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After the shock had worn off, after I realized that I really had qualified for Kona, something unexpected happened.

On September 12, 2011, I woke up a new person. After ten years of trying, I had qualified for Kona and I just couldn’t believe that it was me.  That feeling persisted for months. I came, however, to luxuriate in the feeling that I had earned it and that I had moved beyond the former me. No longer would I need to work so hard and so fruitlessly. I had graduated to a new level of competitiveness. In the future, the Scott Ross who had qualified for Kona would come to the line and the other old guys had might as well stand aside. I had gone from someone to whom humility had come so easily and justifiably to someone who believed that he had been born again with an edge over his former self.

It was with that attitude that I began the 2012 season at Wildflower at Lake San Antonio in California. It was my tenth Wildflower in a row. It was also one of my favorite events of the year. Wildflower always brought together a group of my favorite people in a beautiful location, live oaks dotting the tan long grass fields, wildflowers lining roadways, steep hills, shimmering lakes. I couldn’t wait to get together with Warren, Emmerson, Steve, Eric, Tommy – all great guys.

At Wildflower, I had never made it to the podium. Of course, the new and improved version of me had not previously raced Wildflower. I came to believe that a podium finish was in the cards for me in 2012. Nope. 13th. (A podium accommodating 13 would be somewhat ungainly. You couldn’t make my face out in the group picture anyway.)

When I looked back at my splits, I had raced reasonably well. It was just that everyone else raced better. And I was in the last year of eligibility in my age group. Racing as a 54 year-old, the 50 and 51-year olds ate my lunch. Sadly, whatever I had accomplished the prior September meant absolutely nothing. If I wanted a good result, I needed to not just race hard, I needed to hurt a little bit – maybe a lot. And on that day, whatever entitlement I had enjoyed in my offseason evaporated.

Time to saddle up.

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