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CDA Scenic Challenge: It's just a cup of cheese

An alarm clock that goes off at 4:30 in the morning could mean several things. In the last couple of weeks, if it doesn’t mean I’m waking up for work, and if it doesn’t mean I’m waking up to train, it means I’m waking up to race. I’ll be honest. The last thing I wanted to do this morning was wake up to race. Yet I went through the motions and got myself out of bed, dressed, and into the kitchen for a quick piece of toast. The car door slammed shut before I even knew I had the car started, and I was on my way to Coeur d’Alene for the Scenic Challenge Olympic Triathlon.

I arrived to find some of the racks already filled, and the volunteers looked far too excited to mark my body considering 6am hadn’t even arrived yet. Last year, I remember walking to the water’s edge to see the buoys planted so far out in the horizon I didn’t think I’d make it out. So I avoided looking at the water. Instead, I nestled my transition gear between two bikes racked on the last rack before the bike exit. Then I went to look at the water. I couldn’t help it.

Photo by Bryan Rowe. I wish I remember what we were talking
about, but I don't.
The water looked better than it did last weekend, driving over to the starting line for the Longbridge swim. The buoys? They looked just as far out in the water as they did a year ago, but this time, I had two half IM distance triathlon swims to reassure me that, Yes, I have covered that distance, and yes, you will return to shore on top of the water, not below.

Really. Who wouldn't want to wake up at 4:30am so they could jump in
with all these other hooligans at 7 o'clock in the morning? Photo by
James Richman.

When triathlon is concerned, time flies fast. Before I knew it, 6:30a had already passed, and my brand new BlueSeventy wetsuit still lay folded in its very own wetsuit bag. Bryan Rowe hollered at me to ask if I’d even put it on yet. Yes, Bryan, it fits. In fact, last night I humored my parents by struggling into a wetsuit that did a better job of “gripping” than slipping over my sweaty body. I got the last laugh, however, listening to them go back and forth about how to go about zipping me up.

Photo by Bryan Rowe. Thank you, Robin and Fitness Fanatics,
for outfitting me with my new BlueSeventy wetsuit.
Compared to last night, it slid over my tri suit without a hitch, and felt pretty cool as it carried me over the warm water of Lake CDA. I’ve never felt so buoyant, and I was able to cling onto the bubbles of a nice guy ahead of me, slicing our way past each buoy until we rounded the final giant yellow balloon to race to the shore. This year, I clipped off nearly 3 minutes from my swim time last year, chasing Annie Warner, who left me 6 minutes in her wake.

James captured a great moment, one
where my wetsuit actually IS coming off
without a struggle. It may have taken an entire
season, but I now have a wetsuit that goes on
and comes off the way it's supposed to.
If entering transition doesn’t leave you with a high heart rate, then cycling out of CDA does. I looked down at my Timex for verification, but my heart rate monitor had failed to show up to the party. I rode by feel, and quite frankly, I didn’t need a heart rate monitor to tell me my rate of perceived exertion fell right in the middle of “Balls to the walls.” I pedaled with as much control as I could, and aimed to hit Higgins Point before Roger Thompson could catch me (he started 10 minutes behind me). The Thompson and Gallagher cheer squad cheered me onward, propelling me forward to start the climbs this scenic challenge is known for.

Roger caught me, but not until I had turned at Higgins and started up the first hill on Yellowstone Trail Road. He flew by me like I was spinning endlessly on my trainer, and I didn’t see him again until he was flying home as I was heading out on the run. A few riders jostled for position and managed to evade the nice USAT official who drove by several times on her motorbike. No, I did not draft, but I watched others try to do it, however much drafting would really help as we’re scaling a 2.5mile hill with a grade of 3.5% (Thanks Mapquest.)

I reached the top of the first of many hills, only to have that big silver Sequoia filled with Trifusion teammates appear from my backside, the cheers and “Go Meghans!” urging me forward. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as slowing to spin my legs out sounded far more appealing. Yet I knew Emma was peering at me through the back window, and to slow for a little fatigue wouldn’t have been acceptable—not to triathlon’s biggest cheerleader.

The corner I nearly flew through last year to end up on the opposite side of the road, into the woods, didn’t pose as great a challenge this time around. The hill that came right after it did. The hill after that did, too. At some point I managed to find the cul-de-sac that designated the turn-around, and I could only think how much better the volunteer would have done if he’d actually have been inside the cones, right in the middle, dancing to some music as we cycled around him. Kind of like a merry-go-round, ya know? I suppose there’s always next year, and I do know the Race Director pretty well…

Photo by James Richman. At this point, I only hoped my GU Roctane I'd
gulped down during the ride would help carry my tired legs through the
final 10k. It turns out: It did.
The chip seal the city laid a couple of weeks ago, the rough road that left quite a few participants concerned and upset, didn’t make for that rough of a ride. I still reached at least 40mph, despite clinging to my handlebars and praying nonstop. The last 5 miles to transition seemed like the longest, but I turned one of the last few corners to see James Richman with his camera (I wiped some snot from my face in the hopes his big, fancy lens wouldn’t catch it). I rounded the final turn and concentrated pretty hard on unstrapping my shoes so I’d be ready to hop off at the Dismount line. I dismounted my bike just as I’d practiced, thinking I’d performed it pretty smoothly, only to have my left shoe come unclipped and fall to the ground. After reclaiming my shoe, I couldn’t help but feel grateful I didn’t trip and land on my butt instead.

My Timex still had my pace, and I looked down to see I’d ran the first mile under 7 minutes. The first aid station provided me water, which I sipped, then threw over my back. Roger met me at the mile 2 mark (his mile 5), and I started thinking maybe I could beat my run time from last year. The Thompson-Gallagher clan had found me again, and Emma’s voice, “Come ON Meghan, you GOT THIS,” could only mean I looked like I needed some serious motivation. She was right. My footfalls fell a little heavier, and my pace had slowed to 7:20s. Seriously Meghan, you’ve got an entire team here for you. PUSH it.

The turn around, mile 4, then mile 5. Jayne Anderson crossed paths with me, cheering me homeward with our own little mantra for the day, “It’s just a cup of cheese!” (Don’t ask. All I know is on our way to packet pick up yesterday, she’d meant to convince me this Olympic race was going to be, “Just a cup of tea” compared to the half IM distances we’ve raced this past year. It was unexpected yesterday, and yes, just as funny today. Only today, I could only smile and suck wind.)

Photo by Bryan Rowe. Home stretch.
Bryan met me at the turn into the park, the same place my dad stood last year. He told me I was 3rd woman (if you didn’t count all the 40+ women who had started 10 minutes after me.) Then, my fellow PT Cruiser, Kari Budd, urged me forward on that last homestretch. For some reason, the only thing I could think to say was, “I’m peeing my pants!” She claims she didn’t quite understand what I said, which makes sense now, because I finished the race wondering what the heck she meant when she said, “That’s okay, just wait to do it at the finish!” Wait to do it at the finish?!?! Sure Kari, I’ll do it for the announcer, the spectators, and the cameramen.

Finally! A photo finish (minus the peeing my
pants part, but you can't see that). My torso is
straight, my midfoot strike still intact. Thank you
for all the great pictures, James!
I finished in a time 3 minutes faster than when I crossed the line last year, and it appears those three minutes were made up for during my swim, as my bike and run times were nearly identical to my splits from last year, if not seconds slower. I raced to a first place age group finish, and unlike last year, finished a little higher in the women’s overall standings behind just six faster ladies. I suppose now that I’m done, I’m glad I gave in to that alarm clock and raced today. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to do it tomorrow, when I will embark on the inaugural 2.4mile CDA Crossing swim. My friends think it will be a great recovery swim. I’m thinking so, too, because I fully predict I’ll be floating those 2.4miles.

My Ironlady, Jayne. Her second triathlon in just a little over a
week, she's coming back after a long racing hiatus. Look out!
Photo by Bryan Rowe.
Thank you to:
  • All the friends and spectators who came out to scream my name from the sidelines. I wish I had more energy to show my thanks in the moment, but please know that my wave and smile mean I heard you, appreciate you, and thank you for your motivation!
  • James Richman, Bryan Rowe, and Mike Winnet for the pictures and cheering today. It's so much fun to go back and enjoy the race through your eyes, when I'm sitting at home, clean, and ready for a nap.
  • GU Roctane. I entered the run in last year's race with not much left in me to finish feeling strong. (In fact, my dad did point out I looked a little tired on our drive home). This bike course leaves your legs fried, and the nutrition I took in on the course was what made this time around much more enjoyable. 
  • Scott Ward, Across the Line Timing, and all the directors and volunteers on the course. This is by far one of my favorite races, and all of you contribute to make this race what it is. 
One last note:

This may seem unnecessary, but as a physical therapy student, I feel compelled to encourage ANY of you who read this and thought, "Hey, I pee my pants sometimes, too!" to go seek physical therapy. The inability to hold urine is NOT normal, even with increased exertion. For those of you wondering, "Why, then, do you, a physical therapy student, who knows this is not normal, still suffer from this weakness?" I am currently working on my strengthening exercises...while I study, while I complete my assignments, and while I practice my physical therapy skills. And while I drive. Yes, even when I brush my teeth. The message? I'm working on it. For those of you, who, after getting this far are laughing so hard you have tears coming out of your eyes, go laugh a little harder, until you pee your pants, and realize it's no laughing matter. And finally, for those of you who have held it up until this point, you've done your exercises for the day. Thank you for reading this far, and I strongly urge you to go use the bathroom now.


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