Thursday, August 4, 2011

Top Notch Triathlon: surrounded by men in spandex

In honor of Saturday's running of the 19th annual Top Notch Triathlon, I'm posting an article I wrote for the Courier back in 2002 (or 2003?) about my own second Top Notch experience. I believe the headline with this front page gem was: Surrounded by Men in Spandex, Our Reporter Makes it to the Top.

That's me on the left, during my so-far-only Iron
woman attempt, circa 1995. And that's Trevor
Hamilton next to me.
 We came up with the inane idea in February, during a late night discussion, after a consuming a few beers. Summer seemed distant then, a world away.
The three of us would be training partners for the Top Notch Triathlon, six months down the road. We'd have weekly training sessions.  We'd ride our bikes hard, swim in Echo Lake's icy waters, practice scrambling quickly up mountains.
I'd finished the "Race to the Face" as an Iron woman once during my college years.  My mother has a picture of me at the finish that day. I look only slightly tired and out of breath.  I look happy. It would be fun.
By the time July hit, we'd conceded to compete as a team. Carrie couldn't get the day off from managing the Echo Lake Park, but she could do the swim. Nicole hadn't recovered completely from a winter knee injury, but she could do the mountain bike portion. 
That left me with the questionable honor of running the final leg, a 2.5-mile jaunt up Cannon Mountain. I felt relatively fit from riding my new road bike all summer. I hadn't done much hiking or been running in months, but I figured, "What the heck, it's only two and a half miles."
Well, about a third of the way up the mountain last Saturday, I wondered what on earth had inspired me to put myself through this ordeal.
It was hot. It was steep. I was surrounded by men in spandex, and they were passing me left and right.
My legs ached. My lungs burned. I though surely I would finish last, or collapse somewhere along the way.
I've spent a lot of time on Cannon Mountain. I like it a lot better when it's covered in snow and I've got skis strapped to my feet.
Most of the way I was in a pack of competitors strung along in a winding, panting queue creeping up the mountain's ski trails. When we reached the Tramway trail, folks passing overhead shouted encouragement from the open windows of the tramcars.  I was extremely envious of their free ride.
As I finally approached the finish, I spotted my teammate Nicole waiting for me.  She had finished her biking leg nearly an hour earlier, had gone for a swim to cool off, changed clothes.  She looked refreshed.  She cheered me on, and I actually found the strength to run through the finish.
All I wanted to do was sit down in a shady spot, drink some water, catch the breath I'd lost 40 minutes ago. As I came through the finish my friend Tim, the race director, yelled encouragement. I figured that whatever I'd been through in the last 40 minutes was pretty miniscule considering the cancer treatments he'd endured all winter and into spring. I was glad to see him there cheering us on.
A few minutes later, as we looked out at the blue sky surrounding the magnificent mountain named Lafayette, Nicole said, "Wow, that was really fun."
Fun? Well, I guess after the fact, yeah, it was fun in some strange, competitive sense. And we managed to finish second out of the women's teams.
We're already discussing our strategy for next year's race.
The team who beat us was the "Go girls."  We figure next year we'll train a little harder. I may actually go for a few trail runs or hikes before the race. We're thinking about calling ourselves the "Go faster girls."

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