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America, June 19, 2005

2005 Charlottesville Sprint Triathlon

No pain no gain

I wish I was 27
Fast is how I start
speed baby!
Fast is how I finish
yeah I hurt
Fast is what I am
Into the water I plunge. Dark, cool, wet, it is calm for a moment before the churn begins. The churn of feet, legs, bodies, arms, hands, heads all moving this way or thrashing that way, pushing, pulling, striving against this liquid around us. We, the mighty men of our age group, self-selected to face this challenge, this test, this liquid, we do it without fear.

Without brains too if you ask those on shore, those watching this, the 2005 Charlottesville Sprint Triathlon. We fools in the water have only started and we have much more to do. We swim onwards though, churning around buoys and each other, aiming for the beach, the shore, the finish that seems so far away. Up and out I dash, at the head of my group, flush with pride in cutting my time in half from the same distance last year.

Pride that leaves quickly as I start pedaling out on the bike. Long, slow, and upward I go, up, and up, and up, on an endless rollercoaster peak that I hope will someday end in a sweet, long valley. Oh, no, no such luck, up and up we go, grinding our gears, or thighs, or energy against gravity, only to reach false peaks and false rests.

Then the downhills start. The speed runs I so love. Faster I spin, into aero bars I go, more speed I want. Faster, faster, FASTER! Give me that speed, stop time, increase my lead, I want , I need, I own these hills!

Wait, what is that? A curve, sharper now, sharper, oh...
I cannot brake, I cannot steer, trees a blur, road ending, I know what's going to happen next. Pain. Agh! There it is, on my thigh, ass, back, I feel the impact of body to dirt, tree, rock. I know I am down. I can taste the earth, I can smell the damp wetness of leaves and decay. Wait, no blood, nothing broken on body or bike. I am down, but I am not out! Yeeaahhhh!!! I am back in this race!

I jump back on my bike, tossing aside what's left of my aero bars, bending my brakes around to a useful angle, and pulling the grass and grime from my gears, tear into what's left of this downhill run. I can feel the adrenaline kicking in now, my body's delayed response to that wild crash, and I must control the rush or I will crash again.

I need to focus on my breathing, my heart rate, my thighs. I cannot let my body control my pace, for still have eight more miles of this 16.5 mile bike, and I will not bonk here. I will make it back, I will make these hills, I will not slip in my pace.

Oh my thighs hurt. They more than hurt, they burn, and ache, and with every revolution of the pedals I ask even more of them. They hurt before the crash, and now, with the scrapes, the cuts, the pure road rash, they scream with each push. Push on I do, up and around, and then down. I can see the transition; it is now that I can leave this bike, off to the run.

Or at least I try and run. Through goat trails, brush so thick I cannot see, I run, stumble, walk, rest, wonder. Why am I here? What was this madness that makes me race? Where is my Pocari Sweat? Onward I go, pondering this madness and then I am done, I am out of the bush, I am on the pavement and there is the finish. I am exhausted, whipped, beaten, but then I hear it. I hear the footfalls of a contender, a challenger, one who thinks he'll be passing me.

Oh no, not that, I will crash, but I will not be beaten here. Into my speed sprint I go, pure anaerobic, pure determination, pure speed, I cross that sweet, sweet line, ahead of him who thought he could pass.

Its only later, the days after when I see that I've really hurt my thigh, that I've also been insulted with poison oak from the crash, that the real rub, the amazing anger sets in. In the official results, he who challenged me is listed ahead of me. Biron Shaw, you did not beat me. You are not 47th. No, that is my honor. I am the lead 1:36:16. Don't forget that either. I will not.

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