BANG! The start. I go slow on this part so I can ski behind everyone else because I need lots of room for my "race snowplow." I survive the downhill and there's Greg in my chute. "HEY, YOU'RE NOT LAST THIS YEAR!" he encourages me as I exit my classic white rear-entry boots and don my Nordic boots. I am relieved that part of the race is over and glide away on my skate skis.
On the first steep downhill I hear, "ON YOUR RIGHT!" I'm trying to hug the inside corner, but in my peripheral vision I see my friend, Debbie, in a tumbling, crashing blur of a yardsale as I ski away. I slog through the slushy nordic course, happy to get to my bike. I sit on my little plastic stool to pull off my Nordic boots, but now the zipper on my left boot has lost its pull and I have no way to pull it down. I struggle for a minute and then shout out "I NEED A KNIFE!" Out of nowhere, a man appears with a Leatherman. "CUT ME OUT!" I yell, and with one swift slice, I am free.
WOOOOSH! I love whipping through the wind on my bike and blowing past unsuspecting people. I pinch my friend Lisa's butt when I finally catch her. Near the end of the ride, I catch a woman in a red jersey and we jockey back and forth to end of the ride. There is a throng of people in the transition area, but there is my other trusty support person, Jan, with my running shoes.
I blast out of the transition in a very impressive plod and shortly the woman in red rockets by me. I start humming "Feet, Don't Fail Me Now." What else can I do? Finally, there's the turnaround. "WATER! GATORADE!" the friendly volunteers shout. I high-five Lisa and Kirsten, a few other friends going the other way. Down on the river trail, a strong-looking woman in peach and grey passes me near the finish of the run. Damn, it's not looking good.
I see the boats and there is Jan standing at the ready by my surfski. This is my favorite part of the race. I hug the shoreline, dodge a canoe and a sideways kayak, and catch the woman in peach before the first buoy. I stay wide at the second buoy to avoid a standup paddler, utilize the eddy off the island, squeeze between two kayaks and catch the woman in red just as we pass under the Old Mill bridge. I hear friends cheering, so I dig deeper, knowing I will need at least a minute to hold her off in the sprint.
I arrive at the boat finish and Debbie is there. "SOMEONE STOLE MY BOAT! I NEED YOUR BOAT!" she screams at me frantically. "But, Debbie," I shout, "It's a surfski! You'll swim!" As I take off on the sprint, I hear Debbie commanding the volunteers "I AM TAKING THIS BOAT!" "This will be interesting," I think, as I desperately race into the amphitheater, listening for footsteps behind me.
The finish line! Praise the heavens! I am still draped over the barricade with a Banana Muscle Milk in my hand when the woman in red comes in 36 seconds later. "Great race," I congratulate her. Her name is Ericka. The woman in peach and Lisa are not far behind. Then Kirsten. She is sopping wet, bloody and battered. "I GOT KNOCKED OVER IN THE KAYAK BY A HELICOPTER!" she exclaims. Really, that's what happened.
Finally Debbie rolls in. She managed to commandeer the next kayak and finish the race.
"That was epic," I tell my best friend in the finish tent. "I'm taking next year off." She laughs hysterically, knowing better.