The parking lot at Sleepy Hollow High School is crowded on week-end mornings. After my run this morning, I overheard guys talking logistics for the upcoming Toughman tri. I know of this event, in its third year, largely through Dave B and his lovely wife JL, former clubmates at Sound Shore and teammates on both my Reach-the-Beach adventures. Since I heard one identified as “Rich,” I figured it was RD Rich Izzo. I steeled up my courage and walked up to him, telling him that I thought he’d done an excellent job with his race. It is sold-out, although the kids version is still open. It’s a 1.2-mile swim in the Hudson, a 56-mile bike, and an HM (that’s the adult version, it’s shorter for the kids).

I’m not ever doing this. Not to worry. This race, though, strikes me as something of an anti-tri, a grass-roots answer to the more traditional Westchester Tri (which is an Olypmic distance (using “distance” liberally)). The course itself looks, well, tough. Rich mentioned Dave and JL when I told him who I was.

SSRMC Relay Team, 2007 Westchester Tri, Dave, Bob, and me

Dave, one of the six bloggers I just memed, has started up a blog focusing on his triathlons. He’s one of those with a swimming background (he did the swim leg of my Westchester Tri relay), who has a huge cardio base. As a kid he just swam and swam and swam. He then took up running, but always heard the siren’s call for triathlons. Apparently he was contaminated when he started riding with the Westchester Triathlon Club and answered the call.

What I found particularly interesting about his new blog is the light-bulb effect. He was riding his bike in a race and saw someone on a motorcycle taking down his number. Uh-oh. That meant he was going to penalized for drafting (or, more precisely, an “overtaking” violation) (2 mins.). What mattered was not the penalty but the fact that he cared about the penalty. It mattered. Seconds mattered. He was a different athlete.

Such a moment effects a sea change in one’s perspective. I recall Flo suddenly realizing that she could be good when she won her first age-group award (“welcome to the NFL” I said). Robert now laughing at the 3 hour marathon. Many of us have such moments, when we get an award or hit a time or qualify for an event. Afterward, we are more nervous before our races, less able to sleep. More confident in our workouts and less tolerant of compromising. And in the tough, when-will-it-end moments of workouts, the memory of those moments helps get us through.

I didn’t mean for this to be a waltz down memory lane, but I’d like to note that another former Sound Shore teammate ran a 3:12:36 PR in Montreal. This was a fine fine effort for Mark Thompson. (His Race Report.) Mark and I had our disagreements at SSRMC because I thought he raced too much, but he loved putting on a race number more than perhaps anyone I’ve known and would do so for Sunday races even if he had a gig — he plays the accordion in a band — Saturday night hundreds of miles away. I know he worked hard for this, so I’m quite happy for him.

I should also note that Brandon Wood had another horrible Ironman, cramping up the moment he got into the water in Louisville and deciding, wisely, to stop after getting medical attention after the bike. I’ve said that one of the frightening things about major events like marathons is that they require one to go all-in. (Like Dave, he has a swimming background.) I respect anyone who does that (and who, as Brandon has, puts in lots and lots of work). Live to fight another day. One of the unfortunate aspects of the popularity of Ironmen and other tris and many marathons is that they sell-out almost immediately. So one loses the opportunity to shut-down early and head for a back-up race.

Oh, today’s run. I was determined to do better on last week’s, in which I stopped at the top of the second switchback. And I did. Running alone, and at about the same pace, I decided I would make it up that hill and keep going and, low-and-behold, after about 30 yards from the top I felt great. Slight pain in the knee. But I suddenly felt I was hitting on all cylinders and I gracefully, albeit not effortlessly, finished it in just under an hour. Not a lot, of course, in terms of time or distance — and I gave no thought to running the third monster hill — but quite enough thank you. I was reading up on Steve Jones last night, and images of his toughness helped me through. Still a long way to go, and I can’t do anything fast with the knee thing, but it’s a process.