The Few, The Proud


I couldn’t have hung out with a nicer group of people this weekend – friends, triathletes, and an enthusiastic bunch of young Marines.

What a day it turned out to be. My training partner, Gayla from Tri-Zone.com, picked me up bright and early at 5:00 a.m. She was a huge source of support – before, during and after the race.

With a time limit firmly in place, my other loyal training partner Stacey called me the day before the race to say, “Good luck. You’ll have a great race! I don’t think I’ll be there.” She’s been having a tough year with the sudden onset of asthma. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I tried talking her into coming. And hoped her husband would do the same. It would have been lonely to do this race without my buddy.

Besides, her hubby Gary is a hoot. During T2 last year when I was so apologetic about the pace, he replied, “That’s okay. We’ll take looks over speed any day.”

When we arrived at the transition area, I spotted a few of the TriDivas who I trained with last year. Jane asked, “Have you seen Stacey?” “No, I don’t think she’s coming,” I said. “No, she’s here!’ she replied. That made my day.

I was a little nervous before the race, but not overwhelmed. The swim involved a T-shaped layout that was .93 of a mile. On the way to the first buoy, I kept up with the washing-machine churn pretty well. After the buoy, I felt like Desi Arnez, asking “What happened?” I cut the buoy too wide and found myself stuck swimming alone in place for a good five minutes. Not sure if it was a current or just plain “Minnow” stupidity.

By the time I got back on track, I was surrounded by lifeguard boats and boat fumes. Fortunately, no one offered me assistance. They just kept an eye on me, and the rest of the stragglers. I guess I didn’t look too pathetic.

When I got out of the water, I asked Gayla my time. “Forty minutes,” she replied. She could tell I was discouraged. “You’ve got a good bike ride ahead of you. Don’t worry!” she said.

After discovering I had the wrong size tires at the Palm Desert Triathlon, she lent me her amazing HED 3 race wheels. So I was really looking forward to the bike leg. Those wheels are smooth.

Stacey came in behind me, feeling the affects of a bad asthma attack. Things were getting fuzzy. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to go on until she heard more supportive words from Gayla too.

I was a fumbling klutz in T1. My old Garmin came part way detached from the wristband, again. It flopped in the wind on my ride. I just ignored it and pedaled as hard as I could. The course offered up some rolling hills, but nothing too intimidating compared to XTERRA.

As I passed each Marine, I said, “Thank you for your service!” Those kids were great on the course. At the top of hills, they offered encouragement, “Good job, Ma’am!” (It's the only time I don't mind being called "Ma'am.") When I reached the turnaround on the bike course, a line of four Marines pointed the way with a little dance on one foot. I’m not suggesting those boys in boots and fatigues looked like ballerinas. But let’s just say they got my vote for “Most Enthusiastic.”

The course was peppered with head winds and cross winds. During one stretch of open fields, I had a reality check. Whoa, maybe this is a little too much wheel for my little body. I was blowing around like the Flying Nun.

I was very happy to reach T2. When I dismounted the bike, my legs buckled a bit. Gayla and the other TriDivas who weren’t in the race were there to cheer us on too.

It was the lift I needed for the hot run. My legs felt very spent from riding harder than I planned. I tried to go with a fast, short cadence. Couldn’t get anything going faster than a 10:00-minute mile. The top half of my body was willing. My heart rate and lungs were ready and raring to go. My legs had a mind of their own. It was a strange feeling.

I was psyched to spot a bunch of my TriDiva friends along the course. We high five-d each other and offered exhausted grunts of encouragement.

There was one notorious hill on the run course. After grabbing a cup of water, it was tempting to walk. Until I saw a couple of Marines doing push-ups at the top of it. “You make it pretty hard to walk up this hill when you’re doing push-ups!” I told them. They smiled. I guess that was the point.

As I came within a couple of hundred yards from the finish, I spotted Kristin from my track workout group. She yelled, “Come on, show me what those track workouts are for!” I tried to kick it in and finish strong. I finished in 3:22. (18 minutes faster than last year.) Not the quantum improvement I had hoped for at the start, but I’m always pleased with a finish. This is all still so new to me. I know I'll get better with more training and more mistakes ;-)

Though they started taking down equipment, they did not adhere to the 3:40 time cutoff after all. Stacey finished in 3:42. With everything she went through, she PR’d by a little over a minute from last year. Not bad for a chick who completely tapped her inhaler during the race!

We spoke about how great the Marines were on the bike course. One Marine told her, “Inspire us.” She turned around and said, “No, you inspire us.” So true. I kept thinking throughout the morning, I wish this was most dangerous deployment these kids ever got – pointing a bunch of aging age groupers in the right direction, fending off paper cups, and smiling for the camera.