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Guest staring as Sherpa

The rain had turned from a light shower into a full-fledged downpour for the second time Sunday morning.

I was getting a bit cold and wondering why I didn't bring a rain jacket with me when the forecast called for this. Oh, that's right, that would have made sense and lately I seem to eschew anything having to do with common sense.

But there was no place I would rather have been than standing in the rain watching my friend Jenny complete her first half Ironman race at the Musselman Triathlon in Geneva on Sunday. The distances are scary enough -- 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 run -- but the weather conditions made it that much more challenging as the wind kicked up some strong, nasty waves on Seneca Lake and created a headwind for much of the bike. And then there was the whole rain thing which, after short rides in rain nearly every day last week, I can attest isn't always a lot of fun.

This was my chance to play the role of Sherpa. I helped her get her bike over to transition the night before, took her for a quick shopping trip to Wegmans, repaired a few minor tears in her wetsuit and talked through the race with her.

Jenny has an amazing athletic background, but this was just her second triathlon -- ever. And it was a half Ironman. And she was freaking.

So I pulled the Sherpa "headcase" card on her once or twice. Then I reminded her that whatever she did during the race was good enough.

Frankly, I was so excited for her, that I woke up half an hour early in anticipation of our 4 a.m. wakeup call. Over at the race site, I made trips back and forth to the car, carried her stuff as she discarded it through warmups, then gave her a fist bump as her swim wave was called.

When she got out of the water I cheered her on. I was in total awe. If it was me, I wouldn't have even gotten into that water, let alone completed the swim in those conditions.

Her bike and run were strong, even in the rain and wind, and she couldn't wipe the smile off her face after she made it through the finish line.

As I stood at the run chute waiting for her to finish the race, the rain picked up and I wondered if I would rather be racing in this weather or standing here. I would probably rather be racing ... but a sprint distance for sure, not a half Ironman. Not after my workout on Saturday.

See, on Saturday I went for a long group bike ride in the morning in the heat and wind. It was a great ride, but ... remember my distaste for common sense? I didn't take enough water with me and I didn't take in enough nutrition during the ride which meant those last 10 miles I bonked. I should have known better. Once I start singing Ricky Martin in my head I'm on the verge of something not so good. But my stupid gene kicked in and I thought I could hammer through.


I inched my way back to the starting marina and immediately pulled into the ice cream stand for a chocolate milkshake. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not take your bike helmet or gloves off. Just go to the window and order. Then when I got my coveted chocolate milkshake I was so brain dead, I couldn't figure out how to get my straw through the lid.

And that was just the bike ride.

Had I been Jenny on Sunday, that ride would have followed a swim and I would still have a half marathon to run -- without the chocolate milkshake stop.

Not that I needed another reason to be proud of Jenny or amazed by her accomplishment (which, by the way, included finishing the 70.3 distance in about 5 1/2 hours) but that drove home for me just how impressive her race was.

I'll gladly take on Sherpa duties for her any day.

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