Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bouncing Buns 6K 6/20/15: Evening out those tan lines

Running in the nude wasn't really a thought that ever really crossed my mind for an actual race.  I'd done it in college (spraining my ankle in the process) while streaking the frat across the street from mine as was tradition at the end of "hell week," but I'd seen this race advertised by PCS before and it intrigued me.  I almost signed up for it last year but chickened out and signed up for a different race.  Running buck naked for an extended period of time, and sober, was a bit outside my comfort zone and leaving that zone is something I challenge myself to do more and more frequently.  So I said "screw it" and signed up.

For a while leading up to the race I was a mix of excited and nervous but the prospect of bailing wasn't an option.  I was committed. 

I arrived with a bit of wonder about how this all goes down.  Is there a transition area for us clothes wearers to cross, like a checkpoint?  Do I park and just strip and get on with the day?  Yeah, pretty much.  That's how it goes.  There's no transition period at a nudist camp.  You are either clothed or not- pretty straight forward.  I rolled in through the gate to Sunny Rest Resort, greeted by a friendly "guard" and up into the camp.  I parked up near the starting area, lined with campsites and RV's of the semi-permanent residents, a few milling about with their morning coffee, preparing to watch the road portion of the race, which they seemed excited to see as it's been an annual race for several years.  

The crowd was what I'd expected: about 80% dudes.  And people of all running ability.  So basically, a cross section of a sports bar that just happened to be naked.  I wasn't expecting the playboy mansion and I was here for a race, anyway.

I was curious if I'd see any familiar faces at the race.  I did.  I saw the Pretzel City duo of Ron and Helene.  "Nice to see you!" said Helene.  I laughed and said, "Yeah!  All of me, right?!"  I returned to my car to drop off my race goodies and my clothes.

The race T.  Probably will wear this out often.
I have a habit of arriving early to races.  I passed the time easily sliding into a conversation nearby with other first-timers.  All of us in the same semi-awkward polite conversation about running sans clothes and the usual where-ya-from banter.

Race time rolled around and Ron gathered us up for a typical PCS race course preview and we were lined up to race off.  I saw a few fast looking racers so I claimed a spot in the 2nd row.  Oddly, everyone gives each other a lot more breathing room in area behind the starting line, respecting each other's ultra-personal space.

Wearing only my Garmin, socks and my New Balance 810's, I chased the first 5 or 6 runners through the first half mile of the course before we split off onto trails.  Much of it flat or downhill, I slowed myself seeing I was working on a 6-minute first mile, FAR faster than I'd expected or wanted.  Staying close to the lead pack, I drifted back so I could survive any climbs and the last few miles.
Splits and map of the course
A few runners started overtaking me and I tried to keep up.  I had exerted too much too early.  I swear, I'll never learn.  I was run/walking hills knowing I had likely dropped out of my age group for an award.  I did my best to move forward and finish as strong as I could.  I hammered through the last part of the race and coming in much later than I'd hoped but in 19th place.  Not too bad.
Strava's race analysis. Mile 3 was rough.

Strategically placed Garmin to remain family-friendly

Some resident's sweet little golf cart for zipping around the resort.
I refueled with some Hammer Recoverite and some of the snacks available at the finish line and waited for the race to end and enjoy a beer and the awards ceremony.  I was hopeful I was still up there, but doubtful.

Sunny Rest Resort has a pool area which seems like the main hub of the camp.  A large pool, dominated by a pretty intense water volleyball game was going on, a beach volleyball court was next to the pool, a large hot tub off in the corner and a large bar opposite a night club and restaurant.  I rewarded myself with a beer and waited for the awards while a live band tuned up.  The place was pretty fun.  I really wish I'd placed because the trophy is pretty sweet.  Next year...
I'm sticking around for karaoke next time
Maybe next year, anyway.  It was a lot of fun, I'd do it again if my wife lets me next year.  Or if she joins me!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sly Fox Fox Trot 5K 5/30/15: Way cool race and party

I found the Fox Trot on one of my go-to race sites, Pretzel City Sports.  They manage and time the race and did an awesome job as usual.  There are also a few other brewery-themed runs I'm pursuing on which, linked to this event, are on the check list for next year.  Sly Fox makes great beer.  I needed to get a few races and short 5K's on the calendar so it worked out well.  Plus with a food truck festival, band and beer, it's a no-brainer.

It's been a fairly unproductive training and racing year so far, what with a job this year and all... So I was very interested to see how I'd do with a sub-20 goal and sufficiently recovered from the Nashville half.  I felt great and ready to rock so I was pretty pumped.  Kristen was racing after a spinning class that same morning so I was impressed with her ambition.

I had no strategy for this race; I'd just do my best to hold a pace around 6:30 and cruise.  One may argue that is a strategy but it's a simple one.

Being a later race, starting at 11, it was already really warm by the gun time but not too bad, probably around 75.  We took off, I was as about 5 rows back and after clearing a few human hurdles, was chasing the lead pack about 10 back.  I clocked a 6:16 after one and tried to maintain the pace I had at the end of that first mile, right at 6:30/mi.  It's taken me a while to understand what certain paces really feel like and know within a pretty small range, where I am, within about 10 seconds per mile.  It's been a while since I focused on it and it needs to be a part (requirement) of my training regimen.

At about halfway I could feel my speed decreasing and other runners started passing by.  I challenged myself to chase them and overtake but most had the legs to keep going steadily while I slowly dropped back.  I regained a few spots on a long and relatively easy climb to the finish but I wasn't breaking 20.  I crossed the finish, saw the RD, Ron Horn, and he said I was about 24th.  Disappointed with my 21:07, I waited for Kristen and our friends Shasta and Andrew and we met at our rendezvous spot by a food truck and grabbed our race swag.  Sweet Sly Fox glasses and a free beer.

The line looks horrifyingly long but the Sly Fox champs at the beer tent slayed it.
The post race sauce in a pretty cool can-shaped glass.
The food truck options were pretty awesome.  We tried a few but being cashless, we were limited to a few that took credit cards.  Perhaps a blessing in disguise because we landed on these parfaits from the truck Sum Pig:
Ridiculousness in a cup.  Collards, pulled pork, corn, mashed potatoes and bbq sauce.  And an umbrella for flair.  If it wasn't too late, I'd serve these and these only at our upcoming wedding.
These growler prices!  They're giving it away!  Support your local brewery.
We soaked in the sun a little while and made our way home to clean up and get back to town for a BBQ with some friends.

The event was awesome.  I will certainly go back and plan to stay all day to enjoy more of the activities and food that Sly Fox has to offer like the drinking games everywhere and pay a visit to the Manatawny Still Works across the street.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Country Music Half Marathon 4/25/15 - First Race-Vacation

This past weekend I ran the Country Music (part of the Rock'n'Roll race series) Half Marathon in Nashville.  This trip was randomly planned about 6 months ago on a random Saturday morning when Kristen and I woke up and thought we'd just find a cool place to go and squeeze in a race.  I have no idea how Kristen came up with this one but I loved the idea and we booked the race and flights for a long weekend in a new city we'd never visited before.  We submitted estimated race times and I landed on 1:36.  Yep, 1:36.  With 6 months to train, how could I NOT hold a low-7 minute/mile pace?  If I'm anything, it's aggressive with goals, and also, kinda dumb.

We invited a few friends and family, my sister took us up on the idea, and she met us in Nashville coming from Birmingham, AL.  It would be the Skutch kids' first half marathon- a big deal.  I was a little envious of her only having a 4-hour drive to Music City but our flight was so easy, direct from PHL, Nashville will certainly become a repeat visit.  Hotels were pretty booked and fairly pricey.  We wound up also booking our first Airbnb lodging.  It was relatively close to downtown, reasonably priced and we hoped for the best.

While we were both a little stressed about getting work done leading up to our trip, we were ecstatic about getting out of town for 5 days.  We flew out early Friday and took a bus from the airport straight to packet pick up and the expo.  Nothing remarkable but we did find a few tables where we could pick up some race nutrition in the form of Gu gels packs.  Not my go-to but not a big deal.  Leaving the expo we found lunch downtown on a roof deck and walked down Broadway to get an idea of what that was like.  Easy to see the nickname Nashvegas and could instantly picture it filled with weekenders and bachelor/bachelorette parties.  We then found a bus easily took us directly to our Airbnb where we met our host and dropped off our luggage.  The place was a small studio apartment but had everything we'd have expected from an extended stay hotel.  It was a little small for 4 people but very comfortable.
First cocktail of the trip.  OK by me!
Not content to "rest up" like some kind of sissy, we made our way to sight see and bar hop on 12th Ave nearby our apartment.  It was full of awesome restaurants, boutique shops, music shops and a pretty great-smelling bbq restaurant.  We figured we'd found our pre-race bbq as has been our tradition the last 2 years' big April races we'd done.  By the time my sister had arrived, the bbq line was out the door so we opted for another place up the road, ate, drank, enjoyed, wrapped up early and hit bed.

Avoiding the bus schedule, we took an Uber cab to the starting area, hit the bathrooms and hung out at the Frist St Baptist Church right by the starting line.  It was there, where we snapped our pre-race pictures and I discovered my Garmin had been drained.  I never realized how reliant I had been on my Garmin until that moment.  After the initial devastation, I considered the idea that I would be fine without it.  I may not get credit from Strava for the April half marathon challenge but, who cares?  I did want the ability to check in on my pace but what else would I really need it for?  I knew my corral was going to be fast so my goal was to not keep pace with them.  Fantastically simple.  I did also know my 6-month old goal time was improbable and my new goal was to aim for 1:45: 8-minute miles.  I thought this was a bit of a reach but as the race approached, I gained confidence.
Prerace shot with future wifey.

My sister and her boyfriend, real troopers for driving up and turning in great first 1/2 marathons!
I was in corral #2, right behind the elite guys, probably 2 corrals up from where I should've been but I spied in the crowd pacers holding target signs.  Finding the "1:45" pacer not far behind my corral I knew I could just try pace myself with the course clocks and stay ahead of them.  If they caught me and I could keep up, I'd just be a few minutes behind my goal.  There were nearly 40 corrals of about 1000 runners each.  Kristen was in 11, I knew my sister and her boyfriend were in the 30's so I'd have some me-time at the finish line.  We said our goodbyes and the race was on.  For me, anyway.  They got to wait like another hour.

I really enjoyed the first couple miles.  They were effortless and I was finding I really did know an automatic 8-minute pace.  The challenge began keeping it after mile 5.  At about half way, the 1:45 pace group caught me and I kept with them for a short while and let them go.  I was already disappointed in my race and still had a while to go.

The course was awesome, the weather was also perfect.  Beautiful neighborhoods of Nashville and almost constant cloud cover and pretty cool.  A stark contrast to the forecast the week prior: 82 and 100% chance of thunderstorms.

I enjoyed the course, those cheering, the volunteers and was extremely happy to see the course split for 1/2 runners to turn right and the full marathoners to turn left.  A few miles to go and I plodded along slowly and tried to make that last mile count and stay under 2:00.  I knew I was close to the 1:56 pace group so it was still a real goal.  A turn onto a bridge, a long straightaway where the crowd began to roar (I thought to cheer me on but really to cheer a dude in his 70's as he passed me) and a final left turn and I finished at 2:01:53.  I was happy with my run, unhappy with my training and my goal planning.  But the race was over so... whatever!

Nashville is an awesome city.  We spent the duration of the trip packing in some great sightseeing, eating, drinking and unavoidably, music.  Here's some random crap we saw:
After visiting, I have enough proof to believe it does exist

We visited a church on Sunday and their band was fantastic!

There's like 10 of these at any given time in downtown Nashville.  100% of them are bachelorette/bachelor parties.

A find in the country music hall of fame.  If my car needs 2 things, it's steer horns and a pistol on the hood.

More excellent live music.  This guy played a solo show and I immediately bought all his music. 
Reflection selfie on a globe.  It's no Chicago bean but it's cool.

Someone thought it would be cool to build a full size Parthenon for the city.  Why not?

I can't remember why I took this.  Who cares?
I would absolutely recommend running this race or just visiting the city.  Can't wait for the next race vacation!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Celtic Solstice 5 miler & Patterson Park Beer Mile 12/13/14

I've been lazy with my race reports so here's a bit of a late recap of our second effort at back to back races we did in 2013.  We really liked the Celtic Solstice 5 miler, especially the awesome race swag so we signed up again.  This year's swag was an awesome Brooks running jacket with the race logo, worth the $80 signup fee for a 5-miler.  Behold:

Back design of the  jacket
We had Adam pick up our race packets early since we wouldn't get to Baltimore late Friday night.  All we had to do was show up and run this year which was nice.  The weather was nearly identical to 2013's event- somewhere well below freezing.  We arrived with plenty of time to park and get to the starting line and stand around in the cold among the thongs of 3000+ runners. 

I wished Kristen good luck and Adam, our friend Jeff Damiano and I worked our way to the front of the herd.  We started about 10 rows back, and it worked out extremely well.  We did have to pick our way around a few clusters of people in the first tenth of a mile but we had a nice smooth start. 

My target for the race was to maintain a stead pace as close to 7 min/mi as possible.  I felt pretty good about that target and felt pretty strong.  Aside from the cold air, it was a good day for an aggressive run.  I hit mile #1 right on the money at 6:59.  Just like the prior year, at about mile 2, I saw the leader coming back and going into mile 3, just killing the race.  After the 4th mile I really started to drag and was starting to see a lot of runners pass me.  I finished as strongly as I could and did far better than the 2013 race.

I crossed the line 187th / 3060 runners at 36:47 officially, dropping a few minutes of my time from last year.  Jeff was 58th with a 32:48.  The post-race spread is pretty awesome.  Lots of normal stuff but the hot soup and hot mulled wine is pretty fantastic.  We lingered for a little while but we packed into the car to sit for half an hour in traffic to leave and prepare for the 2nd Annual Patterson Park Beer Mile.

With the first ever Beer Mile World Championships only 10 days prior, I had visions of grandeur where I ran an 8 minute beer mile.  It was going to be awesome!  We even made trophies for the race.  Our field grew by 66.7% this year.  We had 3 men and 2 women this time!  Big field of athletes!  Trophies all the way down to 2nd place, too!!
Second place trophy ("I POOPED TODAY" plastic cup) not pictured
I turned in an almost exact repeat performance and retained the title.  It's really amazing how hard it is to drink any of the beers after the first one.  

HAT RUN 50K 3/21/2015

I was told my ultra-runner membership had expired soon after my DNF at Ironmasters last year so I felt like rather than letting it go, it was time to punch that card again.  I chose the HAT 50K, in Havre de Grace, MD for my race back in November.  I'd volunteered at the 2014 HAT run and had an awesome time watching Adam and all the other runners and helping them refuel at an aid station.  Scoping out the course, it looked like a great race to tackle myself.

This winter had been a little rougher for training outdoors with the amount of ice on the trails and roads.  Even with my Ice Trekker crampons, I had a few un-enjoyable, difficult trail runs on the Wissahickon that I still believe would've fared much better if I'd had ice skates.

I'd had a few decent runs, although mostly much shorter than I'd prefer leading into this distance.  My longest run was 10 miles 2 weeks before the race and I felt pretty strong during and after.
My goal was sub-6 hours.  I was on pace to beat that at Ironmasters last year, a much tougher course, I think, so this should've been a breeze.  The biggest obstacle to that goal was probably my lack of significant, long training runs, despite a 25K race on Jan 3.  I got a little lazy with the training but ran outside when I could and tried to compensate with some bike rides on the trainer.

The weather was looking pretty good for the race: mid-40's, sunny.  A late season snow-storm came through Friday dropping 3-4 inches in the area, making for a soft first lap, as expected.  Not enough snow to make the course too difficult.

The start was unique to any races I've done so far: all the racers lined up across a field to await the start signal and with it, charged like a scene from Braveheart.  There's a good amount of running before we get into single-track but it was a great way to spread the course out and not cause too many pile-ups.  One 5K loop back to the start/finish area and aid station where I shed my vest and hat and then into a 13 mile loop for the second and repeat for the 3rd loop.
After one of 4 water crossings and killing it... sorta.  not really.
The first half of the race felt pretty good.  It started out pretty easy and my pace felt solid but gradually wore down after the first third.  I distinctly recall mile 15 being miserable and being the first of several lousy miles.  After that it was a lot of running when I could and hiking the hills.  By the second loop, the snow had mostly melted and the trail was a mud pit; not too bad, really, even a little fun, but not ideal for speed.

 As the miles ticked off, the pace crept up, the race dwindled and I crossed the finish at 6:44:31, a lot later than I'd hoped.  Despite the slow race, I felt pretty great during and afterwards.  I had a coffee, a protein shake and a little gel before the race.  I carried my handheld and my Nathan belt with 2 flasks during the race.  In one flask was Hammer Gel, the other Hammer Perpetuem, and in my handheld, I kept a fizz tablet or just plain water, refueling only my fizz bottle at the aid stations.  I was typically in and out of aid stations in a moment, just topping off my handheld, grabbing a handful of candy or fruit at the major aid station and heading back out quickly.  The aid stations were well stocked and staffed by great volunteers.  And the SWAG!  Look at this bounty:
Hat (duh), shirt, soft cooler and yes, that's an umbrella.
I had a great time.  I would certainly sign up for this one again and aim again for that sub 6-hour 50K.

Fall Fest and Across the Bay Bridge 10K Run 11/8-9/14

Running multiple races in a weekend is a lot of fun.  I imagine it's a good test of resilience to be able to race and bounce back.  Of course it's all dependent on the level of exertion and I admit I didn't go 100% on the first few but I did have a nice recovery and great race on Sunday.

Saturday was Fallfest 2014.  The culmination of the Special Olympics' Long Distance Running and Walking (LDR/W) season.  Kristen was active with the Young Athletes Program and I was present as a Unified Partner, racing with our team's athlete Nathan.  Nathan was pretty psyched to have me run with him again as we did pretty well at the Bucks County meet a few months back, netting him a few golds.  Nathan's a quick runner on his own and I knew from the Bucks event, we were up against some strong competition again in their coach/athlete duo.

I was also excited to race.  Bucks' coach Tim is a great runner and would  be a good competitor to race against.  I only chased Tim once in the 1500m and was about 20s slower.  I had yet to race in the 5k and 3k.

The day's events went in the order of longest to shortest.  We practiced at the course a few weeks prior to be familiar with the course set up at Villanova.  It's not very flat so I knew I wouldn't be around 20 minutes.  I also expected to beat Tim and just be content with that so I could conserve for my 10K on Sunday.  I led the 5K for almost the first full mile.  Tim took me down and I couldn't keep him within reach so I settled down and finished with a 22:10.  Not too bad.  Nathan made up for my 2nd place finish and our combined times were good enough for gold.  (Unified teams are placed by total combined time)

The 3K was next, with about an hour of rest, we were at it again.  Almost a carbon copy of the first race but now with a new competitor.  An athlete, Kyle, raced out to the front and stayed there almost the full race.  Tim made his move at about the same spot and passed us both on a downhill.  Kyle stayed out ahead of me and I took 3rd but again, Nathan picked up my slack and we took another unified division gold.

Almost an hour of rest and we hit the course for one final lap around 'Nova for the 1500m.  It's so great to see the competitiveness of all the athletes we coach line up and put forth a great effort  Again we lined up, I chased Kyle, Tim passed us late and we finished 1-2-3 again to conclude the days' events.

The Montco team did well and it was a perfect day to race.  I look forward to track and field in the spring back to just being a coach.

With a quick stop home to shower change and pack, we shot down to Annapolis at the Navy Marine Corps stadium for packet pickup for the Across the Bay 10K (and apparently an unadvertised fun run).  We picked up our packets, a (total BS) parking pass for $10 and wandered the mini expo before doubling back to Baltimore where we fueled up on lasagna and beer at Adam's.  We were up early for a quick breakfast but in no rush to get out to the race.  We'd decided we'd drop back to the final wave.  I was seeded in wave 1 based on my expected finish time of 47 minutes.  Kristen was in wave 3, Adam... wave 10.  The race officials were insistent that no one would be permitted to advance their start time but it was cool for anyone to drop to a later wave.  Even special requests were denied.  It turned out, there would have been no way at all to police that rule.  The joke was on us but it was a fair way to seed runners.  We knew we'd be finding ourselves winding through a herd of runners the entire course.

I was expecting a fairly easy course.  Adam had driving it a few weeks ago on his way to the beach and told me the climb was rough.  I thought it couldn't be as bad as the Ben Franklin Bridge run.  When we approached the bay, we could see that the bridge was far less arching than the BF Bridge.  It would be much easier, aside from the "fun runners" that were milling about all over the bridge.

With races like this, it's hard to take a wave of 2000+ runners and order them in any fashion based on speed.  We just moved along with the pile of people and worked our way to the starting line at that weird half walk - half jog because you have nowhere to go.  The column of people took up the entire width of the road so it was very challenging to get to the bridge itself at a running pace.

Once on the bridge, Adam, Joe and I were finding more room to run.  The next 5+ miles was nonstop dodging walkers and people that inexplicably stop to take in the view or take a picture.  It was mostly like running a 5 mile bridge while navigating 10,000 zombies milling about.  Kudos to them for signing up for the a 10K.  I'm sure their fees went to a great cause.

I happened to finish at the same exact time as the previous week's bridge run and it was kinda fun, almost like an obstacle course. I'll focus on the trail runs and smaller races... except for the Nashville Rock n Roll Half in April.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

3/1/2015 Garsoe-Schermerhorn Memorial Masters Swim Meet Pentathlon

After nearly 15 years, I have finally competed in a swim meet.  I signed up for a really cool meet in Bensalem, PA, about an hour from home about 2 weeks prior to the event.  It seems like there's not very many meets nearby based on what I can find on or the local area's site:

The Pentathlon meet  is as simple as it sounds, entrants can sign up for whatever they want but are encouraged to complete a full 5-event series comprised of one race of each stroke (at 50, 100, or 200 SCY) and an IM (100, 200 or 400).  I opted for the sprint distances of 50yds of each stroke and the 100yd IM to not bite off more than I could swallow with very little training or preparation.

To enter, I had no recent race results to submit as seed times.  I had to guess on all of them.  I thought a while on most of the times and settled on a few times that I thought were reasonable.  I seeded myself at :27 in the free, :27 in the back, :29 in the fly and :31 in breast, and 1:15 in the IM.  Lo and behold I pick up my heat sheet upon arrival and I'm seeded fastest in 2 events.  I realized a :31 in 50 breast was something I've never been capable of even in my peak years.
Lay off the crackpipe, Aaron, you've never been fast at breaststroke.
The event was held at Pennsbury High School.  The venue felt nostalgic since 99% of all my swim meets had been at high schools.  I realized I'd really been missing this.
Watching the rest of the competitors warm up after I felt like my 250 yd warm up was sufficient.
 My events started with back.  I wasn't feeling pretty unsure of my speed getting ready but felt confident once I hopped in and for not having practiced a back start in many years. The first race felt invigorating.  The rest of the events were equally awesome, some slower than I'd hoped but some were also quicker that I'd expected.

Yep, I took 2nd in my age group... out of 2.  It was a small meet.  It was also the first of many.  I'm beyond excited to get back into more competitive masters swimming events.  Bring it on!

Friday, January 30, 2015

North East Olympic Triathlon, 8/24/14: Race Report

I enjoy triathlon.  It's a hard sport to finish a race in, harder even to be competitive.  I want to be competitive and in the top 10% of amateurs.  What I have come to understand after this weekend is that there is not much room in deviating from a training plan, no matter how loose.

I started a new job, which yanked me back into the professional world, demanding a full work week plus a commute.  What a nightmare.  I'm good at the new job, it's demanding and it's really cutting into the rest of life...  so between the new job and the mountain bike crash a while ago, I've cut back significantly on training, mostly because I haven't made time for it.  About 2 months of no training aside from about 70 total miles of riding and maybe one long run and I was already pretty terrified of this race a week before it started.  The thought of dropping down to the sprint distance had crossed my mind but I figured, I got myself into this mess, take care of it.  It would be a good measure of what happens with cutting training out for about 2 months and I'd take it kind of easy, more of a training race than a competitive one.

We loaded up Saturday night and were in bed at a about 8 to get up early to head down an hour to North East, MD.  I tried to recall the bike course and how hilly it was but really couldn't remember.  I knew it wasn't quite as steep as the races earlier this year so I had an idea that I'd be 25 min in the swim, 1.5 hr on the bike and I really really REALLY wanted to be under 50 on the run.

Check in was much smoother this time compared to my last race.  It always is when you have your ID on you and don't have to waste your time running back to your car to flip it and look.  We racked up an I sent Kristen off with the sprint-distance racers.  I got to watch last year's runner up destroy the field in the swim a full 3 minutes ahead of the 2nd fastest swimmer.  I learned he'd made the US Olympic team, pretty awesome.  He was in from the bike before the Olympic-distance racers hit the water.

I hopped in a few minutes early to warm up.  The water was comfortable around 76-78.  The crowd wasn't too big and I felt pretty confident in finishing very well in the swim, despite my plan to sandbag it a little to conserve energy for the bike.  With the gun I started chugging through the water at a consistent easy pace, focusing on maintaining a cadence and form.  I am pretty sure I did a good job with that but was having issues sighting the course.  I was consistently drifting away from the planned loop, adding distance, and feeling some discomfort in my left shoulder.  It nagged but never slowed me down or really raised any red flags.

About 200 yards from the finish, the top ladies started passing me.  No big deal, elite girls can easily swim a sub-20 min mile.  I assumed I was going to hit right around 25 minutes as expected.

Just trying to survive the race with a respectable effort, I tried to set no records in transition.  I made it out in about 2.5 minutes onto the bike and was ready to go.  I was loaded with only water and an extra Hammer gel.  I had no Hammer Perpetuem, which I was annoyed that I'd run out and not replaced prior to the race.  I'd consume enough Hammer gels to compensate, I assumed.

I felt pretty strong from the start so I let myself go on and try to ride at somewhere between full race effort and a medium training 25-mile ride.  Early on, I felt some signs of cramps pinching my left calf but they slowly faded as I rode on (I assumed they'd just cripple me when I got off my bike and send me to the ground writhing in agony).  Thankful that the cramps never materialized and riding along, I did learn something.  During this attempt, I discovered whatever part of my brain dictates the amount of conscious control over my level of exertion just doesn't exist.  I feel the need to go way too fast, which is, sadly, pretty unimpressive.  I know I'm a pretty poor cyclist and it takes years to develop strong cycling ability but wow- I was awful for how hard I exerted myself.  I need to resume my TrainerRoad subscription.

I assumed I'd be 1.5 hours on the bike.  I also thought that would be 25 miles, not just 23.  So I averaged 16.6 mph on some pleasant rolling hills, not passing a soul and being overtaken by pretty much everyone.  When I finally rounded a corner that took me into the recognizable town streets and back to transition, I felt relief.  I knew I only had a 10K to go.

Happy to ditch the bike and throw on my running shoes, I eagerly booked it out of T2 and back onto the road.  I was aiming for a 7:30-45 pace and tried to keep myself from outpacing myself from the beginning.  How hard could it be?  The fool that I am, I must have forgotten that the bike trashed my legs and not half a mile into the run leg, I was already pulling aside to walk-run.

I really eked out a finish, just under 3 hours and found Kristen for a minute at the finish line for a quick hug and kiss before getting back in the water to soak a little.  I grabbed some food and we split, pleased that we sucked it up and raced but I was still disappointed in myself.  The course was still awesome.  I would do this race every year.

We got ourselves home, picked up some awesome tacos from the Mexican joint El Limon then hit the bowling alley to try to enjoy the rest of the weekend.  We had a blast and really wound up proud of ourselves for getting out there and sticking to our race despite weak training.  Our reward was bowling, beer, and a little Wild Turkey!

Nations, here I come.  Expectations lowered for performance but I'll make it a fun race with my best season-ending effort.