intensity in me today at all. In fact, I wasn’t really in the mood to ride since, not only was I tired, but I learned that my grandmother had died the previous night right as I set out on the ride. I knew it would be better to think about her over a long day in the saddle than a long day cooped up sitting inside.

Sunday: I did a 20 mile run with BTC, the first 14 of which were with Nick, then I did the last 6 by myself (with Maybellene of course, so not really by myself at all). Adelaide and I headed to the gym next for some stretching and an easy 2K swim.

It was another big week of riding and the biggest week of running I’ve ever done at 59.4 miles, quite a bit of which were hard/fast miles. I’m feeling pretty decent on the bike, and confident for the run. My plan is to pull the swim together in the final three weeks of training and just cross my fingers that it’s cold enough for wetsuits, which it has always been in June and I don’t foresee that not happening this year. Maybellene is continuing to build her run endurance for rabbit hunting season. If there’s a rabbit that decides to run 15-25 miles straight instead of ducking into a hole or behind a chainlink fence after 10 feet, Maybellene will have no problem keeping up and going for the kill.

 

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Week #2: Training is Getting Real Again

Monday: If I remember correctly, the weather was quite gloomy, so I did a super short and easy indoor ride, a masters workout, and a 3.5 mile run in the afternoon with Adelaide. It was a slow start to the week, mainly because I was in a bad mood.

Tuesday: The mood reversed! During our group run, we did 2×800, 4×400, and 6×200 on the track—a short and sweet workout but I got over 10 miles in so I was happy with it. At mid-day I did two hours on the bike with 2×20 minute threshold intervals and actually managed to hit threshold watts. I was very pleased, especially considering it was after a fairly hard run. 

Wednesday: I had an absolutely horrible morning as a witness to a horrific car vs bike crash that brought back some serious PTSD. I won’t get into it again since you can read about it yourself if you’d like to, but I managed to get on the bike with Adelaide’s encouragement and had a solid 4 hour ride. In fact, the first half of the ride felt great to get some rage out, then I began fading later on and had to stop for soda. Oh darn. I followed it up with a fast 30 minute run off the bike with one mile moderate, one mile hard, one mile real hard, and two miles moderate.

Thursday: I cut my planned long ride down to 3 hours, then did another 30 minute run off the bike with Maybellene, easier than Wednesday’s run. I shortened the ride mainly because I was tired and was pushing out pitiful watts, but also because I was stressed about being behind on work. And, I picked a horrible route that I used to enjoy (straight east on highway 52 past Hudson out towards Hoyt) but found that I absolutely hated it on this day.

Friday: Group run again, this time with a 20 minute hard effort on the Boulder creek path, the first 15 minutes of which were with rocks (holding small rocks in our hands) and the last 5 were without. Followed by 5×75 seconds hard. I added on some easy miles at the end to get to 13. In the afternoon I did a 4K endurance swim by myself and managed to keep from quitting out of boredom. Success. 

Saturday: The day started out with a 2 hour mountain ride on road bikes with Adelaide. We went up Wagon Wheel to Lindon, then up Sunshine to just shy of Rowena. Just dirt and climbing like the good old days. I switched bikes when I got home and did another 3.5 hours up Rattlesnake and had good watts all day long. My shifter battery died about an hour in, though, and I was stuck in the small front chainring. Then an hour and a half later it fully died and I was limited to just the 12 tooth in the back. However, 42×12 is a pretty decent gear so I managed just fine. Back at home, I got out the door with Adelaide on another 30 minute run, starting out moderate and ending up faster. 

Sunday: 18 mile BTC run, the majority of which was done with John, a faster runner than myself, and Maybellene, a much faster runner than myself, though it was warm out so the odds were evened between Maybellene and me. We did the middle 90 minutes of the run at 6:25 pace and I was very happy with how I felt. Maybellene was happy with the route, which included five or six quick dunks in various creeks and ponds. From home, Adelaide and I coasted our way down to the rec center for a 3K endurance swim, then got lucky with a tailwind that pushed us back home. 

Worst Nightmare

While walking Maybellene the other morning, I heard a loud crunch as she and I approached Broadway. I recognized the sound as a car impacting something—another car possibly. However, as I trotted up a grassy slope with Maybellene, I expected the worst. A mini van was stopped mid-way into a parking lot and a cyclist was lying on her side in the bike lane, not moving. I ran across the street with Maybellene as traffic backed up on both sides. The driver of the mini van was already out of her car on the phone, dialing 911.

Two or three other people began to gather around, no-one attending to the cyclist at this point, who was shaking uncontrollably on the ground. Her eyes, rolled up into the back of her head and twitching, were mostly closed. Just slits of white showed. Bright red blood was pooling rapidly on the pavement from her nose and mouth. She looked like Adelaide.

But she wasn’t. She looked to be in her 20s and had bright bleached blond hair like Adelaide, and with similar facial features, from what I could tell. But her bike didn’t match up. I looked at her face, then at her bike, then at her face, then back at her bike. “It can’t be Adelaide because that’s not her bike,” I told myself. She also had a commuting bag that Adelaide didn’t own. I crouched down to her, asked for someone to take Maybellene’s leash, and touched the girl’s arm and told her I was there, knowing I couldn’t do anything to help.

Another person crouched down and tried to keep her calm, though from the way she was shaking violently, with eyes rolled back, I doubted if she was able to hear or understand anything. She looked like an animal whose brain had just been crushed and was in the last moments of life. Laying on her side, she still straddled the bike. It was the worst, most sickening thing I’ve seen in person.

The driver, standing right beside me and the victim, was talking to a 911 dispatcher with unbelievable apathy. I heard her nonchalantly say, “I hit a cyclist with my car. She just came out of nowhere.” It was as if she was reading from a script that all drivers are taught to repeat whenever they hit a pedestrian or a cyclist. I stood up and yelled into the woman’s face and into the phone so the dispatcher could hear, “Oh shut the fuck up she didn’t come out of nowhere she was in the bike lane!” The driver had turned left in front of the cyclist without looking, or possibly saw her and though she could “beat her” through the turn. Both of these scenarios happen all the time to me. I usually don’t chase down cars anymore when this happens, but when I used to I always got one of the same two responses: a super aggressive “Fuck off” or an “I didn’t see you,” which is obviously not a valid excuse when driving a deadly vehicle that could take someone’s life in a second when operated carelessly.

The blond girl on the pavement who looked like Adelaide had begun uttering an otherworldly moan at this point and was trying to raise her mittened-hand up to her face, though she was only moving it a few inches. I steadied her arm to keep it in place. A guy behind me yelled at me and a woman who was crouched down attending to the cyclist, “Don’t move her. Leave her exactly where she is. She could have a spine injury,” and he continued telling us not to move her, though neither of us had attempted to do so. At this point, maybe 90 seconds had passed since I first came across the scene.

The driver was still on the phone distancing herself from reality, telling the dispatcher, without any semblance of urgency, “I need an ambulance. She’s hurt.” She said this as almost a complaint. I stood up again and yelled into the phone “She’s dying, get here quick!” to let the dispatcher know that this was a real emergency, not just a broken collar bone, and that the ambulance needed to be here now. Fucking now. I immediately realized that if the victim was able to hear anything, I wished I hadn’t said that so loudly. I crouched down and continued stroking her arm and said an ambulance was coming and that she’d be OK. I asked another person standing by to call 911 too just to hammer home that this was serious and that she needed an ambulance immediately. I crouched down to touch the victim’s arm again and told her she was going to be alright, wishing that I could do something to actually help.

A minute or two later I attempted to get the driver away from the cyclist, whom the driver was currently blaming, along with another driver who supposedly waved for her to go ahead and make the turn. “You need to move back. Get the fuck back,” I yelled in her face again. “Shut up,” she said. “I’m staying right here. My kids are in the car,” as if that had any relevance to what I was demanding. Either she didn’t understand that I simply wanted her to move 15 feet away while she blamed the victim, whom she was practically standing over, or she was just being defiant in order to mask the guilt she probably was feeling.

After that last outburst of mine, another woman who had been crouched down with the victim said I wasn’t helping the situation, which I could see for myself at that point. The girl who looked like Adelaide was moving a bit more now, still moaning and trying to raise her arm to her head while feebly attempting to get her leg untangled from her bike. But she was still unconscious and unresponsive. Her body and legs were still shaking rapidly and uncontrollably, and the whites of her eyes continued fluttering. An amazing amount of blood was seeping from her face onto the ground.

An ambulance’s siren approached, and there was nothing any of us could do except keep the victim calm, which I wasn’t helping to accomplish with my attempts to relocate the driver, so I walked away.

I crossed the underpass tunnel under Broadway towards home, then walked up the slight rise back up to street level on the other side of the road to watch the paramedics get out of the ambulance that had just pulled up. The people who had been gathered around the victim now hugged the driver, which disgusted me. A minute later, I looked back towards our house, roughly 100 meters away, and saw Adelaide, who had been on a run with our friend Zana, walking towards me.

I turned away from the scene and met her down on the bike path. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked. I said yes and I began to cry as she hugged me. I told her I had somehow thought it was her, even though I knew that was completely illogical. “I’m right here,” she replied.

An hour and a half later I got on the bike for a four hour ride, not one minute of which was spent thinking or obsessing about something other than what I had just witnessed.

Week #1—Anemia and Rectal Bleeding

My training is off to a fairly good start for Boulder Ironman, despite the title of this blog post. Last week I decided to do a recap of my training each week leading into Boulder—eight weeks away now—which will be my first full distance triathlon. In the past, blogging has helped keep me interested in workouts for some reason, so as part of my revamped effort to stay focused this season, here goes the first of what will hopefully be nine boring blog posts about riding, swimming, and running [very] moderately fast. Emphasis on the moderate.

On Monday I did a four hour ride in the mountains and enjoyed just about every minute of it, aside from the first hour, during which I attempted some intervals and went absolutely nowhere. After the ride I did an easy three mile run off the bike.

Tuesday was my group run day, which Adelaide has been joining in on the last few months as well. We did 9x1K starting at half marathon pace, getting down to 10K pace by the end. Rests were 90 seconds. I felt good for the whole workout, and my last 1K was 3:02. I did a long warmup and cool down, and ran a little over 12 miles total, which was my goal. That afternoon I did a 4K solo endurance swim.

I fell apart on Wednesday. I went out for intervals on the bike and knew I wouldn’t be able to do them right away. I made a feeble attempt and turned back after 90 seconds. I didn’t do any other training the rest of the day.

For almost a year now I’ve wanted to get my ferritin tested, as I’ve felt sluggish and unmotivated off and on in training. I’ve had low iron in the past, and have recognized some of those feelings with those that I’ve had in the last nine or six months. I finally got the test done on Wednesday and found out that I’m anemic, which explains a few things. While anemia takes a while to reverse, even with iron shots, I’m happy to figure out what’s been holding me back.

Thursday—I had a good 4-hour ride with Chris on road bikes in the mountains. We spent a solid amount of time on dirt and ran into a few friends along the way, including Justin-Justin Daerr, making for a perfect spring day. I did another three mile run off the bike.

Friday—Back at the run group, since I wasn’t confident I’d be able to push any watts on the bike for my originally planned intervals, we did a series of diagonals on the soccer field (sprints), followed by jumps, a six-minute effort at 5:16 pace, a plyo circuit, another six minute run effort a tiny bit faster, and more diagonals. The distance was low but I felt good on both six minute efforts. And, for the first time, I didn’t injure myself running the diagonals. In the afternoon I rode two hours in the mountains on the TT bike, again enjoying the sun and relatively warm weather.

Adelaide had a local half marathon on Saturday, so I paced her for that. In total, I got 17 miles of running in, then did an easy 30 minute swim afterwards.

I had my third bright red bloody poop in a row on Saturday morning. I’ve had a tiny bit of blood on the toilet paper many times before, but nothing like this. This has been full on slit-your-throat-into-a-toilet-bowl amount of blood, mixed right into the poop. No, it’s not always beets, Sir. I guess I’ll head into the doctor’s next week. I’ve done some horrifying reading online, and it seems like hemorrhoids are my best option. I briefly thought that maybe this was the cause of my anemia, but the rectal bleeding would need to have been going on for a long time for that to be the case.

Sunday—Cut my 4 hour ride nearly in half because I got drenched up high, then didn’t have the motivation to finish the rest of it on the flats. I did another 3 mile run off the bike with Adelaide and Maybellene.

This week was definitely lacking in the swimming department, as well as intensity on the bike, and overall volume. I skipped a few swims, a run, and of course all of my intervals on the bike. However, I think this is a good starting point to build from. I hope that I’m able to handle more intensity once my anemia is taken care of. And my rectal bleeding.

 

Oceanside 70.3, Third Time’s Not a Charm

Friday, the day before the race, I had been enjoying a relaxing afternoon sitting on a pile of pillows on the living room floor of my Airbnb, watching Mrs. Doubtfire and sipping on juice. Earlier that morning, I’d completed an hour ride with 3×5 min progression intervals, followed by a 15 min run off the bike with five or six strides. That, and along with eating and watching my movie, was about all I’d done by 2:15—my scheduled departure time to head down to the pier, do some body surfing, get my race packet, and attend the-all-important mandatory pro briefing, during which pros who have competed in 50 or more races ask questions about penalties and the number of swim buoys that will be present.

On my way to Oceanside, which was only 17 minutes away (not counting parking time), I decided to stop at Starbucks and buy a large coffee, which I’d store in the fridge, for the early morning wake up call the next day. I also remembered that I wanted to buy a cheap alarm clock since I no longer trusted my phone’s alarm, so I made a stop at Target, where I also bought more juice for carb loading.

With my errands completed by 2:35, I headed towards the race venue still on schedule to get in my swim and packet pickup with plenty of time to find a seat for the pro meeting.

45 minutes later, my patience and easy going nature of the earlier afternoon erased from memory, I slammed my fist into the steering wheel in a useless attempt to shut up the incessant beeping that was coming from the dashboard. The car was inching forward at 1 mile per hour as I scanned the only parking lot I knew about in the area for an open spot. At first I thought the beeping had started because I was just about to run out of gas, which I was, then I realized that I’d been driving around with the parking brake on for the last five minutes.

I yelled fuck, which I had loudly muttered numerous times in the last half hour—the entirety of which I’d been circling around a parking lot trying to find a parking place. The problem was that all of the metered parking spaces on the street required coins, of which I had none. The only place to legally park, therefore, was this sole parking lot that accepted credit cards. I had spent 10 minutes circling around it earlier, each lap grinding my teeth as I saw a newcomer slip into a recently vacated spot that SHOULD have belonged to me. This happened half a dozen times, then I decided to just risk it and park in a metered spot without putting any coins in. I was just about out of gas, after all.

A few minutes later I stepped out of the car, now parked on the street in a metered zone. I had second thoughts and got back in. Adelaide would be furious if I got another parking ticket. I headed back to the parking lot and began circling.

I continued to lose out to other newcomer drivers who magically found themselves behind car that was just pulling out, and slid in before I could get there. I asked some people walking to their car if I could have their spot, thinking that I could convince them to save it for me, but they pointed to a truck and a car already competing for the single spot. I tried stopping in the middle of the parking lot and waiting for a car to pull out from a spot next to me, but that method was only working for others. I eventually pulled into the diagonal dash-lined box next to a handicap spot, then thought better of it.

Finally, about an hour after I’d arrived, I pulled back into a metered parking spot and said, “Fuck it. I’ll just get a damn ticket.” Sweating profusely out of rage and needing desperately to pee from the two liters of juice I’d consumed while circling the lot, I quickly pulled my wetsuit on and jogged down to the beach.

At the last second, before I went into the ocean, I ran into the room where the pro meeting was going to take place in roughly 20 minutes, and asked if anyone had a few quarters. The guy (didn’t get his name) who was in charge of the bike course briefing gave me 85 cents, and I sprinted back up to my parking spot a quarter mile away. I inserted the coins, disappointed to see that 85 cents only bought me 36 minutes. I jogged back down to the beach, now sweating not just from stress but from running around in a wetsuit for 15 minutes, and found relief as I waded into the cool water, finally able to relieve my bladder as well.

I spent the next 12 minutes swimming and body surfing, then ran back up to the car to change into my street clothes. As I started the jog back down to the meeting room, I saw that I only had 8 minutes left.

No one ask a damn question in this meeting.

The small room was packed with around 100 people in it and I took the last seat, someone’s mom guilty getting up to give it to me, though I would have been fine standing—better excuse to just leave. As the meeting began, I felt that old familiar parking ticket stress coming back, and I scanned the room for someone who might have some spare change.

Paula Newby-Frasier, the pro liaison, was fortunately standing close by. I whispered to her if she had any quarters for parking, and she turned her wallet inside out, finding 40 cents. She told me not to worry, and began making her way through the room asking other Ironman staff to hand over their change. The briefing carried on as Paula, eight-time Kona winner and the most successful triathlete ever, went from staff member to staff member asking for spare change. The absurdity of this situation did not escape me. Out of a dozen people, not one had a single penny, which lead me to believe that everyone must have been parked illegally like me.

Paula came back and said sorry, so I took her 40 cents and ran back up to feed the stupid meter, which was at zero minutes when I got there. 40 cents got me another 16 minutes. I jogged back to the meeting room, where I sat for approximately 3 minutes before deciding the hell with it. I exited the room, signed my name on the sign in board, and went about getting my race numbers and timing chip.

I was about to head out when I saw Paula talking to Talbot in the corner of the gymnasium that was being used as the check in area. I thanked her for the coins and for trying to help me with additional parking funds, and Talbot handed me a $20 bill (he also didn’t have any coins), and instructed me to just go buy something from one of the vendors outside and get change. I ran out there and got in line. When it was my turn to order a can of soda, I read that their policy was “No change.” I pleaded with the person behind the glass sliding window, who apologized and said there were no exceptions. Next, I got in line at an ice cream vendor, but the person in front of me was taking forever sampling, and I figured this place probably didn’t give out change either.

After returning the $20 bill, I ran back up to the parking space (2 minutes to spare) and headed home, hoping that I wouldn’t run out of gas before I found the next station.

 

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Day:

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The swim started with an on-beach sprint and through some small white water rollers, which was a fun change from years past starting in the harbor. I lost contact with the front groups of course, and over the next 1K I slowly joined up with a few others. Exiting the water in 24:56, a personal best but probably only because the course was short, I noticed that Sam Long was right with me. “Let’s work,” I told him.

For the next hour, he and I traded pulls, getting help with the occasional pull from Taylor Reid. We, particularly I, didn’t have the power to break away from the seven or eight guys behind us, which was a first for me in this race. In the past, I’ve averaged 320-330 for the first hour, which is plenty to get away alone or with one other. However, on this day my legs were completely blocked. I almost didn’t believe how low my average power was by the first half hour, sitting at 274 without budging more than a few watts every once in a while.

As we started the main climb, which is about 3 minutes long and over 10 percent, I put in a big, near all-out effort that finally snapped the elastic, as they say. I pushed on solo for a few miles, noting that Sam was thankfully coming back to me alone. He came around as we passed Eric Lagerstrom, which put Sam and I in 6th and 7th respectively, though I thought we were in 9th and 10th. I still wasn’t feeling good and couldn’t push, but at least we’d dropped the others, aside from Reid, who came back to us a mile or so later.

Then I got dropped. Or, I sort of let myself get dropped. I made the decision that if I held on any longer, I’d have nothing to run with, which would probably have been true. I sat up and four or five others came upon me, and I spent the next 20 miles just sitting in, which was surprisingly easy—a good thing because my legs were still complete shit.

By the end of the bike, I averaged 254, a full 60 watts lower than last year. My time was only three odd minutes slower, though I’m pretty sure the wind conditions were quite a bit faster this year than in the past few years.

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Once off the bike, I was passed by Lagerstrom and Justin Metzler within the first half mile. I miscalculated what place I was in, and decided to say the hell with it. I’d run at least a lap, but I wasn’t going to run hard, so I put the brakes as a few others passed. I ended up running a few miles with Timmy Winslow for company before I realized that I wasn’t in 15th or 16th place like I had thought, but 12th place and within range of a top 8 if I had a good run. Maybe I could at least pay for part of the trip.

It was most likely too late at this point, with 3.5 miles already run at tempo, but I put in a partial effort anyways and picked myself through the field to 9th. I lost my sense of urgency and my motivation after I stopped passing people, and finished without moving up on anyone else.

Analyzing the race, I gave up way too early. I threw in the towel when I couldn’t hit the power numbers I’m accustomed to, and let myself get depressed and pissy before the run even started. Had I just focused on my own race, I’m sure I would have done better and enjoyed myself more, even though it still wouldn’t have been the stellar result I was looking for. For any age groupers reading this, realize that pros (at least me) also have quite a few self doubts and low moments during races, even half distance races. I won’t offer any advice on how to overcome or deal with these moments, because I suck at it. So good luck with that.

I have decided to take the next few months off from racing and refocus on training. With the late race last year at Indian Wells, I got a delayed start to this winter’s training. And, plagued with a few long illnesses, my form isn’t where I want it to be, though I do realize that one fluke bad bike day shouldn’t be used as a litmus. Anyways, I’m going all in for Boulder Ironman now that Raleigh 70.3 isn’t coming back—which has always taken place the week before Boulder and has kept me from trying to complete it.

Moral of the story: bring quarters for parking.

 

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