I let four years go by without coming back up to Priest Lake to race one of my local favorites. The Race Director, Ken Eldore, reminded all of us just prior to race start of the horrendous air conditions of the past couple years due to wildfires and smoke. To survive the variability speaks highly of a race that celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year, and it seemed Mother Nature did her best to celebrate the accomplishment, too.
Mild temperatures, slightly overcast skies, and calm waters greeted me race morning. Bryan and I opted to ride our bikes the short 3 miles from our accommodations just off Highway 57 to the race venue so we could avoid the parking headache that trying to maneuver a big truck along a narrow road can sometimes create. It served as a great warm up before we racked our bikes in transition and made our way down to the water's edge.
The nostalgia of this race site gets me every time, as memories of walking the same path as a kid with my parents and brother on our way to Hills Resort for ice cream still surface to the forefront of my thoughts. Many years older with a completely different purpose than before, I found the swim corral to seed ourselves based on predicted swim finish times. I warmed up a bit in the water before finding my spot among the tall men around me, and then I enjoyed listening to Ken and Stephanie's daughter, Abby, sing the national anthem.
|Photo by Craig Thorsen|
While I had the benefit of swimming on someone's feet for the first few hundred meters, the feet slowly started to veer off the buoy line I so badly wanted to follow. As a result, I ended up swimming the majority of the swim back to shore by myself, but I found great satisfaction with my time, which suggested I swam my fasted race pace, to date. It confirmed the extra time my coach has encouraged me to swim in open water was a worthwhile investment.
I still have yet to regain the power I remember pushing on the bike back in 2015. This ride was no exception. The roads many worried might be rough on account of the chip seal laid a month ago really didn't even pale in comparison to the Santa Rosa nightmare I experienced a month ago. However, it did prove to be just enough to loosen my aero bottle so that, upon climbing back up the gentle grade from Elkins Resort, I realized my forearms were the only things keeping it from falling off my bike. The thought of using it as a reason to keep myself in aero for the remainder of the ride was fleeting. I didn't accept the thought and instead, shoved it down my tri suit where the girls did their best to keep it in place. Even though I wondered if I could still sip water out of the straw with it poking out to the right, just in front of my armpit, I realized quickly it didn't work.
|Photo by Craig Thorsen|
My running legs did not show up to play. I managed to get myself to the turn around, which required significant self talk and mind games because the general trajectory of the course was upward. I decided that because this run would not be one in which I'd see a personal best, I would use what remaining energy I had to meet the eyes of every other participant, and smile. Too often I forget the power of a friendly gesture, and I enjoyed pulling people out of their thoughts to challenge them to smile back in return. So many smiles, I found.
I have so much gratitude for Ken and Stephanie, as well as for all the volunteers who worked hard (many have worked each of the 10 years) to present an event that inspired appreciation for a beautiful place, friendly competition, and hard racing. While I took the overall win in the women's division, I actually appreciated more the chance to stand on the podium with the two other ladies who have made significant progress in their own personal journeys within the sport: Jenna Rings and Samantha Knapp. I witnessed the accomplishments of friends with whom I have raced for many years, including Ellen Schaeffer, Julie Moran, and Jamie Lake. Finally, Bryan finally achieved his goal of a first place age group win, something he has aspired to do since well before I knew him (he says it has been a longstanding goal for over 20 years).
Now, we rest, recharge, and prepare for a return to the long course competition. I'm off to Xi'an, China for the inaugural Ironman 70.3 held September 15th. Can anyone teach me some Chinese?
|Priest Lake, with all her clean water and sandy beaches, makes for tired puppies.|