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Running from the wizard in Niagara Falls

Sherpa and I were walking toward the car when Tim Schmidt, a sportswriter for the Niagara Gazette stopped me.

"Hey, my day is made," he told me. "I can't believe I beat you."

OK wait a minute. Did someone just say they were psyched because they beat me?

That seems a bit surreal.

I wasn't anticipating a great time at the Envirun 5K in Niagara Falls Saturday morning. I was at the tail-end of a nearly 12-hour training week -- the largest volume and most difficult set of workouts I've had to date.

That first mile felt really good. To be honest, the first one always does and predictably I went out a bit too fast. I passed the mile mark at 9:40 which is a rather quick pace for me. I needed to save something in the tank for when the wizard reared his head.

The course goes along the Robert Moses Parkway and loops around Goat Island. It's a beautiful route, which is why you don't realize there are some unkind inclines and that wind in your face doesn't exactly help your cause.

By the time I hit the two-mile mark the wizard started to appear. I then found myself in a sort of tete-a-tete race with another woman. I passed her. Then she sped up to pass me. And so we went through the last 1.1 miles of the race. As we turned off Goat Island the wizard was in full view. In a previous life, the wizard must have been a boxer or hockey player because boy can he sure deliver a blow right to my solar plexus.

I caught a glimpse of Sherpa off to the side, encouraging me to pick up the pace to the finish. I did. OK, then I let up a bit, then I went back to a sprint across the finish line.

The clock read 30:19.

That's about 25 seconds faster than last week's 5K -- and with my heaviest training week.

I don't know the technical ins and outs but quite frankly I am thrilled with that time. I felt good. I did my hour bike ride afterward, into that stiff wind thank you very much, and continued to feel happy and strong.

Once my ride was done, I took my bike into Tom's Pro Bike Shop to get my new pedals installed and pick up my triathlon cycling shoes. We discussed my training a bit and I was reminded that newbies to the sport often look at their times and get discouraged. Instead, newbies really should just work on getting through each part and trying to keep problems (like crashing the bike or under-hydrating) at a minimum.

It was a good reminder as part of me still wished for a sub-30 minute 5K time but the bigger part of me knew that I have improved leaps and bounds in my fitness and race strategy over the last few months.

The wizard makes sure of that.

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