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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

WLS 1 and 2 Race Reports

I woke up Sunday morning fresh and ready to race. As I began my warm up I was pleasantly surprised at the relatively agreeable temperature and lack of humidity, a deviation from typical White Lake race conditions. The race began without incident; I quickly found a draft for the first third of the race. After finding myself about 50 yards off course I decided to go it on my own and emerged with a small lead. Then it was off with the wetsuit (which offered little resistance as I squirmed out of it) and onto the bike (which offered much resistance as I picked out a hard gear to grind). I held my lead until about mile ten of the bike, when Richard Swor briefly passed me. I dropped back for a mile or so and then repassed, coming into transition with a small lead. On the run I put it in cruise control and went on to finish in 1:03. Afterwards it occurred to me that the conditions would likely not be that good for a few years and I regretted my decision to rein in the effort, but what’s done is done. And so I looked forward to leaving it all out there the following weekend…
…which did not surprise, though it did disappoint, as it dawned hot, sticky and humid. Again, I felt fresh and ready to get after it as I warmed up. This time the swim went out faster and I had to work harder to stay up with the leaders, but by 200 yards in things had settled down and I took the lead. I came out in first, a few seconds faster than last week, and hopped on my bike- though this time the wetsuit got stuck somewhere between my ankles and knees. I held the lead all the way through and was pleased to drop a little time from the previous week, riding a high 33. Then came the run: hot, lonely, and altogether slow, though not for a lack of effort. I ran over thirty seconds slower than last week, a margin large enough to eclipse my gains on the swim and bike. I crossed the line in first again, but this time I was a few seconds slower than last week. All in all, I was quite pleased with the fitness Dave Williams’ coaching had cultivated. I love the White Lake course and I am so grateful- to Setup events for putting on another pair of top-notch races; to my family for driving me up there on Mother’s Day and the weekend after, for cheering me on shamelessly, and for holding my gross retainer when I forget to take it out before I go to the swim start; and of course to God for allowing me to feel His presence within and around me, and for giving me the ability, strength and courage to race and test my limits.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cool Breeze Pseudo-Race Report

Gasping for air, I crank the pedals of my bike relentlessly. My breathing is audible and visible. My chest heaves as it is filled with oxygen, and then blasts out carbon dioxide in forceful contraction like some kind of chemical childbirth. My blood red helmet, the back tapered to a point to funnel air around me, could be the expelled placenta. I am tucked, sleek, the picture of efficiency. Bike and rider appear as one, so that it is difficult to discern that the tapered geometry of the jet black carbon fiber frame is not an extension of my body. This is my race to win. For now, I have the lead. But there are miles to go, and the rest are coming. Will they catch me? No.
My thoughts are fleeting. Concepts dance around the borders of consciousness in abstract, neglected stalactites dangling from the edges of a cavernous tunnel vision. I ignore, I process, I react, I adapt to the messages relayed from my body and environment, metabolizing them efficiently. The frigid air screeches in fury as it is pierced by my knifelike profile. The water dripping from my skin was torn away by its howl when I exited the swim and mounted my bike. Yet the blue trisuit bearing my sponsors, my name, and my country still clings to my body like a python surrounding its prey, still clings to the wet like a drag suit crammed into the bottom of a swim bag.
And still I churn out revolutions of the cranks. Muscles contract, relax, and contract again under the pale goose pimpled skin of my legs. Up and down I power my burning, aching, freezing, numb legs, pistons so thoroughly primed for this singular task- efficient propulsion. The rolling hills of the Piedmont toss me like a ship in a gale, varying my cadence and gearing. I grind away, crest, and spin until my legs become a hummingbird blur below me, an entity separate from my torso but for that excellent ache which creeps up into the stomach, tickles the lungs, and poisons the mind, acutely permeating my focused awareness. With it comes not distress, but peace.
Gratitude fills me with jubilance, for here in this moment I feel God’s presence so powerfully. I know that He gave me this passion, this ability, and I can do no less than thank Him for it and use it to its fullest. But I cannot do it alone, for I am weak. Cold. Human. Only God lifts me with His strong arm, encourages me and fills me with His spirit, never forsaking me and always bringing hope. The swim- and the competition- are behind me, the rolling expanses of the bike and run are before me, and God’s joy is in me.