Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Throwing in the Towel

Any boxing fans out there? Doubtful. Boxing, as a sport, is dying quickly. It's being replaced by more manly sports like Kickboxing, MMA, and watching other people play Fortnight on YouTube.

Any Rocky fans out there? Hell yeah! Everyone enjoys a good underdog story where, eventually, the hero faces a long-fought battle (complete with an impossible running scene) only to lose at the end. The story was so good that they had to make a sequel to let the hero win.

Well, this post doesn't start with Rocky I. Or Rocky II. Or Rocky III, which featured Mr. T as Clubby Lang (a fricken' great name for a antagonist if ever one was invented!). It begins with Rocky IV.

Rocky IV spent half of the movie following the previously beaten Apollo Creed (a fricken great name for a protagonist if ever one was invented!) in his quest to beat that commie Russian Ivan Drago. Well, Ivan (apparently) was on a better drug regime than the American (hard to believe). Rocky Balboa was watching the champ get pummeled by the great Red Hook. Other members of the entourage were calling for Rocky to throw the towel, which was a call from someone who's supposed to be on the good guy's team to end the match.

Spoiler Alert: Rocky never threw the towel and the champ died from his beating. Sad. On a happy note, it did leave the series a convenient opening to reboot the money machine several decades in the future, featuring the champ's son.

How does this relate to the Banter? The reigning champ (and I'm being generous here) is me and the commie bastard on high levels of steroids and giving me a beating that hits where the hurting's good is the 2019 race season. The season hadn't even started before I got my first big punch to the face, which manifested in a nice hamstring injury. Pow. Then I raced without adequate training. Bif. Then I raced again without adequate training. Sok. Then I raced again without adequate training. Blap.

It's taken its toll. Specifically it's smacking where it counts for me, in the run. Seriously, I haven't had  decent run since the day before the injury. That's going on nearly 6 months now. And when I mean a decent run, I feel like I've been digressing even more so than normal. Allow me to explain...

Take a gander at a recent run that clocked in a just over 4 miles for 33 minutes of running averaging an 8:14 pace. On paper, this looks promising, right?  When you look at the forest, you have to remember that there are trees. Glance at the data.

If you look at the elevation, you can see that it's stupidly flat. If you look at the pace, you'll notice that the pace is relatively consistent. Spoiler Alert 2: That's the ego talking there.

If you look at the heart rate and match it with the pace chart, you'll notice a few obvious anomalies. To count, you should see 6 of them, some closer to each other than others. Those are times when I stopped running. If I'm not running, the Garmin isn't running either. Those drops in data aren't really drops, that's the pansy taking over the body while the ego refuses to let me slow down. This was not a good run.

But, but, but... you should slow down. Yeah, no sh** Sherlock. I though of that. Here's a more recent 4 mile run for your viewing displeasure.

This run was also just over 4 miles. It took 36.5 minutes. It was also stupidly flat. It featured less incidents of pansy, only 4 of them this time. The average pace for this run was 8:53. I suppose that's a running step in the right direction but the notes on the run said that it felt like I was running directly into a heart attack, if the heart attack was announced with an asthma induced hyperventilation. It was not a good run under an aspect other than it was better than not running. This has been the norm of pretty much all of my runs for a very long time now.

This up and coming weekend, I have a race. I won't do well at this race, at least not according to my standards. On the digital paper, should you look at the results, you think that things didn't go so badly. That's okay. You and I can have different perspectives as to what is a good race for me. There's not much either of us are going to do to convince each other differently.

Upon conclusion of that race, I will be officially throwing in the towel on the 2019 race season and start my offseason prematurely.  A few honored and respected individuals immediately know what this means. Let me expand for the rest of you: I have another race in a couple of weeks at the 70.3 distance. I will not be doing this race. I have no desire to die a slow death. This was not an easy decision. In fact, it was one of the hardest decisions I've made in my triathlon career. I don't think I can handle yet another hard fought, painful race to be met with disappointing results. My psyche would rather recoup the losses than experience the what-ifs.

I plan on taking the time off. Regather my energies. Spending time with the Wife and the doggies. And coming back ready to rock to triathlon world with some performances that will make even the Banter proud. 2020 is the Ivan Drago rematch. I must break you.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Race Report- Keuka Lake Triathlon 2019

A word about my training lately= _____________. See there are no words to describe my training since there really hasn't been a lot of training lately. For all you kids out there, this is not the most ideal way to prepare for a competition. If one wishes to see results, one must put in the work. Shocker- I know.

Well, fresh off my successes at Ironman Connecticut 70.3(ish) formerly and currently known as Quassy, if I were to be open with you, I wasn't in a great place athletically. I had learned from that race that I was clear to start run training again. I had also learned on that following Monday that I really couldn't walk. Muscle soreness was immediately apparent. Couple that with DOMS and I had a double helping of chaos in my quads and my calves. Of interest, my hamstrings were still as fresh as could be. The discomfort in my legs led to several sleepless nights where I was just battling to lie down without whimpering.

When you match the inability to walk with the inability to sleep, most of your energy is focused on surviving through the day and not get fired from your day job. After the day job is complete, you get to do what you want, which in my case was returning to a drooling vegetable. If only drooling on yourself counted as training.

It wasn't until the next Saturday that I actually felt like I could do something athletically. The major problem with this feeling was that I had a backlog of chores that also didn't get done while drooling and I had the Keuka Lake Triathlon Olympic distance race scheduled for Sunday morning. Honestly, I didn't want to do the Olympic distance race because:

  1. I'm still way out of running shape
  2. I want to start run training soon and the longer the race, the longer the delay
  3. Oly distance races are the devil
I contacted the race director and asked if he wouldn't mind me switching from the Olympic distance to the sprint distance, or halfway to the goal. This is a welcomed request for the RD since the Oly is more expensive than the sprint. They get all my money for half the work. The request was approved.

Race morning arrived and I got to campus early for the Banter; T-minus 30 minutes before they close transition. Most people have already been there for an hour. I sincerely have no idea what they do to pass the time. I went through packet pick-up, bike set-up and placed all of my gear in transition in about 20 minutes. They weren't kicking me out for another 10 minutes and I didn't know what to do with myself. Even worse, the sprint tri gets started about 45 minutes after the Olympic people. There's something special about the 'hurry up and wait' mentality of sport. I flirted chatted with Pants and several other hotties athletes that were racing in the later heats.

My race strategy for today was going to be similar to last week's half-iron. Swim hard. Bike hard. Do something resembling running.

Above is a profile view of my wave. Seriously, I'm the guy in front. I won my heat by over 30 seconds and was 2nd overall in the swim. I got beaten by some high school boy, who edged me by about 15 seconds. He was in the 1st wave of the race to my 2nd wave. Neither of us knew anything about each other.

The HS boy took 2 minutes 28 seconds in transition while I took only 56 seconds. In years past, I been even slower than this kid. My transitions weren't pretty. It was one of the major improvement areas I identified and worked diligently to correct. So I started the bike in 1st place. The data suggests that I passed him on the bike. Weird wording, I know. The kid beat me out of the water by :15, lost transition by about :90. Therefore, I was winning by time. But because he started the race 5 minutes earlier than I, he was physically further down the course than me. He was in front but I was in the lead.  I have no idea who he was when I passed. (Aside: Of course, I knew exactly zero of these stats, including my placement in the race until much, much later. /End Aside 2)

I started the bike not caring where I was in the race. That's because there were a lot of races happening at the same time. The Olympic distance losers racers were in full swing. There was an aquabike race happening. There was a duathlon happening. There was the 1st wave of the sprint tri happening. That means there was a steady stream of people out in front of me all for different reasons.  The only course of action was to hammer the bike.

The bike course is a semi- out and back. You go down this clunky lakefront road. Turn right onto a main highway. Go up a hill, down a hill, turn around and go back up and come back down. You turn off the main highway just shy of the clunky lakefront road. I posted the 2nd fastest bike time of the sprint triathletes. Because of our differing swim skills, I was able to finish the bike 2 minutes ahead of the guy who posted the fastest bike time. Not that there were any spotters or stats-giving people on the course. I was pretty sure that I was near the front. I didn't know that I WAS the front. I have never been here before, being in position to win the race.

The problem with my current skill set was that I had no legs to run on. As recently as 2 days ago, I didn't have enough health to go for a jog. In the prior month, I had only done 1 total run, and that was a 13.1 mile run leg of a race. Sprint triathlons are poorly named in that there is no actual sprinting involved. There is, however, some much harder efforts than all of the other distances. In my visions of the race, I was gunning to hold 8 minute mile paces (<-- not champion-type speeds). I came out of transition giving it my all.

Possibly the best race pic ever taken of me.
What most people don't tell you about taking a hiatus from running is the burn in your lungs when you restart the discipline. Did I take up smoking and not know it? Your alveoli seem to shrink with the lack of effort. So, not only were my legs on fire from trying to outrun my fitness, my lungs were on fire from trying to outrun my fitness. The run was also an out and back with the turn around 1.5 miles away. I clocked the first mile at a 7:29. That was 30 seconds faster than I thought possible. With the sensations emanating from the legs and chest, I didn't think it was sustainable. I made the decision to stay on the throttle until biology forced me to slow/ stop. I hit the turn around and the volunteer in charge of that location wasn't expecting anyone yet. That should have been a pretty good sign. I didn't have the brain capacity/ oxygen to adequately analyze her reaction.

As I headed for home, I was able to see that I was being followed. Some of those athletes were going to turn around, others were going to continue on to the Oly course. Some were duathletes, for unknown reasons. Most were going faster than me. My only option was to work as hard as possible. I got a few pick-me-ups from seeing my most excellent tri-peeps. The Boy was heading out on his Olympic tri bid. One of the guys on my tri club, the Grim Reapers Fitness NorthEast, was closing in fast. Pants, who gave out a high 5, was doing her best to run down Mr. Pants (she almost made it!). My second mile clocked in at a 7:32. Still way speedier than any metric would have predicted.

At mile 2.5 out of 3.1, I got passed. A very tall and very speedy athlete went by as smooth and as graceful as a runner could be. A quick glance down at his calf and I saw that he was in my race but not my age group. Honestly, at this point, I was gunning for an age group win, meaning that I didn't think I was directly competing with this bloke. Even if I was directly competing with him (which I was), there was absolutely no way that I could have ran with him. Perhaps if he was running 3 while I was running 1 mile, I might have had it in me. The Banter tank was nearly depleted. At mile 2.9, I passed the Wife and dogs who were spectating and cheering. I was so happy to see them. Between the pass, the Wife, the doggies, and the prospect of finally being done with this race, I managed to speed up for the last mile which beeped in at a 7:20. I crossed the finisher's line about a minute later.

I went up to the guy who passed me and congratulated him on an excellent run. He outran me by roughly 3 minutes and crossed the line 34 seconds in front of me. He asked me the same question that I wanted to ask him, "Where are we at in the race?" Neither of us had any idea.

A few minutes later, they posted the preliminary results. The tall runner guy was in 1st place over all. The Banter took 2nd! I was sincerely surprised and dumbfounded. The highest I've ever finished overall in a race was 4th place. This was my first time on the overall podium. Ever! My GRFNE teammate took 3rd.

Special shout out to the excellent accomplishments of the mini tri-family:
The Outlaw- 1st place overall (in dominating fashion) in the Oly
The Boy- 12th place overall/ 4th in age group in the Oly
Pants- 22nd place overall/ 4th amongst the womens/ 1st age group 
As I reflect on the race, I'm still relishing in the effort on the day. I executed as well as I could have hoped for. Second place in the swim, second place on the bike, and 23rd place on the run was good enough for 2nd place overall. (Aside 3: The champ was the guy who posted the fastest bike split and the fastest run split. He's the real deal. /End Aside 3) I can't help but wonder how I would have fared if I had been able to do any run training in the past couple of blocks of training. I use those thoughts to fuel the next block. I've started running again.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

IMCT 70.3(ish)- The Run

This is the conclusion of a 3 part series where I recap the shenanigans of my weekend at IMCT Connecticut 70.3(ish), formerly and currently known as Quassy. Part 1- The Swim can be found here. Part 2- The Bike can be found here.


Allow me, if you will, to paint the daunting picture of the challenge that lied ahead. In mid April, I developed a hamstring injury. At first I thought it was something I could run through. Nope. At second I thought it was something I could take a couple of days off and get better. Nope. At third I thought I could take nearly 2 weeks off and get better. Nope. At fourth I thought I could take an entire month off and get better. This race was going to be the test that decided if the 4th hypothesis would be validated or refuted. To sum up, had only run twice in the past 45 days, for a grand total of 7 miles and my last run was roughly 1 month prior, to the day. To make the picture even worse, I wasn't much of a runner to start with.

In case you were brought here against your will but for some reason decided to stay anyway, allow me to explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up... 70.3 races typically feature a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run.  IMCT Connecticut 70.3(ish), formerly and currently known as Quassy did not feature a 1.2 mile swim (in their defense, they really wanted to but Mother Nature had better ideas).  IMCT Connecticut 70.3(ish), formerly and currently known as Quassy did not feature a 56 mile bike. It was closer to 53.5 miles, which was pretty okay due to the ridiculously challenging hill profile. Well, IMCT Connecticut 70.3(ish), formerly and currently known as Quassy finally did something right in the form of the run distance. Just my luck.

When asked about my race goals, I had a clear picture of what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to run without hamstring pain. That was it. I had predicted that I was going to be in a significant amount of discomfort on the run due to attempting a half marathon on no training. I was allowing myself to hurt pretty much anywhere with the exception of the back of my left thigh. And I had a strategy in place towards that end.

As I came out of transition, I was surprised as to how well I was actually feeling. I expected to be a bit more stiff due the crash while entering transition. I also feared that I over-biked. My bike plan allotted for about 215 watts (normalized for those who understand what that means). What I achieved was 229 watts. This translates to about 8% harder than I wanted and the 215 number was already at the top edge of what I was supposed to bike and feel good, according to science. As I started to run, I honestly felt like I could run, ya know, relative to myself anyway.

My run strategy was simple. Don't run too fast. (That was a joke and you were supposed to laugh. Running fast is never an option for me.) The concept remains, I needed to control the effort especially early on.

The hill profile was against me. The first mile was a nice, extended downhill. Downhills are good for speed, bad for leg injuries. The problem is that as you stride, your leading foot lands a couple of inches lower than it launched. Not only does this extend your leg a little further than normal, which can exacerbate a tight muscle, the extra vertical distance results in higher impact forces as your foot lands on the asphalt. I made it a point to stay nice and relaxed without attacking that section of the course.

It was obvious that I was the only one on the course with this strategy. As I controlled my descent, I got passed. And passed. And passed. The stream of people who ran by was relentless. I smiled anyway. Because I was running!

Now, before I got ahead of myself, I still had to remember that during one of those failed healing hypotheses, I felt good for about 3.5 miles before the injury popped up. Therefore, I was looking for excuses to slow myself down and not race the run part of the course. At mile 1.3, I stopped to go to the bathroom. At mile 4, I had a conversation with the girl handing out gels so that I could get a flavor that wouldn't make me hurl. At mile 6, I mixed a nice batch of ice and water so I could get something cold to drink. When the water was gone, I dumped the ice down my pants. There's nothing like a numb crotch to keep the pace at bay. And, the main point of this part of the story is just to brag that I was still running!

The course featured a lasso-shape. You ran down the handle and out to the loop. You did the loop twice, including the annoying out and backs designed to regulate the distance and ensure that we did the expected number of miles for at least one of the disciplines for the day,  and hit the handle again for the trip to home base. As I started my second loop, there were still swarms of people passing and passing. And there were even more swarms of people entering the course. The passing parade was going to continue. It didn't matter. I was still running!

Right around mile 9, my lack of run training started to rear its ugly head. Fatigue was settling in and building a house to ensure permanency. I was searching for some kind of encouragement. As I crested one of the hills, a small crowd of people started cheering for me by yelling, "Go Kristy, go!" I didn't have the heart to tell them that my name wasn't Kristy because it was the perk I needed. Shortly thereafter, a woman ran by who was clearly struggling too and I felt bad since no one was giving her any attention. I was still running!

At mile 10, the hurt locker was officially opened. It was at this point of the run where the aforementioned yet highly predictable pain made an appearance in my legs. It started with early warning signs in my lower quads. I ran on. By mile 11, I had stepped into the hurt locker completely. Both legs were starting to cramp. Every once in a while, the right one would attempt to seize. I entered negotiations with my legs. I agreed to walk for 30 seconds out of every 2 minutes and the legs agreed to not fall off at the hips. My previous pace was now slow shamed as I made the turn off the loop, onto the handle, and headed for home. This is the time when most runners would get a boost and the end simply feels near. Not this guy. The passing parade was in full force. I was still running(ish)!

To add insult to potential injury, the hill profile was conspiring with my legs to work against me. Remember that 'problem' I was discussing at the beginning of the post about the dangers of running downhill? Yeah, well, running up that hill wasn't much of a picnic. (Aside: Come to think of it, at my pace, I could have busted out a picnic without too much of a dent in speed or dent in the picnic. /End Aside.) To put this in perspective, my pace for mile 9 was 8:40. Mile 10 was 9:39. Mile 11 was 10:40. Mile 12 was 11:26. Mile 13 was 12:22. My average pace fell from 8:45 to 9:30. You could watch the misery unfold just through the numbers.

At the end of the day, my official run time was 2:05.00. This was the 108th fastest in my age group, 634th fastest versus the boys, and 825th fastest overall. All of that swimming, biking, and plodding left me with an official time of 5:05.15 for 370th place in the race, 47th in my age, and 319th in my gender. And, my legs hurt everywhere, except, ironically for my hamstrings. I'll call that a win!

For your effort in making it through the series, I'll reward you with the many race faces of the Banter. Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 7, 2019

IMCT 70.3(ish)- The Bike

This is part 2 of 3 in a series where I recap the shenanigans of my weekend at IMCT Connecticut 70.3(ish), formerly and currently known as Quassy. Part 1- The Swim can be found here.

Transition 1
When last we left our hero, he (meaning me) had just come out of the water in pretty decent shape. And I use the word "shape" liberally here. I've been in kind of a funk lately due to a hamstring injury. When people asked me what my race goals were, I answered honestly, "To race without hamstring pain." That's how bad it's gotten for me. The typical follow-up question was, "What are you going to do if it hurts?" Honestly, I had absolutely no idea. This day was going to be an adventure.

The run from the lakeshore to transition was to be my first major test. All I had to do was exit the water and run up this little path to my bicycle. I'd be lying to you if I told you I wasn't a little nervous about this feat. I was faced with unknown choices that were roiling around in that chunk of mostly blank proteus material known as my gray matter. One potential outcome was that the hammy would hurt so bad that I would dnf in transition 1. Another was that I would feel some sort of twinge and continue racing, while evaluating the sensation on the bike. The final, best case scenario, was that I would feel absolutely normal (as if there's anything that could be considered 'normal' in my world) and forget that I even had an issue in the first place.

I know, the suspense is killing you. Well, since I've been openly clear that this post is part 2 of 3, I clearly did not dnf in T1. As to the real result of the test, I don't have a great answer. I did feel some tightness in my hamstrings. However, this was a different type of semi-discomfort than I remember from a month ago. It could have been the injury poking it's head through the effort or it could have been caused by the fact that I have the flexibility of a recently timbered piece of lumber. Since option 1, dnf'ing in transition, was officially off the table, I headed for my bike.

The Bike
True story, I don't have a lot of friends, (Note 1: By choice. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. /End Note.) I prefer quality over quantity. So, if there's any chance that I've donned the title of 'friend' upon you, there's a decent chance that you are a quality individual. Enter Pants (<-- which is an hysterical statement on multiple levels). Pants is the most recent addition to my inner circle of people that I've befriended. Honestly, this is an awkward introduction for Pants (linky to her bloggy thingy). For 1, she's one of the few females that have made their way in. This is partially because I'm horribly intimidated by womens. And this is partially because most womens can't stand me. Pants, for some reason, chipped her way through my inferiority complex and tolerates the weirdness emitted by my presence. I don't get it either. (Note 2: At some point, I might have to explain why she's called "Pants". That point is not now./ End Note 2.)

Click to see the Bottle of Unusual Size
The only reason I'm even discussing Pants at this point in the story is that she got me a gift right before the race. She bought me a water bottle with the caption of "Have fun storming the castle". Whereas this might not seem blog-worthy, I can assure you that it's quite significant. First, rarely do any of my friends feel the need to spend their hard-earned cash on the likes of me. Second, Pants has taken the opportunity to learn about my true loves in life. I'm a huge Princess Bride fan. In fact, I can't think I've ever met anyone who is a bigger PB nerd than myself. This homage to the PB was an excellent addition to ease my pre-race concerns. Bonus- it's a 26 ounce bottle, meaning that I my pre-mixed liquid nutrition bottle was less concentrated and more palatable. Pants has scored additional, unexpected points with this gift!

The bike ride at IMCT Connecticut 70.3(ish), formerly and currently known as Quassy is currently the most challenging on the WTC's half iron circuit. Take a gander at the elevation comparison which I found somewhere on a social media feed. My Garmin listed the elevation gain at 3891 feet, to make the ride a little more challenging than advertised. To add to the difficulty, the course wasn't slated to be the full 56 miles. I clocked in at 53.66 miles, which is pretty close to what the race organizers mapped out. This is also the reason why the race gets an (ish) disclaimer, since it wasn't even projected as a full 70.3, even if you disclude the shortened swim.

I left transition with a pretty good knowledge of the course, at least with as much knowledge as one of my limited intelligence can boast. The Outlaw and I drove the course yesterday and highlighted several of the more interesting points on the course. That excursion took about 90 minutes in the van. All I can remember is that mile 22 was the harshest and there was 1 point on the route which could be considered 'technical' due to the downhilliness and S-curved shape of the road. My hope for the ride was that I could exceed 20 mph while keeping my power levels at a manageable limit, which is around 215 watts.

As I undulated around the outback of Connecticut, I was reminded as to how spoiled I am for living in western New York, which might be the only time I'll ever admit this. I will often publicly complain about the dismal state of my residence. I will, from here on out, never complain about the condition of the roadways in my vicinity. One of the reasons that the ride was not a full 56 miles was due to road construction on the course. I'm guessing that the entire state of Connecticut repairs about 3 total miles of road surface a year with a smidgeon of this year's allocation going to a part of the race course. That's a win for future generations of Quassians, since the rest of the course was an endless vibrational existence.

I deluded myself into thinking that the mile 22 hill would be met with a rather benign ride back to the park. I didn't anticipate that the never ending thud-thud-thud of the roadway know as middle Connecticut would mess up my aerobars. At mile 25, my right arm plummeted a few inches lower than normal. I thought for a moment that there was something majorly wrong with my bike. I successfully pulled my right pad up to it's normal position. It stayed there until the next major bump, which was roughly 7 seconds later. Boom, back down to the uncomfortable position. I was able to pull it back up.

This process of bump, uncomfortable aerobar position, pull back up repeated itself for the duration of the ride. That included the technical S-curved section of the road. Now, I have minimal skills in most things sport. Descending is on my relative short list of strengths. It's weird to me that not everyone has the ability to relax and go downhill efficiently. It's free speed without doing any work. Just sit back and let gravity transfer out the potential energy that you've worked so diligently to store up and release the kinetics. As I traversed this section, passing several people on the way down, I slammed on my brakes around the 2nd half of the S-hook. There was a guy lying face down near the end of a guard rail. His bike was nowhere to be seen. Several athletes/ saints had abandoned their race to provide aid to this guy. I was ready to toss in my race to ensure that this bloke survived the day. One athlete took charge of the situation and waved athletes through the crash. He didn't want to cause a greater commotion for the next wave of athletes attempting to navigate this section of road. (Note 3: It's fun to be on the receiving end of excellent people who have the best interest of others in mind. The world needs more people like this guy! /End Note 3.) I made a pledge to find the next place where there were police, race officials, or anyone associated with the outside world to send emergency assistance to this guy. About 3 minutes later, there was a batch of sirens as police and first responders raced their way to the accident.

Aside: Further research has learned me that the guy skidded out underneath the turn's guardrail. His bike was in pretty bad shape. He suffered a broken clavicle and was in the hospital recovering from the incident. /End Aside.

The rest of the ride featured me battling the clock and that pesky aerobar problem. A successful ride of that distance, to me, means that I enter transition at 20 mph or faster. According to the Garmin, my bike time was 2:42.23 a speed of 19.8 mph. Not bad but just under my window of success. According to the official race results, I biked 2:42.29. So 6 seconds slower. However, they posted my speed at 20.2 mph. I'll go with the official!

Aside 2: Normally, I'm one of the more graceful entrants into T2. I've got it down to a science. I loosen my velcro bike straps and pull my feet out of the shoes. Then, as the dismount line approaches, I side-straddle the bike with both legs on the same side. As I cross the line, I step down and hit the ground running. Well, there was a dude just in front of me as we approached the line. He took to the middle of the lane. Totally acceptable and I took the right side. Just as he crossed the line, he biffed something resulting in a lost shoe. This lost shoe resulted in him veering sharply right, directly into my path. The pavement wasn't as dry as it could have been due to the high humidities and fog levels. When you combine the speed of my approach, lost shoe, dude in my path, and wet pavement, my ability to take evasive action was reduced to skidding on my backside with the bike on top of me. And I lost a shoe of my own. I was able to recover myself, shoe, and bike before the other bloke was able to gain his shoe. Sub-Aside: He actually expected me to give it to him. I was a bit tiffed at the encounter, was not exhibiting very sportsmanlike behavior, and ignored his request. I entered transition ahead of him. /End Sub-Aside. On the bright side of this mini-crash, I had completely forgotten about my hamstring problem as I ran my bike into transition. This amnesia wouldn't last long. /End Aside 2.

The bike effort gave me the 18th best bike split of my age group, out of 324 athletes. This was 144th fastest time amongst men (no idea how many dudes were in the race) and 150th fastest overall (roughly 2000 people). I am pleased.

The most challenging part of the day remained- The Run. Tune in shortly to hear that debacle. Same Banter time. Same Banter channel.