Training Partner Turned Rival.

Something very funny happened at the Long Beach Triathlon. It was the first time that my training partner, Gayla, and I raced together.

All year, we’ve been helping each other out. I kept her company on her long rides to prepare for the Oceanside Half Ironmnan. She was my tri-sherpa at the Toyota Desert International and the Camp Pendleton International. And we’ve been training together for the Nike Women’s Marathon for months. The week before the race, we got up to 24 miles on our final long, slow run. We’ve always been side by side.

So, imagine my surprise when the girl just took off on me on the swim. (On second thought, maybe not.) I saw her ever so briefly in T1 as I was huffin’ and puffin’.

On the bike, I finally spotted her at the turnaround just as I was approaching the second loop. She gave me a devilish grin. “Come and get me!” she said. “I’m tryin’!” I replied.

Once again, I spotted her briefly in T2 and it felt like I was hyperventilating. At the first turnaround on the run, I saw her again. “I’m not making this easy for you!” she said. I laughed. I wanted oxygen.

But, oh, I could see her. It was just a matter of reeling her in, right? Didn’t see her again for a mile and a quarter, right by the Queen Mary. We had just seen Chris McCormack speak to the L.A. Triathlon Club that week. He spoke about the psychological game playing that goes on in competition. Mindful of his advice, when I finally reached her, I asked, “Is this the place where I hold my breath and act like I’m not in pain at all?” “Yes! Where have you been?!” she asked. Told her about the girl with the flat – not that that was much of an excuse. “Okay, now you’re talking too much. Get going,” she said.

When I reached the finish line, I didn’t have to wait for her long. They removed my timing chip and handed me a water bottle. I staggered over to the viewing area just in time to watch Gayla cross the line. After at least a hundred hours of training together, we were separated by just 82 seconds. Pretty cool, huh?