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Countdown to Tuscaloosa: Race Day #1

It has been 18 months since my last multi-sport race and 11 years and six months since I raced in Tuscaloosa. That was my first USAT National Championship race and I didn't finish. The heat finished me instead.

Today was my 82nd multi-sport event (triathlons and duathlons) and that race in Tuscaloosa is the only one I didn't finish, so my primary goal today was to finish.

Now I'm the youngster in the 70 to 74 age group and there are not so many of us left racing in that age cohort. I'm grateful that I can still compete. I owe a big debt gratitude to my Coach Heather Collins who has worked with me for the last nine years.

She tailored training programs specifically for me that have focused on not only my run, swim and bike technique but more importantly on my flexibility, core strength, and mobility. I have had my share of aches and pains, but have been able to avoid any serious injuries.

When I started competing one of my goals was to some day have a podium finish in a National Championship. For the bigger races that would have been a top 10 finish in my age group. But for the Duathlon championships, which has a smaller field the podium is for only the top five finishers.

It was hot today, not quite as warm as that fateful race in August but coming from Evanston where our weather has been cool all month, I was worried about acclimating to the heat and humidity. And to add to my anxiety, in the last week, my right knee has been sore. Heather was almost annoying in her insistence that I do frequent stretching and activation exercises focused on the knee. When I got to the start line this morning, the knee didn't feel perfect, but it was much better than it was a week ago.

We had to wear masks in the corral, but could discard them as soon as we started. I took off too fast, caught in the adrenalin rush of the race. But I was also so very thirsty so at the first aid station at the mile mark I took a bottle of gatorade. In the pre-covid days they would just hand us a cup of gatorade or water, but now everything was bottled. The problem was that my bottle of gatorade still had the safety seal on the opening. I can't open those things easily when I am not racing. But I was desperate so I actually stopped and after much struggles, pried off the seal. That delay was helpful as it got me calmed down and back to running the pace I needed to run.

It was a well-organized race and the run along the Black Warrior River was scenic. I didn't really have a good idea of how I was doing against my age group but after I finished I had a text from Heather telling me that I was 4th in my age group. I was surprised and pleased.

It was a "podium" finish. But unfortunately they don't a podium in the Covid Era. But still I'm very pleased and now I must do a bunch of stretching exercises so I can be ready for tomorrow's draft-legal sprint duathlon (It's half the distance and we can draft on other bikes.)

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