Ironman Louisville 2009: the run

Shoes on, shorts on, obnoxiously yellow Preachtree Tri Club visor on, I ran out of transition. I had been in motion for eight and a half hours at this point and I was ready to put this thing to bed. I also knew I’d be seeing my crew twice or more on the run and the support was welcome.

My legs were feeling okay because I was using different muscles to run with than I was using on the bike. I hoped this would help me not be in as bad shape, but I also knew that there were aid stations every mile of the run so I needed to eat bananas and salty stuff to try to fix whatever was wrong with my legs.

The run leaves transition and takes a right down a busy downtown street. It then goes up over a bridge across the Ohio river, does a 180 and comes back down the bridge, and then heads out on the big loop that you do twice. It was a really nice afternoon and the sun was just starting to get that orange tinge that means its thinking about sliding away until tomorrow.

On the bridge I got some cookies and some pretzels from a cute volunteer girl. It was the first solid food I had seen all day. I was so happy to see food that wasn’t oozing from a packet in a thick paste, I acted like a complete dork about it.

On the way down the bridge, I found myself running alongside an asian guy with some of the biggest feet I’d ever seen.

“Look at the feet on you!” I said.

“Yeah, only the feet are big though. I’m Chinese!” he conferred.

I hadn’t considered that I’d be confronted with Asian American fellow athletes alerting me to the size of their various parts, but I really had bigger fish to fry. The biggest of these would be the 24 or so miles I still had to run at that point.

I was running through the center of the city, scanning the crowd for my crew. I thought circumstances might warrant a kiss on my face. You know, the sort that a warrior might get in between battles. I guess logistically that might mean the battle would need to be near his home, or at least near wherever his girl lives, but I digress.

A few miles down the way I found them and I was properly kissed and fretted over. I ran on.

Now I was about six miles in. My legs started to twinge in the same way that they had on the bike, but worse. Now my whole leg locked up. Both of them. Disaster!

I staggered to a walk from my jog on stiff-as-board legs and massaged them, trying to keep moving. Soon I got them going again and was able to speed up from a walk to a jog, but they very shortly locked up painfully again. This process was repeated many times over.

I could not go any faster than a power walk and I had twenty miles to go to finish. Son of a bitch.

So, I power walked. I clocked myself with my heart rate monitor walking a mile and did some math. At the rate I was going I could finish around ten PM. No problem.

The miles came by with horrific lack of speed. I was going to be on the streets of Louisville for the rest of my living days, it was clear. Plod, plod, plod. Every now and then I would try again to run, but my ability to move faster than a walk never really returned.

All my fellow club racers passed me one by one during this time. They were all on their second loops of the run. I said hello to them and explained my situation as they came by.

The sun inched down the sky and finally it was clear that it really did intend to go down. About this time I had reached the halfway mark and was back in the city. My girl walked with me around the loop and we talked a bit.

“Ok babe,” I said.. “See you in a few hours.”

I walked and walked. And walked. I was cold and it was getting dark. Most of the other racers had finished by now, so the course was largely free of other people. I ate pretzels and drank water, but trying to run just made my legs explode into painful seizures. I ate all the electrolyte caps I had, probably six. No dice.

A guy on the course saw me struggling along and said “Keep going man, you’ll be an Ironman today.”

I don’t know what it was about that remark, whether it was the way he said it or the state of mind I was in, but it made me tear up. I had been working for all this for a year. Two workouts a day, no drinking, no partying with my friends, just staying the course. I just couldn’t do anything but keep going.

Sobbing like a four year old lost in a department store was outside of what I considered to be Ironman-like behavior so I got control of myself and just walked. I had ten miles to go and it was very, very lonely out in the Louisville neighborhoods. I thanked people who were still watching the race for staying up and watching. Most of the spectators had long since given up and gone to sleep.

I began to chant to myself with each step. “Ten miles to go, ten miles to go, ten miles to go”. Eventually I walked past the nine mile sign. “Nine miles to go, Nine miles to go”.

My pace had slowed a lot. I was timing myself with each mile marker to make sure I could make the midnight cutoff, but my energetic power walk of four hours previous had lost a lot of its steam. I had, after all, been in motion well over twelve hours at this point.

On into the night I walked and walked. The distance whittled down from nine miles to eight, from eight to seven. I tried to enter a zenlike state where my body would keep walking but my mind could rest a bit, but not being at all practiced in meditation I was cursed with razor-sharp consciousness. There was no refuge from the lonely miles walking stiffly in the street.

The city crawled toward me. Finally I at about three miles to go my friend Amy the marathoner appeared out of the night.

“Is that you, baby?” she called. She stayed a good distance away from me, but called to me and tried to get me to hurry up. Apparently there are rules about being running alongside athletes and encouraging them on the course. I did not know this.

She ran far in front of and away to the side of me, trying to cajole me at all times into picking up the pace.

Soon the city came into view. I made the last turn and my girl was there waiting for me. I pulled off the glowing plastic necklace I had been given at sundown and tossed it into a nearby dumpster.

My legs were shredded, and all the walking had rubbed up a pair of blisters on the balls of my feet that I would later learn were the size of credit cards. I could hear the people lining the chute at the finish cheering, the announcer yelling. The lights were so bright they were illuminating everything around the corner. All I had to do was run two blocks into the light and this bitch was sealed up. My girl was walking alongside me.

“Ok babe” I said, “I’m gonna run it in.”

I picked up the pace, and every tiny muscle in my body all leaped furiously for their respective red phones, ready to scream over the hotline to my brain. I rounded the last corner at that moment, though, and the full shine of the lights two blocks away lit me up. There seemed to be a general consensus among my body parts that we could go that far.

I had to hold up a bit for the person in front of me to finish so I wouldn’t have to share my finisher photo with anyone, but I looked like shit anyway it turned out. I have an 8×10 glossy of the photo that will very likely never be seen by anyone.

I finished in sixteen hours and thirty eight minutes, just 22 minutes short of being pulled off the course. Only a dozen or so people finished after me. I was given a medal and a space blanket to wrap up in. I found my dad and my girl and my sister and my friends and everyone congratulated me. It was pretty great. I was fretted over mightily. My girl held my hand. At last, I had weathered all the horrible loneliness and distance and I had made it into the dream.

My sister pressured me to get checked out by a doc, so I talked to one. He said if I was standing up I was probably ok. I considered that sound advice.

It turned out that my parking place was perfect. It was not even a block away from the finish. Unfortunately neither my girl nor Julie knew how to drive manual, so it was up to me to drive us back to the hotel. They had already collected my bike and transition bags and loaded them up though, so all I had to do was get in and drive us back.

I got in, finisher’s medal around my neck, and stuffed my space blanket into the plastic compartment in the drivers door where it still resides as I type this. I started up the car and headed off.

Back at the hotel I made a few calls to family members to tell them I was alive and I had completed the race without major injury or death. Someone ordered a pizza and I ate some of it and drank some soda. Normally I avoid soft drinks, but my heart rate monitor said I had burned 12,000 calories that day so I thought I could probably afford it calorie wise. I updated my facebook page to let my extended friends know I was ok.

Then I decided it was time to sleep a bit, and my dad and sister left the room.

I took a much needed shower, finding it hard to stand up with blisters on each foot the size of half a lemon. My girl poked her head in to ask if I needed anything. I told her I was an Ironman and I could damn well wash myself.

I toweled off, put on some clothes, and my girl and I folded up in the bed in our customary spoon arrangement. She flipped over and whispered to me over and over again “Congratulations, babe. You did it. Congratulations”

I kissed her and fell asleep.

Ironman Louisville 2009: The bike.

The start of the bike leg found me riding down a chute with people cheering and yelling on either side. It is a pretty amazing feeling.

Add to that the plethora of volunteers constantly asking you what you need, getting your bike for you, or taking it away after you’re done, and it really feels like all you have to do is swim, ride and run. They do that for every athlete, not just the pros. It’s pretty cool.

Feeling charged up from a decent swim time and ignoring the cramping in my right leg which had dissipated for the time being, I exited the city onto a quiet four lane highway and began the 112 miles. The road was flat, so I laid down in my aero bars, checked my speed, and cranked away.

Historically in triathlons I have had issues with going too hard on the bike and wrecking myself on the run. You can easily recover from this mistake in an olympic triathlon because there’s not as big a danger of you missing the time cut and being pulled off the course. In Ironman though, the pressure is on.

The pros do many Ironman races a year, but as an amateur I can’t imagine getting in more than one or maybe two a year. It requires so much money, so much time commitment. It is obscene.

Back on the bike, my plan was to keep my speed under 20mph, but I knew I had to complete the bike as fast as possible to give myself a good shot at finishing the run (and the entire race) on time, so I needed at least 14mph to finish in 8 hours. Ideally I’d have liked to have done six hours. So best case I was shooting for six, worst case eight.

The first half of the ride was pretty uneventful. There are so many miles to cover that you spend most of the time riding in groups of one or two. Occasionally someone faster will pass, or someone slower will drop behind. You’re not allowed to draft in triathlons, but the race marshals don’t pay much attention to the people in the back of the pack. People still try to follow the rules.

The bike leg at Louisville goes out for about ten or twenty miles, then does a big loop of 40ish miles twice, then comes back in along the same route. I knew that there was a section of hills and that I would have to hit that section twice. So I tried to keep within my pace and just not think about how far I had to go.

Riding through an intersection, I noticed spray painted on the road surface the word “IRONMAN” with a big circle around it and a line through, like a no smoking sign. I happened to be riding next to another guy at this point.

“That’s not very supportive,” I said. He laughed.

We all rode on. The pros on their second loop passed me on my first. They were fast and riding very, very expensive bikes.

In my head I was singing selections from the Fun album “Aim and Ignite” that I had just discovered the week prior.

Woh, oh ooh oh,
Woh, ooh oh!
At least I’m not as bad
as I used to beeeee
ee ee eee!

Occasionally I would pull a gel off my top tube and eat it. I had taped as many as I could onto it for this purpose.

top tube gels

One great piece of advice I got from my friend Bill Jestel, who was a veteran of two races already and was racing along with me in mine for his third was that if you get depressed while you’re racing, you should eat. It is very hard for me to remember to eat once I have been going for a few hours. My rational brain shuts down and I’m left with only my animal instincts.

Apparently no one taught my animal ancestors to open a tiny packet of goo once every twenty minutes or so and squirt it into their mouths while riding a bike.

By the time I reached the half way mark I was pretty well spun out. I was doing great on time, on pace for a six hour ride, but I was definitely starting to feel like being off my bike.

Soon after that I hit the hilly section. It was pretty steep, but not horrible. I got to the top of all the hills slowly and rode on. My legs started to twitch a bit though.

The second time around my legs were in full on meltdown. I couldn’t ride up a hill without my teardrop muscles (vastus medialis) cramping up to a ridiculous degree. They cramped so hard I could see each individual fiber of the muscle through my skin. I have never seen that before.

I rode through it but soon it got so bad that I couldn’t move my legs without a great deal of pain. My muscles were not transmitting “Hey, I need your attention here” pain. It was more like “I am about to tear and/or detach from your bones” pain. I pulled over and performed a controlled crash into a ditch somewhere on a Kentucky farm and started massaging them.

Many racers passed me and asked if I was okay. I told them I was and kept massaging. Soon my legs felt less mutinous and I got back on the bike.

I was around the 60 or 70 mile mark at this point. I knew that once I got to the 90 mile mark I would be out of the loop and back on the flat part of the ride. So, I just began to pray for the 90 mile mark.

One by one the miles slowly ticked past me. I began to get cold and annoyed. It seems that I am always cold when the shit hits the fan in an endurance situation. I’m not sure why this is, but it might just be that I’m remembering selectively.

I thought about my girl and our future together. The cornerstone of a family… that’s what I wanted to be. I just had to hang on. I told myself before the race that I couldn’t quit unless I was unconscious or some part of my body was broken. But what if she left?

I realized I was getting depressed and I ate. Thanks, Bill!

After a long time of gritting my teeth and riding and generally not enjoying myself, I finally reached the 90 mile mark. I was beyond tired, but I knew I was mostly home free. Only 22 miles to go from there. My legs were cooperating mostly.

The roadway in that area is riddled with cracks, for some reason. In a car I’m sure it’s nothing, but on an aluminum bike engineered for stiffness (I never spent the money on a carbon tri bike, I was riding a crit bike with clip on aero bars) the bumps really got to me after a while. Every ten yards or so there’d be a crack.

Ba-bump, they each went as my wheels went over them. Ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump. Sweet Jesus I hate Kentucky, I was thinking. Can’t they see how annoying these cracks are?

Excuse me for this, Kentucky. You really do have a lovely state, I was just in no frame of mind to enjoy it at the time.

Anyway I had bigger problems. I came to a long steep hill that I knew my legs were in no shape to climb. I started up, and sure enough after a minute they started to misfire and seize up again. I had to stop a second time, get off the bike, and massage my legs.

After a long leg rub, I got back on and rode out the rest of my ride. I finished in six hours, fifty-six minutes (6:56), so I was smack in the middle of the pace I had hoped for.

I was feeling tired but not completely obliterated. I felt like I had a pretty good chance of finishing, since I had time at this point to walk the entire marathon.

Even better, i was on pace to finish the whole thing in maybe 13 hours or so, which was my target time.

“Team Hodgson, bitches” I thought, leaping off my bike and tossing it to a volunteer who scurried off with it. I jogged to the changing tent (no easy feat in a pair of cycling shoes with road clips) as more volunteers shouted out my number and scrambled to get my running gear.

It was sunny, not too warm or too cold, I had eight hours or so left on the clock, and all I had to do was run a little old marathon.

Easy money!

Ironman Louisville 2009: the swim

The day of the race started very, very early, around 4:30AM. I usually sort of guess when I need to be ready to do things like wake up and then figure out the details later on. This greatly annoyed some girlfriendy members of my expedition. They wanted much more firm details on when we’d be getting up and when we needed to be places. Some sharp words were had.

Eventually the logistics were mostly worked out and Julie, my then-girlfriend and I went to sleep in our hotel room in our shabby hotel outside Louisville.

Once awake, but still long before dawn, we drove to the finish line and parked about a block away from it. We really got premium parking. My reasoning was that it’s better to be close to the finish line because when I’m done with this I’m not going to feel like hiking very far to the car. There was some dissent in the ranks about my choice of parking spots, and I dealt with it by ignoring it.

I turned over my keys, cell phone and wallet and so forth to the girls and we all marched to the start. We were quiet. They didn’t know what to say and I had a lot to think about.

It had been a long year. Twelve months before that morning I was working for a startup that was going under, in a relationship with a girl I cared a lot about that was coming apart, and very much at a loss. My good friend Mike Nessen asked me if I wanted to do an Olympic distance triathlon and I said yes. I bought a bike, joined a tri club, and started running and swimming and riding.

I found that it filled the empty places. When I was running and things got hard, I would just think about being hurt and lonely and I could run longer. I thought about my Mom passing away, and how I wanted her to be remembered by someone who was worth being remembered by. I had a newborn niece and I wanted her to have an uncle who was fit and effective.

But mostly I thought about the family I’d like to have some day, and what type of person I would need to be to be the cornerstone of it. Fitness. Effectiveness. Mental toughness. Those are things I thought I would probably need.

I did two workouts a day five to six days a week for most of those twelve months. I completed the Olympic distance race, as well as a Half Ironman, a Marathon and various other running and cycling events. I felt fit and effective.

Along the way, a year after we’d broken up, I got back together with my girl. Finally, I thought, this dream I have is coming together. I had been right, this girl will be the mother of my children. We were meant to be together and I was right to work so hard on this path. All those hours of running alone in the cold and the rain were worth it.

That was my mindset as I walked to the start of the race. My dad was there. My friend Julie was there. My girl was there. Now all I had to do was do 140.6 miles and this dream was mine.

My triathlon club had 5 racers there, so one of the girls who was there just to sherpa and not to race got up stupid early, like maybe 4:00 AM, and went down and got in line. Also, I had to go by transition and drop off my foods bags so I was late to the start line. I think I got there around 5:45 or so and the line was super super long.

After a while of sitting on a sidewalk waiting to start, Everyone stood up and the line started to compact. It moved fast. I tried to take a last minute PRS (Pre-race “poop”) but I was denied. I had to wait in line for the port-a-potty behind someone who wasn’t an athlete, which was pretty annoying. Can’t you hold it a few seconds longer so I can get in and out, buddy? Got a few things on the schedule today, you know.

There was a cannon blast, and the pros took off. They were really fast in the water, as you’d expect.

Then the officials sent a blind athlete off on his way. He was swimming attached to a cord that went to a sighted person who was swimming ahead and sighting for him. I thought that was kind of odd. Seems like they’d start him late, but I guess they wanted to give him every time bonus to make the midnight cutoff.

Eventually it was time to do it. I stripped off my shorts and tee shirt and handed them to the girls and filed down a ramp with the other racers toward a dock in my tri suit (sort of a full-body swimsuit with cycling shorts attached). There were teams of race volunteers waving their arms and showing us which way to go. They all yelled things like “This way! This way! Hurry hurry!” over loud rock music blaring from speakers set up around the start. One by one, everyone jumped in ahead of me and it became my turn.

I walked across the mats on the dock and they recognized the signal from the timing chip on my ankle. The computers attached to the mats beeped loudly and I leaped into the air. I was on the Ironman course.

Once in the water, I realized quickly that my goggles sucked ass. I lost my good ones the week of the race and had to buy a replacement pair. So I had to go by this crappy sports store called City Sports because I didn’t have time to drive up toward the north end of town to the triathlon-specific place. So I had to settle with the Kaiman “Vista” model goggles which offer a vista of.. water. Water that is inside the goggles, mind you, where no water should be.

They also are perfectly formed to press hard on my eyebrow area, causing great pain over time. This pain is not detectable in the few minutes usually employed to check goggle fit in a store, but over the hour and a half I was in the water that day, they hurt quite a bit. So, the “Vista” model is not for me.

I spent a few seconds every once in a while stopping and emptying them and then sticking them to my face again, but it was a battle between the pain of having them tight or the annoying factor of water splashing into my eyes.

Those troubles aside, I looked up at one point and saw someone whom I assumed to be Jesus in a pair of tri shorts plodding on top of the water. Then I dug a hand into river bottom and realized that it wasn’t Jesus, we’d just hit a sandbar. Shortly after that, I hit a submerged branch.

I turned around and shouted to the swimmers behind me, some walking and some still swimming, “HEY THERE IS A BRANCH HERE!”. Someone shouted back “OKAY”.

Soon after the submerged island, Jesus, and the underwater branch, I made a 180 degree and got the benefit of the current, as I had been swimming upstream until now. I couldn’t really tell. It seemed like I was moving faster on the upstream part but that may just have been because there were trees on either side to help me gauge my progress upriver.

The swim start had nothing to do with anyone’s athletic seeding, just how early each athlete was willing to wake up in the morning. So, there were a lot of fast people who had gotten to the start later swimming over slower people who had gotten up earlier. I got kicked in the face once and bumped into, as well as grabbed and poked many times.

I recalled that at my first race I would apologize to people when I bumped into them in the water. In an Ironman race, no one gives a damn. If they hit you, they keep plowing. If you hit them, they keep plowing. That’s just racing. One of my buddies got inadvertently punched in the face in the water at the practice swim on Saturday morning and had a gushing nosebleed. No one stopped swimming.

Near the end of the swim I churned on top of someone and got entangled in what felt like a rubber hose of some kind. I didn’t think much about it at the time, I just thrashed around until I was free and kept moving.

Later, I realized what I had plowed into. That’s right. I caught and swam on top of the blind guy. Sorry, bro!

Shortly after that my right leg cramped solid from the knee down. That’ll be instant karma for impeding a sightless Ironman candidate I guess.

As I approached the swim out I heard my friend Jen Waller’s name called and I know she’s a good swimmer, so I figured my time was ok. I did about 45 mins at my half so I was hoping for 1:30 in my Ironman and that’s what I got. I think the current had a lot to do with it, but it’s a decent middle-of-the-pack time, especially for a fat man.

I got out and limped it up the chute to the changing tent, my right leg still cramped. Not good.

I changed into my cycling kit and shoes and put my helmet on and headed out on the bike. I saw my dad and my friend Amy yelling at me along the way. It felt really good.

Once out of transition I mounted my bike and headed off.

“See you guys in six or seven hours,” I thought.

Ironman Louisville 2009: Getting there

It had to be raining.

Not just a dribble or a mist, but full-on downpour, and my bike would be up on the roof rack getting pounded with rain for the entire 8-hour drive to Louisville. Not only that, I was 15 minutes late and time was tight to get up there before the 5pm check in cutoff.

I picked up my then-girlfriend and got her stuff situated in the car. She took the back seat, intending to sleep.

We then went to pick up the third member of the team, Julie, who had somehow gotten her car towed the night before and was an additional 15 minutes late. Finally, we got on the road.

For some reason, the Ironman race runners decided that they needed an extra day before the race to check everyone in, so athlete check in is on Friday before 5pm. It seems pretty extravagant to me since you already have to take Monday off to travel after the Sunday race, but I guess people consider their Ironman racing to be more important than their working commitments. Thankfully I am lucky in this regard, being self employed and having a flexible schedule.

The drive up to Louisville was fairly uneventful, and featured a stop at Chick-fil-a somewhere in Tennessee. It was near Murfreesboro, I believe. According to my then-girlfriend, I get grumpy when I am hungry and I am stubborn at all times, although I refuse to admit either. In any case, when we finally saw the Chick-fil-a sign I pulled off the interstate to go to it.

It turned out that the enterprising owner of this particular location had placed the sign at the exit where his restaurant was located as well as the next exit a few miles down the road, so actually getting to the place was a three mile red light party cruise of Murfreesboro. I was highly pissed.

It seemed a lot like a dirty trick to me, as being a long way from the interstate on a road trip gives me a sensation that must be like what vampires feel when the sun is coming up. Of course, it’s not big deal now that I have a GPS thingy that can get me unlost at any time, but old habits die hard.

I attempted to engage the girls in some hearty discourse on the character of someone who would pull such a trick on an unsuspecting traveler, but I was labeled as hungry for my efforts. No one seemed to agree that our three mile side trip was extravagant.

Chicken consumed, we continued to Louisville without incident and arrived on time. I grabbed a somewhat dodgy parking space and leapt out to make sure I was registered before the cutoff. I had about 30-45 minutes to spare but I wanted to be sure.

The car behind us turned out also to be from Atlanta and the occupants seemed to want to discuss the coincidence at length, but I didn’t train for a year for my Ironman race only to miss the check in jabbering on the sidewalk.

“Boy, that guy wanted to talk to you and you just took off,” my girl noted.

“No time!”

We made our way into the Galt House hotel which was the headquarters of the race. Ironman race runners like to pick the most expensive hotel in town as the headquarters of their races, ensuring that a night’s stay will exceed $300 per night at minimum. This is in addition to your $550 race entry, and you need to stay at least 3 nights for this particular race, since check-in is Friday, so your costs are inching up over $1500 just to get into the race and stay at the hotel closest to the race site.

Triathlons in general are a rich man’s game, and the Ironman race is the grandpappy of them all. Unfortunately, I am not a rich man, so the girls and my family and I were all booked into a Day’s Inn some miles away. It’s a pain in the ass to drive a few miles every time you need to go to the start or Transition which is 2 or 3 times over 3 days at least, but I just don’t have a spare $1000 lying around I’m sad to say.

Weaving through Ford cars parked in the hotel’s wide hallway, we finally made it to check-in. My girlfriend was asked to go away. Only athletes were allowed in. She went back to the car and I started the process.

Now, the summer leading up to my race did not at all go the way I had hoped. I was completely burned out. My fitness was at its peak back in May when I did my Half Ironman race in Florida. After that race I was completely spent. I didn’t feel like running or riding or swimming. Every pedal stroke was a chore. All the fun went out of it. I don’t know why.

I tried to combat this issue with rest and food, but it never really went away, so I was miserable and gaining weight leading up to my race. As anyone who knows me knows, those are the exact two reasons I started exercising seriously in the first place, because I wanted to be happier and healthier.

So it came to pass that I was weighed at 242lbs on the Friday before my Ironman race. Son of a bitch. Now granted, that is with all my clothes on and my annoying ball of keys in my pocket and wallet and cell phone and all that, so I’d estimate that my actual body weight was more like 235ish, but that is highly annoying considering I was around 220 in May at my half.

I was by far the fattest person in check in. Everyone else was slim and svelte.

If you go to a sprint distance triathlon, which is for the purposes of discussion around 1/8th the distance of an Ironman, you will see people of all body types. You will see people who are of a mass so great that you wonder whether they can achieve locomotion at all, let alone endurance racing.

The same goes for Olympic distance, half marathons, and marathons. There were always a lot of people a lot larger than me to make me feel like I had a shot at finishing okay.

Not so at a full Ironman race. I outweighed everyone.

I was anxious to say the least, so as I waited to pick up my race packet I put my hands in my pockets and felt the fat, finger-sized plastic tube of a packet of mayonnaise from our lunch stop earlier in the day.

“Perfect,” I thought. “Just perfect.”