Want to Sponsor the 1,600+ member LA Tri Club - USAT National Club Champions? As you know, we have a great network of workouts, discounts, social events, clinics and coaching, race support, sponsors, free swag, programs where our members earn cash-back (!), and quality training & racing gear. The year ahead will be even better. We have a clinic series, coached workouts, a state-of-the-art website and administrative systems, and more members - all of which combines to make us the best triathlon club offering the best value and fun anywhere! We have great sponsors lined up - but we’re always looking to add to our roster. Become a member of the LA Tri Club network... our 1,600+ members near & far need you!

Curious what it would take? Shoot Paul Hekimian an email at Paul@LATriClub.com or give him a jingle, 310-396-9355.

Thank you for your interest!


“Everyone take a deep breath and relax, just let your arms and legs go limp. You’ve a got a few minutes before the cannon. You’re gonna get through this. You’re gonna get through the 2.4 mile swim, you’re gonna get through that 112 mile bike and you’re gonna run that marathon. You’re not gonna be alone because our 5000 volunteers are gonna help you get there. You’ve trained hard and you can do this” These were, more or less, the words of Mike Reilly, the Voice of Ironman, as we tread in wonderfully buoyant, warm, clear waters off Digme Beach for our deepwater start in the 2008 Ironman Hawaii Championships. Somehow, Mike had a way of actually convincing me to calm down, and making me think that this was gonna be a piece of cake. That’s how good he is. I was treading off to the lef t and a little bit back, I had enough room to move, and I waited calmly. With one minute to go, my foot cramped. Typical. Boom goes the cannon and we were off. I shook out the cramp, and the battle wasn’t too bad for the first 800 meters, as we all kept our space. Then the foot slapping, punching, dunking, and kicking started.

Pre-Race in Kona

But, backing up to the week before, I will tell you a few things about Kona that you need to know, if you’ve never been. I arrived on Sunday, October 5 six days prior to Saturday’s race of Saturday, October 11. My intent when I scheduled my flight on that date, back in July, was to acclimate to the hot, humid weather of the Big Island. And when I deplaned I thought, and actually said to a competitor, “How are we gonna race in this?” But, by the time I arrived at my Hotel the weather had cooled considerably and next week was very mild. There was haze hanging over the Kona coast the entire week (some called it “vog”—volcano fumes mixed with moisture), keeping temperatures in the 80’s, but generally cooler than the previous months in Los Angeles, which had been very hot, in the 90’s and 100’s , and with some humidity as well. The week I left it was ridiculously hot in L.A. and, frankly, I would have been better off heat acclimating at home. But I understand that is almost never the case. The weather is so unpredictable that it can change, literally, in under an hour without warning.

The crowd in Kona was formidable. This is a race for superhumans. As you know, all but about two hundred of them have placed very high in or won their age group at a major Ironman event.. They look the part. Fifty and sixty year olds with six-pack abs and popping veins. Intense expressions on their faces. Runners up and down Ali’i drive all week long (six minute miles, no joke); cyclists on the Queen K, all week long (all aero helmets). My training plan had a month long taper culminating in short workouts on Monday and Wednesday, with a short bike, run and swim on Friday. I cut out a few of these just to get away from the crowds. Especially at the swim site. I took punches during practice swims. Somebody was slapping my feet as I swam out to the .6 mile marker on a Monday practice swim. I popped up and said “what’s up”. She looked embarrassed and swam on. I know that Brett Sutton tells his athletes (yes, I know that they’re pro and I’m not, but that doesn’t matter) to stop all workouts ten days before the event. They don’t seem to do too badly. And I sure saw a lot of people hammering out in the wind near Hawi as late as THURSDAY! Now, that I just don’t get. But, like I say, it’s a formidable crowd and who am I to tell them what to do? But I did talk directly with two experienced athletes, one Mark Allen and one Chris Legh. Their advice? Stay away from the buzz of downtown Kailua, it’s just too energy draining and it’s a psych-out. Get in for a swim early in the week. Register. Get out and hole up at your condo or hotel. A beer at night ain’t gonna hurt you and may help you. And, whatever you do, don’t go out and buy a brand new skin suit for the swim or Gladiator Helmet (EVERYONE’s wearing them) for the bike. Stick with what you got. It worked for Chrissie Wellington (did anyone else notice that she beat her competition without the aero helmet?).

Bring your documents with you to registration. I don’t just mean your drivers’ license. You need your hotel or condo name, address and phone number or they won’t let you register. You’ll have to walk back, then drive, then walk again, then wait in line again. They almost sent me back until I remembered the name of the hotel my family was staying at on race night (purpose is for emergency family contact). Getting back in to registration when I was halfway out the door was a feat of diplomacy. That was Tuesday. For the rest of the week I stayed away from that place except for one more swim of about 1500 meters and the Carboload dinner.

Jimmy Riccicelo deserves the hall of fame because he does a great job of going over the rules, that we all should know. I loved how the pre-race meeting went, with an emphasis on drafting. That is until my brother in law asked me, after the event, “Mark, I was out there all day and saw everyone, big groups of riders ‘wind-sucking’, why didn’t you do that—you could have gone a lot faster?” He was at mile 30.

Race Morning.

I was strangely calm. I walked in with my daughter Valerie and wife Celeste and am so used to this routine from other IM events, that it felt routine, even though I hadn’t done Kona. Heard Liz Kollar’s voice behind me “Is that Mark Lytle?” and felt at home again. We introduced our families and her dad was helping out as a race medic. When I started doing the self-doubting during tire pumping, Liz was setting up a few bikes down the row from me. I was worried about this whole “sun coming up on the pier and popping tires” legend. Liz looked at me, could see my anxiety, told me I was fine at 120 psi . The tires that pop are the tubulars pumped up to 190. Again, do what you’re used to doing. Get clincher tires good to 160, pump em to 120-125 and go.

I took in my pre-race nutrition and liquids and, stupidly, drank from one of those tabled bottles near the swim entrance to swallow some saltstick pills. I can’t ever remember to keep a little water with me. Listening to and side-glancing at the Polynesian drum show, I waded in past the (for now) seemingly timid masses, and took a few strokes out to the start line, and swimming always centers and calms me.

Back to that Swim.

Here’s the thing. You can either get mad at your competitors or just realize that it’s a contact sport and go with it.. I’m almost to “going with it” in triathlon but not quite.

We followed a buoy line at our right, so the mass moved from left to right. At 800 meters, suddenly a female swimmer (orange cap) moved in and elbowed me on the left side, dislodging my left goggle, which filled with water. That is the first time that has ever happened to me in a triathlon. I dumped out the water, but it kept filling. Then people came repeatedly at me from my left, pushing, kicking, slapping. I tried to stay focused and think “zen” but it was honestly hard to enjoy this. A swimmer hung on my feet, repeatedly hitting my soles, then just pushed down on my legs. Near the turn-around a swimmer crossed in front of me and kicked hard into my right goggle. That’s the eye in which I wear my one contact lense. It hurt (it’s Ironman), but it held. Some open space appeared on the return, but sighting was tough. We rode the current back that we had fought going out. Every time I tried to bridge to a new group of swimmers, someone would come in from my left. Then, someone swimming clearly a yard away to my right stuck out his foot and kicked me in the side. Huh? Just ignore it. Doesn’t even hurt. Look, I met a guy in his sixties who has done this race year after year. He said Kona 2008 was the most aggressive swim he had ever seen in any triathlon, ever, and he swam 60 minutes.

I do think it’s interesting that Rikako Takei, in her report, did not experience any contact by swimming the right side, along the buoy line. I had my slowest swim ever, at 1:16. My six prior IM swims all were between 65 and 71 minutes. I was just glad it was over.


Through transition and out on the bike in under four minutes, not bad since they make you run around the pier so that everyone runs the same transition. People were hammering in town, as I knew they would be. Town was hot, too. But, out on the Queen K, it cooled and we got a nice tailwind out to Hapuna beach. Then it got hot. I watched my HR monitor, keeping it parked under 146. Then the cross winds started. Really heavy. Some protection at the left turn to Hawi, then heavy, heavy shifting crosswinds all the way out and back. I passed a group of people who passed me leaving town. Special foods ( it’s not called Special Needs anymore) at Hawi, downed two packages of those little packaged peanut butter/cheese crackers, some water and I was good to go. At the right turn back onto Queen K, there is a small climb. I was feeling it there. It was hot. At the top, alone, there was my wife, daughter Valerie, son Evan, Mom and Dad, who all came out to watch. That gave me a big boost but I soon fought a fierce headwind all the way back. I just knew that if I didn’t push too hard, the run would not be a disaster. Kept it at 146. I felt good until about the Four Seasons Hotel, mile 80 or so. I chewed on some salt (It works better than swallowing it), felt immediate response and made it in. No cramping on the bike but but “hotfoot” and had to squirt water on my feet for relief. 6:48 split.

What happened? I was projecting 6:00 I think the winds pushed me back about 45-50 minutes off what I had trained to do. Reports were that Kona ‘08 had the worst winds since ‘04. The lesson: Practice riding in very windy conditions for this race. Yes, the bike was very, very difficult. Nutrition: only Saltstick, powergels, a few powerbars, Gatorade and packaged cheese and peanut butter junk food snack crackers on the bike. Don’t worry Organic Heads, it’s only one day. No issues.


Bike hand-off into T2. Nice. Here’s my marathon from my vantage point (after I ran around the pier and into the change tent, that is). Socks. Shoes, a quick pee and I run out in four minutes feeling good. Here is where I test my training. When will I feel it? Well, I feel a little tired, but lets see. Good. Some water, saltstick, gel, goes down easy. I can run.. I’m running. Not walking. A little heat, humidity and rain, but it feels good. Those aid stations are going by, and I’m not feeling the need to walk. Careful. Dial it back. But I’m doing 9 minute miles and feeling good. It worked—the training worked. The five mile turnaround, where’s that little church? Ten miles! I’m feeling a lot stronger now! I’M running up Palani Drive and everyone's walking and I get a few cheers at the top for it. Fit, fit looking people are walking. Let’s just see if I can keep it up. I’m running, running, running. Mile 17 and I’m running. Special Foods. I walk and my hips hurt.a little. Eat the Pringles and Mountain Dew (thanks, again, Konrad), a walk a few yards and find that, yes, I can run up and out of the Energy Lab. Oh, cramping now on the inner thighs, Walk it, run it…..Gone! Ran it back, it’s getting dark. Can’t fix that damn glow light thing, how do you do that? Walk a few steps on that Macca/Stadler battle hill before the Palani right turn, down, then the left, right, and the right on Ali’I and run it in the whole way for a marathon PR of 4:20.

I’d never gone under 5:02 in an IM run split. Something worked. I think it was a simple but consistent training plan of long, very slow distance and very low heart rate. Program of Mark Allen based on Phil Maffetone and coached by Luis Vargas. I did do a small amount of interval/repeats in September, mostly at races. Note to Matt Fitzgerald: this works.

I consumed only Gatorade, Powergels and Coke on the run, plus Pringles and Mountain dew at Special foods. I’ve used these before and they work for me so I train with them.

Celeste slapped my hand just before the finish, and the family all met me back behind the tents for recovery and photos. This was really fun for me since I usually travel to Ironman events alone. A half hour, soda, pizza (this really is good food), and I’m ready to go. No IV necessary.


Each year the LA Tri Club hosts a year-end party to celebrate the accomplishments of our members from the most recent triathlon season. That, plus it's just another excuse to get together with our LATC friends for dinner, dancing, and fun and celebrate the season! This was another great year for LATC as we captured the USAT's Club National Championship in Las Vegas at the Pumpkinman Triathlon. Don't get left out of this special occasion.

Awards are presented to members either for their contributions to the LATC or for their "outstanding" personal accomplishments in the sport. There are 11 awards in total - some serious, and some not-so-serious.

The Advisory Board is soliciting nominations from members and would like your input by completing the following survey. Anything that happened this calendar year is fair game - so let the nomination process begin.

For each award, the Advisory Board will select the top nominations and the winner. The winners and final nominees will be read at the YEP (Year End Party) - and the winners presented with a valuable award.


2008 LA Tri Club Board of Advisors:
Paul Hekimian, Liz Oakes, Larry Turkheimer, Ian Murray, Ray Barrios, Tina & Mo Geller, Gerardo Barrios and Lawrence Fong

The LA Tri Club is known as the largest, best and coolest triathlon club in the world. And we have the members to prove it. Think about the person that absolutely says "I am the LA Tri Club." They come to every event, always "fly the colors", and races to their best ability. You don't need to be a winner, just a person who loves the tri club and shows that first and foremost.
2007 Renata D'Angelo
2006 Liz Kollar
2005 Tim Bomba
2004 Liz Oakes
2003 Ken Carrington
2002 Jason Berkowitz
2001 Pat Abe

JOHN BOLAND SPIRIT AWARD: This award is honor of John Boland, a member of the LA Tri Club who tragically perished while competing at the 2002 Ironman Utah. The Spirit Award will go to the person who, like John, has exhibited the most enthusiasm and dedication to the Club, the members, and the sport during the year.
2007 Stella Tong
2006 Heather Richards
2005 Konrad Ribeiro
2004 Matt Miller
2003 Tracy Luebbers
2002 Julie Silber
2001 Matt Miller

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: This individual who says I want to help. I want to be involved. You don't have to volunteer at every event (although it might help), but you want to help the club be successful. Maybe you race every event and still are there to hand out the race packets. Maybe you come to every club meeting and instead of just attending you get there early to help set up. To win this one you have to put the club ahead of your own stuff (or at least let the club members think so).
2007 Tim Bomba
2006 Renata D’Angelo
2005 Julie Miller
2004 Rosalind Jarrett
2003 Julie Talbert

TRI NIGHTMARE: This award makes the hair on the back of your neck stand tall. It could be your bike falling into the water prior to Escape from Alcatraz. It could be arriving at your first race set and ready to go, only to realize that you are a week late for the event. Have you or your training buddy had a horrible, terrible experience at a triathlon? Then you want this award. At least if you lived the nightmare, you might as well earn an award for it.
2007 Aaron Borough (hit by a car at mile 24 at Kona)
2006 Alan Morelli
2005 Samantha Gross (car, bike, gear stolen before LA Tri)
2004 Neva Day (hit by car the day before Kona)
2003 Evan Bartelheim
2002 Raoul van Kirk (Bonelli Crash)
2001 Ken Shishido (Topanga Crash)

NEWBIE OF THE YEAR: For those of you new to triathlon, let me explain to you what a Newbie is. Is this your first year in the LA Tri Club? Is this your first year doing triathlon? Then you are a Newbie. Next season you are not a Newbie. Got it? Anyway, did you or some Newbie you know have an awesome, terrific, marvelous year? Then you are the Newbie of the Year.
2007 Carly Chamberlin
2006 Steve Herbert
2005 "Riptide" Ray Barrios
2004 Eric Davis
2003 Erika Aklufi

SPEEDSTER AWARDS: The Speedster awards acknowledges the LA Tri Clubbers who routinely finished well ahead of the pack in Sprint, Olympic and Non-Traditional or Single Sport Distance races. You know, the person who is finishing around the same time that most of us are starting the run!

In choosing the winner, we'll weigh overall wins higher than age group wins, but we'll also factor in consistency (i.e., the more winning performances the better), race difficulty (i.e., age group win at Wildflower is more impressive than an age group win at the Bud Light reverse super-sprint triathlon in San Bernardino.).

2007 Justin Park
2006 Carlos Vizcarra

2007 Nina Greenberg
2006 Rachel Dunbabin

2007 Oliver Martin
2006 Holger Beckman

2007 Rikako Takei
2006 Claudia Campos

2007 Evan Hyde
2006 Kalyn English

2007 Rich Reffner-Cycle, Bill Lockton-Run, Loren Uscliowski-Swim
2006 Babak Azad

Xterra USA National Championship

If you're a Lake Tahoe junkie like me, the headline, "XTERRA USA Moves to Utah", part of a press release posted on Xterra's website on October 21st, might have gotten you all riled up.

Why wouldn't the race be held at Lake Tahoe? How could the national championships ever be rightfully called the national championships without a death-defying ride down the Flume trail?

I spoke with Trey Garman, VP of Team Unlimited/XTERRA for the lowdown. It seems the faltering US economy has struck Nevada.

Me: What prompted the move, after 8 years in Incline Village?

Trey: The Nevada Commission on Tourism was forced to cut their budget and as a result we lost our funding for the XTERRA USA Championship event, accompanying marketing, and one-hour television show.

Me: That totally sucks!

Trey: (didn't respond to that because it was in my head.)

Me: Will there be a race in Incline Village at all next year?

Trey: There is nothing scheduled in Incline right now. We are very grateful for the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, the businesses in Incline Village, and to the State of Nevada for their support through the years. We’ve got eight years of history and heritage in Nevada, and the XTERRA USA Championship itself was born in Nevada back in 2001. Nevada holds a special place in the hearts of athletes from around the nation and world. As proof, athletes from 43 states and 14 countries raced in Incline Village this year. As the U.S. Championship was part of the XTERRA Global Tour, its impact is felt not only in the U.S., but also in the XTERRA international market that reaches into 15 countries.

Me: Will the USA race course be the same as the Mountain Championship course?

Trey: There will just be the one race, the USA Championship, up at Snowbasin. So in essence, the nationals replaces the Mountain Championship, however, there will still be another regional in the mountain area (site TBA), but not at Snowbasin.

So there you have it. Nevada has no moolah right now, but XTERRA will proudly continue the USA nationals race at Odgden, Utah's Snowbasin resort. For more information, read the press release here.

No wonder we haven't been seeing "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" TV commercials lately...

With most of the world's mainstream media owned by a few corporations, it's not surprising that the same thing should happen to the marginal world of endurance sports.

Private equity firm, Falconhead Capital, LLC. announced in January this year that Inside Communications, Inc., owner of Inside Triathlon and Velo News, would be merged with Falconhead-owned Competitor Group, Inc., owner of Triathlete Magazine, the regionally distributed Competitor magazines, and a host of other endurance-sports related ventures.

Will a monopoly on multisport news ruin the sport’s journalistic integrity?

Inside Triathlon Triathlete Magazine

With the only two triathlon magazines in existence being published under the same company, what would make an athlete want to subscribe to both? Competitor Group, Inc. (CGI) must present unique editorial viewpoints for each publication so that they will be seen as complementary, not competitive.

T.J. Murphy, formerly Editor in Chief of Triathlete Magazine now holds the same position at Inside Triathlon. He outlined the key differences between the two magazines as follows:

Triathlete will continue to be an all-encompassing book, with a focus on how to train for and race triathlons… As far as IT, we are transforming it into a hybrid between a book and a magazine, a coffee-table publication, using higher quality paper, long-form journalism and heavy with large-format photography. Starting in 2009, Inside Triathlon will be published bi-monthly. Instead of focusing on the "how-to," IT will focus on the culture of the sport, using in-depth profiles and stories. The first issue using the new format will be the Jan/Feb issue, themed “Inside the Hawaii Ironman.”

The content in Inside Triathlon will assume the reader has a solid knowledge of the sport, and using this assumption as leverage, we will be able to steer features into more advanced and specific territories.”

While it appears that the new editorial direction of Inside Triathlon will help produce a product that will be welcomed by seasoned triathletes (including myself), the death of competition in multisport magazine publishing leaves a lot of unchecked reporting responsibility in the hands of a few people.

Mark Crispin Miller, professor of Media Studies at NYU, described the convergence of the mainstream media in The Nation in 2001 as having a "corrosive effect on journalism." Will this endurance sports media merger enervate diversity of thought in the sport of triathlon?


In a niche sport like triathlon, perhaps CGI's publications along with blogs, and Slowtwitch.com are, in fact, enough to holistically, and responsibly, serve the multisport crowd. In fact, the presence of a healthy amount of triathlon blogs, like this one, as well as Slowtwitch.com may allow this merger to be seen as a good thing---for now.

CGI's acquisition of Inside Triathlon will provide more in-depth coverage of the sport where there was none before. As Triathlete Magazine editor, Brad Culp, points out, triathlon is a niche sport, and he’s “not sure that there's room for two magazines following the same formula…

“It's no secret that [Inside Triathlon] was suffering. If we continued to compete with one another, I doubt that IT would've been able to survive much longer. Now triathletes have two solid magazines to read. I think the reader response and circulation numbers will confirm that this was a good move.”

Also, as T.J. Murphy points out, "There is competition [between Triathlete Mag and IT]. Although the two staffs now exist under the same company banner, the intensity of competition between them will only increase. It's like being on a cross-country squad: sure, you race against other teams but there's also a fierce competition among team members...With a print publication, the costs are so high you either succeed or die a slow, painful death. So we have to bust ass or we die."

While the editors of both magazines make a good argument that the merger will actually increase the quality of their content, there is a bigger picture to consider: further vertical integration.

In a January interview with Dan Empfield, owner of Slowtwitch.com, David Moross, chairman and CEO of Falconhead Capital, LLC., said "the formation of Competitor Group, Inc. represents a significant opportunity for Falconhead to leverage CGI’s current assets into the number-one online destination/community for endurance athletes, incorporating authoritative 'insider' content, race results, merchandise and streaming video...We intend to build the world's premier endurance sports website."

The glossy Triathlete and Inside Triathlon magazines are only a small part of the picture. While the editors of these magazines might strive for the best content, continuing to compete against one another, an online aggregate of all of CGI's content might kill the little guys, who keep their content in check, or swallow them up.

Only time will tell if Mr. Moross's vision, as Dan Empfield phrased it, of "an integrated, vertical campaign that attacks the endurance sports participant demographic with opportunities in print, web, on-site and television," will come to life.

How does Slowtwitch.com creator, Dan Empfield, feel about this change in the multisport media landscape? We shall see...

To comment on this issue, go here.

Hello Dear Clubbers--and for those of you who enjoyed my last race report from Ironman Lanzarote thank you for reading and for your feedback. After a summer of cooling my jets and resting my legs, I headed off to another racing adventure in a quasi-exotic location: Monaco 70.3 series.

I tried my best not to freak out about the $300 bike box charge on Delta out of LAX telling myself, you want to play with the high rollers than you are going to get charged a lot so you better get used to it. I was told this is part of the airlines “restructuring” and that since my ticket was issued after July 31 that I was susceptible to this double charge. I remember a day when there was no charge for international travel with a bike. Anyway, as a simple massage therapist and triathlete, I was humbled by the experience. But I was also grateful to have a bike and a box in which to put it. My deep passion for racing and traveling would conquer any adversity met along the way. After all, this was all part of the experience. And I never met a finish line I didn’t like.

A feudal anomaly or “tax haven,” Monaco is the home to people like Princess Grace and the Grimaldi family who has controlled the state since 1297. For those of you who have raced Ironman France in Nice or who have traveled to the South of France, you will know that this race venue rivals our own Malibu triathlon in its glamour and beauty. I call it Malibu meets Vegas in Europe with Formula 1 and yachts mixed in. The most disturbing thing I saw the whole time I was there was a dirty Bentley, but there had been rain that morning. Monaco is perched on the side of a steep piece of land between France and Italy. Adjacent to Eze, the most romantic town that ever existed, they aren’t kidding when they say Cote d’Azur. While the Mediterranean’s water quality may be an issue (drink Evian or Perrier) the water color is the blue that comes from lots of sun and rocks: clear light blue with a swell that suits the yachts of the richer than rich and triathletes who are faster than fast like Chris McCormack. There are tourists from cruise ships and casinos but no junky shops or riffraff as you have to be Von Cleef or Chopard to afford the rent. So I was in good company.

I spent the first two days doing the normal things triathletes from California do when they travel to Europe for a race: try to go to the bathroom in the morning and try to sleep at night. All restaurants in Monaco open at 7:30 PM so of course, I was always starving at 5:00 PM. I learned first hand why Café de Paris, a 24-hour a day restaurant in Monte Carlo, is an institution. It is always good for a salad nicoise, a cappuccino, or pasta. If you are a foodie, there’s a lot on the scene including Louise XV and Metropole’s Robachon.

But back to the “Formula 1” of racing. This event is put on by the Triangle group and they are good. (Race directors from IM Malaysia could use an internship with them.) They own six races and in their own words only IM North America has more races. There were cones marking the course and barricades as well as signs and stickers on the ground. There were a lot of helpers on the course. The website is updated often,--they are so organized, have virtually eliminated the race meeting, but they still host pre-and post-race dinners providing convenient transportation to both. There was espresso but no mechanic.

The transition zone was the triathlon version of the Louvre with a single path leading through single rows of bikes. You needed your passport to get in and out of there since some bikes were ripped off in a past year. They took a picture of every racer with their bike and your bike got a wristband, too. It did not look like typical ”yardsale” because transition bags were provided and you dropped everything off the day before. The port-o-potties were in transition, were gender-specific, and there were no lines! The music was relaxing “euro-blend.”

At the expo, I picked up a fold-up map of the bike course. It looked like the kind of map you get at Jackson Hole when you go skiing. It detailed a route with pictures of snowcapped mountains signifying climbs of which there were three but then a grand finale of a half climb. The descents were a combination of zigzag skinny yellow and red lines with caution signs with exclamation signs around them. I did not want to drive so I paid a lot of money to take a cab. The driver was nice and he knew all the roads. Had the course not been so harrowing, I would have never been able to keep my eyes open not because it was scary, but because I think it was like 4:00 AM California time so I felt like I had been up all night. I counted twelve hairpins on the decent from Turbie and that was before the Col de Nice. (Note to self: tighten everything on your bike when you get back to the room.)

There was something about a bike cut off at 12:30 PM. I could see why. This gave you about 5 hours to do the bike. Sadly there were several first timers who I never saw on the run because they didn’t make it. They were many others who didn’t make it due to crashes and even though the “fast” people were gone by the time I hit the curves, there were a lot of crashes that day. It was an obstacle course. People don’t buy a fast bike and forget to learn how to ride it! Also, you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to know that roads are slippery when wet: it had rained that morning. I am convinced that you have to be born in Europe to ride the bike in 2:37 as the bike relay winner did. It also helped that he was a pilot--good at judging distances on the way down (sat with him at the awards dinner).

I rode a pace which I call moderate, conservative even, but competent and efficient. I experienced deep pleasure when I passed some guys who had cracked. I don’t think guys on P3s like being passed by a girl in any situation especially on a hill but that’s what a compact crank gets you. Thin and windy roads travel past country hideaways--stone buildings with blue shutters on the hillside with overgrown vines with bridges leading to their wooden doors. I rode past a church in a valley whose bells were ringing since the race was on Sunday morning--or was that my spoke? It was a harp sound and then a pitter patter like horses pulling a carriage. My wheels did seems a little “crushed” or at least stuck together when I removed them from the bike case. Despite mechanical anxiety, I was able to appreciate that course, the café with the handwritten menu board with lunch for 15 Euros, the cheapest lunch I’d seen, in a town that had a private feel. I felt privileged to ride through it. I know I say this in every race report, but if I ever fall in love, I would go here.

But enough about my personal life and the bike course, triathlon is swim, bike and run. So the swim was hilly and as I said it had rained that morning. The weather was better than beautiful the whole week so of course there has to be a downpour on race morning. The one person who covered his bike in transition must have felt brilliant. Anyway, it cleared and we left as a mass start at 7:00 AM swimming right into the sun. There was no glare just an orange sunrise which is how you always think triathlon is supposed to be. Yeah, I had seen two jellyfish on a practice swim, but this was not on my mind as I was surrounded by 1000 other predators of the first buoy. After this it spread out a bit and I stayed behind somebody who I ran into at least three times but I was afraid to pull a stunt and end up alone out there as now we were in the high seas swimming between two cruise ships. I looked at my watch 24:00. “Wow, this is going pretty slow, oh well.” Right about now I decided no more buoys just land mass sighting like Christopher Columbus must have done. There was a risk of getting sick I realized as I cruised a light blue hill on the way to that elusive second burrito-shaped Powerbar buoy trying to get my “sea legs” while swimming and focusing on the rock formations of upper Monaco and the Fairmont Hotel whenever I took a breath. So this was my worst half IM swim time ever, but what the hell, it was my best swim experience. When the idea of doing a triathlon was just a swim cap in my hand as I stared at a roped off section of sea in the Dominican Republic a few years ago on a vacation, this is what I thought it would be like. So thank you Mediterranean for keeping it real.

Since I have already described the bike course I will just add to points: the map was for once accurate and they served Infinit which I had already practiced on. Also, of course, they have Coke on the bike in Europe which I love. (Note: fast people probably running now.)

The famed run on Avenue Princess Grace (!!!) is a loop that alternates between a 4-star hotel and a 5-star hotel. It travels along the yacht harbor where all I can remember is a boat called “Amnesia,” from Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Obviously a commuter between tax havens. I thought the run was 4 loops but they used the word, “approximately” so I wondered if this meant you had to run up that hill one more time as my splits seemed way too fast. Good problem to have. Of course you had to do the hill 5 times not 4 so I ran it every time getting progressively slower which was sad but I still tried hard. (It wasn’t worse than the one that leads to Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica coming up from channel which thankfully I had practiced on.) If it was hot during the run, there was always an aid station ahead with mounds of shaved ice, or a breeze under some shady zone, or a wrist band to be gotten. So always something positive to focus on.

I never met a finish line I didn’t like and even though I came in an hour later than Cherie (my coach) and I had hoped for I finished strong. Best part was the Erlinger “Alkohol Frei” I had previously heard so much about from Markus, the young German pro I had hosted a few years back, a beer with B vitamins for recovery. They also had little “gummy” pellets and an electrolyte tab. I think the races in Europe are harder but all that much sweeter or maybe it was the Nutella.

Overall I enjoyed being an American getting away with speaking only English since everyone else speaks their language plus English. When I said I did Lanzarote earlier this year this got me some respect. I saw Guenther, the Austrian living in Germany, one of the boys who helped looked after me in South Africa in 2006. I never forgot the episode in the car when we were driving the bike course in Port Elizabeth when Markus and Guenther were speaking German and Guenther defended me by saying, “Speak English!” There’s an American in the car!” Girlfriend in tow this time, he still invited me to St. Tropez for a few days after the race…aaah the Europeans, they really know how to live! But this American, I think she did alright: there was no charge for the bike on the way home. I will go back to Nice for the Ironman in 2009.

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