With the wide variety of races on the triathlon circuit it is hard to decide which ones to do. But after about a 10 second deliberation I decided to return to the wonderful town of Lawrence for the Kansas 70.3 to attempt the three-peat victory run down the yellow brick road, hand in hand with Dorothy and her sparkly red shoes. Of course, I also wanted the opportunity to get back together with the brainy scary crow, the hearty tinman and the courageous furry lion.  Despite having had three years in which to practice my singing skills, my warbling rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ still left a lot to be desired though (in fact, on that note – or lack thereof – I am still somewhat surprised that I was ever asked to lend my lack of vocal talents to the Ironman Blazeman song).

I arrived in Lawrence the Wednesday before the race, enough time for a couple of visits to the Lawrence Athletic Club. The pool was quiet, which may have been due to the fact that it was akin to a greenhouse and the water was like a bath-tub. Not being particularly partial to steam rooms, I went bright red and almost passed out into the arms of an elderly aqua aerobics fanatic.

As with the previous 2 years, I had the honour and pleasure of hosting a dinner for about 60 age group athletes in the Sunflower Bike Shop, in downtown Lawrence – with all the proceeds going to the Blazeman Foundation. It was a great evening, with many of my sponsors providing awesome raffle prizes to make sure that many of the attendees went home with more than just a smile and a dubious picture of yours truly. It was great to meet some of the athletes and get to spend some time talking to them and their families, whilst consuming industrial sized bowls of pasta.

I want to thank everyone that came to the dinner, and have directly helped to support the important work of the Foundation. Specifically, I want to mention a couple of people. First, Rodney, who I met at the race last year. He was spectating and gave me every excuse under the sun about why he couldn’t do a triathlon – bad knees, no bike, unable to swim. I must have utilised my best words of encouragement because there, at the dinner, donning his race wristband, was Rodney. Did he finish his first triathlon? You’ll have to continue reading to find out! Second, I want to mention a very special man called David Rankin. David sent me an email asking if he could race me at Kansas. He was getting donations for every minute I beat him by, with all the money raised going to the Blazeman foundation (but if he beat me? I would have a hefty price to pay!).

I have to admit to being slightly nervous going into the race – I had broken my rib 3 weeks before, in a bike/rain/tarmac Muppet incident. My preparation had consisted of a few swims, hours and hours on the cross trainer and ditto for home trainer sessions on the bike. Plus, a lot of single legged squats in the gym. My rib might have been cracked, but I had buns of steel. Despite tight buttocks my preparation had been decidedly suboptimal.

The race kicked off at 6.30am. The pro men first and the pro women 2minutes later. The lake in Clinton State Park is beautiful  – you couldn’t wish for a better setting for a race. I could have wished for a better swim though. I came out of the water third, but I definitely felt the effects of time spent out of the pool. Less single legged squats and more bicep curls are needed. Once aboard the Slice I have to admit, I didn’t really feel the mojo, and was unable to catch Leanda who was biking like a demon. I just had to keep reminding myself that we still had a 13mile run, and never to let my head or my heart drop – even if my body didn’t feel like it was firing on all cylinders.

I felt a little stronger as I finished off the 56miles and peddled into the Park and T2, with fire in my belly. I put any nagging doubts to the back of my mind, and set about trying to hunt down Leanda. I felt fluid and powerful, and managed to take the lead after 7 miles. Leanda pushed me every step of the way though, and that’s what racing is truly all about.  As usual the course was lined by a huge number of spectators, dressed in all manner of costumes (sadly the blow up doll from 2009 did not make an appearance. Clearly deflated), but I did count about 10 Dorothies, who have clearly bred like rabbits since last year.  The ‘ironman band’ had also returned and  were belting out endurance based audio delights, like Chrissie Comes to Kansas (http://teamwms.com/ironband/)  – very inspirational. This was followed with ‘No Sleep Til Kona’, which was slightly less appealing.

I was overjoyed to run a 1.16. Yes, a minute slower than last year. But, unlike 2010, the run course was accurately measured. Save for a couple of steady jogs, I had done all my run sessions on the elliptical for the previous 3 weeks. I hope that this gives anyone with an injury the confidence to know that cross training really does pay off. You have to focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t. Keep your head held high, and never let your heart drop.

I rounded the last bend and faced the Yellow Brick Finish Line, complete, as always, with all the Wizardy characters – I was pleased to see that the Tin Transvestite had returned, complete with a new midget Lion – which was actually 6 year old Hayden, the race director’s son. Full of courage.
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As I raised the banner above my head, and then rolled in memory of Jon Blais – I was filled, as always with a sense of joy, pride and happiness as I secured the three-peat at a race that has come to mean so much to me. And that wasn’t the end of the celebrations. I stayed around for about 4 hours afterwards, chatting to people, giving out medals and handing out culinary post race delights such as mouldy banana and a soggy pretzels. And yes, welcoming David (our ‘race’ raised over $2000 for the Foundation) and Rodney, across the line. Last year Rodney couldn’t swim a stroke. He is now a 70.3 finisher.  I hope this shows that, as Eva Cassidy sang, so much better than I ever could:

‘Somewhere over the rainbow

Skies are blue

and the dreams

that you dare to dream

really do come true’