I do anyway. Sooner or later, not doing so would have haunted me.

"This is hard," Calene says when I find her. I take the bike and begin pushing it up the hill.

"It's hot," I say, drinking a little water.

"But I can do this," she says. "It's actually kind of fun. Where's the mud?"

"I think it's at the end."

"Here, let me push the bike."

I take another gulp of water, then run on. The next miles pass quickly. Finally, we arrive together at the last bike-run trade area. She looks flushed as she reaches for the water bottle. It's empty.

"Did you drink all the water?"

"There's still a little left," I answer, pointing to the half-ounce floating around the bottom of the clear plastic bottle. "Drink it. You don't look so good." A feeble ploy, to be sure, but all I had.

"I can tough it out," she replies.

Calene climbs aboard the bike and pedals hard for the finish. I can hear the smooth click of the chain ring moving into a tougher gear. She rides fast, leaning forward to cut the wind.

A mile later, we are in the mud together, slithering on our bellies and feeling the dark ooze work its way into places mud should never be allowed to visit. Loud voices command us to press our bodies down further.

The finish line is just beyond the mud pit. We have raced well, and the temptation to maintain that competitive drive to the very end is strong. But there is something childlike and liberating about crawling through mud. The experience should not be rushed. So we slither together, Calene and I, looking for all the world like the couple from the black lagoon, enjoying one of the more sublime moments we have ever known.

Which is not to say we stop racing altogether.