So I don’t usually…

-sign up for a race three days before
-eat at IHOP
-ride 95 miles in the heat the day before a race
-stay in a separate hotel from my husband
-eat at Chipotle

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of these. Filled with unusualities (a word I may have just coined), this weekend launched a new year of triathlon in fine desert style. Whereas January and February held bike races and loads of Ironman miles, March arrived lion-like in a way that only a triathlon can bring.

I was on the fence about the Desert Tri right up until Thursday, when I decided to crash with my new friend Katie. I mailed in my check, and was in.

The only problem with racing two weeks out from an Ironman is having to face a decision that every triathlete faces at some point: Prioritize the training or prioritize the race.

In this case, it was a no-brainer. I’ve been working hard for Ironman Los Cabos, and I wasn’t going to skip my last 5-hour ride on Saturday in hopes of hitting the sand the next morning with fresh legs. Katie and I shoved our bikes and gear in her car at 6 a.m. Saturday and drove out to the desert, chasing the sunrise. We powered down the “Fit N Fresh” 2x2x2 breakfast at IHOP (second unusuality), pumped tires, filled bottles, and let the rubber meet the road.

Wide open spaces.

I welcomed the three hours of company in the land of guard dogs and ramshackle convenience stores. But there was beauty, too, riding through Box Canyon, with the Salton Sea shimmering in the background. After dropping Katie back at the race site at Lake Cahuilla, I set out on my remaining solo two hours. The only real notable moment was stopping at a Subway to satisfy the strongest Coke craving I’ve ever, EVER had. I just stood in front of the fountain machine and guzzled it. Ah, the simple things.

I gained strength as the hot sun snuck behind a filter of wispy clouds, and by the time I returned at around 4:45 pm, I felt energized and alert (signs of good fueling). We packed up our sweaty, dusty bodies and bikes, checked in at the aforementioned flea bag affordable hotel, showered, and met Mark, Keith, and Barb at a nearby Chipotle. Mark had decided late Friday night to drive out and crash with the Butskos, leading to my third “I don’t usually” of the weekend. As for the fourth, I was so delirious with hunger by this point that fast and fresh were my only prerequisites. I downed a huge barbacoa burrito bowl with brown rice and all the fixings, feeling like a starved dog.


As I said to Katie as we laid out our gear Saturday night (at the luxurious Royal Plaza Inn, I might add—cough cough), this is why we do what we do. I love the way the race arrives, the floodgates open, and all the stored-up training gushes into the day. You can’t always control it, and that’s half the excitement.

My best cheerleader.

Sunday morning arrived and I immediately fell in love with Desert’s Wildflower-esque, low-key vibe. It was great to see some familiar faces, get in my wetsuit for the first time in over six months, try out my new Nytro Women’s Team kit and gear (my Zoot TT 6.0’s maiden voyage went flawlessly), and put the racing fire back in my belly once again. (Once there was room in it again after the Chipotle stop.)

Katie and I in our respective team kits.

Rocking my 2nd place with an oh-so-fake-smile.

I was happy with my 20+ minute PR (my last Olympic was in 2010) and much-improved swim (1:38/100 yards). Being a time trialist’s course, I expected a better result on the bike. I rode 1:01:22, or 23.4 miles per hour, which was good for the fastest bike split in my age group. Out on the course, however, when I tried to talk my legs into the next gear, I felt like they just gave me the silent treatment. On the run, a 43:14 10K (7:12 minute/mile) is decent for me, given the longer endurance-focused speed work of the last few weeks. On tired legs, a second-place age group finish (2:10:35) and some great results from friends gave me reason enough to go home happy.

That and the usual post-race indulgences, of course.

Post-race with the champ himself at the Esmerelda Resort

I woke up tired, and with some lingering soreness I haven’t felt in awhile. It’s a good reminder that even if we usually ace our recovery, even short races leave an effect. I’ve been shaky and unfocused (hello, Mr. Curb, let’s be friends?) I’ve been out of sorts. A sleep-in, sunny mid-day Masters swim session and casual happy hour at our place were lifesavers. Good thing my friends don’t mind cheese, crackers, and cocktails for dinner.

Two more days until my “Official Taper” begins. (I’m so excited about it I’ve decided it deserved capitalization.)

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