Before I get into the race report, a little update. I'm on the skyride bus headed to the airport, headed to Ironman Canada right now. From wednesday to Wednesday I'll be on Canadian soil, so please limit all emails. Please no text messages and no direct messages on Twitter. Calls are for emergencies only. The best way to say hi is to comment on my blog, or post a tweet with @gosonja in it. I have a data plan for my phone, but it's pricy and tweeting is the cheepist. Lastly, please wish Amy good luck, and keep her in your thoughts Friday, she's having both ta-tas removed.

I'm always chatty on outbound flights. Always. I'm bristling with excitement and I make friends with those around me. On my first leg it was a business traveler who used to dabble in triathlons, on the second leg it was a nice guy from Chicago headed to Birmingham for the same reason I was. We talked and talked and talked about triathlons, it was totally the bomb!

Rolling into the Birmingham airport at 11pm it was desserted except for compression sock clad triathletes. There were so many athletes I didn't know what to do with myself. Anthony found me walking to the car rental desk and it was like we hadn't seen each other in months. You know how it is when you come across someone that you see all the time in a nonstandard location...it's like "OOOHHH Tony!!! hug, hug" We walked around the airport for awhile waiting for Michelle to get in and drooling over more triathletes. I also ran into TriBoomer. That was super exciting because we had planned a meeting with him on Friday to get the scoop on volunteering for Athletes for a Cure. After retreiving Michelle and deserting Anthony we headed to Tuscaloosa to met up with Tyler and Beth, our roomies for the weekend.

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Michelle and I roomed together at Nationals the first year we went. That was where the partnership in crime developed. Last year we added Tyler to the mix, and he passed the initiation with flying colors, mostly because of the introduction of the "Tyler Tab". This year we added Beth, and boy was she a huge hit...she pummeled Tyler with pillows like she grew up with ten older brothers or something.

After our arrival and the multitude of midnight pillow fighting that resulted, we all crashed in our comfy beds, ready for a hectic Friday.

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Friday was all about: easy run, Starbucks, IHOP, meeting with TriBoomer, pick up packets, get red extension put in hair by Paul Mitchell, pick up bikes from VeloExpress (awesome service), drop bikes in transition, drive course, eat, watch movie for 30 minutes (excpet Tyler), CRASH!

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The meeting with TriBoomer was especially important. As a group, triathletes are pretty self centered, not a lot of volunteer work going on there, me included. I've been wanting to change that, but have been unsure on just how to do so. I had followed TriBoomers blog after hearing his "news report" on the Get your Geek On Triathlon Podcast. I considered him quite reputable within the triathlon community and when he posted on Twitter that he needed some folks to help on behalf of Athletes for a Cure, both Michelle and I responded. What he was planning was a live radio show and twitter cast of the mens and women's pro races on Blog Talk Radio. He needed spotters, photographers and tweeters. Michelle and I were game, so we dragged in Tyler and Beth. The meeting with TriBoomer was awesome and we were set with our jobs for the pro race. I was stoked that besides TriBoomer himself, and a university of Alabama volunteer, the four of us were his main work force.

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Saturday morning came, and for the four of us, it was like clockwork. Nobody got in anyones way, we all progressed through our own routines and before we knew it we were at the race site warming up.

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We found out a piece of key information on that warmup. The swim was a river swim and we had been assured the day before that the river was not flowing. There was a dam down river that was keeping the river still. Well, on the warmup we got to a vantage point where we could see that the early waves were encountering a huge current. It was so big that there were about 5 swimmers stuck at the first turn buoy into the current. We stood there and watched in horror as they swam and swam and swam and went nowhere. Soon enough the police boats made there way over in that direction. Back at the swim start I watched more swimmers while waiting for my wave and was shocked to see the bulk of participants making very little progress towards the swim exit. It was sad.

Soon enough it was my turn. I got in to warm up. Against the current I swam out and thought "Okay, at least I can swim against it". I turned to swim back and it took 4 strokes to get back. I lined up on the dock and my entire age group was holding onto the dock for dear life. You could feel the current trying to rip you off the dock. Gulp.

Boom, we are off. Down river we go. I was at the first buoy before I could say Tuscaloosa. We took a right turn across the river and I was on a set of feet. We get to the next buoy and we are 15 yards downstream from the buoy. We make the EVIL right turn and thus begins the carnage. Swimming against current. I was secretly afraid to look at the shore, hoping I wasn't one of those sad folks that wasn't going anywhere. I stole a look and 10 strokes later I stole another look. Whew, I was making progress. It wasn't great, but at least I knew I wasn't going to be one of the many DNF's of the day. It wasn't pretty but I swam as hard as I knew how and eventually I made my way to the shore. 43 minutes for a mile swim, shesh.

Transition was flawless and I was off on the bike. I had a little trouble getting going, and my quads HURT from all the kicking, but I made my way through the bike. It was a two lap course, with three U-turns on each lap, so 6 total. I got a little tired of all the turn arounds but the bike went by about ten times faster than the swim.

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The transition to the run had an extra step this year. I put on socks at Steve's request. He was really concerned with all the technical downhills we would beat up our feet. With IM Canada a week later we couldn't afford to have mangled feet. So I sat down, put on socks and off I went.

I instantly got into a groove and felt like I was calm and steady. I was running behind a guy that I had gone back and forth with at the end of the bike, he was older, but very fit (tops were not required on men in this race due to the heat...thank you triathlon gods). He was running so strong that I just stuck onto him. I was excited to think that he could drag me around the course at a fast pace. We got to the first hill and he stepped off the course to PUKE UP HIS GUTS! Dang! There went my pacer. On the first hill, which was also an out and back I saw that Michelle was just in front of me and Steve was just behind. Michelle had actually passed me in the swim despite starting 12 minutes behind me. Yea, it was that bad. So I focused on drawing myself into her, and holding off Steve. Steve caught me first and I hung to his shoulder...until I didn't. I got to watch him pass Michelle and watched her hang onto his shoulder...until she couldn't. It was fun to watch! Soon enough Michelle and I were side by side and I secretly hoped that she would find that extra little bit to hang with me the rest of the race. That would have been awesome!

I pulled away from her and at that point I knew I could start picking it up. I came upon Wonder Woman. I passed her, she passed me back and I passed her again. In the final half mile I dropped the pace down to a strong kick and found 3 other ladies in my age group to pass. It was a nice way to finish.

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Crossing the line I felt good, not too tapped, but also felt like I had been on an epic adventure. We should have been given a medal for just surviving that swim. One guy was out there for 179 minutes. Do the math... Tony, Beth and I were all in the "swam slower than we ran club". It was EPIC!

We waited in line to get our results and I was pleased to see 14th age group. Yea! That should get me on TEAM USA for 2010. Standing next to Michelle and watching her find out that she was 5th in her age group was pretty priceless. It was her day for sure!

We grabbed our bags, and bailed out our bikes. We cruised back to the car and changed. We had a mission, it was our time to give back, to work. Athletes for a cure needed us...but that's better left for another post.

Thank you Troy!!! Thank you to my trip roommates Beth, Tyler and PIC Michelle. I laughed so much this trip. Thanks to Steve for training my body, and thanks to Trakkers, NUUN, and Core Concepts for supporting me.

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Details: Swim: 43:03 T1: 1:27 Bike: 1:07:14 T2: 1:05 Run: 41:21 Total: 2:34:08

Lastly a huge congratulations to my PIC Michelle, she was 5th in her age group and made it onto the podium. You can read about it here.

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