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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Running goes to the dogs...and some milestones

This weekend, Barktoberfest rolled around.  Barktoberfest is Lollypop Farm's annual fundraiser, complete with a 5 mile race (and a 1 mile dog walk, for those that would rather stroll with their mutts).  Given both of our dogs were adopted from Lollypop, I always feel good about supporting the cause.  Plus, the actual festival is pretty amusing to those that enjoy being surrounded by hundreds of dogs.  It's also good to remind our dogs where they came from once in a while, they need to be scared into behaving (kidding, kidding...we'd never give them up).  Every now and then, they look nice, too
As far as the actual race went, I wasn't expecting a whole ton.  Two years ago, it had marked my return to road races after four months off with my butt fracture; last year, it had been one of those freakishly good days where I felt comfortable at the start and strong at the end.  This year, I figured it would be a good way to get my legs moving a bit faster again, since my training had been a bit spotty in the two weeks since worlds.  So, I thought some hard running was in order.  The race started out with a mile on a gravel path, followed by some rolling hills, with the fourth mile largely uphill, leading for a downhill finish.  Karen Blodgett, a top local runner who's been making a blazing comeback from having her third (adorable, I should add) child in May was there; she had run a 1:21 half the previous week, and has been getting stronger every race. 

The race ended up being fairly uneventful.  Karen took the lead from the gun (and by the lead, I mean the actual lead- male and female), and held it throughout.  As predicted, I felt neither fresh nor awful, so I spent the better part of it giving myself the "man up, it's short" speech.  At the turnaround just past three miles into the race, I realized that I was in a no-man's land between a very smooth-looking Karen and, well, several men (very strange that we were 1-2!), so I ran the rest of the way against myself.  I crossed the line in 30:34, good for second place and ten seconds slower than last year (all over the last mile), but not far off enough to be concerned, given how I'd felt during the race and for the better part of the past couple of weeks.  The race had served its purpose, which was to kickstart my way back into some more intense training.  Dave ended up running a pr, coming in at 32:25 or so, good enough for the third man, meaning he took home his very first running paycheck!  Go Dave.  He's starting to make me nervous, given the run is the only thing I have left over him :).  Afterwards, I took the Bailey on a 40min cooldown, which did absolutely nothing to calm her down.  We then walked around with my parents, sister, brother in law, nephew, and our small crew of dogs, looking at farm animals, grabbing some free dog treats from the vendors, and generally observing the greatest population density of dogs that ever exists in Western New York.  

Today, though, was to mark another milestone: the century ride.  70.3 training meant that I never had felt obligated to bike that far, but with Placid looming on the horizon and a winter on the trainer rapidly approaching, now was as good of a time as any to break through that physical and mental barrier.  Dave and I had flirted with the mark when we had biked out to Provincetown and back while we were vacationing on Cape Cod this summer, but the ride worked out to 92 miles.  So, last weekend, before we had even left Jamesville Beach Park after Dave's race at the Syracuse 70.3, the decision to go for it was made.  The conversation went something like this. 
Jennie: We should do a century ride before the fall's over.
Dave: Yes.  We should.
Jennie: Let's go next weekend, if the weather's good
Dave: Sure
Jennie:  Ok.  
So, today ended up being the day.  We set out west, since there's really no other way to go from our house and I didn't feel like driving the bikes anywhere (the Bills were playing the Patriots later, after all, and I needed to get home for the end of that!).  The terrain out there is pretty flat, which might not be the best training, but my goal for the day was to just worry about the distance first, as I still have plenty of time to work on the pace and hills.  The first half of the ride was fine, but I was keenly aware that this was largely because of a nice tailwind.  Tailwinds, unfortunately, become headwinds on out and backs.  Luckily, Dave was a trooper, leading for 30 miles or so through the worst of it.  Miles 50-70 seemed to crawl past, but once past mile 70, I began to feel a bit better, and the distance left suddenly seemed very surmountable.  The golden and red tinged leaves on the trees, the apples in the orchards, and views of the lake were worth it; I couldn't help thinking to myself that the ride was actually a great way to enjoy my favorite season.  A quick trip around the block finally pushed my bike computer into triple digits, and the milestone had been reached.  Somewhere along the way today, I realized something: I'm starting to love biking (sorry, running).  Over the summer, I had gone through my identity crisis of considering myself more of a triathlete than a runner.  Today, I discovered that I love being bent over my aerobars, churning at the pedals, whether I'm cruising comfortably with a tailwind, cursing at Dave as he forces me to push myself to keep up, or pushing my way up a hill.  The feeling was comforting, though, given that I've got lots more time on the bike coming up in my life.

On a final note for today, GO BILLS.  Say what you want about us Bills fans, but we're loyal, for better or worse.  I grew up with newspaper posters of Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Bruce Smith adorning our basement wall, before I even totally understood the game.  I've gotten quite good at figuring out how it is, in fact, possibly to blow a double digit lead with 30 seconds left and possession of the ball (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration...but just a slight one).  On our way back through Greece, we had biked many people mowing their lawns, leading me worry that the game was a blowout, and fans had given up and taken to yardwork.  The first thing I did when we got back from the ride was switch on the game, and I'm pretty sure my heart rate was higher during those last couple of minutes than it was throughout that entire ride.  These minutes included running commentary that would make any Bills fan cringe, including talk about not letting Tom Brady get the ball back, the forward lateral, and, naturally, as Ryan Lindell lined up the kick the winning field goal, wide right.   But, just like the century barrier, the Patriots barrier was broken too, and our beloved Bills finally got their win!  Which just goes to show, who knows what's possible?  That's why we work and fight and play the game!
BILL-ieve!








Friday, September 16, 2011

Ironman 70.3 Worlds- the actual race

As riveting as my descriptions of travel probably were, time to get down to the race before I forget!  Race morning, we awoke at 4:30 (later to my east coast time tuned body, luckily), made our way to Lake Las Vegas, and put some last minute touches on the bikes.  This, for me, entailed shoving tons of ice into my aero bottle and Neverreach, to avoid having hot fluids during the race.  I seriously need to figure out how to do a bottle exchange.  Anyways, a brief moment of silence for 9/11 was observed at the time the first plane hit, something that seemed more emotional for me than the horrible events 10 years ago; I think it probably has to do with being 26 vs. 16 and appreciating the enormity of it all.  The process of arranging us into our waves then began, which, at 6:30 am, seemed a bit early for our 7:50am wave start.  Still, Alyssa and I joined the nervous group gathered on the narrow mat along the lake.  We're somewhere in here:
With the blast of the cannon, the pros were off (wouldn't it be fantastic to have booked a hotel room in Lowes that morning with no idea that a race was going on when the reservation was made?)  I watched Andy Potts exit the water ridiculously fast, watched the pros transition with impressive coordination, made a million bathroom trips, drank some unnatural beverages, ate some unnatural foods, and wrestled into my swim skin.  Time passed surprisingly quickly, and before I was really ready, we were in the swim corrale, waiting to enter the water.  At that point, I went through my moments of overwhelming nerves, near crying, and doubting why I put myself through such torture.  On the bright side, this sort of panic attack used to occur at the start of my swim, so I suppose getting over it beforehand is progress.  Dave was right there, though, and he even captured the moment quite well:
Once in the water, we got to tread water for over ten minutes.  I took the opportunity to swim a bit, and then stood on some rocks at the end.  Finally, we were off.  The lake was narrow, buoys were in my preferred location on the right, and the course was easy to follow.  I had started to the far left, which actually gave me plenty of swimming room right from the start.  The women in my wave took off fast- at one point, I'm not sure if I was actually beating anyone or not.  I was able to get in a rhythm pretty quickly, though.  Once we rounded the far end of the rectangular course and started to head back, I started to lose sight of other women.  For some reason, I was pulling to the left, which I have never once done in open water-it's always been right or bust for me.  My swimming, therefore, continues to be a mystery.  I then began to alternate between feeling fatigued and zoning out entirely, thinking about the upcoming bike.  When I finally got out of the water, I clicked my watch and saw 35:xx.  Ugh.  I tried to put it behind me and began the long run towards transition, noting that I felt fresher during that than I had the entire swim.

I ran into Alyssa in the changing tent; we exchanged some encouragement and exited transition pretty close together after I stumbled up the hill with my bike.  Several miles of climbing followed to open up the bike leg; surprisingly, this was my first clue that the day might go well for me.  I settled in, felt strong, and began the process of trying to make up some ground.  The first descent followed, during which my race day downhill alter ego kicked in.  Just a few miles in, I set a few ground rules: get into my small ring on long climbs for at least the 30 miles of the bike, no matter how strong I felt, don't freaking ride the brakes downhill, and ride as fast down them as I'm comfortable!  While the hills in the recreational area looked daunting in the distance, avoiding any urge to grind them out in my high gears made them manageable, and I began to relax and steadily move up on the climbs.  Another small source of inspiration came from the paratriathlon and handcycle athletes- watching these athletes push themselves in a way I can't imagine led to my inner refrain of "suck it up!"  The 70+ age group contributed also to this- and one of the men in that age group led to a humorous interlude.  As I passed him, I admired how good he looked for his age (something that someone in my profession can completely appreciate).  Immediately after that, a guy in my age group passed me, and told me, "you have amazing legs!".  However, for some reason, I didn't comprehend the "you" part of this, and thought he was referring to the 70  year old, which led to my response of "I know!  I know!".  Realizing shortly after what he had really said, I figured that he must now think I'm the most conceited chick ever.  This led to me feeling like an idiot and holding back on the next uphill as I began to catch back up to him...whoops.  Later, I would decide it was kind of strange that he was commenting on my legs mid-race, anyways.  That aside, shortly after 30mi in, a race motorcycle pulled up next to me-crap!  I was so sure that I had been riding cleanly, too.  But, instead of a yellow or red card, someone on the back of it pulled out a camera, and they just drove alongside me, taking pictures.  Weird.  I still haven't figured out what that was about (again, probably just admiring the Neverreach...).  Continuing on after that small heart attack, I checked my watch every five miles, and began to realize that my bike leg was going much, much better than I could have hoped...

Right around mile 35, my race truly seemed to begin.  At that point, I thought of what I had left- which was my normal Sunday training brick of a 20mi bike, 13 (or more) mile run.  This seemed so doable; I had done the workout dozens of times, often with more fatigue in my legs than I was feeling at that point on the bike.  I banked on this confidence, and soon enough I passed the girl in my age group who had edged me out for 3rd at Nationals.  It was almost a relief; I knew my swim had been bad, and I had no concept of where I was within the age group.  With my optimism growing, a couple miles later, I came up on another couple of women in my age group.  The name on the bib of one of them caught my attention- she was the girl, a former All-American runner, who was predicted by many to win the group.  I debated for a minute if I had any business passing her; I had certainly never thought I'd be heading towards T2 in that position (it unnerves me to have faster runners behind me, trying to chase me down!).  After a brief "holy crap!" moment, I made the pass and pressed on.  At that point, it dawned on me: I was going to push the rest of the bike, I was going to run hard, I was going to make myself hurt more than I ever had, and I was going to love it; this is why I do this, this makes me feel alive.  The last 15 miles of the ride were almost uneventful despite a gradual climb towards the end, I felt under control and tried to keep it that way.  I figured I was in a good position, so I concentrated on finishing my fluids and getting down a gel in the closing moments.

As soon as I started my run, the doubts started.  Had I biked too hard?  I'd felt fine, though.  Was my gut going to hold out?  I felt sort of nauseous again, but it didn't seem as bad as it had in the early stages of my Musselman run.  The worst of it was the crampy/sore feeling in my distal medial quads, which caused visions of the agony of my first marathon to dance around in my head.  The first mile, while relatively downhill/flat, was tough.  I couldn't find my running legs, 13 miles suddenly seemed like an eternity.  I missed the mile marker, and I felt like I was crawling until I reached mile 2, where I took a 13:09 two mile split.  Ok.  I was fine.  The course began its long, gradual climb, which looked innoculous enough on an elevation map, but in reality was wearing.  I was still unconvinced that my quads would hold out, until I recalled that they'd felt worse 10 miles into that first marathon; 13 miles to go was at least less than 16.  I told myself that every step was one step closer to safely getting to that finish line, that I couldn't go back in distance, at least.  Around mile 5, I finally began to work into the run.  Somewhere in those first few miles, I passed one final 25-29 girl.  I still didn't know that, though.  After a few more miles, when I hadn't passed anyone else in my age group, thoughts that I might be in the lead crossed my mind.  I pushed them aside, and recalled what I'd told myself earlier: that I was going to hurt, but I was going to get through it.  Ironically, I can't say I noticed the heat.  Cups of water over the head, multiple sponges, and Powerbar drink mix at every aid station helped with that, as well as the 2 glorious spray tents per lap.  Entering my final lap, I was struggling.  Still, I knew I had one more trip up the hill, then a mile downhill to the finish.  I was slowing, but I made it to the final turnaround.  At that turnaround, in my semi-delirious state, I saw another girl in my age group slightly behind me.  I couldn't remember if I'd just lapped her or not, so I expended everything I had left in the tank over that last mile.  Finally, after running past it and watching it mock me twice, I was able to make the turn in to the finish, and pushed with all that was left.

At the end of the finish chute, volunteers were directing us into the food tent, but I couldn't even think about food at that point- all I could think was some jumbled version of, "that was it, wasn't it?", as my hands were covering my mouth in some version of uncertainty, mixed with disbelief and cautious joy.  Dave was right there, and he confirmed what I'd been wondering and hoping for the past several hours: "you won!!"  After several refrains, "are you sure?  are you SURE?", I allowed myself a total state of laughing/crying breakdown, and my cautious joy turned unadulterated (sorry...).  I spent the next hour or so with a smile plastered to my face.  After calling my parents and talking to a few other friends, I tracked down my gear and Alyssa (who toughed out a sub-5:30 two weeks after a full ironman-talk about balls!), ran into a few Buffalo competitors, and finally was forced to sit in the shade with my leftover gatorade, given I'd completely neglected the fact that I'd just completed a half ironman in 90 degree heat and should probably consume, well, anything with liquid or sugar in it.  A few days later, I now realize just how on the brink my quads were throughout that run, and I'm so, so grateful that I was able to walk (run?) that line and get through it.  I know that it's not Kona, I know that plenty of pros crushed me, and I know that this might not have been the strongest competition ever in my age group at 70.3 worlds, but the support and congrats from everyone have been absolutely amazing and overwhelming.  I couldn't have asked for a better weekend, and no matter what happens in my athletic future from here, this will always be a highlight.

For some final thoughts, here's some pictures:
My awesome, not so flying dismount:

In the water...that's me in the middle, thinking about how I'm about to swim really slow.

Alyssa and I at the awards banquet!

25-29 awards!  I should add that the girl next to me was also finished right behind me when we both qualified at Mooseman-she's super nice, I wish her the best!

Lake Mead recreational area, the next day.  It looked prettier when I wasn't biking up its hills.

Hoover Dam visit

Hiking at Red Rocks Canyon the next day...the views were worth the pain in my quads!

See?

We scurried between some rocks
Making my awesome mount...try not to be too impressed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ironman 70.3 World Championships (Vegas!)- The Beforehand

Wow...where do I even start?  I'm not sure how I can put this whole experience into words, but I'll try.  I'd been thinking of this race, obsessing about it, dreaming about it, and worrying about it since the initial excitement of qualifying had worn off.  At first, just getting there had been my focus, but it didn't take too long after I'd turned over my check and filled out my registration that it dawned on me that I'd like to do well.  Still, "do well" to me was initially thought of as top 20 in my age group.  After Musselman, I had sort of raised my goal to top 10 on a good day.  As Vegas got nearer, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have the podium on my brain, but I thought it was a stretch, and I needed to concentrate on the things that were within my power.  Of course, the weather wasn't within my power, but that didn't stop me from having the 10 day forecast for Henderson, NV open on my computer.  Luckily, I began to feel better as the predicted high for race day dropped to the low 90's-after all, it had gotten up to that at Musselman, and I'd survived.  Labor Day weekend came and went, I made it through a couple more work days (sorry, patients, for being completely unfocused in that time!), we donated a couple of dogs to my parents for the weekend, and before I knew it, departure time had rolled around!

Well, almost.  Ten minutes into the drive to the Buffalo airport Thursday morning, I realized that the magnet for my bike computer was on my regular wheel, and of course the race wheels were packed.  Luckily, Dave and I were able to turn around and get it, and still got to the airport with time to spare (thanks to my speeding...oops).  We got to Vegas in the late afternoon, where I experienced 100 degree heat for the first time.  The bike survived the flight, we got some dinner (read: Dave had about 1700 pieces of "all you can eat" sushi), I watched people lose money in slot machines, and we fell asleep on east coast time.  Friday morning, after some Original Pancake House at the hotel (I thought they were only in Buffalo!  This discovery was exciting), I lost $3 in a couple slot machines, and decided I was over gambling.  We picked up Alyssa from the airport, and then it was time for "Jennie attempts to see the bike course and fails: Part A".  I meant to go just for a 20mi ride over the start of the course.  Instead (another shining example of how I should never be allowed to navigate alone), I didn't turn off the narrow bike path that the race briefly used to get us across the road.  I was then following the bike path, which included a couple of climbs that had me standing on my pedals, gasping for air, followed by narrow, curvy, steep descents.  During this time, my thoughts ranged from "I'm going to tip over from going so slow up these hills", to "Seriously?  How are 1500 people supposed to be going out and back along this at the same time and passing?  I might cry", and then finally to "You moron-this clearly isn't the course.  You're heading back towards the hotel.  You should be heading away from it.  Not to mention, it's literally impossible to fit that many people on this path".  So, with that crisis averted, I went back out to the road, and felt a little reassured that at least the real course couldn't be as bad as that.  I was experiencing the desert, for sure, though-my throat was raw, my fluids were grossly hot in a brief period, and I was surprisingly unsweaty.

Saturday was suprisingly cool when Alyssa and I set out for the practice swim, which was allegedly a 650m loop that took us 15min.  I know my swimming leaves a lot to be desired, but seriously...not that much.  I hoped that Sunday's course measurement would be a bit more on.  After a brief bike/run (the low humidity and overcast skies felt surprisingly refreshing to run in), we began Part B of my failed attempts to see the bike course.  Alyssa and I missed a turn in the recreational area, and began driving a fork on the opposite side of the lake.  It ended up being pretty similar, which meant that it was enough to inspire me to express anxiety over being under 3 hours on the bike, given my thoughts of: a. I don't climb well.  b. I'm too scared to make up time on descents.  c. If it's windy, I'll be way too scared to try to make up time on descents.  Dave and Alyssa probably wanted to smack me by that point.  After that, I had to head back to the expo to get my front brake adjusted, and I ended up buying a swimskin, much to Dave's chagrin.  In retrospect, nothing really helps my swim, but it appeared that all the cool kids were wearing them...

The rest of Saturday was spent packing our race day bags, taping unnatural sources of food to my bike, and heading to bike drop off.  My favorite part of bike drop off was getting surveyed about my bike components, particularly my saddle, which is some off brand that I took off my road bike in a need to save my female parts and money at the same time.  Hopefully, they admired my Neverreach along the way- nothing quite beats a 64oz jug of hands-free goodness attached to the back of the seat in terms of awesomeness.  We checked out T1, which featured about a 300m run from the swim exit to the changing tent.  I actually somewhat embraced this feature, though, as I figured it'd give me a chance to chase down a few people after getting my butt kicked on the swim.  After that, we'd have to push our bikes up a steep hill with a sharp turn in it, a fact that amused me, in a way.  Nothing like starting the bike panting!  Soon enough, after eating a lot as per usual, I was in bed for my normal night of disturbed, anxious pre-race sleep!

Me in the hotel room, trying to decide if I looked more or less dorky in my aero helmet with sunglasses on:
Some day before transition shots:


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Musselman!

Right off the bat, I'll just mention that I was feeling entirely uninspired heading into this race.  Two and a half weeks prior, I'd come down with some sort of noncontagious mystery stomach infection that made my Tri in the Buff race a miserable attempt at survival.  Training for the two weeks heading in didn't go much better, as I had been feeling weak and depleted, with no appetite to speak of, which is entirely rare for me.  Anyways, I was able to salvage a couple of halfway decent, shorter workouts heading in, but still had no idea what would happen when I tried to push myself for over an hour.  So, the game plan became "push it on the bike, because the run will either be there, or it won't, regardless".  We headed down to Geneva friday night, crammed 3 people and 3 bikes into a double dorm room, and spent saturday eating a lot, watching some Mini-Mussel, and generally preparing for game time.  I was giving a rear wheel Zipp 808 a try-I had tried both rental wheels the previous weekend, but was just too uneasy for the deep set wheel on the front.  Tyler tried it instead, so we both looked semi-ridiculous with one really expensive wheel, and one stock one.  Oh well.

Race morning, for once I had plenty of time to get all my stuff prepared, as I had over half an hour between the time transition closed and my wave started.  But, soon enough, I was in the water, and we were off.  As usual, I blocked the swim out of my mind.  There was some chop on the water, not terrible but enough to make things more difficult than they had been the previous year.  Once I hit the channel, I tried to move, but still came out of the water in 33:50, barely in the top 40.  Blah.  Well, plenty of time to make it up, I hoped, and I wasn't feeling nauseous or weak yet...good enough for me.

Altogether, it was a great morning for biking.  I knew that there would be a very slight headwind for the first 15mi or so, so I pushed it through with the knowledge that it'd get easier from there.  Luckily, I gambled correctly on that, and the next 20mi or so were smooth sailing.  I was moving up, feeling decent, and was having no issues with taking in fuel at the time, even managing a "nice wheel" to Tyler as I passed him about midway through.  I knew that I was well under my pace from last year throughout most of the ride, but I had no clue by how much until, with 8 miles to go, I looked at my watch and calculated that I'd be under a 2:40 bike split as long as I averaged over 20 for the rest of the ride.  At that point, some spectators were out, and informed me that I was the 5th woman past. I took this knowledge with a grain of salt, though, as I knew I had a several minute head start on the very, very competitive women's 30-34 age group; I knew that to have a shot at this thing, I'd need to get to T2 before they caught me, because I didn't want to count on having to make that up on the run.  Towards the end of the bike, the gut problems kicked in a bit, as I just couldn't get my last few chomps in.  I kept calm, though, knowing I could get through the run even if I didn't eat anything.  I made it to T2, switched the shoes, and headed out for my run, having no idea what to expect.  I did know, though, that my bike split had been very, very solid for me-my watch read under 2:40, which included both transitions.

The early miles of the run turned into another "don't panic" situation.  The mercury was rising, I was reaching for the pepto I had stashed into the pocket of my tri top, and I didn't know if my body was going to hold up for the distance.  I will say, though, that the volunteers were fabulous- after robbing the first aid station for ice cold water, ice down the sports bra, and a sponge overhead, I was feeling a bit optimistic.  My first couple of miles were slower than the previous year, but I told myself it was meaningless, given the heat, and pressed on.  Shortly thereafter, heading up a steep hill, I looked down and saw Dave behind me.  I was entirely confused, as he had started 20min before me, and I hadn't passed him.  Turns out, he had gone the wrong way, and ended up running a couple extra miles-extremely bad break!  But, by mile 5, despite the fact that I had given up on being able to keep down any more gels or chomps, I was actually feeling pretty decent, and had passed several women.  At mile 7, heading up the most ruthless part of the course, I moved into the "lead"-again, with the wave start, I didn't know where I stood.  Several miles of downhill afterwards helped, and by the time the course evened out again, the spectator support was pushing me through.  Running alongside the lake the last few miles, the heat was certainly starting to kick in, but I wasn't about to give in at that point (despite the fact that the people cheering from their boat, beers in hand, looked like they were having wayy more fun that I was at the time).  I finally crossed the finish line to the cheers of the crowd, immediately got out of my shoes (that race did several of my toenails in), and crawled my spent body into the ice water pools.  Unlike the previous year, when we had been one of the last waves of women to start, I'd just have to wait and see how I'd place, so my elation at the finish line was blunted.  After pulling myself out of the pool, I found my parents, and we played the waiting game.

The wave difference passed, and no women had come in yet-meaning, my last barrier to the win was penalties (I hate not knowing!).  I was a strange combination of elated over my place and my PR and, after several weeks of wondering, worrying, and thinking I had to give up on my goals for the race, relieved.  I had biked faster than I'd thought I would, and, more surprisingly given the heat that day, run faster than my crazy run last year, in which I'd had women to pass throughout.  This year, I'd run against myself for the second half of the run, felt worse at the start, and been fighting hotter conditions.  I waited tensely until final results were posted, checked the penalty list about 15 times, and finally I was satisfied that everything was official.  The greatest part of the day, though, was when I was presented with a brand spanking new, carbon clincher Gray wheelset at the awards ceremony-I had no idea those were coming!  Talk about an awesome prize, I couldn't express how grateful I was for those.  Overall, I once again loved the Musselman experience, and couldn't have asked for a better outcome (other than Dave not getting lost on the run).