Auburn International Triathlon: 51.5k of "Well, at least the swim's not uphill." It's a regional championship race; the top third in each age group can go to Nationals. The bike course is an out-and-back, so if you keep track of people coming the other way you can start the run with a pretty good idea of how you're doing.

I started the run knowing two things: first, I was doing pretty well: there were about seven people in front of me. Second, I knew that at least two of them, maybe three, were in my age group. I caught the first one almost immediately, and by the way he was running he was no longer a threat. The second one was tougher: I didn't catch him until nearly the end of the first lap. He was still willing to contest the race, so I dug deeper and picked up the pace for the second lap.

As I turned the final corner of that final lap --just 200 meters to go-- I saw THE GUY, my age, 50 meters ahead. That's a lot to catch up at the end of a race, but he looked tired. "Go big or go home," they say, so I went big. It wasn't big enough. With a hundred meters to go, he was still 20 m ahead. I could see his age written on his calf now: 47. My age group. My legs were screaming, my lungs were on fire, and I had nothing left.

Well, almost nothing... You know that secret emergency reserve that your brainstem tries keeping hidden because it wants to use it for stuff like maintaining a pulse? The "Die Trying" reserve? I used it. It was almost sufficient. Almost.

Then with less than 10m to go, through the darkness swirling into the edges of my vision, I saw him turn. Away from the finish chute. On to the path around the finish line. To start his second lap.

Fifth place overall. First in the M45-49 age group. I'm going to Nationals.