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I stared at a blank screen for quite awhile before I could start this sentence. It’s hard to pin down a good place to start my review of a race that left me smiling ear-to-ear for the better part of an afternoon and evening. Triathlon is an interesting sport. Essentially, each competitor is left to battle a race for himself. You may swim with a group of people, but you’re fighting for position and praying the guy next to you doesn’t thwack you in the head. You can’t draft off the guy’s wheel in front of you. You can’t assume your place coming off the bike is solidified as you run, jog, walk, or crawl your way in that final leg to the finish line.

Jen Polello and me getting everything in order before the start.

Photo by Bryan Rowe. My mentor and good friend, Craig Thorsen,
 thought I might need to wear my helmet if I was to warm
up on the trainer alongside him. I don't ask questions. I do as I'm told.

Photo by Bryan Rowe. Pre-race with teammates Craig
Thorsen, Jayne Anderson, Mike Winnet, and Jarod Crooks.

Swimmer and biker of Team PT Cruisers. We let the runner
sleep in a little longer. 

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to compete in Troika for someone other than myself. For those who don’t know, I’m still (yes, it’s been a long haul) in graduate school, pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at EWU. My class is blessed with some pretty amazing athletes, two of whom I rallied to form a team. Kari Budd is quite possibly one of the best swimmers around this area. I have friends who can only stop and observe as they try to find a lane to swim in at Witter pool. I’ve had the opportunity to join her for a few swims. We may be swimming in the same lane, but it would be inaccurate to say I’m swimming “with” her. I’ve spent that last 4-5months analyzing her stroke, attempting to emulate the same movements and hand placements she uses to propel herself so gracefully through the water. Five months later, I don’t even come close.

Photo by James Richman. Kari Budd exiting the water, right
alongside Annie Warner. 
Danielle Slaughter, also a Class of 2013 PT student and friend, is a phenomenal runner. She ran in high school, college, and continues to train with the Swifts and her fiancée, Kyle Lampi, whom she credits for making her faster. Again, I’ve joined her for trail runs through Riverside State Park, but only managed to keep up with her on her long, slow days. In fact, I remember coming to school one morning to find her in the locker rooms, explaining how she just ran 21 miles at sub-7min/mile pace.

Photo by Shelly Moss. I wish I looked that comfortable
in 90-degree heat, running sub-7min/mile pace.
I suppose I don’t have to explain, then, why I thought these two ladies would make a great team. John Martinek provided us with a team name, PT Cruisers, and we were all set to be the “Dream Team” of Troika 2012. Yet Spokane has some pretty amazing athletes, and the Jackson 3 all-female team (Annie Warner, Lora Jackson, and Jodi Davis-Suter) gave the PT Cruisers some hefty competition, a challenge that, yesterday, made us all work twice as hard as we would have had we not had the competition that we did. In fact, all the ladies of Jackson 3 are incredibly strong. I don’t know anyone who can beat Annie in the water (Annie could have raced the bike and run portions, too, and probably kicked anyone’s butt). Lora is one of the strongest cyclists and runners I know of in the area. And Jodi? Just last March she set a course record at the Snake River Half Marathon.

To see Annie Warner and Kari Budd scale that grassy hill after exiting the water at the same time took me by surprise. In a time of 25:32, they had both swam 1.2miles, beating most of the men who started 5 minutes before them. Jumping on my bike, Lora and me exited T1 at the same time, and while we jostled for position in the first half mile, I couldn’t hang with her after that. I knew, going into this race, that my contribution to the team would be to keep the gap between Lora and me as small as possible in order to ensure Danielle had a chance to catch Jodi and hopefully overtake her. Coming back into Medical Lake after cycling the loop around Clear Lake, Bryan Rowe informed me I was a minute, 10 seconds behind Lora. Seeing my heart rate hover in Zone 4 made me nervous. A part of me wanted to try to settle down to ensure I had enough left for the finish, but I was reminded by the fact that I had two other teammates to race for, and Kari had just busted her butt to stay with Annie. Nope, I had 56 miles ahead of me, and I’d ride them gasping for air, my heart about to burst, so Danielle would have a chance.

Photo by James Richman. Here, I'm trying to keep Lora
in sight, but she's quickly eluding me.
James Richman rode alongside me in his shiny Harley to not only keep me informed of my position, but to take pictures as well. All I wanted to do was hop off my bike and jump onto the back of his. I could picture myself tucked behind him, lookin’ fast with my aero helmet, on top of a Harley. Unfortunately, today was not the day. My QRoo got me through the course crash-free, and my nutrition, provided by GU Roctane drink and gels is probably what got me from T1 and T2 at the rate I was pushing on the bike.

Photo by James Richman. If I remember correctly, I'm just
getting up to the top of a hill. That stretch was a tough one!
The descent down Four Mounds hill, at 46mph, gave me that added “boost” to finish up and get to the finish line. Having ridden Aubrey White so many times before, and being familiar with the hill near the Spokane Fitness Club, the home stretch never felt so good. I didn’t have to run after this, so I let it all out, just as Craig Thorsen said I better do. I came in over two minutes behind Lora to see Danielle waiting for me so she could start her run. I let her take the timing chip, and then I went over to the grass so I could collapse.

Photo by Shelly Moss. My teammates enjoying themselves
while I haul my butt to T2.
Photo by Bryan Rowe. Coming down the homestretch. I have no
other way to describe those 56 miles as being anything other than painful,
yet exhilarating. I've never pushed myself so hard for so long. Thanks
Photo by Shelly Moss. Kari- "That was awesome!"
Me- "That hurt."
She did it. Danielle ran herself to a 1:23:40 half marathon finish time to carry the PT Cruisers to a successful finish. I don’t think any of us would have worked so hard, pushed ourselves that much, had we not had the competition from Jackson 3. All the PT Cruisers finished in times faster than we had predicted, and we only have Annie, Lora, and Jodi to thank for that.

Photo by Shelly Moss. Danielle's time was 1:23:40.
Photo by Shelly Moss. PT Cruisers united!
Top team overall, with a time of 4:26:37.

What a day. I have so many people to thank for the support and pictures (James Richman, Shelly Moss, and Bryan Rowe). Thank you to Scott Ward and his entire family and crew for putting on this race. For those who don’t know, all entry fees go to a charity Scott designates each year. Local triathletes are blessed to have a race where the support of Spokane gives competitors a chance to race with friends, family, and teammates close by. 

Finally, thank you Kari and Danielle. I couldn't have asked for a better day, not because we won, but because I found myself on your team, racing for some pretty amazing ladies.

Photo by Shelly Moss.


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