Thursday, August 23, 2012

Trifusion Hot Summer Nights #3

Reanna and Raelene Guerrero being
the amazing and fun volunteers that
they are. Photo by Rene.

The last of the Trifusion 5k series came and went, but not before setting a new participant record of 425. Roger Thompson had the music blaring during registration, which left Jayne, Emma, and me dancing behind the registration table as people walked up with their entries. Rockstar Energy Drinks and Spokane Chiropractic had tents set up to our right, situated behind the pile of free T-shirts. A total of 400 Twigs and Elements Massage Tech T-shirts were handed out to the first 400 participants. For those who missed out, some extra Ironman Coeur d’Alene T-shirts had been donated, essentially ensuring not a single person left last night without a shirt.

The stormy weather the day before yesterday made for a cool, pleasant night to run a 5k. I think I’ll thank the weather for a  faster-than-normal 5k time, as my day of training on the bike and brick run afterward surely didn’t help my already tired legs. My dad showed up to join me, as Bryan Rowe opted to take the night off to stick to his taper plan in preparation for Ironman Canada this Sunday. James Richman, our unofficial photographer, situated himself in all the right places to take some great pictures. Rene Guerrero and Jessi Thompson also captured some great participants and moments from last night.

Photo by Jessi Thompson. Thanks for the great picture!
If running/racing/jogging/walking a 5k wasn’t enough fun, then the festivities afterward sure made up for it. Participants hovered around the Milliseconds Timing board for fast and accurate results. Just behind the kiosk, fresh water, Rockstar Energy Drink, Otter pops, and Costco cookies awaited those who needed some refreshments. The sun dipped down behind the tops of the trees, which meant the distribution of the night’s awards, raffle items, and overall awards would soon follow.

Rounding the first turn as we make our way onto the course.
Photo by James Richman.
I stood behind the raffle table in complete amazement of all the prizes and giveaways our generous sponsors provided: Gift cards to Starbucks, Froyo, and iTunes from Johnson Orthodontics, Papa Murphy’s and Runner Soul gift cards, Ironman Perform drink, Powerbar and GU products and gift packs, tickets to the Spokane Symphony, gift cards to Twigs, a running gait analysis valued at $150 from Mike Lauffer at B&B Physical Therapy, two complementary entries to EWU’s Wild Moose Chase Trail Run, two 55-min massages at Elements Therapeutic Massage, and Brooks gift bags. This didn’t even include the overall prizes (those destined for the top 10 males and females who raced all 3 Hot Summer races). These included free shoes valued at $140 from KSwiss, free shoes from Brooks, more gift certificates to Starbucks and iTunes, Powerbar products, and cash.

There is perhaps nothing so challenging and painful than running all out for 15-25 minutes in order to race a decent 5k race, yet Trifusion has made an event where doing so truly is worth it. If you didn’t get a chance to race this year, I highly recommend it next year. All proceeds from this series help cover the costs associated with Trifusion’s Kids Triathlon held each year in June at Whitworth University. This is another community-oriented event, tailored to getting the younger generation involved and interested in the sport of triathlon.

Until next year, race safe and stay healthy! I hope to see you all around at future runs, races, and events.

A Hot Summer 5k wouldn't be complete
without a Costco cookie at the end.
Photo by Jessi Thompson.
Getting warmed up before the final race!
400 tech T-shirts, donated by Twigs and Elements didn't
last that long! Photo by Jessi Thompson.
Overall awards for the top 10 males and females of the
series. What you DON'T see are all the raffle giveaways
underneath the table.

Thank you to all our biggest sponsors and supporters!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another early morning: The Coeur d'Alene Crossing

An alarm clock that goes off at 4:30 in the morning for the second time in a row could mean several things. It could mean I’m waking up for work, I’m waking up to train, or I’m waking up to race. This morning, however, it meant I’d be jumping in Lake CDA (again) for a 2.4 mile swim. The Longbridge swim two weeks ago left me hungry for another, more successful attempt, at an open water swim. This 2.4 mile endeavor promised to give me just what I needed as I set my sights on Ironman CDA next June. So, just like yesterday morning, I hauled myself out of bed, got dressed, and ate a quick breakfast before meeting Jessi Thompson at our designated time.

Perfect morning for a swim!
We arrived at CDA golf course after a short detour. Apparently, you know you’ve missed your exit when you’re looking down on the place you’re supposed to be from a bridge hundreds of feet in the air. You know you’re in trouble when you see the next exit is 5 miles down the highway. Jessie’s orienteering skills were spot on this morning, as we flipped a quick u-turn to make the appropriate exit, only to find ourselves—once again—heading in the wrong direction. I only hoped this common thread wouldn’t continue as we tried to swim across the lake. Thankfully, we could only swim one direction—straight.

The gang: Martin Scates, Janine Fraser, Jen Polello, David Cole,
and Jessi Thompson (taking the picture). 
As the boat pulled away from the dock, I felt a little woozy. I’d been sipping on my GU Roctane drink, but decided to pull out the Ginger supplements Rosi Guerrero said she relied upon during some of her longer swims to calm any symptoms of an upset stomach. Jen Polello and I put our wetsuits on, and we soon arrived on Arrow Point to the beat of Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. The National Anthem was sung, and before we had a chance to take one last pee, the cannon marking our departure went off. We started right from the shore, so swimming through the docks to make our way out to the open water proved to be a bit of a scramble. I assumed it only slightly resembled what IM CDA would feel like, so I went along with it and tried to swim like I will 10 months from now. Holy crap…10 months.

Once on the boat, we listened to a safety briefing before
getting ready to swim. 
My goal for today’s swim revolved around staying calm and relaxed, finishing under an hour, 15 minutes, and keeping Jessi’s feet in my sight. Swimming out of the marina, fighting for position, it soon occurred to me I would have a hard time staying with anyone, let alone recognizing someone’s feet. Yet taking a breath to my right, there she swam, her #348 swim cap just above the water, nearly abreast with mine. She is the stronger swimmer with far more experience than myself. I dropped back and let her take the lead while I hovered around her feet. I bet you never knew your feet were so valuable, did ya, Jessi?

Several people tried to swim in between us, but like I said, no one would get in between those feet and me. Buoys delineated the course. Red buoys signified 2/10s of a mile distance, while the double yellow buoys signified the halfway mark. I skimmed over the water, grateful for the wake Jessi provided and the calm lake water itself. Kayaks and paddle boarders hovered around us, while those spectators who had accompanied us to Arrow Point rode the boat back to the golf course. I never checked our halfway split time, but I felt grateful those buoys appeared sooner than I anticipated. Compared to how I felt at this point at the Longbridge swim, I still had plenty of juice left in my arms. We just kept swimming.

By this time, I could feel another swimmer on my feet, giving me those little “love taps” that signified someone enjoyed my wake. They became pretty frequent, until they disappeared and I found her swimming alongside me. She wanted Jessi’s feet. I let her slip in between us, and we swam it in to the finish.

Standing up, I didn’t have that same queasy feeling I experienced after the Longbridge swim, I could see clearly (my contact still remained in my eye), and a nice lady handed me a popsicle stick with the number 25 and a corresponding time of 1:07 (or something close). Mission accomplished.

Martin Scates and Jen had already finished, so we still had yet to welcome Robin DeRuwe, Janine Fraser, and David Cole across the finish line. The boat upon which we had left all our bags dutifully dropped them back off at the dock. We cleaned up and headed over to our continental breakfast, comprised of fresh fruit, yogurt, bagels, pastries, Starbucks coffee, and juice. It behooved you to swim fast; as it turns out, the food—primarily the pastries—didn’t last long. You could choose from about four different varieties of yogurt (I counted), but I didn’t find a single bagel without a spot of mold (I checked). I opted for the bran muffin, while Martin chose the pastry.

All in all, I thought this inaugural event has promise to transform into an annual affair. The volunteers made the experience enjoyable, and the atmosphere felt inviting. The giveaways at the end were worth sticking around for, as several gift certificates, wine, massages, baskets, a one-night stay at the CDA Resort, and a nice looking beach cruiser bike—which Jen found herself taking home—were raffled away. My only recommendation for next year would be to lower the entry fee to attract more participants, make packet pick up available race-day morning to accommodate out-of-town racers, and freshen up the continental breakfast with something far better than moldy bagels. I look forward to next year, and I hope you’ll consider it, too.

Jen's new ride she won at the raffle giveaways! 

Jen and me attempting to make Kari feel guilty she didn't join us today. We missed you, Kari!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

CDA Scenic Challenge: It's just a cup of cheese

An alarm clock that goes off at 4:30 in the morning could mean several things. In the last couple of weeks, if it doesn’t mean I’m waking up for work, and if it doesn’t mean I’m waking up to train, it means I’m waking up to race. I’ll be honest. The last thing I wanted to do this morning was wake up to race. Yet I went through the motions and got myself out of bed, dressed, and into the kitchen for a quick piece of toast. The car door slammed shut before I even knew I had the car started, and I was on my way to Coeur d’Alene for the Scenic Challenge Olympic Triathlon.

I arrived to find some of the racks already filled, and the volunteers looked far too excited to mark my body considering 6am hadn’t even arrived yet. Last year, I remember walking to the water’s edge to see the buoys planted so far out in the horizon I didn’t think I’d make it out. So I avoided looking at the water. Instead, I nestled my transition gear between two bikes racked on the last rack before the bike exit. Then I went to look at the water. I couldn’t help it.

Photo by Bryan Rowe. I wish I remember what we were talking
about, but I don't.
The water looked better than it did last weekend, driving over to the starting line for the Longbridge swim. The buoys? They looked just as far out in the water as they did a year ago, but this time, I had two half IM distance triathlon swims to reassure me that, Yes, I have covered that distance, and yes, you will return to shore on top of the water, not below.

Really. Who wouldn't want to wake up at 4:30am so they could jump in
with all these other hooligans at 7 o'clock in the morning? Photo by
James Richman.

When triathlon is concerned, time flies fast. Before I knew it, 6:30a had already passed, and my brand new BlueSeventy wetsuit still lay folded in its very own wetsuit bag. Bryan Rowe hollered at me to ask if I’d even put it on yet. Yes, Bryan, it fits. In fact, last night I humored my parents by struggling into a wetsuit that did a better job of “gripping” than slipping over my sweaty body. I got the last laugh, however, listening to them go back and forth about how to go about zipping me up.

Photo by Bryan Rowe. Thank you, Robin and Fitness Fanatics,
for outfitting me with my new BlueSeventy wetsuit.
Compared to last night, it slid over my tri suit without a hitch, and felt pretty cool as it carried me over the warm water of Lake CDA. I’ve never felt so buoyant, and I was able to cling onto the bubbles of a nice guy ahead of me, slicing our way past each buoy until we rounded the final giant yellow balloon to race to the shore. This year, I clipped off nearly 3 minutes from my swim time last year, chasing Annie Warner, who left me 6 minutes in her wake.

James captured a great moment, one
where my wetsuit actually IS coming off
without a struggle. It may have taken an entire
season, but I now have a wetsuit that goes on
and comes off the way it's supposed to.
If entering transition doesn’t leave you with a high heart rate, then cycling out of CDA does. I looked down at my Timex for verification, but my heart rate monitor had failed to show up to the party. I rode by feel, and quite frankly, I didn’t need a heart rate monitor to tell me my rate of perceived exertion fell right in the middle of “Balls to the walls.” I pedaled with as much control as I could, and aimed to hit Higgins Point before Roger Thompson could catch me (he started 10 minutes behind me). The Thompson and Gallagher cheer squad cheered me onward, propelling me forward to start the climbs this scenic challenge is known for.

Roger caught me, but not until I had turned at Higgins and started up the first hill on Yellowstone Trail Road. He flew by me like I was spinning endlessly on my trainer, and I didn’t see him again until he was flying home as I was heading out on the run. A few riders jostled for position and managed to evade the nice USAT official who drove by several times on her motorbike. No, I did not draft, but I watched others try to do it, however much drafting would really help as we’re scaling a 2.5mile hill with a grade of 3.5% (Thanks Mapquest.)

I reached the top of the first of many hills, only to have that big silver Sequoia filled with Trifusion teammates appear from my backside, the cheers and “Go Meghans!” urging me forward. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as slowing to spin my legs out sounded far more appealing. Yet I knew Emma was peering at me through the back window, and to slow for a little fatigue wouldn’t have been acceptable—not to triathlon’s biggest cheerleader.

The corner I nearly flew through last year to end up on the opposite side of the road, into the woods, didn’t pose as great a challenge this time around. The hill that came right after it did. The hill after that did, too. At some point I managed to find the cul-de-sac that designated the turn-around, and I could only think how much better the volunteer would have done if he’d actually have been inside the cones, right in the middle, dancing to some music as we cycled around him. Kind of like a merry-go-round, ya know? I suppose there’s always next year, and I do know the Race Director pretty well…

Photo by James Richman. At this point, I only hoped my GU Roctane I'd
gulped down during the ride would help carry my tired legs through the
final 10k. It turns out: It did.
The chip seal the city laid a couple of weeks ago, the rough road that left quite a few participants concerned and upset, didn’t make for that rough of a ride. I still reached at least 40mph, despite clinging to my handlebars and praying nonstop. The last 5 miles to transition seemed like the longest, but I turned one of the last few corners to see James Richman with his camera (I wiped some snot from my face in the hopes his big, fancy lens wouldn’t catch it). I rounded the final turn and concentrated pretty hard on unstrapping my shoes so I’d be ready to hop off at the Dismount line. I dismounted my bike just as I’d practiced, thinking I’d performed it pretty smoothly, only to have my left shoe come unclipped and fall to the ground. After reclaiming my shoe, I couldn’t help but feel grateful I didn’t trip and land on my butt instead.

My Timex still had my pace, and I looked down to see I’d ran the first mile under 7 minutes. The first aid station provided me water, which I sipped, then threw over my back. Roger met me at the mile 2 mark (his mile 5), and I started thinking maybe I could beat my run time from last year. The Thompson-Gallagher clan had found me again, and Emma’s voice, “Come ON Meghan, you GOT THIS,” could only mean I looked like I needed some serious motivation. She was right. My footfalls fell a little heavier, and my pace had slowed to 7:20s. Seriously Meghan, you’ve got an entire team here for you. PUSH it.

The turn around, mile 4, then mile 5. Jayne Anderson crossed paths with me, cheering me homeward with our own little mantra for the day, “It’s just a cup of cheese!” (Don’t ask. All I know is on our way to packet pick up yesterday, she’d meant to convince me this Olympic race was going to be, “Just a cup of tea” compared to the half IM distances we’ve raced this past year. It was unexpected yesterday, and yes, just as funny today. Only today, I could only smile and suck wind.)

Photo by Bryan Rowe. Home stretch.
Bryan met me at the turn into the park, the same place my dad stood last year. He told me I was 3rd woman (if you didn’t count all the 40+ women who had started 10 minutes after me.) Then, my fellow PT Cruiser, Kari Budd, urged me forward on that last homestretch. For some reason, the only thing I could think to say was, “I’m peeing my pants!” She claims she didn’t quite understand what I said, which makes sense now, because I finished the race wondering what the heck she meant when she said, “That’s okay, just wait to do it at the finish!” Wait to do it at the finish?!?! Sure Kari, I’ll do it for the announcer, the spectators, and the cameramen.

Finally! A photo finish (minus the peeing my
pants part, but you can't see that). My torso is
straight, my midfoot strike still intact. Thank you
for all the great pictures, James!
I finished in a time 3 minutes faster than when I crossed the line last year, and it appears those three minutes were made up for during my swim, as my bike and run times were nearly identical to my splits from last year, if not seconds slower. I raced to a first place age group finish, and unlike last year, finished a little higher in the women’s overall standings behind just six faster ladies. I suppose now that I’m done, I’m glad I gave in to that alarm clock and raced today. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to do it tomorrow, when I will embark on the inaugural 2.4mile CDA Crossing swim. My friends think it will be a great recovery swim. I’m thinking so, too, because I fully predict I’ll be floating those 2.4miles.

My Ironlady, Jayne. Her second triathlon in just a little over a
week, she's coming back after a long racing hiatus. Look out!
Photo by Bryan Rowe.
Thank you to:
  • All the friends and spectators who came out to scream my name from the sidelines. I wish I had more energy to show my thanks in the moment, but please know that my wave and smile mean I heard you, appreciate you, and thank you for your motivation!
  • James Richman, Bryan Rowe, and Mike Winnet for the pictures and cheering today. It's so much fun to go back and enjoy the race through your eyes, when I'm sitting at home, clean, and ready for a nap.
  • GU Roctane. I entered the run in last year's race with not much left in me to finish feeling strong. (In fact, my dad did point out I looked a little tired on our drive home). This bike course leaves your legs fried, and the nutrition I took in on the course was what made this time around much more enjoyable. 
  • Scott Ward, Across the Line Timing, and all the directors and volunteers on the course. This is by far one of my favorite races, and all of you contribute to make this race what it is. 
One last note:

This may seem unnecessary, but as a physical therapy student, I feel compelled to encourage ANY of you who read this and thought, "Hey, I pee my pants sometimes, too!" to go seek physical therapy. The inability to hold urine is NOT normal, even with increased exertion. For those of you wondering, "Why, then, do you, a physical therapy student, who knows this is not normal, still suffer from this weakness?" I am currently working on my strengthening exercises...while I study, while I complete my assignments, and while I practice my physical therapy skills. And while I drive. Yes, even when I brush my teeth. The message? I'm working on it. For those of you, who, after getting this far are laughing so hard you have tears coming out of your eyes, go laugh a little harder, until you pee your pants, and realize it's no laughing matter. And finally, for those of you who have held it up until this point, you've done your exercises for the day. Thank you for reading this far, and I strongly urge you to go use the bathroom now.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hot Summer Night #1

Still feeling good, hence the smile.
Race Results by Milliseconds Timing can be found here: Hot Summer Night 5k #1

For those of you who haven’t yet joined us for a Hot Summer Night, you wouldn’t believe what you’re missing: The heat. The sweat. The hurt. The shortness of breath. The cookies and otter pops at the finish line. The music. The dancing. And the raffle prizes. Ohhhhhh the raffle prizes.

Every August, the Trifusion Triathlon team puts on a 5k race series like no other. For a measly $5, you get a legitimate 5k-race opportunity, chip-timed finish time by Milliseconds, unguarded access to those humongous Costco cookies, and pretty decent odds of walking away with a raffle prize worth more than your $5 entry fee. These aren’t just the typical water bottles, bags, and oversized T-shirts kind of swag. Here’s a list of some of last night’s prizes:
  •         $10 gift cards to iTunes
  •         $25 gift cards to Starbucks
  •         Free 60 minute massages to Elements Therapeutic Massage
  •         Two tickets to the Spokane Symphony
  •         Countless boxes of Powerbar products
  •         $25 gift cards to Runners Soul
  •         $10 gift cards to Froyo
  •         Contributions from B&B Physical Therapy
  •         Free pizza from Papa Murphy’s Pizza
  •         Boxes of GU gels and water bottles
  •         Comp entries to future races and events

There had to have been at least 50 prizes given away, and last night was only the first night in a series of three 5k events to be held the next two Wednesday nights in August. If the cookies from Costco aren’t enough to satisfy your hunger after the event, Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar has plenty of food just a short walk from the start/finish line.

Aubree and Mike Winnet.
Jodi Davis-Suter and Jayne Anderson.
Some of the fastest ladies out there!
I had the opportunity to race last night with some pretty nice guys, my dad and Bryan Rowe. We set out to run 7 minute miles, and thanks to the two of them, I crossed the finish line at a sub-7 minute pace. Every time I race these things, I think about how fun this is. That feeling is probably the strongest the hour preceding the actual run and the 15 minutes after my gut-wrenching finish. The only problem with these events is they attract some of the best competition Spokane has to offer. The participants are dotted with the dark blue Swift and red and white SDP jersies. Last night’s top finishers, Josh Hadway for the men and Danielle Slaughter for the women, cruised through the finish chute with smiles on their faces (captured by the great photography by James Richman, an incredible athlete himself.)

Spokane Distance Project Runners (aka FAST!)
With competition like this, it’s hard for me to go out and enjoy myself with an easy run. Rene Guerrero strategically positions himself about ¾-mile into the course to take pictures of us still flying high as a kite. For me, mile 2 rolls around, and I feel like I’d rather just hunker down at the aid station and call it a night. In fact, I remember telling Adam Little at the corner of Hastings and Mill, “This hurts.” Thankfully, he simply smiled and motioned me onward like he didn’t hear what I said.

James Richman captures the "hurt"
at the very end.
This course wouldn’t be a legitimate course if it didn’t include a hill, and what a hill you have. It comes just after mile 2, when your legs burn and your lungs already feel as though they will burst. By this point, both Bryan and my dad had inched out ahead of me. It took all my “girl power,” if you will, to keep up with them. My dad clearly had no sympathy, as he burst up that dang hill, passing people left and right as though they stood still. He does that to me on the bike, too. We made it up and over, running down the final hill to the last tenth of a mile homestretch. Bryan and I sprinted a 5:39minute/mile pace through the chute, and I proceeded to gasp for air as I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t have asked for two better guys to push me to the finish. My time of 21:25 hardly comes close to my best time of 20:03 at last year’s final Hot Summer race. Yet when I consider the hill repeats I did early that morning on the bike, followed by the crazy swim set I swam with Jessi Thompson and Tiffany Byrd, I think I’ll take that time and run with it…until next Wednesday night.

With a smile like that, you know these races are worth coming out for!

Thanks to our sponsors, volunteers, and photographers (James Richman and Rene Guerrero):

Monday, August 6, 2012


I stared at a blank screen for quite awhile before I could start this sentence. It’s hard to pin down a good place to start my review of a race that left me smiling ear-to-ear for the better part of an afternoon and evening. Triathlon is an interesting sport. Essentially, each competitor is left to battle a race for himself. You may swim with a group of people, but you’re fighting for position and praying the guy next to you doesn’t thwack you in the head. You can’t draft off the guy’s wheel in front of you. You can’t assume your place coming off the bike is solidified as you run, jog, walk, or crawl your way in that final leg to the finish line.

Jen Polello and me getting everything in order before the start.

Photo by Bryan Rowe. My mentor and good friend, Craig Thorsen,
 thought I might need to wear my helmet if I was to warm
up on the trainer alongside him. I don't ask questions. I do as I'm told.

Photo by Bryan Rowe. Pre-race with teammates Craig
Thorsen, Jayne Anderson, Mike Winnet, and Jarod Crooks.

Swimmer and biker of Team PT Cruisers. We let the runner
sleep in a little longer. 

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to compete in Troika for someone other than myself. For those who don’t know, I’m still (yes, it’s been a long haul) in graduate school, pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at EWU. My class is blessed with some pretty amazing athletes, two of whom I rallied to form a team. Kari Budd is quite possibly one of the best swimmers around this area. I have friends who can only stop and observe as they try to find a lane to swim in at Witter pool. I’ve had the opportunity to join her for a few swims. We may be swimming in the same lane, but it would be inaccurate to say I’m swimming “with” her. I’ve spent that last 4-5months analyzing her stroke, attempting to emulate the same movements and hand placements she uses to propel herself so gracefully through the water. Five months later, I don’t even come close.

Photo by James Richman. Kari Budd exiting the water, right
alongside Annie Warner. 
Danielle Slaughter, also a Class of 2013 PT student and friend, is a phenomenal runner. She ran in high school, college, and continues to train with the Swifts and her fiancĂ©e, Kyle Lampi, whom she credits for making her faster. Again, I’ve joined her for trail runs through Riverside State Park, but only managed to keep up with her on her long, slow days. In fact, I remember coming to school one morning to find her in the locker rooms, explaining how she just ran 21 miles at sub-7min/mile pace.

Photo by Shelly Moss. I wish I looked that comfortable
in 90-degree heat, running sub-7min/mile pace.
I suppose I don’t have to explain, then, why I thought these two ladies would make a great team. John Martinek provided us with a team name, PT Cruisers, and we were all set to be the “Dream Team” of Troika 2012. Yet Spokane has some pretty amazing athletes, and the Jackson 3 all-female team (Annie Warner, Lora Jackson, and Jodi Davis-Suter) gave the PT Cruisers some hefty competition, a challenge that, yesterday, made us all work twice as hard as we would have had we not had the competition that we did. In fact, all the ladies of Jackson 3 are incredibly strong. I don’t know anyone who can beat Annie in the water (Annie could have raced the bike and run portions, too, and probably kicked anyone’s butt). Lora is one of the strongest cyclists and runners I know of in the area. And Jodi? Just last March she set a course record at the Snake River Half Marathon.

To see Annie Warner and Kari Budd scale that grassy hill after exiting the water at the same time took me by surprise. In a time of 25:32, they had both swam 1.2miles, beating most of the men who started 5 minutes before them. Jumping on my bike, Lora and me exited T1 at the same time, and while we jostled for position in the first half mile, I couldn’t hang with her after that. I knew, going into this race, that my contribution to the team would be to keep the gap between Lora and me as small as possible in order to ensure Danielle had a chance to catch Jodi and hopefully overtake her. Coming back into Medical Lake after cycling the loop around Clear Lake, Bryan Rowe informed me I was a minute, 10 seconds behind Lora. Seeing my heart rate hover in Zone 4 made me nervous. A part of me wanted to try to settle down to ensure I had enough left for the finish, but I was reminded by the fact that I had two other teammates to race for, and Kari had just busted her butt to stay with Annie. Nope, I had 56 miles ahead of me, and I’d ride them gasping for air, my heart about to burst, so Danielle would have a chance.

Photo by James Richman. Here, I'm trying to keep Lora
in sight, but she's quickly eluding me.
James Richman rode alongside me in his shiny Harley to not only keep me informed of my position, but to take pictures as well. All I wanted to do was hop off my bike and jump onto the back of his. I could picture myself tucked behind him, lookin’ fast with my aero helmet, on top of a Harley. Unfortunately, today was not the day. My QRoo got me through the course crash-free, and my nutrition, provided by GU Roctane drink and gels is probably what got me from T1 and T2 at the rate I was pushing on the bike.

Photo by James Richman. If I remember correctly, I'm just
getting up to the top of a hill. That stretch was a tough one!
The descent down Four Mounds hill, at 46mph, gave me that added “boost” to finish up and get to the finish line. Having ridden Aubrey White so many times before, and being familiar with the hill near the Spokane Fitness Club, the home stretch never felt so good. I didn’t have to run after this, so I let it all out, just as Craig Thorsen said I better do. I came in over two minutes behind Lora to see Danielle waiting for me so she could start her run. I let her take the timing chip, and then I went over to the grass so I could collapse.

Photo by Shelly Moss. My teammates enjoying themselves
while I haul my butt to T2.
Photo by Bryan Rowe. Coming down the homestretch. I have no
other way to describe those 56 miles as being anything other than painful,
yet exhilarating. I've never pushed myself so hard for so long. Thanks
Photo by Shelly Moss. Kari- "That was awesome!"
Me- "That hurt."
She did it. Danielle ran herself to a 1:23:40 half marathon finish time to carry the PT Cruisers to a successful finish. I don’t think any of us would have worked so hard, pushed ourselves that much, had we not had the competition from Jackson 3. All the PT Cruisers finished in times faster than we had predicted, and we only have Annie, Lora, and Jodi to thank for that.

Photo by Shelly Moss. Danielle's time was 1:23:40.
Photo by Shelly Moss. PT Cruisers united!
Top team overall, with a time of 4:26:37.

What a day. I have so many people to thank for the support and pictures (James Richman, Shelly Moss, and Bryan Rowe). Thank you to Scott Ward and his entire family and crew for putting on this race. For those who don’t know, all entry fees go to a charity Scott designates each year. Local triathletes are blessed to have a race where the support of Spokane gives competitors a chance to race with friends, family, and teammates close by. 

Finally, thank you Kari and Danielle. I couldn't have asked for a better day, not because we won, but because I found myself on your team, racing for some pretty amazing ladies.

Photo by Shelly Moss.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Longbridge Swim, Sandpoint, ID

The skies looked clear, the temperatures mild, the water smooth. I'd never walked into Sandpoint, ID under clear, sunny skies, and I couldn't help but feel a little excited swimming my first true open water swim. I met Bryan Rowe and Jayne Anderson for a quiet ride into Sandpoint, where we met Janine Fraser. She had thoughtfully picked up our packets for us, knowing the lines may get long by the time we arrived. I recognized a handful of people, some of whom I knew through triathlon, others from the pool, and still others from school. To be in a crowd filled with incredible swimmers made me feel a little overwhelmed, but I had decided to treat this swim as nothing more than a swim. It would be like swimming two laps around Bear Lake. Nothing more.

Picture by Jayne Anderson, our event photographer and cheer-
leader. Bryan Rowe, myself, Virginia Knight, and Janine
Fraser enjoy the sunshine during the safety meeting.
After the safety meeting and national anthem, the group of us Longbridge swimmers raced toward the 18 school busses that were to serve as our shuttles to the race start like. Rosi Guerrero had recommended I try to seat myself on one of the first few busses in order to be in the water in time for the start. Bryan and I ended up on the third bus, but it took a little work. I crawled under bus two and three because the drivers had sandwiched them so close together so only the skinniest of swimmers could fit. Bryan fit. Now that I think about it, I may have, too, but Jessi Thompson had graciously allowed me to borrow her BlueSeventy wetsuit, and the last thing I wanted to do was rip it. No, the last thing I wanted to do was explain to her HOW I ripped it.

We started between the bridge and someone's house. Thank
you to those homeowners who allowed us access to the water
through your backyard!
We crossed over the bridge that I would soon be swimming alongside and looked over the water. I kept telling myself, Just two laps around Bear Lake. The distance may have been more accurate than the water conditions. Water temperature good; halfway into the swim: Water conditions choppy. Bryan and I started with the group in the water, so our sendoff was marked by the bullhorn. All I remember, though, was the 10-second countdown. I managed to avoid flopping arms and lethal kicks, but I felt as though I had launched myself into someone's blender. It became quite clear, quite quickly, that my idea of "open water swimming" in Bear Lake contrasted sharply to what Ironman CDA's swim would feel like. Just past the 1/2-mile mark, I got a taste of it, too. Literally. I swallowed/inhaled/gulped a wave, and it nearly felt like a punch to the gut. I quickly rolled over to cough/splurge/choke it all out, but it took several more strokes to get my arms, head turns, and breathing back into sync. It one thing to try to breath, but it's an entirely different experience when you have to breath, watch for the next "big one," and try to burp all at one time. For the next mile, all I wanted to do was burp. No such luck.

I'd like to say I was intentionally looking up to Jayne for
this picture, as I can't believe how far over I am rotated.
All I can think is I was doing everything I could to keep from
swallowing even more water. That first mouthful didn't taste
that good.
I made it to the other side in a time of 53:41, 88th out of the water. I didn't really have a goal set, but I will say my unofficial goal was to come in under an hour as one of the first 100 finishers. It took me about a half a mile to feel like I was actually doing more than struggling with the water. When I finally went from horizontal to vertical, that bubble in my stomach left me with an incredible urge to vomit. Or burp. Yet I couldn't do either. All I could do was imagine Ironman: to swim even further and then attempt to hop on my bike. Not just hop on it. Ride it. I've got some work to do.

I also need to figure out my contact situation. Just like at Lake Stevens, everything in my left field of vision appeared blurry. I asked my classmate, Kari Budd, (who, by the way, finished 17th overall) if she could see it. Nope. Nothing there. And then it hit me: Look in your goggles! Sure enough. I know my friends had tried to explain that was a stupid place to store it in Lake Stevens, but apparently I decided to do the same here. It was tucked securely onto the lens of my goggles. Brilliant.

Tomorrow I join my fellow classmates, Kari Budd (swimming) and Danielle Slaughter (running), as the cyclist in our Troika team. Look out for us, as we'll be the PT Cruisers out on the course!