Los Cabos 70.3 Race Report

The Swim

 

My right goggle only filled part way with warm, salty sea water after diving, which was an improvement over the other two beach starts I’ve done this year. I veered left, then right before finding a pair of feet to sit on. After the first turn buoy, about 300 meters out, I bullied someone out of the way so I could get the first pair of feet in the group, an unnecessary maneuver but I thought it was wise nonetheless. As the saying goes, “The best form of defense is to drown someone else.” Right?

About half way through the swim I began developing a painful chest cramp on my right side. “Shit, it’s way too early for this to start happening,” I thought.  I focused on pulling in air with my stomach and only breathing on the right side, to let that half of my torso take a break from having to brace when I breathed to the left. The cramp subsided five or six minutes later, only to start up again on the left side. At this point I decided to say fuck it, and went around the guy leading at the last turn buoy. Maybe I just needed to blow it all out and it would go away once and for all.

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I came onto land 11th out of the water after putting in half a minute to my previous group behind, with a time of 27:41. Slightly better than last year here, but still over three minutes down on the leaders, most of whom were strong cyclists. I had some serious work to do.

The Bike

My legs were good early on but not terrific. My chest was in fine shape though, which was the most important thing. A mile or two in, hoping that I would see a large group up the road, I could see just one guy, and I realized that I was farther back in the swim than I’d hoped. No matter. I’d seen some pretty good gains on the bike and run in the past month and was ready to put them to good use.

Three or four miles in, I realized that my bars and steering felt strange. Suddenly I noticed, while looking down at the road through my bars, that my wheel was poking out to the right of my right aero bar. They were incredibly crooked. Fuck. I pulled up on them and found out that my headset was loose too. Double fuck. I’d failed to tighten the stem and the headset while building my bike, most likely in my haste to figure out how to come up with a solution to secure Adelaide’s seat post (we forget the seat post binder). Read her blog here.

I let out a few top of the lung profanities believing that my day was done. Two months of quality training down the drain. There’s no way I was going to be able to do the ride with my steering that loose. Images of myself flying over the front end flashed in my mind. Years ago at a training camp I’d sprinted out of the parking lot as a joke and hopped over a speed bump; my steer tube broke off and I’d spent a split second with my bars in my hands, thinking, “well shit this isn’t right,” before I was on the pavement. That was at 20 miles per hour. Crashing on one of these rolling descents would be at 40 miles per hour.

My coach, Chris Winn, has been giving me tips on mental fortitude lately, and the importance of mind over body. The previous day I’d written out a few paragraphs detailing my process goals and what to do if something went wrong. While “serious mechanical issue” wasn’t on my list, I was somewhat more prepared to deal with this fiasco than I would have been otherwise.

I stopped at the crest of a hill, pushed my bars back into place, and carried on, ready to wave down the next motorcyclist I saw who might have an allen wrench on him/her. I pushed conservatively hard for the next half hour and still hadn’t been able to get an allen wrench from anyone. I’d been passing guys along the way and was just about to come up on 6th place before I decided that I had to stop again. My bars were way out of alignment, and I had a fast, long descent coming up. I repeated the process from before, and jammed my bars into alignment before starting up again.

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I was taking corners like a bulldozer, sitting up high so I could see bumps and cracks, and going slower than normal on any fast section, just in case my bars suddenly fell off or went sideways, but I was making progress regardless. I was back into 6th place and minutes ahead of anyone behind. Seeing how far off the top five I was, my new goal became to hold onto 6th.

By mile 40 my glutes began seizing up something fierce. I’d been refraining from standing out of the saddle, since standing made my bars go sideways even worse, and my glutes were feeling the affects of staying seated for so long.

With 20 or 30 minutes to go, disaster struck (sort of). The chest cramps came back full force. I attempted to push through, but that only made the stabbing pain even more severe, and my lungs started closing down. I have no idea what’s causing this, other than tight chest and rib muscles, and I don’t know how to fix it. It’s the single greatest thing holding me back currently, though it usually doesn’t strike on the bike, just the swim and run.

I had to sit up and pedal at zone two on the last climb, then took a wrong turn on the descent where there was a serious lack of course markings. At the base of the descent I had to cut back over through an intersection and I duck under some tape that a volunteer held up for me, hoping that my bars wouldn’t come off going over a small lip in the pavement. They held on, but I’d lost another half minute or more. I came into T2 with around a 30 second lead on 7th place, which had been 2.5 minutes just 10 miles before.

The Run

Pain. 90 percent of doing well in triathlon, or any endurance sport for that matter, is pain tolerance. Plagued with my mysterious chest cramps from mile zero of the run, I kept the effort at just below intolerable for the entire 1:20:53 that it would take for me to finish the course.

I got passed at mile one by 7th place, Alan Carillo Avila. I picked up the pace a bit and tried to keep him within striking distance. A mile or so later he’d only pulled out nine seconds and I was holding him there. When I’d first started the run my chest cramp was so bad that I would have been happy with 8th, the last paying place. But my goal changed back to 6th at mile two when I saw that I might be able to beat him as long as I paced myself well and didn’t push the chest cramp so far that it caused my lungs to seize up. I passed him back at mile 3.5 and kept the pace on.

Half way into the run, soaking wet from sweat and buckets-worth of water that I’d poured on myself, I saw that Robbie Deckard, who’d been 8th, was making a pass on Avila and coming on strong. Both of them were around 50-40 seconds back at the time. (The Los Cabos run course has a ton of out and backs, so you can easily keep tabs on where people are). I calculated that in the past few miles Deckard was running at least five seconds per mile faster than me, if not more. If I could hold him off from passing me until two miles to go, I thought I’d have a good shot at staying on his feet and out sprinting him in the last quarter mile, if that’s what it came down to. At this point I was willing to come close to death in order to not get beaten. I increased my cadence and upped my pace as much as I could, which was probably just keeping the pace the same, but still an improvement over the slow decline that usually happens in the last half of the run.

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By mile 9.5 I saw that I’d extended my lead to over a minute and knew that I had it. Only in the last 1.5 miles did I begin to feel the effort in my legs. Before that, the limiting factor had been the stabbing chest cramps, which were on both sides of my chest throughout the run. What the hell is wrong with me?!

I continued running scared and kept the pace high enough to eek out a few more seconds, just in case Robbie came out of nowhere in the last half mile. I crossed the line and the pain was finally over. I drank a gallon each of water and Gatorade in the next hour and lounged in the kiddie pool, waiting for Adelaide to finish her own slog through the heat and pain of Los Cabos.

Thank you to A-Squared Bikes, Vision Tech wheels and components, CUORE of Swiss clothing, and Hammer Nutrition. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such great support from these companies, and even more fortunate to be able to live this life. No thank you to my mechanics skills and my damn chest/rib muscles!

Thoughts

6th was not what I wanted out of this race, but given the talent in the field and the obstacles that I had to overcome (both mechanical and physical), I’m content. In order to break through to the next level I need to figure out what’s causing these lung cramps, as well as knock off another minute on my swim. If anyone has any idea why I’m getting these debilitating cramps, I’d like to hear your hypothesis. A little information on them:

  • They’re not side stitches. They’re up in my rib cage, usually lower to mid rib cage.
  • They’re not caused by too much food or too little salt. I’ve played around with both of those factors and they have nothing to do with it.
  • I have regular old asthma and take an inhaler, though it doesn’t seem to do anything for these cramps. I feel like the failing body part in this case is the muscles within the ribs and the intercostals, not the lungs themselves.
  • I never had these cramps as a cyclist. Not once. I believe that they’re caused from swimming and made worse during running.
  • I already belly breath, though maybe I need to do more.

Adelaide and I stayed in Los Cabos until Wednesday, surfing, playing in the ocean, sitting on the beach, eating nachos, and drinking margaritas and piña coladas at Zippers. If you haven’t raced it, I highly suggest this one. It’s a tough course, but San Jose del Cabo is awesome.

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Weight Loss for Vain Triathletes

I wasn’t fully aware of it until recently, but triathletes have the same vain and usually unproductive relationship with being lean that cyclists have. Maybe not quite to the same degree, but it’s certainly a thing, and probably more so for women than men.

For triathlon, there’s not nearly as much reason to get super light as there is in cycling. Even the hilliest triathlons are pancake flat when it comes to comparing them to most non-crit bike races, and the only reason to be light on the bike is for the climbs. Statistically, bigger triathletes do better on the bike than smaller ones. None of the best guys on the bike are sub 155. For swimming, having extra weight doesn’t hurt you at all either. Running is really the only one of the three disciplines that extra weight will weigh you down, since running is purely power to weight, whereas swimming is mainly technique and cycling is mainly power to drag surface area. However, even having extra muscle on the run isn’t necessarily a bad thing since that muscle meant you didn’t have to dig as hard on the bike, and will help hold you together deep into the race.

Training is hard. Losing weight makes training harder, which begs the question of whether or not it’s worth it to lose weight. In my humble and always 100 percent correct opinion, getting super lean should not be a priority for most triathletes. If you aren’t classified as ‘overweight,’ focusing on weight loss will most likely lead to decreased performance, decreased motivation, and decreased sex drive, all three of which lead to increased depression and burnout. I think the only reasons that anyone should really try to lose weight is if they’re:

1) Already a pro who has been racing and training at a high level for many years, they haven’t naturally leaned out during those years, and they won’t see any gains simply with more seasons under their belt or better training; and
2) Triathletes who are actually classified as overweight.

With that said, these are the techniques that I’ve used in the past to get down to race weight. I can’t remember if I already did a blog about this; if I have it’s been a while.

First, let’s look at the pros and cons of attempting to get “shredded,” as the kids say:

Pros (assuming everything goes perfectly):

You’ll…

  • Run faster
  • Go uphill slightly faster
  • Race better in the heat
  • Be able to look down on people who aren’t as lean as you

Cons

You’ll…

  • Get sick more often
  • Get overtrained easier
  • Face burnout more often
  • Be angrier
  • Possibly lose power on the bike
  • Get injured more often
  • Not have as much energy for high quality training
  • Piss everyone off who lives with you
  • Have a much, much worse life

Okay, now onto the basics for getting that sexy Week 14 holocaust look that everyone’s talking about.

The first rule is that there are many rules. And if you break even one of them you’ll fail at the whole endeavor. Just kidding, there’s only one rule, which is that you have to go to bed hungry. Not starving hungry, but hungry enough to only be thinking about food and nothing else. To achieve this, in the past I’ve used the following methods:

  • Counted calories consumed and calories burned. Counting calories isn’t very accurate, but it gives you an idea of how much you’re eating and where you can cut things out. I always aimed at cutting 500 calories per day, though it was probably more like 200 per day when things get evened out throughout the weeks or months.
  • Eaten a large breakfast, plenty during training and up to one hour afterwards, and a very small dinner.
  • Adhered to a rule of no food past 7PM, assuming lights out are at 10PM. You can push that rule back to 6:30 eventually, and sometimes as far back as 6PM (or no food for four hours before bed time). Dinner should be a stir fry of spicy peppers and chicken breast, maybe with broccoli, chard, or kale. Or, it can be some sort of spicy vegetable and chicken soup. Once you really start getting serious, especially if you had a larger, late post-workout meal, try making some homemade pico d’gallo and crushing a large handful of tortilla chips in. Bon appetite.

Dieting needs to be consistent, as in throughout months, not a week here and a week there. The best time to lose weight is during the winter, as far as possible from race season (if you’re already lean, do the opposite–get fat during the fall and winter and burn it off in the spring). Anyways, in order to be consistent, you can’t be too hard core about always dieting every day of the week. Once a week shouldn’t be a “cheat” day, but more of a normal amount of food day.

Foods to eat a lot of include all vegetables and fruit, coconut oil and milk, lean meat, beans, squash, tubers, eggs, and fish. Nuts, red or fatty meat (aside from fatty fish), all dairy, bread, tortillas, rice, cereal, and other high dense foods should only be eaten at certain times for recovery, or be minimized to some degree, especially the ones that don’t serve a purpose like ice cream, cheese, and alcohol. You can see why dieting will make you slower, since rice, bread, pasta, chips, and the like are the key to refueling glycogen.

Once you’ve half starved yourself for about five or six years you won’t have to worry about dieting anymore, since it takes that many years for the body to get used to being a certain body fat percentage. That’s all it takes! Just half a decade or so. The same goes for muscle mass. Elite athletes, after training many years, have great difficulty building muscle.

Weight loss techniques that I’ve tried and didn’t like or found to be too detrimental to performance:

  • Cutting out all animal products (great for the world but not beneficial for recovery). My goal throughout all my years of starvation was to lose muscle mass since I was top heavy from rowing and climbing. I thought being vegan would help accomplish this. I didn’t last long before getting a cold. Years later I tried doing a meat-reduced diet, which did seem to help lose muscle a bit.
  • Going on a walk or easy run before breakfast.
  • Doing a long ride without breakfast.
  • Riding long rides with little to no food.
  • Low carb diets. If you’re focused on losing weight, the only time you should minimize carbs is during dinner. For everyone else, carbs should be eaten all the time. Adelaide and I might be known for just having salad every night for dinner, but that doesn’t include dessert or dinner number two.

I hope this helps you achieve your weight loss and/or mononucleosis goals!

Santa Cruz 70.3 Fuck Up

The parking situation at Santa Cruz 70.3 is a fucking nightmare. After getting booted from one $5 all day parking lot, which for some reason was for residents only (why do residents have to pay to park in their own parking lot?), I was beginning to run short on time. Endless circling for a spot with 1,000 other vehicles on the same road quickly ate into the early dark hours of the morning, and I no longer had time to head to the parking lot I knew about from last year. I decided to risk it and park in a secret, and most likely illegal, dirt area, right next to transition. I pulled in and assumed that the next time I saw my rental it would have an actual boot on it or it would simply be gone, impounded somewhere. No time to think about that.

Next fiasco was forgetting my pump and my water bottles at my host house. I struggled with the pumps on hand, which were even worse than my own 19-year-old pump, but managed to curse enough air in to get to 200 psi in the front, 22 in the back–my preferred racing pressures. After that, I spent another 10 minutes having the mechanics move out my rear wheel limit screws because I thought my wheel was rubbing on my frame. Turned out just to be the little rubber bits from the artificial soccer turf, but I didn’t put that together until the afternoon.

Finally, with very little time to spare, I ran three laps of the soccer field looking for the god damn water, found a gallon jug and ran off with it to the beach, sweating bullets from anxiety of missing the start, which was just 20 minutes off at this point.

I had no time for the porta potty line, so grabbed some napkins and ditched behind a tree to shit out a huge cow-patty of mostly undigested salsa and salad from the night before. I did a poor job wiping but got most of it on the napkins. No time to fret about a little pooh thumb. From there I ran quickly to the beach start, which was conveniently only one and a half miles away from transition. When I got there, drenched in sweat, I dove in for a quick warm up, and the water actually felt refreshing, not ice-cream-headache-cold. Unusual for a before-light swim on the Pacific coast.

Back on the beach I learned that the start had been delayed. The fog rolled in heavily, hiding the second swim buoy from sight, which was the cause of the delay. My hopes rose with each passing minute that they might cancel the swim entirely. On top of the swim being my worst discipline, I’d injured my shoulder a few days ago and had been in panic mode ever since, icing, heating, getting a massage, taking aspirin, and rubbing various ointments on it for two days hoping that the pain would go away.

The start was delayed in 10 minute increments for about half an hour until, without any notice, everyone began walking north, which is really west since Santa Cruz is in a cove, but it felt like north. Anyways, three thousand people and seventeen tons of wetsuits began making their way to the new swim start, which was a mere 750 meters. Score! Heck yeah!

20 minutes later, the gun went off and 25 of us leaped forward, sprinted towards the eerily 68-degree warm water, and dove in for a pleasantly short but chaotic swim.

I came out of the water in 16th, stopped to put on my first pair of running shoes for the nearly kilometer run to transition, and continued on. Once in my safe place (on the bike) I settled in at a comfortable pace for the first five minutes, hoping to avoid the debilitating quad and glute cramps that I’ve been getting at the start of the bike leg in other races this year.

The fog was too thick to see out of my visor, so I rode with my helmet propped awkwardly on top of my head like a third-world woman balancing a pot of water, passing through groups quickly and gaining confidence that the leg cramps wouldn’t happen. Once onto Highway 1, I tried to find the right balance of not getting hit by a car but also being close enough to use the passing traffic’s draft to my advantage.

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Passing mile 10!

I felt good. I’d lost over a minute to the leaders in the swim/long transition, but was catching guys like they were standing still going just slightly less fast than me. My power was decent, averaging 346 for the first half hour, which eventually put me in 5th place at about 23 miles. But with cars constantly going by a few feet away and my blinding goal of making up as much ground as possible on the leaders, I neglected to eat very much during that first hour, or anything at all in the first half hour. I’d also left my two water bottles, as previously mentioned, each with 180 calories in them, back in the fridge that morning. I had grabbed an age grouper’s water bottles off their bike and put them on mine earlier but they just had water in them, no mix.

That’s a joke…or is it?

Yes, it is.

By the turn around, I was sitting in 5th place, maybe 50 meters in front of a group of five or six guys who I’d been trying to drop, without success because there were a few ‘ballers’ in there. We were about a minute back on second through fourth. A few minutes later I eased up and let another guy take the lead, someone named Tim McDonald? (never heard of him).

I figured I needed to break away from this group for good since I didn’t stand a chance at outrunning most of them, but needed a bit of rest and a hill to make that happen. I sat and bided my time. A few miles later I dropped back to third in line, letting Cody Beals go ahead, hoping that I’d get a bit more draft back further in line. But instead of feeling better I steadily lost power over the next half hour, feeling worse and worse. Usually I feel better as the bike goes on, at least in comparison to the guys I’m riding around. I gulped down a heavily caffeinated gel and another 200 calories of chews. It wasn’t a bonk, but was certainly a deficit of glycogen that was quickly taking its toll. I lost another position in line.

I’d been struggling severely to stay in the group for about 20 minutes now at mile 50ish, putting myself in a big hole for the run, but refusing to drop off. Then all of a sudden I simply popped. With around six miles to go I fell off the back of that five-man group and quickly lost two minutes to them in just six miles. They went on to virtually catch onto the heals of the lead group, minus Andi Bocherer who was minutes up ahead but dropped out on the run. Meanwhile, I contemplated riding head on into traffic.

My average had plummeted from a healthy 333 for the first 90 minutes to an eventual 308 by the end of the bike. I slammed the rest of my food as I pedaled zone two into town. Coming off the bike I ate two gels I had in transition, then two more in the first snack station for a total of 400 calories of gels, but it was too late. I was out of glycogen and had nothing left in my legs other than old rubber bands. I got passed by another guy at mile two and was put into 11th. The race only paid six deep despite the stacked field. I continued on for a while, battling with myself to keep going in case my legs came around. I ended up pulling out a little less under four miles, not wanting to do another 13 mile slog of shame like I did at Boulder and Steelhead. It just didn’t seem worth it so I quit like a quitting quitter because I’m a little weak limp dick bitch.

I’m not one to mess up a race due to poor nutrition, but I did it. Mission accomplished I guess. In my glycogen stores’ defense, I had also gotten sick a week before the race, and apparently wasn’t fully over it because I woke up at 2AM the night after the race with a fever, clogged nose, and phlegmy cough once again. All in all, I blew my shot at the podium of a swim-shortened race. Next up is Los Cabos. I have two months of uninterrupted training to prepare (once I’m not sick anymore), and I have a good feeling about this one. Until then, I’ll be carb loading. Every. Day.

I didn’t go surfing after the race like last year because of my shoulder injury, but the good take away was spending time with Kent and Eric, two family friends that I’ve had since I was a child.

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Thank you to my sponsors! A-Squared Bikes, Cuore of Switzerland, Vision Components, and Hammer Nutrition for making all of this possible.

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No Point to This

I sit here with a scratchy throat, clogged sinuses, and swollen eyes. The summer sickness has taken hold at last, though much later than it normally does. Usually I get sick in June, and again sometime in early August. I made it to September this time. An improvement. Always looking for improvements, which is the main point in athletics. If you aren’t growing, you’re dying, which is the same self-destructive mantra that capitalism, and the entire human race, repeats to itself over and over again as it cries itself to sleep at night.

Last night I got little sleep. My shoulder ached from swimming too many days back to back. My throat was a raw wound being scrubbed vigorously by a loofa-brush-armed obsessive compulsive. One stroke, two stroke, three stroke, four. Repeat. Till it’s bleeding, red, and pustulated. When you’re sick you need rest and water. That’s it. But with too much water and you’re up peeing all night. Acetaminophen helps with the aching throat, to bolster sleep, but pain killers reduces the pyrogen-initiated fever–the body’s own defense against the invading infection. Everything cancels everything else out. Nothing matters. We should all just take on a state of indifference, of nothingness, of sitting quietly in a darkened room without thought or action. A world of fully enlightened Budhist monks, so content with their suffering that they’re content with the human race abruptly coming to an end in two weeks due to dehydration because no one bothers to address their parched throat, dry, crackling, scrubbed raw and dry as beef jerky. Voluntary death by dehydration takes a week or more. Things that I have never gone without for even 24 hours:

  • Liquid
  • Human contact (seeing or talking to another person)
  • Thinking about something impossible (maybe as a baby I did, though I don’t have any real proof that I ever was a baby)

Believing in made up things is what separates us from other animals, not our brain power, ability to use tools, or compassion for loved ones. A dog might not know why it rains,  but it doesn’t create fictions to come up with an answer for him or herself. A sick dog doesn’t think about pyrogen either. Or worry about missing a race due to sickness.

Okay that’s enough of this. I sat down to write without any idea what I’d write about, and this is what came out. I’m off to the store to buy chicken soup ingredients and two large bottles of generic Nyquil.

Middle Ground

The blowing snow no longer stung the man’s face, which had gone numb from frost bite. He trudged forward, or staggered sideways, despite the increasing futility of the effort. He was going to die soon and he knew it.

He fell over with increasing frequency, potholing up to his crotch during a whiteout blizzard while crossing through a desolate pine forest. Earlier that day it had been chilly but bright, perfect for a 20-mile cross country ski, but the weather had come in too fast and the temperature had plummeted along with it. He’d been forced to abandon his skis half an hour ago when he’d gone off the track and into a half-frozen creek, snapping his left ski in two and severely spraining his ankle. Shortly after that, taking a short cut back home became the only option if he was going to make it in time before he froze to death, or at least that’s what he’d come to believe during the drunken stupor that hypothermia had put him in. His heart rate was slowing, blood vessels were restricting their flow to his extremities, and he felt a weakness that he had never experienced before.

Maybe taking on such an ambitious trek had been too much, too soon, given his unfamiliarity with his surroundings and the climate. The trail system up here was extensive and he’d only just moved to town a few weeks ago. The man had become fed up with the four-person company that he had been with for more than a decade, a marketing firm that, in his opinion, had broken its own ethical code of conduct. The owner argued that by doing business with a local bank, they would be able to avoid shutting down and could continue taking on environmental clients. These had never paid well, but had been what the small company was built upon—bringing awareness to clear cutting, mining, and other polluters within the region through grass-roots funded donations. The problem was that this particular bank had been a small time investor in some of the very companies that the firm had created campaigns against in the past. It was too much for the man to take, so he quit. And moved. He dealt in black and white. Good and evil. And this, in his opinion, was crossing the line, even if the end result may have been a “positive,” according to his former boss.

He forced any regrets out of his mind and continued on the task at hand: delaying death for another 10 steps. And then another 10 steps. And another. And suddenly his foot went through a layer of ice and straight up to the knee in near-freezing water. He pulled it out as quickly as possible and would have cursed, but his lips were far too numb to move in any coordinated fashion. This would be the end now. He wasn’t dressed for this weather, having donned just a pair of tights, a long sleeve thermal, gloves, and a light jacket earlier that morning. A soaking wet shoe and leg would put a quick end to him. Then he noticed something odd. Was that steam?

Heavy snow blew sideways and mixed with intense billows of steam that came up from a small pool of water, just six feet across. The man realized that he had not stepped through a layer of ice into a hidden creek. This was a hot spring. This was a hallucination. It had to be. He had read about this sort of thing before, though it seemed incredibly real. Of course it would. His mind needed to believe, though he wasn’t convinced. This was worth testing. If he was having this intense of a hallucination, still miles from home, he would be dead anyways in a few minutes. He  indulged himself in the pointless experiment and dipped his already-wet leg, calf-deep, back in and left it there for a moment. It was warm. He couldn’t feel his foot at all, but the warmth quickly crept up his leg. And burned. Fuck. It was hot.

The man yanked his foot out quickly in reaction to the searing heat of the small pool. He was immediately convinced that this was no hallucination, and the sudden jolt of hope spurred a surge of adrenaline and clairvoyance. A fog lifted from his eyes as he stared into the steam of the near-boiling pool of life in front of him. He was saved. But the heat of the pool. Was it too much?

He stuck his foot in again, this time determined to keep it in longer and let it adjust to the heat. Numb fingers and toes always ached with intense pain when put under a hot, or even lukewarm, shower. Of course this would be painful.

He counted. One. Two. Three. FUCK. He screamed in agony and withdrew his leg from the water. It may not have been boiling, but it felt close. His calf screamed in pain as he fell back and dug his leg into the snow beside the pool. For a brief instant the man imagined the irony of second degree burns and frost bite on the same limb, then an overpowering sense of dread took hold. His hope was crushed as quickly as it had been created. Now he would die. He had no energy to press on.

It took him longer than it would have if he had been thinking clearly, but a few moments later he came up with it. Cool the hot spring down. Pile in some snow. The idea jerked the man to his hands and knees, and pushed him to his feet. He began grabbing armloads of snow and flinging it into the pool. Arm load after arm load. He pushed the snow around the edge of the pool in with his feet, and continued grabbing more and more snow as fast as he could. It was light, powdery stuff, and hard to get a hold of. This wasn’t going fast enough, and the snow here wasn’t as thick as the stuff he had been post holing through earlier. Another brilliant though came into his mind, though it required taking off his jacket.

With great difficulty, he got his jacket off by pinching the zipper with his thumb and forefinger together like a lobster, and biting the cuff with his mouth. He laid it out on the ground and piled snow on, shivering with even more ferocity than before. He grabbed up the jacket by the corners and emptied its contents into the pool. He carried out this process again and again, until he felt that he could do no more. It had to be enough.

He cautiously dipped his leg in. It burned, but with less intensity than before. He dipped the other leg in and slowly let his entire body slide into the water. The heat was almost unbearable. Almost. He forced himself to stay in. He sat on his butt with his legs extended out in front of him, using every morsel of will power to stay seated. The pool was only a few feet deep. His whimpers of pain had been muffled for the last few minutes, but now he let out a screeching, high pitched wail. At last, he pulled himself out back onto the snowy bank.

He curled into a ball on his side, knees to his chin, arms wrapped around, writhing in pain from his blistered and peeling lower half and still shivering uncontrollably from hypothermia. The snow still came down heavily, blowing sideways and sucking every bit of acquired warmth away from the man’s steaming legs. After a few moments, he regained control and rolled over towards the spring. He cupped his hands into the water and released it over his head. This was bearable at least. He repeated the process dozens of times, thoroughly soaking his upper half though not adding any real warmth to his system. The wind cut into him with deadly intentions, and soon he was having trouble using his arms with any real coordination. If he was going to survive, he would have to get back into the hot spring.

In his last few moments of consciousness, the man slid back into the spring. He knew that being rapidly re-warmed like that could kill him instantly, but there was no other option. The pain came rushing back and with considerable effort, he rotated back onto the bank, laying on his stomach with his legs still splayed out in the near-boiling liquid. He crawled forward, out of the water, rested there a minute, and pushed himself backwards into it again up to his waist. He would repeat this process three more times before blacking out.

The snow fell quietly now, days after the storm had subsided; the wind had vanished, leaving the forest and the still man in solitude. His lower half remained submerged in the shallow steaming pool while his upper half was sprawled onto the bank face down. The skin had bubbled off from below his waist and the meat of his legs was cooked through. It could have been shredded with a fork like pulled pork. From his chest up, he was frozen solid. But somewhere in the middle, in the pit of his stomach, it was neither too hot nor too cold. It was a perfect 98.6 degrees. A comfortable gray area. 

 

 

A2 Speed Phreak Review

Probably the most important thing you need to know about the Speed Phreak is that the bike company, A2, is not called A-two. It’s A-Squared. I know that this is confusing because the A and the 2 are on the same level, but figuring out how to type the squared symbol using alt, ctrl, +, shift, etc is impossible.

Mission Statement of the Company

The primary goal of A² founder AJ Alley was to create a triathlon bike that was both inexpensive and gets the job done. This means that speed, handling, and esthetics couldn’t be neglected. How is this feasible you ask? Is A² merely a laundering front for an Oregon soccer gambling ring? Possibly. No, AJ was able to keep the price low and the quality high by already having established contacts in Taiwan as a wee child, knowing Mandarin, and doing other business stuff. But you don’t care about business stuff. You care about your bike getting down to business. Am I right or am I right.

Cornering, Descending, and Overall Handling

I’m not going to start off with the aero benefits of the frame (I’ll save that for later), because as everyone knows, the aero-ness of the frame is the least important part of going fast. The most important aspect of riding fast over a one to six hour bike split is being able to maintain a comfortable yet aerodynamic position. This requires being confident in the aerobars riding over rough pavement, cornering without losing speed due to a sloppy front end, and bombing descents with ease because the bike doesn’t get speed wobbles. Being comfortable on the bike means not losing energy due to clenching up or grabbing the base bars whenever a cross wind hits or you have to make a pass around another racer. The Speed Phreak excels in all of these criteria and exudes confidence because of smart yet simplistic geometry.

 

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Aero Stuff

A lot of tri bikes, even much more expensive tri bikes, feel like sails in the wind, not blades. Much of that comes from incredibly wide tubing, which isn’t necessarily good for a triathlon, given the relatively slow speed that even the fastest men and women go. The more surface area on the frame, the more you get pushed around when the wind isn’t directly head on or behind you, which is virtually all the time–the wind is usually coming at an angle. The Speed Phreak uses deep tubing where it needs it (at the front end and at the down tube wheel cut out) and avoids piling on unnecessary carbon, that adds weight and drag. This, in turn, helps with the handling as mentioned earlier.

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Another feature I like is the sleek integrated stem, which lets you slam the bars as low as you can get while tucking all of the cables underneath (there’s even room for a Di2 junction box, though not pictured). The stem keeps the base bars at the same height as the top tube, which is one of my favorite aspects of the bike. You can buy the fastest bike in the world and if you can’t get low, you’re gonna go slow. I did a rhyme! Also, if you want to be more upright, the included aero bar/arm rest stacking spacers will easily accommodate any position you want. Vision (the cockpit supplier) does a great job providing a highly adjustable front end setup.

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Last but not least: the Speed Phreak has two water bottle cages! This is actually a really good thing for a tri bike to have, and something that’s quite rare. Bottles on the down tube and seat tube are much faster than anything mounted up above on the aero bars, and are super convenient to reach. Being able to fuel well, be comfortable and confident on the bike, and maintain an aero position go a long way in a triathlon. Whether you plan on upgrading some of the components, or racing this bike out of the box, you’re going to be happy with your decision of ordering it. And, you’re going to have quite a bit of extra money to spend on races, massage, organic produce, strippers (male or female, I’m not being sexist), or, my personal favorite: gummy worms. Bulk food style by the kilo.

The Beauty and Nightmares of Getting Fired

(Written By Adelaide)

A month ago Kennett was sitting on the couch and asked me, “I have a hypothetical question for you. If your neighbor had killed someone while driving drunk, would you want to know about it?

I thought for a second and said, “Is this actually a hypothetical? Are you asking me because someone nearby has killed someone or is this for your work?” He writes legal blogs and I thought it might be related.

He told me it was hypothetical. I told him I wouldn’t want to know.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a hypothetical. Another neighbor had such a hard time processing the news that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut and told me despite Kennett urging him not to. Paige, a neighbor my age who I had been semi-friends with, killed a 16-year-old in a head-on collision when she was 18, with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. That’s one problem that she’ll have to live with for the rest of her life. I wouldn’t hold that against her at this point. She’s moved and started a new life. She is 28-years old and I’d hope she would have matured since then. That’s how I would have felt if the incident was a hypothetical. The real issue, however, is that she was caught driving drunk again, last summer, and has been on parole ever since. Her Ace ankle brace, which she claims is for a perpetually sprained ankle, is used to hide a GPS device that signals her parole officer when she violates her house parole, which she has done frequently in the past six months. She has continued to drink as well, with is also in violation of her parole. She even went so far as to tell my neighbor that she actually “enjoys driving drunk.”

Fucked up right? I hope you’d think so but I’m not sure everyone is as upset as I have been about this. To make the situation worse on a personal level is that Paige lied to me several times and told me false stories when I wasn’t even asking questions. “I’m not driving because insurance is so expensive” and more.

I had gotten her a job at Boulder Cycle Sport where I had started working this spring. At the time I thought Paige would be a good candidate. When I learned of her driving record I had nightmares. I still have nightmares actually. I just had one last night. I’m not sure this was the correct move or not but I called HR at Boulder Cycle Sport because I didn’t want to be associated with recommending her. I also didn’t want to work the same shifts as her. Let me remind you that I have severe PTSD from my crash and I’m having more trouble getting on the bike than I’ve ever had before. I explained why I suddenly felt so strongly that I couldn’t be near her.

I had never worked a shift with her, but with the 4th of July weekend I ended up on the schedule with her. Her schedule had to be adjusted so that she could go to court for a revocation hearing. I told HR I wouldn’t show up to work with her. I asked for the schedule to be adjusted for one day, and told them I had spent months not working with her, so it shouldn’t be a reoccurring issue.

The owner emailed me and told me not to come to work on the 4th of July. Instead, I met with him and the HR woman the next day. They fired me. They told me they were letting me go because of finances. According to them, sales had been bad over the spring. I’m pretty sure I was spending more money at the shop than I was making. They were not losing much money by employing me. Furthermore, they probably are losing sales because so many cyclists have been killed in the past year. Bill Davis was killed by a drunk driver. So I got “let go” for having PTSD around a cycling crash that nearly killed me. I got fired from a bike shop!

At the end of the conversation they had the nerve to tell me I should keep my mouth shut about Paige. They said maybe we could work out some sort of ambassadorship with them. As though I wanted to represent a company that ignored my PTSD and fired me for bringing an issue I had to HR. No thank you.

Those are the nightmares. The beauty is that I’m enjoying not having a job. I’ve taken this time to focus on writing. I’m going to have an article in the upcoming issue of Lava Magazine. I’m able to take another trip to race Steelhead 70.3 where I’ll get to meet one of my coaching clients and Kennett will get to see one of his clients as well. My parents are coming up to stay with us for the weekend. I’m back on track to have a rough draft of my book completed by October.

Alcoholism is an addiction, but you would think that after killing someone while driving drunk, a semi-ethical person would make some serious life changes. You would assume that they would at least take precautions, like leaving their car at home and not even giving themselves the opportunity to drive home drunk from the bars. Her car is littered with dings and dents, and his held together in one section by duct tape. Obviously, she drives drunk frequently and has little remorse about the young life that she took 10 years ago. She is willing to put others at risk in order to have a good time.

The self-centeredness of people can be astounding, particularly on the road. Whether that means driving drunk, texting behind the wheel, or cutting off a cyclist to save two seconds and to show them who’s boss, cars seem to bring out the worst in humanity.

Please don’t drive drunk. Don’t use your phone in the car. Save me the nightmares please. Try to remember that you’re affecting another human being’s life.

Dead Deer

An animal movement, sudden, jolting, and brown caught my eye on the side of the road. A deer, with great effort, pushed itself up with its front legs as I approached, now slowing my cadence. Its wide black eyes were full of fear and agony and made my heart suddenly sink as I realized that its rear legs were both broken. I stopped six or seven bike lengths away for a moment, piecing together its demise: Up above, maybe 25 feet, was highway 7, which paralleled the road I was riding up–the “business” route that goes through Allenspark–a tiny community of a few dozen homes at 8,400 feet in between Estes Park and Ward. The deer had been hit by a car up on the highway, tumbled or crawled down the steep embankment and landed in the culvert next to where I was currently track standing. I decided to get going again quickly so that the deer wasn’t put under any extra duress from my presence.

I rode up a quarter of a mile to get water at the natural spring and think about what I was going to do. My plan became to notify Rocky Mountain Wildlife Rescue Services somehow. I tried calling Adelaide but didn’t have cell service. Next, I went across the street to what looked like a bed and breakfast, but no one was home. I rode down the hill 50 feet and knocked on a cabin door. An old man came out and I explained what I needed him to do, but he admitted that he was too confused about using the internet to find a phone number.

Across the street was a cafe that was miraculously open, so I went in and told the owner/waitress. I gave her the deer’s location, that it looked like it could be saved and just had some broken legs, and that she should look up Rocky Mountain Wildlife Rescue Services and let them know. I assumed they’d come pick the deer up, take it back to wherever they’re located, put it in some casts, let it recover for a month, and send it on its way.

The phone was currently being used by another employee to do an order, but she let me know that they’d call right away after the phone was free.

At this point in my ride I had another 30+ miles to home and I’d covered around 60, riding from north Boulder down towards Golden, up Coal Creek, north on Peak to Peak highway through Nederland, then up highway 7 to get water at the springs. It was a warm day even up high, perfect for a big mountain ride. I had spent most of it daydreaming about racing and had stayed focused on my power goal for the day. Plus I it was my first big ride on the Speed Phreak, and I was jotting down things in my mind to write about it later for a review. All of day’s thoughts had been positive. This all changed when I encountered the deer, which I was now passing on my way back down.

Again, it struggled to its front feet, both rear legs laying crumpled at the ground as it half-laid there helplessly. I took a picture of the surrounding area with the intention of sending it to a ranger or person with wildlife rescue so they knew where the deer was. A pickup truck pulled into view. I flagged it down and explained to the driver, pointing to the deer, that once he was home he should call Rocky Mountain Wildlife Rescue Services. He promised he would.

I rode down the mountain with tears growing in my eyes, interspersed with a clenched jaw and grinding teeth. My rage against cars and grievance for the deer combined for a strange emotional cocktail–one that reminded me of the feeling I had when I rode to the hospital after seeing Adelaide’s crash scene in 2014, and I knew that what I was experiencing was the lingering PTSD from that day, not necessarily the deer.

However, that did not keep me from letting up about the poor creature stuck in that culvert on a hot day, most likely severely dehydrated and in an equal state of shock and defeat–just ready for life to be over. Who knows how many hours, or even days, it had already been stuck there. I continued on towards Lyons, where I’d make another call.

After figuring out where the Sheriff’s office was, I knocked on the door. No one was there. I called a number that someone else gave me and got a hold of the non emergency dispatcher. I told them about the deer, they said they’d recieved two calls about it already, I said great and—-“Sorry hold please.”

I was put on hold because there was an actual emergency.

I was reconnected and told them about Rocky Mountain Wildlife Rescue Services, letting them know that that’s who they should call. “Sorry hold please.”

I was put on hold again. A few minutes later I was transferred to another dispatcher. I explained my story to him over again. He informed me that the sheriff had been informed and would be heading up there as soon as he was able to. I told the dispatcher about Rocky Mountain Wildlife Rescue Services.

“Yeah, we don’t do any sort of rehabilitation. . . We put the animal out of its misery.”

“Oh, okay. Uhh, is it possible to hold off then? I’m going to see if–”

“Hold please.”

I was put on hold again. This time I was on hold for over five minutes, so hung up and started riding home. I called Adelaide from highway 36 and told her about the deer, to look up the rescue services and text me their number.

A few minutes later I pulled over to the side of the road again after she had texted back, called the number, and got a voicemail. I rode home.

At the computer, I finally came to terms that there was no Rocky Mountain Wildlife Rescue Services. I had made that up apparently. I searched for other organizations that helped injured animals in the area and none took in deer, specifically stating that they did not treat deer, elk, moose, or other large mammals. Earlier I thought about calling Chris, a friend with a pickup truck, and going back up there to load the deer into the back, drive it to a vet, and pay for the vet to fix its legs. I hadn’t thought so far ahead as to what I’d do with the deer once it was in its half body cast.

By now, though, well over an hour since I had last scene the deer, I imagined a police officer in beige with a cowboy hat pulling up to the scene, slowly getting out, walking over to the deer, and looking at if for a second, before walking back to the car and grabbing a rifle. The deer, of course, wouldn’t anticipate being helped by a human, so it would experience no sense of relief once the rescue mission arrived, only to have its spirits shattered as it realized that the rescuer was an executioner.

I thought of the person who hit the deer and didn’t go for help. Just drove on. I know that it’s not expected that a person would be concerned with helping an animal that was just going to die anyways, but why not? Why isn’t it expected or normal to stop everything that you’re doing to help save a life, regardless of its species?

I thought of all the people I called and talked to who had other things to do that prevented them from taking immediate action: the old guy didn’t want to have to get on the internet, the cafe owner was in the middle of doing an order, the pickup truck driver was on his way home, the dispatchers had real emergencies to attend to. If it was a human child stuck in the culvert with two broken legs or possibly a severed spinal cord, everyone would have stopped what they were doing immediately and rushed to help.

I’m guilty of the same thing. I’ve run over small animals on my bike, smashed rabbits into cow-patties while driving, and even been in a car that struck a deer, at slow speed, that ran off into the woods. Moreover, I eat meat. This lack of concern is just normal human behavior I guessed.

But why is any of it normal? I couldn’t get passed the strangeness of our society, and the bizarre uncaring nature of humanity, both for other animals and for humans alike. We have the ability to care about, to feel for, and to empathize with others, including animals, yet we choose not to most of the time. Humanity’s tribalism–the fear and hatred of others who are not like you–is still incredibly strong, as seen in the past election. 63 million people voted in hatred and fear of Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans, African Americans, gay people, feminists, and others who don’t look like or act like traditional white people. We send missiles to Syria, not aide or open arms.

Of course no one cares about a crippled dear.

I’m reading a book, Sapiens, that discusses the illogic of The All Powerful yet Benevolent God and free will. These three factors make up the Christian god. The facts:

  1. An all powerful (monotheistic) god has total control over everything;
  2. If an all powerful god has complete control over the universe, he/she would know the future ‘free will’ choices that a person, who he created, would make;
  3. ‘Testing’ this person’s moral character by allowing them to make bad choices would be an evil thing for an all powerful god to do because the god has knowledge that this person, we’ll call him Bob, will turn out to be an axe murderer or work for ICE. Bob’s immoral free will choices, which God knew Bob would make all along, will lead to other’s misery and death, and Bob will be sent to hell to be tortured for eternity.

Because bad things happen in the world, the only explanation for a free will system that is controlled by an all powerful god is that the all powerful god is malicious, not benevolent. What’s my point with all of this? Well, maybe we deserve an evil god.

Cost of an Injury

Thursday May 25th. 8:30am-1:00pm=Injury ground zero. Location: soccer fields in south Boulder and Colorado Athletic Club (CAC). Activities: 9.4 mile run with shit ton of sprints, followed by 3K swim, followed by 50 minutes in the gym. Maximum weight lifted: squatting 40 pound kettlebell. Diagnosis: fucked my back right the fuck up.

  • 4:00pm later that day, notice a pain in my lower back near my sacrum. Assume it will go away with some good sleep.

Friday May 26th. Three hours of intervals and 4K hard masters swim. Notice afterwards that back is much worse than previous afternoon. Assume pain will go away with another night of sleep.

Saturday May 27th. Cut ride short because of back pain. Schedule PT appointment. PM: drink copious amounts of Moscow mules at high altitude.

Sunday to Monday. Back pain mysteriously vanishes.

Tuesday May 30th. 6:40pm. Go in for physical therapy even though back pain has completely disappeared since Sunday. Get acupuncture, even though I don’t think it does anything, to be polite. Also have therapist dry needle the shit out of my hips. Limp for 24 hours afterwards=good needling sesh. Cost: $65 including very generous discount.

Thursday June 1st: Travel to Raleigh. Back pain starts up again immediately. Fuck me.

Friday June 2nd: 11:47am. Get emergency 85 min massage for back. Cost: $80. Feels slightly better.

Sunday June 3rd. Race Raleigh, finish 4th at 11:01am (ish). Nearly one quarter of prize money will go to back injury. 11:04: Realize that back is crippled. Can barely walk. Take 8 minutes to walk 100 feet to massage tent. Cost: $20. Problem: I don’t have any money. Take 5 minutes to walk 90 feet, lay down on pavement to rest. Get helped up by good Samaritan and get massage that he pays for. Cost: one huge pay it forward favor, yet to be paid.

Monday June 4th. Get massage on back. Feels slightly better. Cost: $70. Travel home to Boulder afterwards. Assume back will be better in two days, max. Start using heating pad on back every night before bed. Plan for surprise attack at Boulder Ironman.

Wednesday June 6th. Massage. Cost $72. Realize back is pretty fucked up at this point. Still limping. One night of sleep should fix it.

Friday June 9th. Skip most of Boulder Ironman pro meeting to get prolotherapy on back. Cost: ?? Billed to insurance so I don’t know yet. Probably $80 or more.

Saturday June 10th. Decide not to put shoes in T2 because it still hurts to walk at a slow pace. Cost of not finishing the race the next day: possibly four digits.

Sunday June 11th. Pull out of Ironman Boulder after one lap of bike due to back pain. Cost: pride.

Monday June 12th. Massage. Cost: $72. Realization: back will be fucked forever. Or maybe one night of sleep will fix it. Not sure.

Wednesday June 14th. AM. Back still hurts. Start to really worry about CDA 70.3 in 11 days time. Walk to chiropractor office 8:00am. Cost: $55.

  • Later that day at 3:30pm: physical therapy with dry needling. Cost: $70. Schedule three more appointments in following three weeks, just in case.
  • Later that day at 5:00pm: realize back is significantly better after needling. Assume back will be 100% better in 24 more hours, especially with a night of good sleep.

Total cost: $564+

Moral of story: 40 pound squats=too heavy and will cost you.

Disclaimer: two of the massages were scheduled for normal recovery reasons before the onset of the injury.

 

 

 

 

Raleigh 70.3

I’m not 100 percent sure what a water moccasin looks like, but I’m fairly confident I saw one as we stepped into the lake for the swim warm up. It swam off hurriedly, a few inches below the surface. I decided to move a few paces away before plunging into the 82 degree lake, which was well above the temperature that allows wetsuits. I made an attempt to warn two others who were near by, but not that hard of an effort. Less competition is always a good thing.

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The water felt like stepping into a bath that you’d been sitting in for half an hour–body temperature and full of pubic hair. Minus one of those things. While the water was perfect, my stroke was shit. I drag my feet way too much without a wetsuit and I could tell that I was already lagging in the first few hundred meters. I lost contact with two others whom I’d been trying to follow and stupidly decided to not make the effort to get back up to them. I was worried that an all-out, two-minute sprint, on top of the effort that I was already doing, would cause me to blow up and get passed by the next group. It ended up being the wrong decision. I should have gone for it because the large group I ended up swimming with was more concerned about throwing bows than going fast.

I came out at a disappointing 28:22 in a group that contained 11th through 23rd. I fumbled around in transition with my helmet strap for a few seconds and made my way onto the bike, remembering to first take off my swim skin all by myself, unlike the last time. I’m a big boy now!

I haven’t been feeling strong on the bike since the end of March and had been feeling increasingly weak throughout April and May. Three weeks ago I did an all out 20 minute power test and averaged 335, which was more than 30 watts less than what I did last year in May. Adelaide says that I spent the rest of that week moping about the kitchen, foraging for chips and salsa in which to drown my sorrows. Luckily my legs finally started coming around about a week after that, and I actually had some good intervals Tuesday of race week.

I put in a good effort right away to minimize the gap up to the 10 leaders, who, at the time, were all within three and a half to one minute of me. This was still the first few miles of the bike leg, which, unlike a bike race, are the most important, to a degree.

Matt Russell, the only guy who’d been able to stick with me, came around at mile 10 and began taking long, hard pulls. The first half of the course is flat to gently rolling, while the second half has some decent rollers. This meant that it was easy for guys who we picked off to latch onto our wheels in the first half. Drafting, which is still a big factor even at 7-9 bike lengths, was made even easier by the fact that there were virtually no motor referees at all. It was honor system, and you can always bank on someone who’s suffering to be dishonorable.

By mile 18ish I finally turned around and lost my shit all over the guy behind me, who had consistently been just 4-5 lengths back for the previous eight miles. My cursing storm worked and he dropped back. Russell decided to hit it hard for the next few minutes and we dropped the drafting guy plus a few others who we had recently picked up along the way, including James Hadley who I knew I should not come off the bike with due to his run strength.

We came off our bikes in 4th and 5th, me forgetting to take one of my shoes off before the dismount, meaning that I had to run in one shoe through transition. I’ve done this many times actually.

Russell fell back quickly on the run since he must have been feeling off, and I charged ahead holding back just enough to keep my lung cramp from becoming debilitating and my chest from closing down. The run course was a 3.5 mile out and back with a box at the start/finish, and mostly uphill on the way out. By mile three the cramping was mostly gone and the normal pain of running had taken its place. The course felt extremely hilly despite only 600 feet of elevation gain. It was hot, exposed, and I used every inch of shade and welcomed every whisper of a breeze, of which there were few. The dead, humid air rose into the upper 80s. The only sound, other than my wheezing, was the chirping of crosswalks, all of which were signaling white stick figures since the traffic lights were turned to red. Only fear kept me going.

With Tyler Butterfield, Andrew Yoder, and Jackson Laundry long gone, my focus was to stay away from Russell and Hadley. I was gaining on Russell but Hadley was approaching fast. I knew that he was dangerous even at four or five minutes back.

The ‘descent’ into downtown wasn’t much easier than the rolling climb out, and I began to feel the slightest pinching pain in my lower back. About 12 days ago I did a hard run followed by lifting (30 heavy ass pound squats mind you), which threw out my low back/right glute for a couple days. The pain went away but came back the day that Adelaide and I traveled to Raleigh. I’d gotten a massage and taping two days before the race, but the pain was still there. Currently, I needed it to hold out for another eight miles. No biggie. The last eight miles of a triathlon are always the easiest. That is a joke by the way.

My feet were on fire from the molten pavement, my lungs and stomach were suffering, my back and legs were crying, and I felt my slow slogging would surely cause me to be swept up by a hard-charging Hadley, or a senior jogger pushing a baby stroller. “Why do I even do this horrible sport?” is always a thought that comes up during the run.

At the final turnaround with 3.5 to go I saw that I still had over a minute. Endurance sports are all about who can suffer the most, and I told myself to stop being such a damn wimp and get on with it. I held the gap until a half mile to go, at which point I knew I had secured 4th place and let myself slow down and bask in the cheers of literally dozens of spectators who were wondering what was going on and why their city’s roads were all blocked off. It’s only when I slowed that I started feeling the real pain in my back. I crossed the finish line and quickly dropped to my hands and knees, then laid down on my back, enveloped in pain and joy for being done. By the time I caught my breath and let someone help me to my feet I could barely walk. My back was completely cramped and each limp was a stabbing shot of agony. So, pretty much a normal race for me.

It felt terrific to finally have a high placing, to see decent power numbers, and to earn enough prize money to pay for the next two months of my physical therapy. Soon after finishing, though, I felt a bit let down since I wasn’t part of the champaign-spraying podium celebration. Always be left wanting. It’s the human condition that has turned our planet into a clear-cut, overpopulated, polluted mining pit filled with Wal-Marts and parking lots.

The best part of my day was watching Adelaide come storming down the finish shoot, taking names and blowing by everyone else like they were using walkers. I could practically hear her thinking to herself, “You’re going down, bitches!” as she came past. She finished with a time of 4:44 and we found out that she won her age group shortly after. It took a while to confirm that she had won the female amateur division outright, which qualified her for her professional license. It was a good trip, to say the least.

I’d like to thank our hosts Brian and Michelle Kennedy for taking such great care of us throughout the week. Brian, who also raced, had a bad stomach from being sick earlier in the week, but managed to finish. We all went out for burgers and fro-yo afterwards.

Additionally, Kwami Imani, a nurse at the medical tent, went well beyond his duties. I had come limping into the medical/massage tent assuming that the post-race massage was free, because they almost always are, only to see that it was $20. I obviously didn’t have that on me. I limped dejectedly away across the street to lay down on the sidewalk and Kwami came out searching for me, helped me get up and walk back to the tent, and wouldn’t accept my offer that I’d repay him. That’s the southern hospitality that you always hear about when talking about the South. I didn’t realize that it was so literal (nurses work in hospitals…hospitality..get it?)

Finally, thank you to my terrific sponsors for making it all possible: A2 Bikes, Cuore of Swiss, Vision, and Hammer Nutrition.

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