I had some gaffes coming off the bike. Could something in the race please go right!? Soon. Please. Here's what happened... I have an above average skill set in mounting and dismounting the bike. For the dismount, I unstrap my proximal velcro keeping the distal securely in place. I back my feet out of the shoes so that my heels are out but the toes are in. This gives me an opportunity to pedal until I arrive at the official dismount line. Next, I pull one foot completely out of the shoe, swing that leg over the bar, and coast with my body side-saddle-style until about 16 inches before the line. I step down with the unshod foot and slip my other foot from its holding cell. I hit the ground running into transition.
All of that actually happened exactly as I described. However, my second foot took the bike shoe with it. I must have rotated my ankle and unclipped. Now, I had one shoe on foot with one shoe on bike. I imagined that feeling was akin to when women break a heel, who for some reason start running. Very unbalanced and awkward.
On the bright side, the presence of the shoe confirmed a sneaking suspicion. I still had feet. It had been a while since I actually felt them. With the pre-race temps in the mid-40s, the water temps in the low 60s, and the chilly air on the bike, I hadn't had a real sensation south of my talus in over 4 hours. I still didn't feel anything now. But the evidence of the shoe clinking against the ground was enough to convince me that I was not walking on stumps.
Transition 2 was significantly faster than T1. Bike in rack. Shoes on those cold things below my ankles. Glasses, gloves, ear warmers off. Go Go Go. I posted the second fastest T2 time on the day.
The run was deceptively hard. There was only 1 noticeable hill, right around mile 2, which was the same hill around mile 6, then again at mile 8.5 and finally at mile 12 (all distances are approximated). The rest were all hidden. For example, the rolling hills between mile 2.5 to mile 3 (and then again later on) were false flats. I remember checking my Garmin and wondering why I was running such a slow pace compared to my effort (which would have been slow for just about anyone). The hill profile helped solve that issue later on.
The PITA run course was sparsely littered with some of the greatest volunteers. Normally when I do long stuff, there are lines of volunteers waiting on your every whim. In contrast, each aid station on race day was typically stocked with 1 adult and 2 children (mostly 10-year-old girls, IIRC). Obviously, the kids were doing all of the work while the adult was yelling at the kids to do all the work (most adults, in my experience, are super lazy in the presence of children). They had a system and I wasn't going to intervene. I dubbed a volunteer at each station "Water Girl." My reason for this was 3-fold: 1) I carry all of my gels and therefore only need water on the run course. 2) It is helpful to the volunteers when you communicate clearly your needs. 3) They were girls; 'Water Boy' would have been insulting. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of the Water Girls who took care of me during my run. Thank you very much.
There was another volunteer on the course that I'd like to thank as well. He was positioned near the 3.5 mile mark. This was the turn-around at the top, right end of the lake. He was playing his banjo, singing and having a jolly good old time doing so.
I love you (ya know, in a platonic way). Just the simple fact that you came out to support our race shows how amazing of a man you are and the high quality of your character. I would also like to commend you on your musical talent for both the voice and the banjo. Having said that, please don't take this the wrong way. Whereas your version of, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was well played, having that particular song in my head for the next 7 miles was more than a bit annoying. If you had been banjo-ing out something more inspiring, such as "Hells Bells" by AC/DC (which I'm certain sounds awesome on the banjo), I may have had a faster run time. I am not blaming you for anything, simply making a musical request for something a little more masculine than a Judy Garland tune. The Beatles tune, "A Day in the Life" was a step in the right direction on lap 2. Again, thank you for your service.
By mile 9, I might have actually been sweating. I was racing to 5th place but still had not made up ground on too many people. I passed one dude and was sitting firmly in 9th place. Then, it was clear that some bloke in a green kit had dropped out, or started walking, or was hanging out with the Water Girls. The point was that I just didn't see him anymore.
I was holding a pretty-good-for-me pace the entire way. The second lap featured a lot more PITA-thletes as more and more finished their bike leg and had entered the run course. I was able to spot, reel, and pass. This kept me motivated. I was ready to experience the normal cramping, bloating, pansy-type symptoms that plague me on most of my distance races. None came.
It was apparent, however, that I was running out of steam late in the race. Each successive mile was getting slower. Mile 10 was a 7:55. Mile 11 was an 8:00. Mile 12 was an 8:10. Mile 13 was down to 8:24. I stole competitor number 7's spot in the line-up in the 13th mile. He was hurting more than me.
I ended the race in 7th place. Ironically, I posted the 7th fastest run time. Had I not taken that 5-mile jaunt to nowhere at the beginning of the bike leg, I would have taken 5th (assuming all else equal).
For my efforts, I did manage to win my age group. Like I said, I took home a prize. The RDs decided to add just one more twist to the PITA. They gave out bricks as trophies. That was just the thing I wanted to carry back to my car after a long day of racing. And, should I win my AG in about 300 more races, I might have enough for a full patio.