Thursday, July 29, 2010

Montrail Doubles Down for 2010-11 Ultra Cup, Extends Western States Entries

The Montrail Ultra Cup, arguably the most competitive ultra series out there, announced that the prize purses will be doubled for the 2010-11 season along with some new races and rule changes. Very nice! Good news for Glen Redpath and Meghan Arbogast, who picked up the wins for 2009-2010.

The highlights:
  • Prize purse doubled to $16,000, with $5k to the winner
  • New 50-miler added in Colorado
  • Same point structure as last year, with an additional 15 point bonus for race winners
  • The first "slide down" option for Western States entries; if 1st or 2nd place finishers already have a Western States entry, then the 3rd place finisher will get a chance (it stops sliding down at 3rd, unfortunately)
You can read more about it on the Montrail blog.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mountain Bliss at the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k

There's something very special about the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k/50m/100m near Spooner Lake, NV, that is hard to put into words. I don't just want to race it...I long for it. Perhaps it's the incredible trails and endless scenery, or maybe it's knowing I will find the usual great group of new and veteran ultrarunners toeing the line. It could be because RD's David Cotter and George Ruiz and their team of volunteers have perfected this race to the point of sheer delight. No sense in trying to define it; best to just grab your trail running shoes, show up, and pick a distance.
(Peter Fain kicks up to the 50-miler this year)

(RD George Ruiz keeps things organized as RD David Cotter gives the countdown for the 100-milers)

(Charles Blakeney, Bree Lambert, and Jean Suyenaga at the start)

(Gretchen Brugman, Mark Tanaka, and Victor Ballesteros get ready)

I opted for the 50k this year, despite the fact that it doesn't really fit into my training schedule. I figured I would just do a solid aerobic effort and call it a "long tempo run". ;-) I came early to wish the 100-milers well, and was pleased to see a ton of familiar faces stepping up for the full distance or pacing their friends. This course has well over 14,000 feet of climbing thanks to the new out-and-back to Diamond Peak Lodge, and the temperature was going to hit the high 80's for sure. David Cotter warned us about the two bears that are roaming around (yikes!) and begged everyone to remember not to do the Red House Loop twice (it happens every year). It was going to be an adventure for all!

The 100-milers headed into the dark at 5am, giving me a chance to catch up with some of the 50m/50k runners before our 6am start. Peter Fain, the 3-time 50k champion and course record holder, had decided to kick up to the 50-miler, which would certainly give 50-mile pro Ron Gutierrez some competition while leaving some 50k runners a chance at the RRCA Nevada State 50k title. Defending 50k Womens champion Julie Young was back and as fit as ever, and there were lots of new faces too. It was anyones race. Only one way to find out who's the most ready - at the sound of the whistle, we headed off!

Peter Fain took it out fast, per usual, leaving about eight of us to cruise along and enjoy the sounds of the waking mountain valley. Ron Gutierrez led us up the first section of single track, and I ran with Ben Kadlec and Nick Sterling who had both come out from Colorado to tackle the 50k. Everyone (except Peter) was going at a fast but casual pace, but running everything. The trail alternated through thick pines and lush meadows full of butterflies.

(Tackling the single track as the valley wakes up)

(Ron Gutierrez and Ben Kadlec leading the pack)

As we rounded Marlette Lake and hit the first steep climb, I laughed to myself thinking how many times I have cursed this hill. The TRT 50k was one of my first 50k's, and I followed up with the 50-miler and later the 100-miler (2x up this mother-scratcher), and had even tackled this section on a mountain bike for the XTerra triathlon. It's just steep enough (about 10%) that it breaks your stride and strongly suggests you walk. We all fought the instinct as long as we could but soon were cursing under our breath. I paced behind former Olympic biathlete Glenn Jobes, who was kicking down a phenomenal pace for the Masters. About two thirds the way up, I had to let him go and took some long walking strides.

(Oh,'s getting steep)

(A skirt ain't a half bad idea for this hot day)

The first aid station (mile 6) was quick, and I tagged along with Ron to continue the climb up Marlette Peak. Our friends from Colorado were having no trouble with the 8,400 ft elevation and began building a gap between us and Peter Fain, still somewhere up there in the distance. The views were OUTSTANDING, with Tahoe Blue reaching into the horizon. I have missed you so!

(Ron rounds the corner on Marlette Peak)

(Beautiful lakes at every turn!)

As we began the descent towards Tunnel Creek (mile 13), I commented to Ron that his stride was absurdly fluid and I could barely hear him running. He said thanks, and mentioned that he had worked quite a bit on transitioning to a mid-foot strike stride after his joints began giving him hell. Whatever he was doing, it was working! He flowed through the tricky descent with ease.

(Joy Schneiter and Ted Nunes are having waaaay too much fun)

Tunnel Creek was a party in progress, and they got us refilled and headed down the Red House loop in no time. Once we got down the sand ladder, we began to see the front-runners in the 100-miler. A cheery Jon Olsen was running with Oregon's Thomas Crawford, just a few step behind previous top finisher Brett Rivers and Mark Tanaka. Bob Shebest and Roxanne Woodhouse were also within sight before I forked down the trail. Everyone I met was in great spirits, enjoying the "feel good" early stages of their epic adventure.

(Chihping Fu runs backwards so we can camera duel at high noon)

On the return climb, I recognized the back of the head of Vance Roget (clearly I've paced behind him too many times) who paced us up the steep stuff, and then caught up to Olga Varlamova who blew me a kiss as we danced across the creeks near Red House. Everyone was doing great!

(Vance Roget leads the climb)

(Kisses from Olga!)

I hit the return on the sand ladder and saw Julie Young up ahead of me. Somehow she had slipped right by, that minx! That's okay. I knew she is capable of 5:15-5:20, which would be a solid 45 minutes faster than I've ever done this course. It's an honor to get chicked by the likes of Julie.

Tunnel Creek (mile 18) was a zoo at this point, but they still managed to get me full of ice water and off and running quickly. I wished all the best to the 50-milers who were forking north to Diamond Peak while us 50k'ers head back up towards Marlette. I opted for some preventative ice-in-the-bandana air conditioning for the climb back and reapplied sunscreen to by sea-level pale skin. I've baked myself one too many times on this hill not to learn! As we zig-zagged up the steeper sections, I reeled in Glenn Jobe who was bleeding from both knees but still truckin'. Before I could ask him what happened, he went down again, victim of those little trail troll rocks that stick up just enough to grab toes, but not enough to cast a shadow. He assured me he was okay, and was moving quickly again in no time. That guy is a trooper!

(Getting hot on Marlette)

I ran solo all the way through Marlette aid station (mile 22), and couldn't make out anyone in front of me up the climb to Snow Peak. I guess Julie and the Colorado kids were making good time! I had some good tunes rolling through my head, thanks to seeing American Idiot on broadway (where Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong just went from great musician to frickin' genius in my book), and kept a good pace. As Snow Peak came into site, so did the familiar profile of Tim Twietmeyer reeling me in from behind. I made a quick stop at Snow Peak (mile 27), but Tim soon caught me on the descent and exchanged a few pleasantries before bombing the 3 miles of steep downhills.

It was really cool to follow Tim and watch his effortless style plunging the descents. He just takes these long, powerful strides and lets gravity do the work. I could swear he's not even looking at his foot placement, but just sensing it in a Zen-like way that only a 25-time finisher of Western States (all under 24 hours) could do. I would gain on him with each flat or uphill section, but the topology favored Tim. By the time I reached the last aid station (mile 30), he had gapped me by four minutes. I reminded myself this was a training run, but the ego still felt sucker-punched watching a guy 10 years my senior roast me like that. I guess I'll never get used to that. ;-)

As I rounded Spooner Lake, I looked at my watch for the first time and realized I was going WAY faster than I had in previous years. It didn't feel hard, but when I crossed the finish line in 5:34 for 5th Overall, it was easily 30 minutes faster than the years I had nearly killed myself to get under six hours. I guess my base conditioning is going well!

(Bringing it home!)

They were serving beer in the finisher chute, and I helped myself to a mega-cup of it to the chagrin of a rehydrating Tim. Ben Kadlec had won in 5:13, with his friend Nick Sterling just a few minutes behind. Julie Young was third (5:26), and Tim was fourth (5:30). About 10 minutes after me, a battered Glenn Jobe came in to claim the Grandmasters title, and was happy to toast with a beer. Tim let me know that he would be at Ironman Hawaii this year (after busting out a 10:30 at Ironman Wisconsin), as would Graham Cooper (10:42 at St. George), so the ultraclan would be well represented. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside! Maybe I can catch Tim in Hawaii...there aren't too many downhills.

(Ben and Nick relax with friends in the shade, happy to share their brews with fellow finishers)

Before too long, we were swept up in helping other 50k finishers cool down, and getting the 100-milers through their halfway point. It really got hot over the next few hours, and those of us under six hours were glad to have missed it. Peter Fain won the 50-miler in an amazing 8:30:47, then weighed in nearly 12 lbs light from dehydration. He said all was great until the climb out of Diamond Peak, which became a familiar story as Ron Gutierrez (2nd, 8:51), Nicholas Triolo (3rd, 9:22), and Carole Barichievich (9:54, 8th OA, 1st Woman) shared similar woes. That exposed new climb is a brute! Thomas Crawford, Bob Shebest, Jon Olsen, and Brett Rivers came through on the first half of the 100-miler in fast enough times to place in the 50-miler, somehow finding the energy to keep going in the heat.

(Brett Rivers looks great at the halfway point)

(Bob Shebest is thumbs up for lap two)

I squeezed in a shower and massage before heading out to watch the sunset, thrilled to have another TRT under my belt. The folks at RRCA had a nice medallion made for my age group win, which Sophie was certain to love. I had a good long sleep and woke up to sit on the deck, toggling between the Tour de France and the live TRT100 feed the next morning. Remember the days when there weren't live feeds to the 100-milers? Sure is great to have them. Thomas Crawford (17:47, CR) won the 100 in record time, with Brett Rivers (18:53) and Bob Shebest (19:57) filling the podium, while Roxanne Woodhouse (22:47), Lisa Nichols (28:09), and Gretchen Brugman (28:19) won the Womens division. I couldn't help but think those Tour de France racers were happy to be done in just six hours! You TRT warriors are amazing.

My thanks to the RD's and volunteers for a great race! It was an honor to share the day with you. I appreciate you giving us the opportunity to so easily add some adventure to our lives.

- SD

Gear checklist - Inov-8 Roclite 295's, Injinji socks, 2XU compression calf guards and shirt, Julbo Race sunglasses, Panasonic FX-48 camera, gels by Hammer and Powergel, S!Caps, Nuun Cola flavor, Aleve, and Shiner Bock. Post-race shoes are Inov-8 Recolite 190's.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Climbing the 2010 Death Ride

I returned to the Sierra Nevada peaks this year to tackle the 2010 Death Ride with a group of my favorite riders. This 129-mile ride climbs over 15,000 feet as you grunt it up and over 5 peaks through the gorgeous valleys near Markleeville, CA. It's a great adventure, and hands down some of the best shwag around.

We started super early this year (a lesson from last year where a late start, heat, and lollygagging had us sprinting to make the cut-offs), making PB&J's at 3:30am and getting on the road by 4:30am. My teammates (Brian Drue, Chris Devine, Mark Dabell, and first-timer Justin Hildebrandt) cranked up the Rush and slurped down coffee to get the juices flowing. I went to hand out S!Caps and bandanas, two essential pieces of gear for this ride, only to find out they had plenty. Last year's ride had converted them all to S!Caps disciples! (hint to those who haven't tried them yet - you end up taking 1/4 as many pills as Endurolytes, it's 1/10th the cost, and they absolutely hit the spot) I love Nuun in the bottle and S!Caps on these long, hot days.

(Night start, photo courtesy of

By the time we hit the base of the first climb, the night had slipped away and the sounds and smells of a high desert morning filled the air. I was surprised to see so many riders ahead of us - despite the early start, we were still halfway through the pack! We set a comfortable pace and had a chance to catch up with each other. Since I hadn't seen Chris or Mark since the last ride, we plenty to talk about - kids, jobs, dreams, and other adventures. Centuries, like ultras, are great for getting dudes to chat.

(Brother-in-law Brian Drue climbing Monitor)

(Chris Devine makes it look easy)

(Mark Dabell warms up on the first climb)

(Desert spring in progress, photo courtesy of Chris Devine)

(Catching up to the pack)

(Feeling good early on)

We saw the first victim of the day on the climb up, a man who was having an allergic reaction to one of the late Spring plants lining the roads. The climb up Monitor went quickly, and we pushed on to the descent on the backside. We knew it would be fast as Chris hollared out "see you in 12 minutes!". Indeed, my speedometer quickly climbed into the high 40's. I found myself riding the brakes a bit more than last year...although my tailbone is phyically healed from my crash in April, the psyche is still a bit scarred!

(Descending Monitor, photo courtesy of

We took a quick break at the bottom for Oreo's and refills, then started the return climb. I don't know why Oreos taste great on rides, but I put them away by the sleeve! This canyon wasn't nearly the sweatfest of 2009, another sign that starting early was a good idea. We rode along with Shauna, who shared her experience at the Alta Alpina Challenge, an 8-peak ride over these same hills that finishes with Monitor. Yowza! Chris and Brian started scheming on how to fit that in for next year.

(Descenders on the left as climb back up)

(Looking good on climb #2)

Mark's friend Kent joined us, and we took advantage of the cooler-than-usual morning to make good time to the top. We stopped at the peak just long enough to get our stickers, and then kept our momentum rolling into the next descent. Brian led the pack, but slowed near the bottom after hitting a light that had fallen off another bike...luckily his flat didn't kick in for another few miles when we were on a slower section. Phew! Brian's face said it all - that would have been reeeaally bad to flat at 45 mph.

(Amazing views at every turn)

We stopped at the Scossa's aid station, which had been taken over by pirates! They let us know we had to "hydrate or walk the plank", and they were doing a fantastic job keeping everyone in good spirits. As we started up Ebbet's (climb #3), we saw the first rider coming back down. Is that possible? The mechanic let us know that this was last year's fastest finisher, and he was looking to break 7 hours, stopping just once at Scossa's for fresh water bottles. That is crazy fast! We blew kisses to the Wild Women of Scossa's (dressed as geisha girls this year) and headed up Ebbett's, the steepest climb of the day.

( hungry?)

(The Pirates of Scossa's hold me at knife point until I hydrate)

Speaking of crazy fast, we were hours ahead of the cutoffs this year. The temperature, although hot, didn't seem as bad as previous years. Plus we were riding strong and not waiting for each other as much, which allowed to keep building that buffer. I guess the third time is the charm!

My camera battery ran out, much in thanks to accidentally putting it in my pocket while "on" in the "video" mode and taking a 33 minute HD video of the inside of my pocket. Whoops. Introspective for sure, but not exactly Academy Award winning material. Nonetheless, a perfect excuse to chat with many of the other riders. I asked anyone with an Ironman Hawaii jersey to share their tips (the most common - "be prepared for a slow swim and don't try and make up for it on the bike, or you will be walking the run"), and learned a lot about other centuries by asking about jerseys. I had no idea there were so many double centuries too - the die hards had "triple crown" jerseys from doing 3 or more doubles in a single year. There were a number of Team in Training riders here too, which was a first, so I asked one of them what they were training for. "THIS, DAMMIT!", he said, grunting out the steep parts. Of course!

(The sign says it all...Ebbett's is a killer)

Ebbett's seemed easier this year...perhaps a sign of lower temps, or perhaps being better prepared from cranking out the Pacific Crest Half Ironman last weekend. I found myself alone at the top, so I cruised down the backside and took a short break at the bottom to air out my feet. It only took a few minutes for the gang to catch up, and we had a few ice cold Cokes before climbing back up.

The gang told me they thought this climb, #4, was the toughest since it was always hot and relentlessly climbed with little shade. It was definitely a lot of time out of the saddle, but within 40 minutes we were over the top and descending again. I saw a couple of gnarly crash vicitims on the way down, including one guy lying in a ditch, and you could hear the ambulance sirens coming from all directions. One of the riders with me said her friend DIED at the Death Ride a few years back after a severe neck injury. Make no mistake, these descents are serious business. I kept thinking of Lance Armstrong crashing in nearly every stage of the Tour de France this year...that is so bad ass!

We eased down to the lunch break, where we took 30 minutes to have some dusty turkey wraps, ramen, and fruit before heading back out. We were treated with a tail wind to Markleeville, and Brian and I took turns pulling a long line of riders all the way into town. We caught up with Justin, who was also having a great ride, and skipped stopping at the cars to tackle the last climb.

The Woodfords aid station, where last years drama unfolded, was a great stop. We hit the horse shower and got a high five from the grim reaper before settling in for the long climb.

(The grim reaper at Woodfords, photo courtesy of

(Hitting the shower before the climb, photo courtesy of Chris Devine)

Chris and Brian set a fast pace off the front, and I hung back a bit to stay in my aerobic zone. Most of the riders were focused on the climb as evidenced by the lack of conversation. I passed the aid station and was pleased to NOT find a freak thunderstorm like previous years. Anyone who had a triple ring had shifted down, so I got out of the saddle and swung around them. Despite encouraging others, I couldn't get anyone on my tail to draft. Alas!

Carson Pass had fallen or bonked riders every half mile. The EMT's were busy this year! The last pitch in particular seemed to be claiming a lot of riders on the descent. As fast as one guy was picked up (speed wobbles, fell and broke his hip), another woman was down (pothole, airlift called), and another crashing while getting around the fallen rider (face plant, going to need a new chin). One guy climbing in front of me just fell over, bonked and dizzy, and some spectators rushed him into the shade and got him some water. Even cars and RV's were conking out in the middle of the road! This was a tough climb.

I got to the top first (Chris and Brian must have stopped) and enjoyed some ice cream while meeting other riders. I handed out a lot of Aleve, S!Caps, and Nuun to cramping riders (fastest way to get rid of a cramp - one Aleve, one S!Cap, water, and 10 minutes of rest), and was glad I had carried a small pharmacy with me. About 10 minutes later, all of our pack showed up, and we signed the 5-pass poster before heading back down the hill. I was three ice creams in at that point, and shook my head knowing I had given the "too much ice cream = stomach ache" speech to Sophie, my four year old, just the weekend before. Chris laughed out loud, clutching his stomach as well, saying he had given his three girls that speech so many times he lost count. Do as I say, sweetie, not as I do!

(Signing the poster at the top, photo courtesy of Chris Devine)

We decided to forgo the party at the end, and instead had some beers in the shade near our cars and enjoyed the topics of middle age dudes (how to fit three child car seats in a performance car, what to do when your wife finds your porn collection, comparing watch tan lines, etc.). We had finished all five passes a solid two hours earlier than last year, and felt much better. Time for the double century next year? Perhaps! On my drive home, I saw more than my fair share of cyclists asleep in their cars (including one group at a Taco Bell with their food bags still in their laps). No matter how you slice it, this was a tough day. What a way to sieze the day!

Thanks to the organizers and great volunteers at the Death Ride for another great year!

- SD

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Smooth Racing at the 2010 Pacific Crest Half Ironman

I had a blast last weekend joining 550 triathletes at the 2010 Pacific Crest Half Ironman in Sunriver, OR. Although I was familiar with this beautiful course, it had been a few years since I did the "tri thing". It welcomed me back like an old friend.

There's a magic about Central Oregon in the early summer, when snow-capped peaks contrast a hot dry heat and lure soaked Oregonians from their caves. Everyone comes out to play...and I mean EVERYONE. This weekend hosted the Pacific Crest Endurance Weekend, with over a dozen events from kids triathlons, to marathons, to tri's and du's of all distances, as well as the USA Cycling Junior Championships, a regional tennis tournament, and a golf fundraiser. Outdoor enthusiasts were out by the thousands enjoying nature's playground!

I hadn't originally planned to do Pac Crest this year, but when I saw the fine print on my winning lottery slot for Ironman Hawaii that said "you must complete a half Ironman or greater in the next 90 days to validate your lottery slot", I knew this would be the perfect qualifier. I had completed this race three times ('03, '04, '07...yikes, am i that old?) so I knew what to expect. I was going to need that course familiarity to make up for my lack of swimming and cycling training. Plus heading to Oregon would provide an opportunity to visit with family, see friends, and enjoy their ideal July weather. Christi and Sophie came along for the fun!

(Awaiting the start on a clear morning)My aged and dusty gear was clear evidence I was a "runner-faking-his-way-through-a-tri". The wetsuit was showing more wear from wakeboarding than swimming. My road bike, retrofitted with some left over aero bars, wasn't nearly the NASA-grade time trial machines that lined the T1 transition area. Even the battery on my power meter ran out, so it didn't even have a speedometer! The final straw was the body marking volunteer writing "41" on my calf to indicate my age. I don't usually have issues with my age, but it stole my breath to see a number starting with a 4 on my calf in permanent black ink for the first time. Team Geritol at your service. :-)

(These two were stoked to tackle their first Half Ironman)As the sun illuminated the diamond-shaped, 1.2 mile swim course on the reservoir, a group of elk peered from across the lake to see what the hub-bub was all about. I hung out with triathletes old and new along the starting ramp, and everyone was eager to soak up this perfect day that was scheduled to hit mid-80's by the afternoon. Wave by wave we eased into the chilly mountain water, and swam into the sun.

I was surprisingly comfortable by the first buoy, picking a line wide of the fast guys and finding a nice aerobic rhythm. Clearly the month I had squeezed in at the pool, thanks to stealing away during Sophie's swim lessons, had given me a base to work with. I was also trying the "lesson of threes" that I had picked up from some Ironman veterans who had given me some pointers on how to use a practice race to determine my best goal pace:

  • Split the distance of each discipline into thirds
  • Swim/bike/run the first third of the discipline at a pace slightly slower than your goal
  • Take the middle section at your goal pace
  • If you feel good, go a little harder on the last third.
  • The goal is to save enough energy that you can be comfortable transitioning, then enter the run knowing you could run a marathon within 15% of a marathon best effort. For example, I should be able to come off the bike feeling like I could run a 3 hour marathon (15% off my marathon PR) if I gave it everything.
  • If you don't feel good enough to do this, then you're going too fast too early in the game. This is where 5 minutes in the swim, or 15 minutes on the bike, could cost you an hour in the run when you're walking.

Just like Schoolhouse Rock says, "3 is a magic number"! I felt good at the second buoy, so I picked up the pace a bit, flashing a smile to the elk with each turn of my head. My gosh, this swim is...enjoyable!

(The finish line beacon that summons us)

I came out of the water feeling good, and at 38 minutes was oddly within 60 seconds of all three of my previous swim finishes. How weird is that? I guess all that running counts for something. The volunteers were amazing and got us out quickly, and I was glad to not have a 10 minute port-o-pottie stop like in 2004 (note - no matter how bad you have to go, take the wetsuit off BEFORE getting in a sun-drenched port-o-sauna).

The 58-mile bike (2 bonus miles!) is the crown jewel of this course, zooming down the Cascade Lakes highway before climbing up to Mt Bachelor and unleashing a 16-mile white knuckle descent. With no watch or power meter, I had no choice but to soak it all in and stick to my "lesson of threes" tempo. My pace felt fast, and I was grateful to have a pack of cyclists to work with. Even though we can't draft, we can help each other keep a rhythm (just like in ultras!).

(Getting a few cheers while zooming down the super-smooth highway)

(Mt. Bachelor is our final climb!)

On the final climb, all I could hear was lungs desperately grasping at the little oxygen that remained at 6,500 feet. This was the last third of the race, so I allowed myself to get out of the saddle and crank it up to the top. I passed about 30 riders, but many of them caught me within the first two miles of the descent. The advantage of a time trial bike and aero helmet was pretty clear once we got going fast.

(This is basically your view on the descent)

I tucked in and hung on, noting how much smoother this newly paved road is than previous years. Could this course be any more amazing?!? I felt like Chuck Yeager reaching the sound barrier as my freewheel hit a pitch only dogs could hear. As we took the last turn for the final 3-mile stretch to T2, my legs were thankful for the rest and felt ready to run. Then I got off the bike...ah, yes, the T2 shuffle! How soon we forget. The volunteers were awesome again, and one who saw my Inov-8 shirt yelled out splits for Western States. Gotta love the ultrarunners! He also let me know my bike split - 2:45 - which was fast for me indeed on this long and hilly course.

(Tri nerd coming through! Note the striped Injinji tsoks)

As sore as my legs were, it was nothing compared to my Western States brethren who were cutting through the canyons, so I cranked it up 'til it hurt (~6:30/mile pace). At that speed, it felt like I was passing everyone. I summarized there were two great benefits to ultra training prior to tri's - you are used to going fast on thrashed legs, and I was one of the few who thought a 90-minute run was "short". But I was forgetting my lesson of 3's, so I eased up to a 7:15/mile pace and chomped ice to stay cool.

The 13.1 mile run course feels like it's mostly downhill, and there were lots of spectators at every turn. Occasionally when I passed a triathlete, they would surge and stay with me, often blowing up a half mile later and slowing again. What was that all about? Most of the time I just trade the usual pleasantries of "looking good"s and "atta boy"s, but if it was a fit older guy showing a little grey, he dug deep. Then I figured it out - the age written on my calf! It was fellow age groupers making sure they didn't lose a podium spot in the final miles. Very impressive!

Before I knew it, I heard the cheers for the finish line and saw Sophie and her cousins hooting and hollering. It was a comfortable pace from end to end, and I had plenty left in the tank. I finished in 5:06 for 36th place and 8th in my age group, pleased that Ironman Hawaii was officially on the calendar now. We got some beer and sat in the shade, congratulating my Dad in his 2nd in age group finish in the half marathon.

(All smiles at the finish)

(Sophie shows off her new sunglasses in the finish chute)

(Okay, clearly I didn't go hard enough)

We spent the rest of the day hanging with friends and enjoying the weather, occasionally slying away to catch the live video feed of Western States on my iPhone4 (oooohhh, technolust so good!). I stood up and cheered for each finisher with more exubrance than the World Cup fans glued to the TV across the bar, and I wondered if the futballers thought this salty and tanned guy with the "41" on his calf was a bit crazy.

Probably true. But that's what too much sun, exercise, family, and good friends can do to you. ;-)

See you at the Death Ride!

- SD