I almost posted a status update on Facebook on Friday: "Cycling shoes are definitely the smelliest thing in my apartment. Not excluding the cats' litter box." Then when we were driving up to New Paltz on Saturday, I was making idle conversation with my 5-year-old niece GG in the back seat and told her this.
I think my companions in the car thought it was hyperbole - but the next day, after they'd taken all my bike stuff from me and seen me off on my way for run-swim-run-swim-run-swim-clamber, they were overwhelmed with an ungodly horrible smell. At first they thought something must have died in there! Then they pinned it down & isolated said shoes in a neatly tied plastic bag....
(GG greeted me as I exited from the last swim with a long and excited story about the smelliness of the shoes and solving the stink mystery, it was very funny!)
Also: the race starts at the Ulster County Fairgrounds, where there are real bathrooms, which is nice. General agreement among women racing: this is not just the only race but the only place in life where the line for the men's bathroom is much longer than for the women's, and you even see men sneaking in to use a stall in the ladies' room!
Coming out at the last swim exit - I'd been racing for 8+ hours already, legs tired from a running point of view but that final swim (3 of 3) is so gorgeous, I love it!
Breaking back into a run as I reached the finish line.
Spoils of victory!
That photo set in its entirety, from zgunks.net, really gives a feel of the beauty of the race - the bike is gorgeous, the running trails are ridiculously beautiful and the swims are the best you will have in your entire life.
(Me to volunteer helping me out of water after initial 1.1mi swim: "That water is the perfect temperature!" Him, skeptically: "You must be from New England. You're the only person who's said that today!" Temperature probably around 73-75, cool clean lake water - you can take a gulp of it without gagging, it is in that sense much more relaxing than swimming in the sea!)
A minor triumph: I was not the last cyclist! Or, for that matter, the last finisher. The course changes a bit from year to year, so times can't be compared exactly, but here are results from the last time I raced SOS and here are this year's. My bike time is c. 7 minutes faster, and it felt like more than that because it keeps you more in the mix and puts you with nice big 18-19mph numbers on the Garmin (then the last five-mile stretch up into transition features 1000 feet of climbing, at paces between 5 and 8 mph if you are me!). I rode in the big ring and didn't have a problem staying with others - three or four others were always in sight, and there were at least three behind us. Music to my ears as volunteer said, as I pulled up the last bit of hill: "Are there still a lot of racers behind you?!?!?"
I should clarify: I don't at all mind being last, someone has to be, but being the last cyclist on the course gives you a sort of entourage of sweep vehicles, and their sound and presence and fumes are a little stressful and distracting if you are so easily unsettled a cyclist as myself - I felt a huge amount of gratitude that my year of riding last year while training for IMWI led to noticeably improved technique and fitness on the bike.
I can do considerably better still at this race, by the way - it is everything I most like, and I am hoping to get a slot for next year and do it at least 10-20 minutes faster!
Took a hard tumble on the trail at the start of hour six, about two-thirds of the way through the middle run leg at the crest of one of many hills. My attention must have drifted (I believe I was thinking about how the insole of my right shoe hadn't quite settled right when I put shoes back on after the first swim, and was rubbing against instep - did the race sockless for the first time, it was worthwhile - this is the first pair of running shoes I've had that are genuinely comfortable without socks, though I might have tested that premise on a longer run first - I do have a bunch of blisters, I just didn't notice them at the time - had a pair of socks in pouch in case I changed my mind). It's gravel there (not gravel-strewn, more like thick gravel) with some larger rocks, I think my foot caught on a rock.
Bruising on left knee, hip and elbow felt worse at the time than it did the next day (when you come out of the water after the next swim, it feels stiff after having been submerged in cool water), but also the blood was streaming down my calf - gaggle of teenage girls coming the opposite way shrieked, I think they had a slight zombie apocalypse panic moment!
Style of this race: comforting volunteer aiding transition into the next swim said, "The lake will wash it off. You can get it looked at properly at the finish!" (Also, teenage girl at later aid station - "Oww-ee!") Guy at last swim exit started cleaning it off for me, but I brushed him off as I still had to do the Skytop climb! That transition could have been a little faster....
Close your eyes if you are sensitive to gruesome - this is the elbow the following day!
Keeping an eye on it in case I think I should go and get some antibiotics, but really it is OK, definitely better today than last night.
In, an absolutely glorious day. The best endurance race in North America, in my opinion, and I really hope I will be able to do it again on a regular basis!
Shout-out to some coaches who've made a difference for me: Joanna Paterson, not just for the great spin workouts (the long climbs we do make the 1000-foot climb over the last five miles here feel relatively manageable!) but also for the coaching session last summer when she sternly told me I should be riding a lot more of the time in the big ring (I have a triple on my bike, and a lazy tendency to ride always in the middle ring - also, HEELS DOWN!); and David Roche, whose coaching this summer has been a pure pleasure. You wouldn't think such a superior athlete would be so excited about coaching middle-aged back-of-packers, but he is, it is very good fun indeed! (I think he may still have a few training slots open if you're interested - here's more information.
Finally, this race makes me think deeply and gratefully of Doug Stern, my first swimming teacher in adulthood. I only knew him for about six months - he died of cancer very quickly after a shocking diagnosis - but he was an important person for me, and this was an important race for him (the Doug Stern Memorial Award is for the fastest women's bike split - the person who got it this year was absolutely elated, it was fun!). I like the thought of doing this race in his honor and his memory.
Most of all, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law and niece for crewing for me. It was a lovely way to spend a weekend together. Life re-entry was a bit challenging - I taught my first graduate seminar of the semester on Monday, and had to pull things together for a Milton lecture yesterday when really I wouldn't have minded lying on the couch with my feet up - but what a privilege and a pleasure to be able to do this sort of thing!