Born to Suffer: The Great Buckeye Challenge

Born to Suffer: The Great Buckeye Challenge

By Coach Erik Cagnina
The official D3 Sufferfest – Ohio style – has just been completed. It consisted of the Great Buckeye Challenge Half-IM on Saturday, followed by a quick trip up to Cleveland to check out the Cleveland Indians that evening, and wrapping things up with the Mosquito Creek Olympic Distance triathlon Sunday morning. Coach Mike and Iona made the trip out and would be representing Boulder for the weekend festivities. More…

Coach Mike got in Thursday night, luckily unaffected by the spontaneous blackout, and we immediately headed out for a quick 5-mile run through my scenic neighborhood (which has been infected with a severe case of suburbanitis – I didn’t know developers were allowed to build the same house 300 times in one square mile). It was 85 degrees with 1,000% percent humidity – near ideal conditions to begin a sufferfest! We kept it mellow, neither of us testing the other – there would be time for that later! Next up was a quick 23-mile bike on Friday just to stay loose. Still boiling hot, according to Coach’s calculations, he lost 5 lbs on the ride!! We ate a little lunch, headed to the airport to pick up Iona, grabbed the race packets and checked out the course, battled through severe thunderstorms to find a place to eat and got back home to get ready for the morning.

The GBC is a great race – two-loop swim, single loop bike with rolling hills the whole way and a two-loop run that moves through a residential area, through town and onto a road that is mostly small rolling hills. As the saying goes, a tough but fair course. Coach was starting the wave behind me, so the goal was to get on the bike and hold him off until the run. An uneventful swim and Coach Mike still behind me, I was on the bike and rolling, actually feeling pretty good. Until mile 12, when a frisky Golden Retriever decided it was going to play chicken with me. I zigged, he zigged. I zagged, he zagged. Then it was too late. I was down in my first real bike crash in nine years of riding and I was damn glad I had lasted nine years when it was done. The bike was fine and other than a lot of skin on the ground, so was I, meaning I had a race to finish after completing a temper tantrum that would have made my 2-year old son proud. I thanked the volunteer for her concern, climbed back on and got going again.

I finished the bike OK and saw Coach coming in at the end of the bike as I headed out on the run. I’d like to blame the disaster that’s listed on the results page as a “run” on the crash, but in my heart I think they had little to do with each other. It was hot and humid and it just wasn’t my day. I made it through the first quarter of the run reasonably well, but went downhill quickly after that. Coach passed me a little before the end of the first lap looking strong and while I thanked him for his urgings to pick it up and run with him, I sent him on his way to have a good race. Buzzards need food too and I thought I would do just fine. As I moseyed along, I saw Coach and Iona both moving along, looking good and hanging tough. As for me, I realized that I could run slowly for a little while and then walk, or I could sprint for a little while and then walk. I figured the sprint/walk plan would get me done a little quicker so every now and then I would rip off a quick quarter mile before reverting to the determined walking. Millstein and Snyder, a couple of Cleveland friends, surprised me by showing up to cheer me on and thankfully finished up the run with me.

The total damage on the day was 5:48, setting a new PW (personal worst) by 40 minutes for a half-IM. Since then, I’ve had several people formally welcome me to the 5:30-6:00 half-IM club – I figure these people are about as tough as they come and it’s a club I’m proud to carry a finishing time for! Next month, I’m going to tell you all about the Mosquito Creek Triathlon – a glimpse back at triathlon circa 1978!!

“Born to Suffer” is a monthly affair in which to share my tales of suffering. Feel free to contact me at and share your tales of suffering. I might even use your story if I’ve been unlucky enough to have not suffered recently. The purpose is nothing more than to generate a smile. It’s good to train hard, but it’s better to smile while training hard.


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