Saturday, June 18, 2011

Recovery Week

Ah, recovery week. Like a refreshing gulp of icy cold water while your ass is baking in the hot sun sitting atop a saddle as you pedal your way across a volcanic island.

Did I really sign up for that thing?

I made it through the week. At times I wondered if I was really, truly enjoying my recovery week because I found myself busy (and sober) for most of it. The best recovery weeks tend to be complete falls from grace. If you’ve gotten through the week eating one vegetable and sleeping in until 10 am, you’ve done it right. Unfortunately I need to poop and I have a child. The week wasn’t quite as lazy and wild as it could have been. There were, however, moments of recovery-week greatness, like going to bed at 8 pm two nights in a row and waking up at 6 am. I think in my former non-parental life that would have qualified me as “lame” but now as a parent I’m pretty sure that qualifies me as “legend”.

In order to avoid spending too much energy while thinking during recovery week, I spent weeks before the race thinking about it. Being a goal-oriented person, I set some goals.

Goal #1: Eat Dairy Queen for dinner.


Checked this one right off the list the night of the race. Why wait? We were at the race site until 4 pm so this may have been the first thing I put into my mouth after racing aside from a recovery drink. In case you ever race Eagleman, be warned, unless you want to eat McDonald’s or Dairy Queen for dinner, there’s slim pickings. Rather than fight it, I headed straight to the DQ and ordered a large – yes LARGE – Blizzard with peanut butter cups and cookie dough. Nothing like fighting inflammation with inflammation!


You know, that cookie dough has trans fats in it.


That was from my husband. The irony is: THAT WAS FROM MY HUSBAND. I didn’t care much about the trans fats. What’s life if you can’t eat a meal that’s 50 percent trans fat and 50 percent sugar every once in awhile?


This dinner, though, had been a long time coming. For 6 weeks I gave up pretty much everything – no sugar, no cheat meal, no dessert on the weekend because it’s the weekend, no WINE and in the last week to make a final push towards the finish line – no cream in my decaf coffee.


Because drinking decaf isn’t sad enough.


Goal #2: Eat wine for dinner.


Hey, you don’t live on turkey, carrots, sweet potatoes and quinoa for weeks on end without having very specific plans for how you’re going to exorcise all of your junk food demons so you don’t want to see them for another 8 weeks. Wine is sometimes my junk food. A glass here, a glass there.

But on Thursday I knew I was going to eat wine for dinner – not counting how many glasses just enjoying every last sip.
We went out with some friends. I was expecting it to be about 2 hours. Roughly many (but who's counting) glasses later, we rolled in around midnight. I learned a very valuable recovery week lesson: I am too old to be drinking until midnight. It’s a lot more fun when you’re younger and you don’t have a child who wakes up at 6 am.

I’m just glad I didn’t get talked into the shot of tequila (cough, ahem, er, Chris Waterstraat).


Goal #3: Eat crumb cake for breakfast.

I saved this one for Saturday. On my schedule was a 2-hour ride that read “for fun.” Hey, if I’m going to pay my coach to write workouts, I’m going to take them seriously. No pace, no watts. This is “fun”. And drafting? Highly encouraged and a smart way to conserve energy for consumption of pastries and coffee.

I had tapered all week for this event. Thought about it for weeks. Every Saturday there’s a “French Market” in Wheaton. I’m not sure what makes it French, it’s a bunch of vendors, some farmers selling organic from the farm produce, some nuns selling baked goods, some people selling flowers. There’s also crumb cake from a local bakery. Giant squares of moist sugar and crumbly goodness.

I may or may not have been dreaming about it for weeks.

The plan was to gather up the entire family and pedal 10 miles north to Wheaton. The entire family being my two sister-in-laws, both of their daughters, my brother-in-law, father-in-law, Max and Chris. If you were on the Prairie Path on Saturday around 11 am, you may have been overtaken by what felt like a whole lot of Waterstraat. But I don’t apologize.

My in-laws front yard quickly turned into a scene from Ragbrai morning – a mess of wheels, helmets and other stuff you need to ride 20 miles with 3 small children. I’m pretty sure we violated some code of coolness by carrying diapers on a Surly.


We headed out to the path. The pace was relaxing. Not slow, I mean, I’ve ridden slow before – once on Ragbrai, Tim and I maintained a 4.4 mph paceline, two women passed us (“on your left”) with one saying to the other, “what are they on?” Today, we were cruising along, chit chatting or just letting the mind get lost in its own thoughts. You don’t get many opportunities in life like this. Our world is full of so much stimulation and static. It’s good to quiet the mind and slow things down.


By the first hill, my FIL had dropped us. Had to feel a little sorry for my younger SIL who was on a single speed. And then there was Chris hauling the kids in a Burley attached to a mountain bike. As we climbed the first hill, Chris told us to go around him.

As if you any of us had the balls to pass a guy wearing an Ironman Hawaii finisher’s jersey pulling a Burley with two children up a hill.

We actually did get passed by a lot of people but collectively as a group passed a dude on a horse. I’m pretty sure we all got a little ego boost out of that.


Some of the family took energy conservation seriously. Drafting? Your call.

We arrived at the market and I made a quick beeline to the crumb cake. Not wanting the pressure of having to choose which type of crumb cake I wanted, I bought a piece of all three and threw in a brownie just because. You never know when you’re going to crave chocolate.


The bakery staff assured me that none of these pieces contain trans fats.

Much food was bought, some lemonade, coffee. We sat, we talked, we listened to the music.


Here Aubrey eyes the box of cake with stranger danger to her left and a cup of hot coffee to her right, Maeda sits with a damp cheesecloth on her head (my SIL calls this sun protection) and Max plays by an electrical outlet. This photo is like something straight out of Safety Town.


I left Max with Chris while I did some shopping, came back to find him covered in dirt, strawberries and eating wood chips. Combine all that dirt with the heat and it seemed the appropriate time then to do a very Ragbrai-esque hose shower at a nearby fire hydrant.


On the way back, we were all pumped full of sugar and caffeine so we took the extra long way. The weather was beautiful and it was one of those priceless family adventures we won’t forget. There was conversation, someone was singing the ABC song. If the backdrop were the mountains, I’d say we could have been mistaken for the Von Trapp family. Minus the matching curtain outfits.

What always surprises me about recovery week is that I basically spend a week living like the general public – doing nothing, riding 11.8 mph, eating junk, boozing on a Thursday night. I have no idea how people do this. It’s fun for a few days but then I start to crave something green and a workout lasting longer than 35 minutes. By week’s end, if I’ve done it right: I cannot wait to return to my usual routine.


So, next week I’m back on the wagon. As far as recovery weeks go, this one was pretty tame. I still fit into the wagon. The wagon still has all 4 wheels. I’ve had some classic recovery weeks where I’m pretty sure I lost a wheel. Or might have eaten it. Those weeks are called “epic” and I’m saving one like that for the week beginning October 10th.


Yeah, I’m feeling mostly recovered and excited to tackle training again. I think that means I’m ready. Well, ready or not. You can’t ever be truly ready for Ironman or even Ironman training. You just take it day to day. And, fake it ‘til you make it. Or until you get a really painful saddle sore. Then, you call Dr. Nuts and stay off your bike for a few days.


It’s all coming back to me…

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Girl Can Dream, Right

Fear not, I will not tell you how many grams of carbohydrate I ate in the days leading up to the race (lots), how many salt tabs I consumed (11), how many gels I ate (7), how much I drank on the bike (72 ounces), how many times I compared the pain of racing to the pain of labor (once, at mile 50 of the bike), how many times I peed (once, while standing in T2), how many times I ran 13 miles before the race (none) or how many parts of my body are now painfully chafed (many).

I will tell you how I went from a year ago being hugely pregnant – and that’s me putting it politely – to being on top of my age group at a competitive 70.3 less than 11 months later.

For nearly 11 months.

When I wrote my race plan, those were the first words. When I stepped into the water, before the start of my wave at Eagleman 70.3, those were the first words I said to myself.

For nearly 11 months I’ve waited.

I couldn’t wait.

Within weeks of giving birth, I was already dreaming. Of where I wanted to go athletically. Starting over. Where would the story end? You always write your own ending. Mine ended in Hawaii. Why? Dream big. And a very hormonal, post-partum girl can dream, right? Someone told me, the year after pregnancy go big. You’ll need something wow to motivate you, something big to make the sacrifices worth it, something out there that seems so impossible that you, as a driven athlete, will be compelled to work hard to make it possible.

Today was the day, Eagleman 70.3. One Kona slot available in my age group. One chance – here, now. I don’t chase, I won’t chase. If it happens, I go. If it doesn’t, I get over it and move on to something else. There’s a handful of 70.3s where you can qualify for Kona, age group winners get the slot. The goal was set:

*Win my age group at Eagleman*

Despite a few setbacks, despite carrying a few extra pounds – I never once doubted I could do this. I didn’t know who else was racing, I didn’t look, I didn’t care. All I knew were my abilities and my preparation. As I got closer to the race, I got more prepared. As I got more prepared, I got more confident. Confidence is that firewall that makes thoughts of “maybe I can’t” stop before you have time to notice them. I started to notice only the reasons why it would be me. I wouldn’t think of anything else.

Race morning couldn’t arrive quickly enough. For months, I’ve watched this race, all of its 70.3 miles worth of moments, play out in my head. Along the way, sacrifices made to make sure I arrived at the start line as ready as I could be. I gave up coffee. I went to bed early. I woke up early. I ate clean. I took supplements. I never, ever missed the recovery window. I arrived at goal weight. I compartmentalized my training. I brought in the babysitter. I balanced between my workouts, my work, my husband’s workouts and my child. I committed only to what it would take to achieve this goal. I listened to my body. I had a race plan. I wrote it out. I read through it over and over again. I worked my mind’s eye in overtime, going through the race. I arrived at race day not wondering what would happen but knowing how it could happen. And then ready to make it happen out there. I focused only on where I wanted to go. I focused only on my successes. I forgot I ever had failures. I found only proof for success. I searched through my race history and reconnected to every race I won. I went back through my notes. I made myself read and absorb. This is what I’ve done. This is what I can do. This is what I will do. I found my confidence by building it. And once I built what I knew it would take, I found a calm in my confidence. More importantly, I trusted myself, faith in knowing that I wouldn’t set the goal if I couldn’t do it. Trust is confidence.

11 months of waiting comes down to ten seconds to go, standing neck-deep in water. The buoy is right next to me with only a few other girls. In front of me is what looks like an endless row of buoys leading to the bridge. The river looks calm but the Choptank is always choppy. The water is 82 degrees, no wetsuits. Five seconds to go. And just like that, it begins.

I cruised the swim. For most of it, I hung on someone else’s feet. In the past two weeks, I’ve done nothing but swim open water to get ready for this. Half way through, we made a right turn and I lost the feet in front of me. I noticed two other blue caps around but mostly I got mixed in with men from waves ahead of me. The swim felt long but eventually I saw the shore and started thinking about transition.

A long run, grab-and-go at the rack, then out on the bike. The first few miles were congested with a lot of men from the earlier waves. Within 30 minutes, the traffic thinned out and the road rolled along. As aero as possible, low head, tuck, don’t ride into the wind, ride right under it. I ride courses like this all of the time – relentlessly flat, smooth pavement, wind, no coasting, very few turns. It doesn’t let up but I’m used to it. In the weeks before the race, I focused on how half IM watts felt – I knew when my legs started burning, I was going too hard. I knew if it felt like I could hold the pace all day, I was going too easy. I kept it somewhere in between.

I passed a few women in my age group early on but beyond that had no idea how I was doing. A few women from F30-34 passed me but no F35-39. I was either ahead or behind. Does it matter? Keep pedaling! The time passed by quickly. I kept waiting for that lull around 90 minutes but it never came. I felt good and speed was looking strong. Until mile 50. At that point, every time I tried to go aero, I got nauseous and my quads felt on the edge of cramping. When all else falls in long course racing, pop a salt tab. So I did. The pain didn’t go away. I almost cried at how bad it hurt. Then I thought of labor and said shut up, this is nothing. I rode the last 6 miles sitting up and watched my speed fall. I’ve never felt so out of control in a race. It was frustrating and for a half mile thoughts of HOW AM I GOING TO RUN LIKE THIS snuck up but I quickly swept them away. It’s a long day. Anything can happen. Let the race come back to you. You prepared too hard and long for this to give up on yourself.

Coming into transition, my legs were in incredible pain. It was the slowest run through transition ever. Once I got to my rack, I didn’t even notice that I was the one of only two bikes there. All I noticed was that I could not bend over to get my shoes. I bit through the pain, got my shoes then noticed my elastic lace had gotten under the tongue in my left shoe. Then a spider crawled out of that shoe. Then I figured since I’m standing here fiddling with my shoe I might as well take a pee. Why is it that when you’re in the biggest hurry you have the slowest pee? 2 minutes and 51 seconds later, I exited transition.

I had no idea how I would run on these legs.

Then one mile later, those same legs felt like amazing.

And that is half ironman racing. You never know. So until you know, you don’t give up. You keep going like everything is going according to plan. And the plan was that the first 6 miles of a half marathon never feel good. The day before the race, I read through my 2007 race report. What in my mind became stored away as an effortless day of perfection was actually a 4 and a half hour affair with extreme pain. I needed to remind myself that when you’re truly racing a half Ironman – it doesn’t feel good or easy.

Back to today. It was hot – 88 degrees and no shade. The aid stations seemed too far apart and too crowded. The course was cluttered with men. But where are the women? I passed a few younger women early on but still had no idea where I stood in my age division. My legs were feeling fresh and though the splits were not great today – given the weather conditions, compared to everyone else I was flying.

And ….. we’ve just been chicked. BAD.

(from a group of guys running 3 across the road when I passed them)

I learned a few tricks about cooling when I was at the OTC in April and they were working. Water, ice, I flew through the aid stations leaving a mess of cups behind. Once out on the straightaway, I knew there were only 2.55 miles to go to the turnaround. The pace was locked in and I was hunting. Where are those darn women?

After mile 5, I noticed Beth coming the other way. A few women from her age group followed, but I still couldn’t see anyone from my age. I was so busy looking across the road that I barely heard a women say to me “you’re in first now” when I passed her. I gave her a thumbs up but didn’t believe her. There had to be more women ahead of me. The other part of me didn’t want to accept that maybe she was right. When you find out your leading halfway into the run, you still have halfway to go!

So I kept running the pace. Around mile 7, it hit me – I was in the zone. That feeling in a race where you don’t even recognize the pain, the heat, all you feel is tunnel vision for your effort toward the goal. Such tunnel vision that I ran right between a man and a volunteer handing him a cup of Coke. And that is how I ended up with Coke all over my face. But I had somewhere to go. The whole day I just kept saying to myself FOCUS ON WHERE YOU WANT TO GO. I’m going to Kona, people, CLEAR THE WAY!

Around mile 8, I told myself I could sustain the pace a mile longer. What’s one more mile of this pain? In fact, I was so excited and ready to be there that I thought – I’ve waited months for this….I want this feeling to last forever! I might have been delirious from the heat. I got the sense that indeed I was leading my age group because I didn’t see any other women. But what if one more is up there? Would I be satisfied knowing I eased up on the pace? Could I live with that?

I held the pace through mile 9. Finally, I hit mile 10. Mile 10 is the moment of truth. Will you hit the wall as you run out of fuel or will you run right through it knowing you are only a 5K away?

For the last 3 miles, you HTFU and hurt yourself.

Advice from my coach in the days before the race. I could ease it in the last three miles or get over the pain and hurt myself. Mile 11. And then I saw it up ahead – the fence. When I previewed the course the day before, I told myself, no matter what, at the fence you go. I went.

Eagleman has what is perhaps the longest mile of your life from mile 12 to the finish line. At mile 12, you can see the finish line…across the river and down the road. The extra .1 mile when you are in the finish line chute is insult to what feels like full body injury. Finally, I crossed the line. 17-minutes slower than I did it 4 years ago (ah, youth) but good enough today for what I think is a win in my new age group.

I found my phone. A few texts. Please tell me I won my age group.

YOU DID.

With over a 5 minute cushion. I found Chris, I cried. Not because I would have to go to Kona again – you mean I have to train for this thing? – but because I set a goal at a time when it sounded impossible and I did it. Nothing – no drug, no experience, no ice cream flavor, no amount of coffee – will ever replace that feeling for an athlete. Ever.

Any time you qualify for Kona, a few hours later you get that feeling of waking up in the middle of the night after getting a bad haircut. You sense you’ve done something bad but can’t pinpoint what until you remember.

Oh god. I just signed up for an Ironman.

Why?

Someone asked me why. Why are you doing this again? You’ve been there twice before, had solid times, no complaints – why revisit it? Because it’s a race that rewards patience, strength, heat tolerance and endurance. And if any athletic woman ever wonders what she can accomplish in pregnancy, well, she need only waddle around at 36 weeks to know she is engaging in secret training. Heat tolerance? Try being 38 weeks pregnant and 35+ pounds heavier in the Midwestern July. Endurance? I wake up after 4 hours of sleep now and feel ready to tackle the day. Strength? I do at least 20 intervals up and down the stairs while carrying a 20 pound baby, every day. And patience? I’ve been training for this for more than 11 months. Try 21 months. I’ve waited. And when I finally get to race day, I’ll be ready.

Five years ago, someone suggested I started this blog to chronicle my first trip to ironman. Along the way, I’ve dreamt big many times. I’ve succeeded and failed but never regretted dreaming. If you never thought you could fail, what would you dream? That’s what I asked myself 11 months ago. I hadn’t run for 5 months, I just had a c-section, I was still carrying 20 extra pounds and I had a newborn. What on earth was I thinking! I wasn’t thinking, I was dreaming. Dreams can be anything. Go create one for yourself. No matter where you are, put the impossible into your realm of possibility. Why? Why not. Why not you, why not now. Go stand on the edge of your own greatness and take a leap of faith. Who knows where you might land?

(in my case, smack in the middle of 2000 other people either crying or crapping themselves while treading water and waiting for the sound of a cannon…I paid how much money for this? Next time I should just go get a haircut)

Until then, I’m going to eat a lot of Cheez-Its, put a lot of salt tabs in button baggies, cry at least once, throw my bike into a ditch and break out in hives for no apparent reason at mile 96.

Yes, friends, I’m going to be training for Ironman.

Thanks to TriSports.com (supported me in success, and failure, small-me and pregnant-me), Power Bar (addicted to the recovery bars), Recovery e21 (send more, like LOTS), mom (for watching Max), Chris (thanks for giving me “the speech” before the race), Jennifer (who helped me lay the base), Kurt (who made me race specific ready), Jenny the babysitter (for all the early mornings) and all of you for reading (you’re still here? Seriously, don’t you have jobs or spouses?! PETS?! Go home already!)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Racing Age(d)

Memorial Day weekend came and went.

We headed up to Michigan for a weekend away. The in-law family has a summer home in Michigan. It’s about a 2 hour drive away from our house but once you arrive there it’s as if you have driven hundreds of miles away to the one remote place in this county that does not have access to the internet.

Yes, I found myself a slice of America where AT&T does not get service.

Chris’ purpose there was rest and relaxation. Maybe eat a little pork. Sit in the backyard with giant bonfire while burning things like twigs, hot dogs and marshmallows. Take a few naps. Play with the son. Do monster brick workout on Sunday. You know, husband stuff.

My purpose there was to race a little triathlon. Yes, it’s time to relearn how to be a triathlete. Maybe put on some Body Glide. Drink some lake water. See if the wetsuit still fits.

Saturday night I was “that” girl. The girl that had to be in bed by 8:15 pm. In other words, the life of the small family party that was taking place on the back patio. In bed by 8:15 pm Michigan time was actually 7:15 pm Chicago time. You can only imagine how well that went. May I also add that it does not get dark in Michigan until 9:45 pm? I didn’t fall asleep until 11!

The alarm clock went off at 4:50 am – and the usual ritual began. The oatmeal. The coffee. I almost had a small heart attack when I realized that there were no travel coffee mugs in the house which meant I had to down fully leaded Starbucks Via in an 8 ounce coffee mug before I left at 5:40 am. Being completely wired that early in the morning when the race starts 3 hours later is not necessarily a good thing.

I spent the next 80 minutes in the car talking to myself.

The race was a bit of a drive from the home. 80 minutes. Not necessarily a problem unless you get stuck behind a pick up truck within the first 3 miles. Needless to say I would not be passing a pick up truck from Michigan while driving a mini van with Illinois plates. This Illinois girl knows better than that!

It was a long drive but a lot of talking to myself, singing and yes, I arrived at the race ready for a nap. I had wore myself out!

I was doing a low key race. One that has been around for over 20 years. In fact, it was something like 10 years ago that I first did this race. What I love about this race is that it really hasn’t changed much in all those years. Years ago it was known as the race that advertised a 1.5 mile swim but when you got out of the water in 18 minutes you thought to yourself – huh. My swim training is going really well! Back then, no one had a GPS – you didn’t run to your friend after the race and say “was it long?” You swam, biked, ran the distance. Heck, we didn’t even have timing chips. Someone stood in transition with a clipboard and wrote down your time. Paper and a pencil.

Can you believe that?

The car was packed full of anything I could need for the race except…my race sherpa. You mean I have to carry my own gear? On race morning that is a risky thing. I forgot 3 things in the car on 3 separate occasions. I did a lot of walking. Finally I had my gear and rolled up to registration then rolled into transition.

The first thing I noticed was that I was the oldest person in my transition row by about 20 years. Turns out the local high school has a triathlon class. And the entire class was there. Along with the majority of the University of Michigan triathlon team. Between doing this race 10 years ago and being old enough to give birth to most of the athletes in my transition rack, I was wondering if I belonged in the grandmasters division.

Not only did I feel out of place but my bike looked ridiculous. A sleek, aero snob hanging out with a motley crew of mountain bikes, hybrids and the bike you borrowed from your parents when you told them you were taking a triathlon class.

Lucky for me – being solo and completely out-aged – one of my athletes was at the race. John, from Michigan, was a welcome face. While standing in transition, an out of breath, overexcited youngster runs up to us.

DO YOU KNOW HOW TO USE THIS THING?

He shoves a Garmin towards me. I explain to him that it first needs to locate satellites. Then you use it just like a watch.

I WANT TO USE IT SO I CAN HOLD A 6-FLAT PACE.

I tried to tell him that holding 6-flats on this course would be challenging. Then I remember I was talking to youth. They see no challenge. They are invincible. My mortal words were not even heard.

I’M FROM KALAMAZOO, I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.

Oh, to be 22 again.....

Thick fog on the lake left us delayed for about 30 minutes. In that time, John and I got into the water for a warm up swim. The water was a brisk 60 degrees. Which required about a 10 minute warm up to warming up. My first time in open water each year I have THAT moment. The moment of what the hell am I doing? How am I going to put my face into that? What if I drown/die/choke on the water that is …dip….ASS COLD! WHY DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS? Shortly thereafter I got over myself and swan back and forth a few times.

We waited what felt like forever. First they sent off the Olympic race. Then the duathletes. Then finally the sprint women. I lined up right at the front, next to the buoys. The gun went off.

And about 6 women bolted hard ahead of me.

YIPES!

It’s on! This is triathlon, wake up Fedofsky, WAKE UP! I keep the women in sight and somewhere around the second buoy, two of them fizzle and I pass them by. The other four women are a distance ahead but I just keep my eyes on them. The water – cold? – as often is the case, I didn’t even feel it. Once I got going I was so distracted by the effort I couldn’t even feel anything.

I exited the water, a long run into transition and then ready to bike.

The first 6 miles of the bike course were mostly downhill. I didn’t realize this at the time, I thought perhaps I got really fast in the last few weeks and could now sustain 28 mph. Alas, all downhills eventually flatten out and you realize you are not superhuman. You were just going down a really long hill.

The next 6 miles were mostly uphill. That might explain why I was going about…15.

Right when I got warmed up, the bike was over and I found myself again in transition. I had passed all but one woman on the bike and there she was. In transition.

She bolted out ahead of me and you know that moment when you get off your bike, start running and think: holy shit. You mean I have to run on these legs? Didn’t have it. All I saw was the girl. And I started hard charging for her.

As I inched closer to her, I noticed the age written in black Sharpie on her calf:

20.

Look again.

20
.

There comes a moment in every aging triathlete’s life, when they find themselves chasing what feels like a younger version of themselves. When they find themselves running behind a young girl, fresh, looking fantastic in a two piece race suit, a suit you wouldn’t even wear into the shower these days unless you first covered up the bathroom mirror. And in that moment, I did what any racing-age-36 woman would do.

I passed her. I let her dangle there for a bit. And then about 20 seconds later, I surged going uphill.

Yes, folks, I am now among the racing aged. Yet somehow this elderly body was able to keep pulling away on a course that can only be described as Xterra after a night of heavy, steady rains. Over hills, roots, trails, branches, through mud, stairs, bridges, singletrack, dirt road, pavement until finally at 3 miles into the run, when I looked over my shoulder and so no one for a really long way, I eased in the last .4 miles.

Winning is always a good feeling. But not as good as this kid was feeling. Remember the kid with the Garmin? He was in transition while I was cleaning up so I asked him how he did. He told me he had the race of his life. He finished second overall. He was only a few seconds behind first place. He had qualified for Nationals. He needed to find a phone so he could call his mom to tell her about it. He said this with so much excitement in his voice that it reminded me of why I love this sport again – because that moment, when you have the race of your life, you know you are hooked for life. We all remember when it happened to us. And I was watching it happen to this kid.

After the long drive home, this time talking to myself so I could stay awake, I arrived to find Chris geared up for his monster brick. I took over Max duties and while Max napped, I laid in bed trying to get my email to load. If I stood in the far east corner of the room while pointing the phone toward the sky I could actually get one bar of reception.

About 40 minutes later, the sky erupted in a violent storm. I went on a search and rescue mission for Chris and found him about 12 miles away riding in the pouring rain. I commanded him into the van. But the one thing I’ve learned about Chris is that if I hadn’t driven up, he probably still would have been riding. He would have done out and backs on a one mile stretch of road to get his ride in. There’s committed, there’s crazy and then there’s Chris.

About an hour later, I had a food meltdown until someone basically hand-fed me beef brisket until I stopped my whining. Here’s what I’ve learned about myself: I need food. I need meat, I need carbs, I need food. After I was sufficiently quieted by beef, the inclement weather caused us to head back to Chicago early but not without me demanding a stop at the Bass Pro shop in Portage, Indiana to get some fudge. Bass Pro has amazing selection of hunting gear but also delicious fudge. I’m not sure what those two things have in common but the fudge is so good I don’t need to ask.

Unfortunately, the fudge stand was closed on Sunday.

Back at home. A few more pushes until my next big race. I’m glad I raced this past weekend, I learned a few things: 1 – 60 degree water is really not that cold, 2 – my wetsuit still fits, 3 – these old legs still got it, and 4 – I wish I could still wear a two piece during a race.

But the wisdom of my old age has taught me to know better than that!