Monday, June 23, 2008

Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Retrobution

If you read about my first Ironman (below), then you understand that I had a score to settle with the Ironman. Few seemed to believe that I could participate without racing. I love to race, but I don't love Ironman. It's haunted me for years. My plan was to set the governor on easy for the swim and bike, then let 'er loose for the run.

With the Armed Forces Championship and subsequent Military World Championship, I've spent my last five weeks on a road bike. My TT bike had a few adjustments while gone, so all I was able to do was do an easy ride to familiarize myself in the two days I had here at home after all that traveling. I was really worn out, but Ironman Coeur d'Alene was about finishing without an epic story of overcoming disaster after disaster. Racing ITU is about the swim and run, which is where my focus has been all year. Ironman is about going long, which is something I haven't had time to train my body to do.

I was aware going in that it was almost like doing an Ironman without training. I avoided thinking about the race or even prepping my gear until the day we headed to Coeur d'Alene. I was worn out from being away from home since May, so prepping for a race and being gone for another four days wasn't appealing to me. Why is it that a race that takes an entire day also has to take the two days before and the day after from check-in to awards? Amanda was on the ball and my laziness was probably aggravating, but she handled it like a champ. Honestly, if it weren't for her, then I would not have made it to the start line. She nudged me along, right up to the race start. She gets a gold star for making sure I had the opportunity to beat that old memory.

The cold water wasn't going to bother me. Compared to Armed Force's 52 degrees, this would be a lot better. I even opted to leave the aqua socks behind. I walked in, submerged myself and let water into the wet suit a couple times before the start. I was right on the line and planned to blast out of there to avoid being drowned in the masses. The start was smooth for me, but I had a rare breathing problem that I've only experienced one other time. In swimming, on a scale from good to bad, it's bad. I breathed on both sides, but felt like I was about to drown, which is pretty scarry. Knowing the majority of 2300 people are behind me and would swim right over me, didn't make it any easier. I tried to signal for help, but none was in sight, so I had to keep going. Switching to backstroke didn't seem to help. Maybe the anxiety caused a temporary conversion disorder. Though I was initially off the front, I was quickly swallowed by the field as I tried to settle down and get my breathing under control. It took a half lap before I started to settle down. At that point, I just found some feet and followed at a very easy pace for the remainder of the swim. My time was 1:04:27, which was good for 177th overall. I stuck to the plan, kept it easy and was glad to be on solid ground. I really don't like swimming. It's the only sport that if you stop in ... you'll die. I didn't do a warm-up swim due to being terribly undertrained and didn't think I could afford to waste any energy warming up. After that experience, I'll make sure to do a warm-up for every race in the future. That was scarry. Also, the swim may have been a little long.

T1 was somewhat amusing to me. As an ultra-competitive racer, I've wanted for years to have just one race where I could cruise along and enjoy it. That's what this race was for me. Since I was on the sharp end of the field, people were in a hurry. I actually had to tell my helper to slow down. I soaked in the atmosphere and watched others briefly before I finished up and got on my way. My time showed it too. It took me 6:29 to get through T1.

The bike was my biggest worry. It would be my longest ride since 1999 and literally more twice my weekly average. My legs are trained for about an hour in the saddle, while my system is only trained for about three hours of work. Today was going to be three to four times that, so I couldn't afford to get caught up in the highly charged atmosphere. People were cheering machines, but I resisted the urge to ride in the moment. My body was telling me I could go faster, but my mind said absolutely not! Trying to keep track of my fueling and making sure my average stayed under 20 MPH kept my mind busy when I wasn't chatting or joking with other riders. At mile 40, I was feeling a bit over my head. Despite the easy effort, I was spent by mile 75. I struggled to the finish of the ride. My time was 5:43:18, which is better than I expected. To my amusement, I actually ended up injuring my right wrist from shifting for nearly six hours. Since I haven't been on my TT bike for weeks and certainly don't have much practice shifting gears for more than an hour, my wrist swelled up and is very weak and sore. So, if you're like me and just don't get much time to ride, make sure you practice your shifting.

In T2, I was prepared to take whatever time I needed. My only goal was to shoot for a sub 3-hour run. I'm absolutely certain I can do it, especially now that I'm looking back on the race. I changed clothes, socks, watches, fueled up, went to the rest room and did a quick stretch. T2 was 6:00. Oddly enough, my cumulative time was 7:00:14. If I ran a sub 3, then I'd also have a sub 10:00:00 overall. That gave me a little extra motivation since a finish time hadn't even crossed my mind. The only time I thought about was the run.

So I go busting out of T2 and onto the run with the Garmin helpning me keep pace for a sub 3 (sub 6:52/mile). After busting out of the gates, I needed constant pace checks to keep my legs under control. The McCoy family, Bob and others were out there cheering like it was an Olympic sport and had a gigantic chalk sign for me that took the entire road! They had one for Amanda too. It took a couple miles to find my pace, but I was flat out exhausted. Seven hours of exercise was too much, but I really wanted to give it an honest effort. Somewhere around 5.5M, Tri-Fusion was cheering for me like I was winning this thing. I was still very focused at this point, so I don't remember who all was there and don't want to leave anyone out, so thanks to all of you. I remember Tiffany nearly bringing me to laughter and Jessi cheering like a champ. At 10K, the pace felt comfortable, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd love to lay down and go to sleep. It was really fun flying past all those other participants. It took me back to grade school when I simply had fun going fast.

Normally a hill like the one at the turn wouldn't bother me, but I was nearing 8 hours of racing and it was just too much. I slowed up to save my legs for the rest of the run, but it wasn't enough. Despite fueling so well, I just didn't have the range. My average pace was 6:40 at mile 8, so I decided to ease up and see if I'd recover by running 7:15 for a while. At mile 12, it was apparent that I was fighting a losing battle. I could have made mile 16 at 6:52 pace, but would be completely spent. The other option would be to slow to 7:30 and cruise on in for a 3:05 to 3:08 marathon. To do that, I would have had to be concerned with my overall time, which I wasn't. That had nothing to do with my goals, so I shut it down and walked a while as I tried to figure out what to do. A brisk walk would put me in around 12 hours, which got me thinking that I could cross the line with Amanda. I would be fine with that time, which would be almost 5 hours faster than my only other Ironman. Throwing around the numbers for a while, I figured it would be cool to make my goal to beat my PR by six hours. Unfortunately, I didn't decide that until the turn on lap 2, so I had to run sub 8:00/mile. It would have been a lot easier if I made that decision before I burned so much time walking. I measured the course at 26.36 miles, which is .14 longer than the standard 26.22 (26.21875 if you want to be more precise). Yes John, I ran the tangents.

In the end, I managed to get my adjusted goal of 10:51:16 for a 6-hour PR. I don't think Ironman keeps track of the biggest improvement, but I'm sure 6 hours is right in there. My marathon time was 3:51:02, which is 4:30:57 faster than my first Ironman marathon, more likely to be a record. My final resting place was 191st. That's a lot better than my 1646th place in my first try. I didn't leave with another story of stories. The Ironman beat me the first time. It's all tied up now. We'll see what happens next time. I hope it's not any time soon. Amanda set a 2 hour 38 minute PR, so we can both leave feeling good about it. I hope she hasn't signed me up for any more of these things. There's an outside chance that I'll be picked for the Air Force Team to race in Hawaii. If that's the case, then I won't have the luxury of going easy.

For now, I'm feeling good about my performance. Pulling up on the run before I annihilated myself was the smart thing to do. I'm still able to walk around and even keep my running streak alive at 1,636 days in a row. On some days, it's not the most healthful thing to do; however, it's the long-term change in lifestyle that makes it worth the trouble.

Ironman Canada 1999 vs. Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2008
Swim: 1:01:59 vs. 1:04:27
T1: 3:39 vs. 6:29
Bike: 7:01:12 vs. 5:43:18
T2: 22:13 vs. 6:00
Run: 8:21:59 vs. 3:51:02

Total: 16:50:51 vs. 10:51:16

Friday, June 20, 2008

Armed Forces Championship 2008

Team Air Force posing on the beach for one of the sponsors. I'm on the left, McCoy with his fist in the air.

This was my goal race for the year. It’s tough to peak in May when living in this climate, especially this year. On the other hand, there’s too much on the line with this race. Twelve men and six women are selected from each branch of the US military. The top eight men and four women score for their team. We also have Team Canada racing this year. The Air Force is the defending champion for the second consecutive year. It’s my sixth time on the team and was glad to have my training partner, Mike McCoy, coming along with me from Fairchild. The race starts on the California coastline near Malibu.

We were essentially paid athletes for the week, flown to the race, put up in the beach hotel, given clothes and racing gear while we did whatever we needed to do to get ready for the race. I needed rest. It’s a major perk for me to be able to sleep as much as I’d like at night. Since I was in my taper, it made for a fun and relaxing time.

A new theme for this year is time conservation. In the past, I’d get to a race site hours before the race to make sure everything was perfect. This year I get to races at last minute and enjoy a lot more of my day at the expense of a small amount of time on the race course. Our race started at 10:08, so I stayed in bed until 9:30. Our racks were numbered and I was staying at the race site. When I got to the transition area, it was absolute chaos. We race the only amateur ITU race sanctioned by USAT, so we had to follow ITU rules. We had bins instead of a transition area. They made an error and put too many bikes per rack. Brake levers overlapped adjacent brake/shifter cables, handle bars ended up locked, pedals, shoes and derailleurs tangled with the same on the next bike. I couldn’t even reach my bin with bikes hanging over it. We had pandemonium! ITU officials gave in to reason and provided another rack.
Around 70 men start packed shoulder to shoulder. We needed a lot more room in the water.

I went down to the water, lined up and waited to start. I lined up at the back and on the right side. It was a beach start against a very exclusive field. I’m normally a mid pack swimmer there and wanted to avoid the beating I received last year. Once the gun went off, I went over the start line and made my way to the far right. I plunged into the 52 to 53 degree water (not sure which ended up being official) and started swimming untouched. It freezes the hands, face and feet, but strangely, I was handling it very well. It helped that I was alone. My first thought was actually “I wish I had trained harder.” I quickly countered with “I did train harder.” I wish it helped more. The best I could manage was 21st place male with a time of 22:39.
Everyone had a beet red face and hands from the frigid water. You can see the line where the wet suit no longer covered the skin.

It’s hard to tell if it was long or short. It didn’t matter to me. I was just glad to hear the announcer call out “Mike McCoy from Fairchild AFB.” I knew he was right in front or just behind me. It turns out he was just behind. It’s a good thing too. My timing chip came off with my wet suit and I had to fish it out. T1 was 1:01, which moved me up one spot to 20th. Mike was :15 back, so I was going to wait for him. Surrounded by marines, I started barking orders to start organizing, but also that we were going to wait for McCoy. Once together, we did our best to reel people in and make them work in our pack. It was a bit of a mess having a bunch of amateur racers with a few pros trying to race draft legal. We got it done though and I was able to move up to 14th place after the bike leg of 57:53. I had a terrible T2 also. My breaks wouldn’t slide over the new rack they put out for us, so a few attempts later, I was onto the run. My split was :30, moving me into 13th place.
Three AF and three Marines trying to work together. I'm on the left with McCoy in the center. Our pack just picked up a faster swimming AF Team mate who held on for a half lap of the four lap course.

It was really windy and hot on the two loop 5K. I managed to reel one guy (David Steele) in before we completed a short dog leg. On the way back and onto the long dog leg, Steele picked up a really nice draft behind me. The wind was really tough to battle. He drafted like a champ, but I couldn’t afford to slow up enough to let him pull, even if he wanted to. I needed to be 6th. I don’t know how many times he clipped my heel, but apologized numerous times before finally telling me he’d buy me a beer. I told him that I didn’t mind and that it was just a race that I felt lucky to be a part of. OK, so I was doing a lot of gasping for air in the process, but that’s what I told him. I was pleased with myself for being a great sport while helping a Marine do better against my AF team mates. Before the second 1.5M stretch of brutal head wind, I dropped him and passed my final victims to secure the 6th place spot. I had fifth in my sights, lying to myself by saying that I could catch him from :25 back, which only made me work harder for the same place. My run time was 35:04. Like it seems every year, I had the fifth fastest run. My finish time was 1:57:11.
I never push harder than I do at this race. After a few years of finish line face plants, the docs let me know before I start that they'll be there to catch me at the finish. As you can see, there's nothing left and I'm going down, but they were ready to drag me away with my toes in the sand.

The end result assured me a spot on Team USA and an all expense paid trip to Estonia. McCoy finished 13th overall in 2:00:26, but earned a spot on the Masters Team USA. He’s one fast dude. AF men finished 2nd to Navy, lead by Olympic Trials 6th place finisher Tim O’Donnell. The AF women finished third after dominating the women’s division for years. Our top female, Jolene Wilkenson, was in an accident the week before the race and won’t be able to train/race for two months. She was 2nd last year to Justine Whipple who took sixth in under 23 worlds in Vancouver and took silver at last year’s Military Worlds.
This is my traditional pose. This time with the Red Bull arch making a nice background. I was given more Red Bull than I could drink in three weeks, but I defied the odds and finished up with a day to spare!

This will be my 4th time on Team USA. If getting to wear our national colors and have a chance to compete against top world competition, several of which have been in the Olympics, I get to miss another two weeks of work on top of the one I was already given. Of 2.69 million troops, many train hard and race hard for this opportunity. Unlike other Team USA teams and programs, we’re completely taken care of. We still get paid our wages without having to use our leave. We don’t have to buy our uniforms or equipment, pay for our rooms, airfare or food. In fact, they actually pay us more while providing us a great support staff. Between that and the Air Force Team, I get far more than I deserve. It’s a rare opportunity, so I share the details in order to better understand the experience, since it’s far more than just another race.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ironman Canada: The Run (Part 4)

Despite all that had gone awry in my day and the days before, I viewed the run as a clean slate. My 9:30 was out of the question, but Hawaii was not ... at least not yet. I zipped into transition with the hope of a fast T2 to get me on the road right away. Seconds turned to minutes as volunteers failed to return with my T2 bag. The search team grew, but my bag simply wasn't found. There was little I could do that they weren't, so I decided to get a quick massage. Around 20 minutes into T2, I decided that I had to get going, even if that meant running without shoes. I had run a marathon without shoes once due to shoe problems, but that's another story. Just as I was getting up to go, a volunteer ran over to me with my transition bag. Apparently my number was called in by the ambulance driver during my final rest in the ditch at Yellow Lake during the bike leg. At that time, my bag was removed before they confirmed that I was out of the race.

With my gear in hand and even more time lost, I finally finished T2 in 22:13! I was all fired up at the start of the run and blasted onto the run course like I was doing an open half marathon. That pent up emotion was put in check about a quarter mile in. That big swollen knot on my neck was still causing me breathing problems. After nearly passing out, I slowed to a walk. This was the point when I finally knew Hawaii was not in the cards. The whole day began to sink in as I began a nearly 26-mile walk of shame. Just as I began walking, I heard a couple ladies say "Way to go! You're looking good! You're almost there!" Of all the people in the race, this line wasn't for me. I had trained full time for months and was visibly in great shape. It was obvious that I was bloodied up and hurting. On top of that, I was walking at about 400m into the run. I was not looking good. I wasn't doing well and was anything but almost done. It was the breaking point for me. I wanted to punch them, but kept walking and walking and walking.

Although this was anything but the race I kept telling myself that I was going to have, I never let it stop me. The first goal, and most important, in any race is to finish. That was the least I could do. I developed a strong desire to feel the weight of that giant maple leaf finisher medal around my neck when I crossed the line. One curious thing about me is that I'm a notoriously slow walker. I just can't step it out. As I walked through my first full mile, which was 2, I did the math and found that I was walking too slowly to finish before midnight. I needed to go about 20 minutes/mile, so I picked it up. It was a lot easier than running, but forced me to reflect on my experience. It was anything but fun, but gave me a chance to forge the type of athlete I'd be in the future. I gave myself little goals to achieve before quitting, but each achievement had to be satisfied with another.

The hours went by a little more slowly than the miles did, but I was making progress. I made it to the turn and found that the chicken broth was really good and warmed me up. I had nothing in special needs there, much like the bike. I didn't expect to be out there that long. It was getting darker and colder and if you know me, cold is something I don't do well. Still, I pressed on reminding myself of how great it would feel to have that heavy medal around my neck at the finish. After it got dark, I became one of those people who trudged along with the glow stick. I was officially one of them. It's a lasting immage of Ironman, but one I didn't want to be a part of. With the darkness came more cold. I was shivering as I made my way. Compassionate volunteers and spectators offered me shirts, coats, pants and gloves. I wouldn't have any of it though. I have honor and don't want any part of breaking the rules. I push the limits of rules, but that's as far as I go. Outside assistance isn't allowed. After all I've been through, being DQed or given a time penalty was too much.

As I finally made my way back into town, I was the last person on the road that had a chance of making it before midnight. A group of strangers gathered around me to encourage me along. Although I had hours of being alone, I wanted to be left alone. I never saw myself as that guy who needed people to pull me in. I really didn't need it that day either, but it's the situation I was in. If they only knew the problems that would cost me more than 7 hours. Quitting or failing was not an option. Like my situation with the ambulance, this race would not take me alive. As long as I was alive, I'd finish. With two miles to go, a stranger lied to me and told me I had less time than I had on my watch and that I needed to get going. I took a moment to think about it and came to one conclusion. What if he was right? I didn't want to round that final corner and head to the finish line thinking I had conquered the ultimate bad day, only to find that somehow I was off by a few minutes and didn't make it after all. Pushing through all of that only to be denied my medal would feel like I had been cheated out of my finish and robbed of my efforts.

With about a mile to go, I ran for the first time in over 8 hours. I was cruising along at about 5:50 pace for the final mile. I blasted past six people in the process to keep from finishing last. I crossed the line in 16 hours 50 minutes and 51 seconds. My overall finish place was 1,646th. The real kicker was my marathon, which took 8 hours, 21 minutes and 59 seconds. It's one of the slowest marathons in Ironman history. That wasn't my goal, but it kept me from failing at my number one goal: finishing. It took all day, but nothing I encountered was able to keep me from being an Ironman.

After crossing the line, I was barely able to breathe. Volunteers came up to tell me that they didn't have any finishers towels or medals because they had more finishers than expected. Despite gasping for air, I couldn't help but to think of my ironic twist of fate. They tried to take me from the line with a gurney, but I was going to walk to the med tent. They wanted to stick me with an IV to hydrate me, but I told them I had been going too slow and drank too much to be dehydrated. My problem was breathing, not drinking. As I laid there under that sun blanket, I looked around the room at all the others. It seemed that I was the only one without an IV. That had to be my victory.

The next day, I made my way back to the center to get my medal and finishers certificate they promised me. When I finally got to the counter, I gave the lady my name and she said she couldn't find my time and asked me what it was. I replied quietly "16:50." She wasn't able to hear me, so she asked me again. I said "please don't make me say it any louder." I was really embarassed. That would be a fair 5K time, but for an Ironman, it was not. I told her again and she looked up and down and didn't see my time anywhere. She told me I didn't make it before midnight and wasn't an official finisher. Wrong! I had gone through hell and was going to get my medal. I wanted the race director or someone else to help me out in my emotional state. I was told that the race director was helping the Hawaii qualifiers and would be busy for quite a while. I know I lost my cool a bit, but for all I went through, I'm OK with it. I said I was happy for the Hawaii qualifiers, but before they get seconds, I want what I earned.

It wasn't necessary, but I explained my bad day and how hard I fought just to finish and wasn't leaving without my medal. Eventually she relented and got the race director for me. He had someone get in the data base and found that several of the final finishers had omitted run and finish times. They found mine, verified that I did make it before midnight, but still didn't have medals. Long story short, I left without my medal. They did mail it to me and I put it on and wore it around like a proud senior citicizen does at work on the Monday after a weekend race.

So that's my first and last Ironman. A couple hours to get my packet, two nights of no sleep, no swim cap nearly causing me to miss the start, nearly being drown, a panic attack, having the snot beat out of me in the swim, my T1 gear being scattered, getting sick on Pepsi, crashing and being rubbed raw and having my neck and back out of allignment, getting stung on the neck, an allergic reaction making it difficult to breathe for the rest of the day, having to lay in the ditch seven times to catch my breath, drenching my eyes with my sweat band, spraying my eyes out with Gatorade, having paramedics try to pull me from the course, having my number called in as a DNF, a 22:13 T2 while they found my gear before I headed out for a barefooted marathon, running a quarter mile before I nearly passed out, walking the marathon in 8:21:59 while nearly going hypothermic and finishing 6th from last and barely before midnight unable to breathe or feel the weight of that medal around my neck, only to be told the next day that I didn't actually finish. Needless to say, I haven't attempted another one ... yet.

Thanks for reading my story. Stories aren't complete without a comment, so please leave one before you go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ironman Canada: The Bike (Part 3)

On firm ground, I made my way to my bike. Lucky for me, someone either tried to head out on my bike or use my gear. What I found was my things were not how I left them, which is in my obsessive order. They were sorted through and tossed on the ground. My transition was 3:29. My best guess is that it cost me about 1:30. It wasn't a big deal, but things weren't going my way and I was on a tight budget with my minutes and seconds.

Heading out on the bike, I felt pretty strong considering the long swim and my ordeal. With over 200 bikers in front of me, I had plenty of riders to pass and did just that. I needed to ride around 5:15 to 5:20. That would be tough, but something I knew I could do. As I rode, I kept doing time checks, calculating my needed pace with my 9:30 goal. Riding with only one water bottle, my plan was to alternate Gatorade and water every stop. As I rode into an early station, I asked for Gatorade, grabbed my bottle, secured it and accelerated away. A short while later, I pulled it from the cage at an opportune time and guzzled most of it down before I realized it was Pepsi! Some like it, but it made me terribly nauseated in previous exercise sessions. Canada was no different.

A few minutes later and I felt that nauseating pain in my gut. Getting to Hawaii wasn't going to be easy and I couldn't afford to go without fluids (forcing the fluids out ... if you know what I mean) until the next stop, so I pressed on. The race wasn't meant to be a pleasure cruise, so I told myself that this is the way it's supposed to be. I decided it would be best to ask for water only from that point and rely on my foods to fuel me. I didn't want them to confuse the beverages again.

As I continued to power my way past those in front of me, I went through somewhat of a residential area. The details aren't terribly clear since I wasn't familiar with the area, and still am not, but more bad luck came my way. Some lady out riding her bike turned onto the road we were racing down. She was clearly unaware of what was going on and simply drifted to the right to make a turn. I was tucked and aero after a short descent, so I didn't have enough time to react. She drifted across my path and clipped my front wheel with her rear wheel. I went down hard and skidded to a stop. Skin makes for a great breaking surface.

I didn't have time to check myself out or have a conversation with the appologetic lady. I hopped back on my bike and took off. While riding I was able to determine that I was rubbed terribly raw on my left hip. My left shoulder, arm, lats, quad and knee were covered in dirty road rash streaked with my blood. Miles later, my neck and back were aching from being bumped out of allignment. It was clear that I was going to have to earn this finish the hard way. My 9:30 looked harder and harder with every passing event, but I wouldn't allow myself to give up on my goal.

Richter Pass was tough, but I worked my way up it. I was able to stand and climb. I see pain as something separate from my effort, so I endured both just the same. The trip down the back side of the mountain proved to be more of a problem than going up. I had to stand to stretch out my back and neck. As I stood, riders were tucked and aero and flying past me. It was hard to give that time back, but it was necessary to make it through the race.

Once at the bottom, I started getting some more time back, but I was terribly uncomfortable. I was nauseated, banged up and out of allignment. I'm not sure it was the best decision, but I didn't have anything in the special needs section. It was all about time and I didn't think there was anything that I really needed at halfway. As I blazed through special needs I was able to get an idea of how many riders were catchable on the out and back. It didn't prove to be too useful other than motivating me to keep the pressure up.

Just past special needs on the way back I encountered my biggest problem of the ride. I saw a bug swirl around in a clockwise circle as we colided. It smacked me on the left carotid. I'm not sure if it stung me, bit me or if it was the impact, but it really stung. I continued to press on as I started to get somewhat breathless and dizzy. It got so bad that I eventually had to get off the bike and catch my breath. It took nearly passing out to get to that point.

My stop was at an aid station where I laid in the ditch face down. My forehead pressed against the sweat band in my helmet, drenching my eyes in my own sweat. As my eyes burned I reached for my bike and fumbled around for my water bottle. When I found it I rinsed out my eyes, not with water, but Gatorade. They gave me Gatorade instead of water! A nice volunteer got me a bottle of water and helped me get cleaned up as I forced my eyes open. My back was seizing up, so I actually got a massage right there to help loosen it up.

After that pit stop, I got back on and started making my way toward Yellow Lake. My neck had swollen up with a golf ball sized lump, making my breathing problems worse. It was bad enough that I had to stop six more times to catch my breath. I was losing time rapidly, but it was all I could do. The top of Yellow Lake was celebrated with another stop to catch my breath in the ditch. Traffic was one lane only and not moving.

As I laid there, I heard a vehicle come up the road and stop. That was odd given the traffic and race. I heard a couple doors open and close, then a couple more doors open. Something hit the ground and was being rolled toward me. I poked my head up out of the ditch like a gopher to see what was going on. It was an ambulance and the two paramedics were coming at me with a gurney. Nope! I wasn't going to let it end this way. Not after what I'd gone through and when I had a goal to keep me going. I jumped up, grabbed my bike and took off. As I ran away, I said "you won't take me alive!" The driver said "looks like we cured another one."

Going down the other side of the pass was painfull, but I was able to do a lot of coasting. My last few miles into Penticton were so unpleasant that I thought running would be better. This day was getting longer and longer, but I kept telling myself that I had to keep pressing to get that 9:30 and make my way to Hawaii. Sure, I was in denial, but it kept me going. In the end, my ride time was 7:01:12. That was good for 1,396th on that leg. I had lost a lot of places and a ton of time. I wasn't giving up though. I came blasting into T2, just like I would have if nothing had gone awry at all that day.

The worst of my pain was over, but my problems would continue and the day would grow longer.