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I am an Onion Wo-Man

When the words of Jayne Anderson started to run through my mind, I knew this transition onto the bike would surely resemble the ride we shared out to Liberty Lake last Friday. Bracing myself against 25mph winds, my legs churning with a harder effort than what should have been necessary on nearly flat roads, I asked her how she handled the mental challenge of watching your pace slow to 13mph as a result of moving against the wind. She told me to simply relish the fact that I am on my bike, healthy enough to pedal, as some people cannot even do that. And so the rest of our ride Friday, I had the opportunity to share time and conversation with someone who has not only shown me what real friendship is, but how much it is embellished with time spent outside, along the river, among the blooming bushes, and overwhelmed by flowers whose scents are exemplified as a result of the warm sunshine. On more than one occasion, the wind that made us grip our handlebars a little harder caused us to burst out laughing at how ridiculous the situation felt.

I didn’t have Jayne there with me in Walla Walla today, but when I did have a chance to pull my eyes off the road and my Timex, I couldn’t help but notice the endless fields of grass, the rows upon rows of grapes, and the enormous patch of onions growing in one man’s garden as I passed by, following the men and two women ahead of me on the Onion Man Triathlon course. Heading out on a course that canted slightly uphill to the turn-around point, it was all I could do to keep my heart rate steady while attempting to push over rolling terrain with a headwind. Not until I hit that bright orange cone in the middle of the road to designate my turnaround did I fully appreciate the chance to “let ‘er rip” to reach speeds nearing 30mph. Considering I averaged a measly 17 heading out, I had plenty of ground to make up on my way to the run.

Early morning swim: Looks calm, but at just 54 degrees
this morning, it looked cold to me...and wet...
Pulling up into T2, it felt good to be out of there in just over 30 seconds. That’s because I needed to redeem myself after T1. Apparently, dousing myself in Pam cooking spray, Body Glide, AND Vaseline couldn’t make this stuck pig slip out of her wetsuit any faster than if I’d have been glued into it. Seriously. There was no, “Just unzip the zipper, slip it over your shoulders, pull your arms out, slip it down to your knees, then step on each leg to smoothly run to your bike.” Yeah, no. I won’t go into any more details, but if you can imagine everything that could go wrong—going wrong—then you’d have a pretty good picture of me flailing around trying to come free from my body bag. What I looked like on land probably resembled how I felt in the water. With the wind blowing the way it did, rounding the first buoy made for some pretty turbulent water, though I’m convinced it’s no where near what you guys who swim in the ocean or larger lakes are used to. Nonetheless, it made me a little nervous, and I had to ease up a bit to gain some composure, which eventually knocked on my door as I rounded the last buoy to start my second lap. I didn’t know it at the time, but the girl I raced onto the shore beat me by seconds to take the title of, “first woman out of the water.” I guess I should have raced her a little harder, but I couldn’t have been happier to see that kind of improvement in my swim.

It wasn’t until mile 4 of the run that I began to wish I could hop back into the churning water I had left over an hour and a half ago. Racing out of T2, I quickly overtook the second woman and had the words of James Richman coming back to mind. Take the first mile or so to get your bearings, then gain some speed. I looked down at my Timex to make certain I wasn’t coming out of the gate too fast, yet my heart rate was right where I wanted it, so I let my legs carry me further over the dusty trail, onto the bridge, and out along the river to the turnaround. I quickly sucked down some GU gel before rounding the turn. I could feel my legs beginning to tire, which caused me to question how much longer I could keep this pace and hold that third woman at bay. I thought back to the text message Bryan Rowe sent me the night previous. Swim easy, build into the bike, then run like you stole it. Surely, if Bryan could have seen me slowing he would have told me to, “light a fire under it.” Though, for those of you who know Bryan, his words would have commanded a little more attention. To Bryan’s credit, I told myself to, “quit running like a sissy and get your ass into gear!” That helped.

Salty face, dusty shoes, and a tired body translated to one happy camper. Bryan's ass-kicking in the end carried me to a second place finish, with faster times than I put forth in the Olympic distance last year. Sometimes I find it hard to scrounge up enough belief in myself to overcome all the worries and “what ifs” I make up in my head before a race. (Just ask Matt Beard about our conversation on the way home about how my first half IM could be the race of extremes—Boise 70.3: 5ft swells in the swim, a complete downpour and 25mph-sustained winds on the bike, 90+ degree temperatures on the run.) Funny to talk about, but really, “what if?”

Matt Cantrell placed 2nd in his age group. So nice
to catch up with him during our ride and dinner
the night before.

Me sandwiched between the two Matts. Thanks Matt
Beard for the ride down to Walla Walla. You made 2.5 hours
of driving pretty entertaining. Congrats on your first triathlon
finish! I hope you find time tomorrow for a nice 15-miler :)

Boise lingers on the horizon, and in two weeks I’ll find out how well I’ve prepared and how well I’ve tapered. Let the real fun begin.

The view from Javin and Laura's
house. Quite a sunset!

I also want to extend a huge Thank you to my gracious hosts, Javin and Laura Berg, of Dixie, WA. They are such a genuine, friendly couple to extend such nice hospitality to me during my night in Walla Walla. Both Javin and Laura also competed in Onion Man, and have done so for a number of years in the past. Thank you again!


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