Sunday was “Sully’s Super Sprint” at Sul Ross University in Alpine, TX. This is one of those tiny little races that is a lot of fun and were it not for its remoteness deep in western Texas desert would be much better attended. The race begins with a 3 mile hill run, followed by a 15 mile bike with rolling hills followed by a 360 meter swim in the smallest pool to be found at any institution calling itself a University.
The day before the race I had a little warm up ride to get my legs good and primed. There is no question that my legs were a wee past prime…kind of leaning toward burnt would be more accurate. Anyhow, I came to race and came to grab back the one point I had lost to Felix at the John Stermer Du. Fellow Outlaw “Smilin” Cody was present and he has been running pretty well lately so I decided to pace my run off him since I know he is faster than Felix but slower than me. I knew that I needed to finish the run before Felix but still hold on to every bit of energy I could for the bike.
As the run started I kept Cody in sight and stayed about 5 yards off his back. I glanced over my left shoulder and noticed Felix right on my heels…fine. I figured I’d give it a little and check his position again. We hit the first big hill at about the half-mile mark and as we were going up I started to gain on Cody and stopped hearing anyone breathing over my shoulder. I figured Cody had gone out too fast and was in the process of melting down so I chugged ahead and decided to run at RPE guessing that Cody had at least set up an 8 minute per mile pace since he was wearing a Garmin and he said that was the pace he would try and hold. I figured 8 minutes would be easy enough to hold but too fast for Felix. I spent most of the rest of the run alone with a rabbit passing me once or twice but never any sight of Felix. I don’t know how far back he may have been because my #1 rule in a race is “The race is ahead of you, never look back.” At about mile 2.5 fellow Outlaw Stuart passed me and informed me that Felix was “way back and he looks like he’s hurtin’”
As I was heading into transition this guy in regular baggy gym shorts, a big cotton t-shirt and headphones came sprinting by me huffing and puffing and running like a man possessed for that final sprint into…T1. His clothes were going in six different directions, none of which seemed to be the same directions in which his appendages were traveling. He was obviously a Clyde and obviously a newbie; I’ll call him flailing Clyde.
From the sidelines flailing Clyde’s kids were yelling “Go Dad!” and his wife was screaming “You can do it honey!” I thought to myself, “Man, I hope he is on a team” but no…he wasn’t. I came trotting into transition and he was doubled over his mountain bike beet red, pouring sweat and hyperventilating to beat the band. He was in for a long (short) day…”welcome to the brotherhood” was my only comment. I don’t think he heard me what with all the noise the blood rushing through his carotids must have been making.
I left transition and headed out on the bike with no Felix in sight. I quickly caught Stuart and pressed ahead. I knew almost immediately that I was in for a tough bike split because my legs were hurting within the first mile. The bike course was not as flat as I had hoped. Stuart said there was the one big hill at the font and the rest was flat. Not the case. There was the first big hill then the second smaller hill, then the third bigger hill, then the fourth long hill and the fifth short steep hill etc… all the way to the turnaround. I just kept imagining that Felix was getting closer and closer and I was hurting more and more. When I did hit the turn around there was still no Felix. When he finally did come into sight he was too close for my liking so I tried to squeeze a little more power from my legs. Much later in the bike when I was about at mile 10 I saw flailing Clyde again still heading out on the bike. He was still beet red and sitting bolt upright cranking away at those pedals. I was too involved with my own personal hell to think or say anything. I just made a mental post-it note of his position, which immediately blew away and fluttered off down by the side of the road.
To be honest, I spent the whole way back wishing I would crash, wishing I would have a flat, wishing some monstrous storm would blow in, whishing anything would happen that would remove the responsibility of finishing the race strong from my shoulders because I was really in pain and I knew I would not cut myself a break…damn me. However, no such luck…I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing…I wanted this race to end more than any race I have ever done before.
I finally rolled into T2 with great joy that the bike was over. I had completed the 15 mile ride in about 40 minutes with an average pace of about 22.3 mph. I drug my butt over to the swim and plopped in the water. My stroke was fine but my legs just drug along the bottom like a dredge. I finally got a little kick going toward the middle of the swim but not much, certainly not enough to help.
Finally…I drug my butt out of the water to finish this race in 1 hour 11 minutes. Felix was just entering the water as I exited and he was hot on Cody’s heels. This, I thought, is the first time Smilin Cody will beat the King Clyde Felix…way to go man. Since this race does not have Clydesdale and Athena divisions I was competing in my age group. I only knew one person in that group and that was fellow Outlaw Stuart. I am pretty satisfied to say that I earned second place in my age group. Of course the first place guy was happy regardless of what I looked like but I’ve got to say the third place guy looked fairly disgruntled to see a big man walking to the podium ahead of him. We’ll say this one was for flailing Clyde. Even a big man can overcome.