USTC Race Report, Part 3: Winners, Losers, and Losers Who Thought They Were Winners

11.6.2014 | 1:07 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is the third and final part of my report for the Utah State Triathlon Championships. You’ll find Part 1 here, and you’ll find Part 2 here.

The race, as far as I was concerned, was over. I had survived the swim and had raced the time trial. Later, I’d find I was the fifth-fastest person on the bike, overall. I was happy with how I had done.

But all of the urgency had gone out of me, along with any semblance of energy. I just had to survive this half marathon. Run it when I could, walk it when I had to.

Did this mean I wasn’t going to try? Heck no. When I race, I race for real. I was going to go as hard as I could. But I have to be honest with myself: I am not a good runner, and this would be the first time I’d run more than eight miles the whole year. And the first time I’d run on pavement in just as long.

So I sat down to put on my running shoes: the magnificent, ultra-cushy Altra Paradigms (Full Disclosure: I bought these myself at a regular ol’ store. I just happen to love Altras).

And I ate a packet of Honey Stinger Chews while I tied the laces. And then I drank a Red Bull. And then ate another packet of Honey Stinger Chews.

OK, now I was ready.

Help, I’m Lost

I am never anything but comical when I run. I have terrible form, and I am not fast at all

But when I’ve just gotten off a bike, I’m hilarious. My legs, completely exhausted and programmed to execute one particular motion, seem completely unable to comprehend this new motion.

And it feels like this—a peculiar, awkward, stumbling sensation—for about a third of a mile. Then, while I never become graceful, I at least start to find some kind of stride.

But about the time my legs started feeling…well, not good, but OK with the action of running, massive paranoia started creeping up on me.

There were people running in the opposite direction of me. That in itself was no big deal, because I knew that the Olympic-distance racers would be finishing their races well before I did.

But they were smiling at me. Like, every single one of them. And I wasn’t sure what those smiles meant. Were they smiling encouragement at me, because they thought they were a lot faster than I was, mistaking me for being one of the very last Olympic-distance racers to begin the run (as opposed to one of the very first Half-Iron distance racers to begin the run)?

Were they just being nice?

Or were they—and this was my fear—smiling at me because I had messed up, and was not on the course?

I thought back to when I had gotten off course at the Jordanelle Triathalong, and how as I came down the section of the road I shouldn’t have, it seemed a few people were smiling at me, in much the same way.

I looked forward, hoping to see a course marker, telling me I was doing OK.

Nothing as far as the eye could see.

I looked forward and backward, hoping to see another runner going in the same direction I was.

Nothing. Nobody. I was alone. Was this because I was way ahead of all but a few of the racers at this point? Maybe. 

Or maybe it was because I had missed a turn somewhere, and was now off-course.

The thought demolished me. 

I slowed to a walk. Then I stopped. Then I turned around and started running the other direction.

Then I started second-guessing my second guess. What was I doing? And why was this course so incredibly poorly marked that I even had to deal with this question?

I turned back around and started running again. A few weeks prior, The Hammer and I had come and pre-rode and pre-run parts of this course as it was described on the site. Of course, the course as described on the site wasn’t much like the cycling course I had just ridden, but I was going to trust that the running course hadn’t changed; big chunks of it were just unmarked. 

I followed the road as I understood the course should go, hoping that the people coming in the opposite direction were a good sign, and not a sign that I was salmoning this half marathon.

Finally, after about a mile, a sign. I had in fact run the course correctly to this point, and I knew how the rest went. 

What a relief.

Looking for The Hammer

The half marathon was an out-and-back thing, which I was really happy for: when you’re racing, out-and-back courses give you a great opportunity to see exactly where you stand in the race, as well as to encourage people going in the opposite direction.

At first, I ran along, wondering when I’d see the first person coming in the opposite direction. I was excited to see I had gone about four miles before he came by me. I gave him a shout, then kept on going. 

More people came by me, though not very many. I was doing OK in the race—I figured I was fifth or so overall.

And then runners started passing me. Now I was sixth. Now seventh. Now eighth.

That’s OK, I thought to myself. I knew this would happen.

I stopped wondering about my own place in the race—there was nothing I could do about the people who were flying past me—and began wondering when I would see The Hammer.

I was sure I’d get to the turnaround point before I saw her. And I had high hopes I’d get to her mile 5-mile mark before she caught and passed me.

My split times for the miles get slower and slower:

Screenshot 2014 11 06 10 31 44

By the time I had run seven miles (now at a ten-minute pace), I knew for absolutely certain that The Hammer would in fact catch me. That, as is increasingly common, she would be waiting for me at the finish line.


Then, shortly after I hit the turnaround spot, I saw her. I knew it was her before she was close enough for me to see her face clearly; I recognize her running style.

I briefly reflected on how cool it was that I can recognize my wife by the way she runs.

I had hoped to be able to yell out to her that she was winning the women’s division, because I had not yet seen another woman on the course.

But there was a complication: The Hammer was not running alone.

Right beside her—the two of them engaged in pleasant conversation—was another woman. 

“This ain’t no time for jibber-jabber,” I said to myself, echoing a phrase The Hammer often uses when we’re training. But when she runs, The Hammer loves to chat. In fact, I’d say when she runs is when she’s the chattiest. And—as an aside here—I think it disappoints her that I am completely unable to engage in conversation when I run with her. She’s feeling expansive and talkative; I’m just hanging on.

Anyway, as they got closer, I could tell that the woman The Hammer was running with was young. College-age, or maybe just out of college. 

This was not an insignificant fact. 


Remember way back in the first post, where I mentioned that the young racers—the ones in the white caps—started five minutes before us oldsters

Well, I remembered it. And I could tell that while they were physically side-by-side right now, the woman The Hammer was running with had a five-minute head start.

Which meant that, even as these women ran together, amicably chatting, The Hammer had a five minute lead. I knew that. I knew The Hammer knew that.

I did not know whether the woman she was running with knew that. And I sure wasn’t going to tell her.

I shouted a greeting, The Hammer ran ahead and gave me a kiss, and then the two of them continued on their way. 

Hi and Goodbye

I wasn’t kidding when I said that I haven’t run more than eight miles this year, nor have I run on the road at all. And it showed. As I hit mile nine, my pace slowed to 10:24. I ran the tenth mile in 10:47. And from there on out, I was either at or on the cusp of eleven-minute miles.

Like I said, I was just hanging on.

So around mile eight, the woman who had been running with The Hammer cruised by me—a little faster than The Hammer, she had pulled away.

Moments later, The Hammer caught up with me. 

“You know you’re actually five minutes ahead of that woman, right?” I said.

“Yeah. I don’t think she knows it, though. My mission is to just keep her in sight,” The Hammer replied. 

“Go go go!” I yelled. 

And The Hammer went. You may be entertained to see what her running splits looked like:

Screenshot 2014 11 06 10 55 55

Yeah, I’d say she’s a little faster than I am.

The Hammer disappeared, and I struggled on, proud of the fact that—while I was clearly going slow—I had not (nor would I ever during this race) go to a walk. Except when I was at the aid stations, getting a drink. That didn’t count.

Another Threat

As I hit about mile ten, another woman passed me. Just rocketed by.

I found myself posing a story problem to myself:

If one woman, running 8:30 miles passes a man who is running 11:00 miles eight miles into a 13.5 mile race, then another woman, running 8:00 (or possibly faster) miles passes that same man ten miles into that race, which woman will win the race?

The answer, strangely, would depend on a factor not included in the story problem: the age of the second woman.

Which I did not know, having only seen her backside (and I was unable or unwilling to judge based solely on her backside).

We’d find out the answer really soon.

Surprise Finish

There isn’t much to tell about the rest of my race. I survived to the finish without ever slowing to a walk. Although what the difference is between an eleven-minute-mile run and a walk may be a discussion worth having.

The Hammer was waiting for me at the finish line, as expected. 

“How’d you do?” I asked.

“Well, a woman caught me right as we got to the last mile, and we ran together for a second. I wasn’t sure, so I asked her, ‘What color of swim cap were you wearing in the swim?’”

“The woman answered me, ‘White. Everyone racing the half-iron distance was wearing white.’”

“So I said, “Sorry, honey, but there was a wave of us wearing yellow caps, five minutes behind you. You’d better hurry if you want to beat me.” 

“The woman didn’t say anything. She just looked at me like she didn’t understand what I was talking about, and then sped away.”

And in the end, The Hammer won. Not just her age group, she won the overall: all women. By more than five minutes.

 Screenshot 2014 11 06 11 43 36

It’s interesting to note that while The hammer lost about ten minutes to each of these women in the swim, she absolutely dominated the bike, putting 17 – 20 minutes into the second and third place women, respectively. 

In fact, The Hammer was the ninth fastest person in the race (i.e., including men). (I was 15th).

The Hammer, my friends, is a force to be reckoned with.


Here’s the Hammer, with Jenessa and Sarah, the overall podium for the Utah State Half-Iron Triathlon Championships:

IMG 9936

And, as it turns out, I got on the podium, too, for the Men’s 45-49 age group:

IMG 9927

Of course, being the only one on a podium makes you feel just a little bit dorky. Everyone knows why nobody else is up there, right?

Which is why I look like this, holding up my “Congratulations on being the only one to race in your age group” plaque:

IMG 9937

But it’s a cool photo, because Chris Wright, a fast guy and Friend of Fatty, did a great job of casually photobombing the shot.

Oh, and afterward, I found out that there had been a couple more guys who had raced and finished in my age group.

Screenshot 2014 11 06 12 01 42

They just happened to still be on the course when the photo was taken. Accordingly, I have adjusted my podium photo to include them.

USTC triathlon podium
Sean Connery is playing the part of Matthew Harrison; David Hasselhoff is playing the part of Daryl Ballantyne.

Two triathalongs down. One to go. 


  1. Comment by Eric L | 11.6.2014 | 1:37 pm

    If you could podium Zardoz then you are truly an Eternal. Way to go Fatty!

  2. Comment by zeeeter | 11.6.2014 | 1:47 pm

    The dog is looking at me funny. Wondering why I’m laughing out loud looking at the monitor!

  3. Comment by wharton_crew | 11.6.2014 | 2:20 pm

    Why are the other two women on the Hammer’s podium wearing matching outfits with skirts? Does the Hammer – as the winner – get the reward of wearing comfortable clothes? Speaking of comfortable podium clothes, why didn’t you adhere to the must-wear-a-speedo rule when you were on the podium with Connery and Hasselhoff?

  4. Comment by Clydesteve | 11.6.2014 | 2:24 pm

    regarding the question posed by wharton_crew: I do not care about the reason, just glad you did not adhere to this rule. Thanks, Fatty

  5. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 11.6.2014 | 2:56 pm

    Fatty it does get worse than standing on top of a podium alone. At a cyclocross race I finished 2nd, but the winner and 3rd place guy were nowhere to be found when the podium pics were taken, so it looked like I couldn’t even win a race if I was alone. Looking back I guess I could have tried to find two guys in speedos to be stand ins, but I don’t think I was in the right part of town to find speedo dudes.

  6. Comment by TK | 11.6.2014 | 3:02 pm

    I hereby declare these three medium-length installments to be the PERFECT race reports! Just long enough to include all the fun pre-race (poop) info, mid-race drama, and entertaining post-race wrap-up. I bequeath upon you my most heart-felt (non-Strava) kudos.

  7. Comment by Bryce | 11.6.2014 | 3:31 pm

    Oh man. Just got a funny look from my wife when I almost shot a butterfinger bite out my nose with that last photo. Your photoshop skills are impressive and out of control!

    My eyes, my eyes….. will never be the same!

  8. Comment by Christina | 11.6.2014 | 3:49 pm

    I wish to run as “slowly” as you do someday.

  9. Comment by BamaJim | 11.6.2014 | 6:53 pm

    Congratulations state champs! Personally, I don’t see the problem with winning by being the only entrant. Maybe everyone else was too intimidated to show up.

  10. Comment by Tom in Albany | 11.7.2014 | 6:30 am

    Congratulations to you and The Hammer! Nice write-up too! Makes me want to keep my mechanical shifting.

  11. Comment by Kevin | 11.7.2014 | 8:40 am

    Sean Connery & David Hasselhoff… hilarious!

  12. Comment by Fat Cathy | 11.7.2014 | 9:15 am

    Well done, both of you. Hammer, you are my heroine. Fatty, I’m totally impressed that you can pull off an event like this without serious training in the swim and run sections.

    BTW, Fatty, thank you so much for the Altra Paradigm endorsement. I purchased a pair a few weeks ago and my only complaint is why didn’t I buy these shoes sooner? The shoes encourage a correct forefoot running technique and the comfy padding is helping me overcome a chronic running injury.

  13. Comment by Brandon Banks | 11.7.2014 | 9:51 am

    Total domination! WTG, Lisa!

  14. Comment by Fellowfattychris | 11.7.2014 | 10:24 am

    I had no idea I was photoboming your photo, or did I? Congrats again to The Hammer on a great race!

  15. Comment by Mike Kennedy | 11.7.2014 | 10:40 am

    You two are amazing and an inspiration!

    I would like to get a pair of those boots to use during next years 100 MoN; can you ask Sean or David where I might buy a pair in size 47?


  16. Comment by jonboy | 11.7.2014 | 10:53 am

    I hope to keep running triathlons long enough to win by being the only guy in my division. That is why I ride the 100MoN to win my division. Great job to both of you!

  17. Comment by old guy who likes to ride | 11.7.2014 | 1:34 pm

    which is worse, Borat in the green thong or those guys?
    Bleaching my computer now…

  18. Comment by Heidi | 11.7.2014 | 9:47 pm

    My eyes, my eyes!

  19. Comment by Doug (way upstate NY) | 11.8.2014 | 5:20 am

    I bet you had the fastest time in your age group on the swim and run too. See there is hope!

  20. Comment by J | 11.8.2014 | 7:40 pm

    Zardoz was always messed up, but fittingly it came in second place to the Fatty. Not sure what category though…

  21. Comment by Dave04 | 11.10.2014 | 10:25 am

    Quite literally spit Diet Coke on my monitor upon seeing your photoshopped podium…


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