“Don’t Panic,” the world’s greatest relay team, rebranded itself as “42” and headed north to take on the Rev3 Wisconsin Dells 70.3 relay. We were all eager for a repeat of the success we saw in Knoxville, Tennessee, and were approaching the race with a relaxed attitude. We figured if we each raced our portion to the best of our abilities, we wouldn’t have any trouble at least being contenders for the podium. Unfortunately even simple plans can become complicated.

Infinite improbability

Saturday night before the race we had a good dinner, hydrated plenty, stopped by the candy store for post-race gummy bears, (David and I went and grabbed a couple of drinks), and we all got to bed at a decent time…no problems here, right? Unfortunately Kelly has had problems with her back for years. I never appreciated the full extent of those problems until a coughing fit caused her to completely throw out her back.

She was in pain. A LOT of pain.

She took some medicine, tried to use a roller on her back, and did some basic stretching. We drove to the race course to set up our gear, hoping by then she would begin to feel better. She did not.

Steve Barcus, Kelly Ruiter, and David Ford at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells triathlon

Don’t let the smile fool you. All was not well at that moment!

Excruciating pain was scrawled all over her face.  Dave and I were ready to consider other options including:

1. Jori Cooper, a friend who was spectating the race could fill in.

2. I could borrow some goggles and swim in run shorts (not ideal).

3. We could just not start the race.

Kelly had other ideas. She decided to do the practice swim and see how she felt. After gutting it out several hundred yards she swam back to shore. The pain from her back could be seen in each stroke. What she said when we pulled her out of the water surprised both Dave and I.

Kelly Ruiter Rev3 Wisconsin Dells

Kelly Ruiter on the practice swim trying to come to terms with her surroundings.

“I think I’d like to try it.”

I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled about the idea. In fact I gently tried to talk her out of it. But I also knew the only person who can tell Kelly Ruiter what to do is Kelly Ruiter. With that she lined up to start the swim, jumped in the water, and started working on the 1.2 miles ahead.

Anything that happens, happens

Bike transition at Rev3 Dells triathlon

Bike transition at Rev3 Dells triathlon

Dave and I stood around transition making final preparations to his bike, chatting with other racers, and calculating imaginary splits. Kelly had originally planned to do her swim in under 40 minutes, but had adjusted her anticipated time to 50 minutes, not including the additional time that would be needed to sprint up the long hill to transition. We watched the clock and also kept tabs on other relay teams, one of which took off the bike before us. Suddenly we glanced over and spotted a girl with spiky red hair waving her arms and running through the transition gate. She was way earlier than we expected.

“Holy crap, there she is!” I said, very surprised.

Dave snapped on his helmet and pulled his bike out of the rack while I ran over and ripped the timing chip off Kelly’s leg, wrapping it around Dave’s immediately after. With that he was off on a brutal bike course that features more climbing than the 112 miles of the IRONMAN Wisconsin bike course.

Kelly’s official time: 40:07…Geez!

She was in quite a bit of pain afterward, but she had that luxury. Against the odds she had made it through 1.2 miles and at a time many would be envious of. Great job.

Oh no, not again!

Dave had ridden the Rev3 Dells bike course before, so he knew what he was getting into. Unbeknownst to his competitors he had a few advantages.

1. This time he did not have to pace himself for a full 70.3.

2. There was a relay team in front of him he wanted to hunt down.

3. Dave has been royally rocking his bike races this year.

4. He is David Ford.

Steven Barcus and David Ford at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells

A few seconds earlier I was lounging in the shade. Now, having just taken the timing chip, my mind was focused on running.

Knowing that the course had some brutal hills, Dave anticipated finishing his leg in just under three hours. Kelly, Jori, and I made plans to run back to the hotel and return to transition in more than enough time for Dave to pass the chip to me. Everything proceeded as planned. When I returned to transition I stretched, tried to get pumped for the run, and then sat down on the ground underneath a tent. No point in me baking in the sun and getting dehydrated yet.

I was in the middle of taking a gel, anticipating that Dave would be returning in around 10 minutes, when I heard someone yell, “Barcus!” It didn’t register with me at first. The second time I heard my name yelled I suddenly realized that it was Jori calling out, and the only reason she would be doing that was if…

I sprang up from the ground and dashed to the bike rack as Jori hollered, “He’s coming.” I turned to see Dave barreling into transition, screeching to a halt in front of me. I grabbed the chip from his ankle, wrapped it around mine, and sprinted out of transition.

Racing hard hurts! Dave catches his breath after making the handoff. Sometimes you keep it together only as long as you need to.

Racing hard hurts! Dave catches his breath after making the handoff. Sometimes you keep it together only as long as you need to.

Don’t panic

Dave did a great job. With a bike time of 2:51:22, he had not only caught the relay team in front of us, but also created a nice lead. During the first few miles I scanned incoming bikers for the other team’s number. I was at mile 1.7 when I saw their rider headed toward transition.

“Well,” I thought to myself. “It’s my race to lose now. Get on it!”

The Dells course was hot and hilly. Still I kept on it, pushing it up the hills reasonably and letting gravity do its work on the descents. It was grueling, and the entire time I was keeping an eye out for other relay runners. Kelly had a great swim despite her back and Dave had an awesome bike. I really didn’t want to be the one to blow this.

I kept moving and eventually saw the finish chute. I was worn out and felt a bit like a zombie after all of those hills, but I managed some energy when David and Kelly met me in the finish chute. We all ran across together, putting another relay in the books.

Steve Barcus, Kelly Ruiter, and David Ford at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells triathlon

42 crosses the finish line!

Steve’s run time: 1:40:57

I’m pretty happy with me time for all of the hills and heat. I’ll take it.

Steve Barcus, Kelly Ruiter, and David Ford at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells triathlon

BONUS PIC: Speaking of “sometimes holding it together only as long as you have to,” I gave in to exhaustion immediately after crossing the line. Sometimes racing isn’t pretty.

Team relay time: 5:14:46.746

Steve Barcus, Kelly Ruiter, and David Ford at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells triathlon

Podium shot!

Our finish time earned us a spot on the podium once again. There may have been some hiccups (or coughs) along the way, but we all did the best we could and were able to enjoy doing it. Walking away with hardware is great, but at the end of the day it is just icing on the cake.

Next up for our team…I don’t know. I guess we should start working on that.


This entry was posted in Cycling, Half Marathon, Powerbar, REV3, Running, Swimming, Triathlon and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 42

  1. therfpscribe says:

    Celebrate at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, that’s what’s next.

  2. Tri Madness says:

    Fantastic job on the relay and victory! By all accounts, the weather made a tough course even more brutal. Congrats to you and your relay for gutting it out!

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