It all started Friday when I picked Jenny up from the airport and we took what seemed like an interminably long drive up to Santa Rosa – the traffic was nasty. Welcome to California, Jenny! We got there too late to go to the welcome reception and just decided not to worry about it and went out to dinner, instead.
Saturday we got up, put the bikes on the car and headed out to check out the course. While we were looking at the river me met another racer, Linda, from Santa Barbara. We all decided to drive the bike course and then ride the run course. Note – riding the bike course is long and boring. Riding it is way better.
While we were waiting for Linda Jenny saw a guy on the bike she is lusting after and in true Jenny fashion said, “you better be fast on that bike!” and then I looked at his helmet and saw the number 7 and remarked that he was a pro so he was probably fast. I was correct – he won the race with a time of 3:49.10 setting a new course record.
Shortly after that I realized that I had managed somewhere along the way to put on my cranky pants and basically had a melt down. I just started to panic that it was 3 PM, we hadn’t eaten lunch and I NEED A REST! So I rode a little ways with Jenny and Linda and then I headed back to the hotel to eat and rest while they finished. Only I needed to eat first plus I went to the expo to get my bike checked and to buy a new tube and Jenny ended up back at the hotel before me. I managed to get about 20 minutes rest before it was time to shower and go to dinner but I was all better by then having eaten a ham and cheese sandwich and a smoothy. Then I had spaghetti carbonara for dinner. Can you say “oink*! (I gained 3 pounds this weekend so I guess my nutrition was … ahem… adequate!)
Sunday we were waking up at 4:45 to try to hit the road at 5:45 so we could get to Guernville, 30 minutes away and be ready for a 7:18 start time. That was already not enough time and little did we know how far away we would have to park. We got started late (6:00) and got to transition just about at 7:00. I did my best to hide my panic and just focus on finding rack space (we had to move other people’s bikes to do it), set up, pull on the wetsuit and get to the water. Finally ready we headed the long, long way to the start and once we got to the beach 2 things happened. First, the announcer said it was time for our wave to get in the water and then I realized I had forgotten to put on my timing chip – OH NO! Jenny waited while I ran back to my T1 spot, put the chip on, ran back and immediately got in the water. We had about 3 minutes before our wave started. A little too close for comfort.
SWIM – The swim was absolutely typical for me. My goggles fogged up immediately and I could barely see where I was going the entire time. At one point I was smack dab in the middle of the channel separating out from back and I was not supposed to be there. I got back to the right place and just kept going. If only they would give extra credit for extra yards – I’d take first in the swim every time!
I am never quite comfortable in the swim – it just seems too long. I kept reminding myself that this would be the easiest part of my day and that I should just enjoy it and I sort of did except I had to keep stopping and clearing my goggles. No amount of spit has ever solved that problem. Must be time to get some of that anti-fog spray.
Swim time 44:04 – pretty much as planned.
T1 – I ran back to our racks and woke Jenny up from the little nap she was taking while she waited for me and worked as quickly as I could to dry off, put on arm warmers, Garmin, socks, shoes, helmet and glasses and we were off.
T1 time – 5:07 (a little bit slow but oh well).
Bike – the bike course for Vineman is just beautiful and really not very hard. There are some hills here and there but mostly it is gentle rollers and great scenery. My goal was to ride at an average of 16 mph for a 3:30 ride and Jenny was there to help me do that. The thing is, 16 mph is super slow for Jenny so she needed a strategy.
She’s a smart one, that Jenny and she soon figured out that if she stopped and enjoyed the wine country she could just ride her normal pace and catch up to me so that’s what she did. She visited a couple wineries, sampled some local fare, checked out a yard sale and asked them to put a few things aside for her, admired and played with babies the spectators had with them and just generally enjoyed the day. I think she might have attended a ‘cooking with wine’ class, too. When she’d had her fill of wine and cheese and bread and cooking and looking, she’d hop back on the bike and pass me and try to get me to pick it up. It was a beautiful plan.
Make no doubt about it, though – Jenny had me in her sights at all times:
There comes a time for me in every race where I have a very dark moment. I am filled with doubt and absolutely positive I have no business being out there. Vineman was no exception. I can’t tell you how many times people would blow past me cheerfully shouting out words of encouragement – KEEP GOING! YOU’RE DOING GREAT! NICE JOB FORWARD MOTION! As nice as that is it only happens when you look pathetic and slow on your bike, a reality that is not lost on me. And so, at about mile 30 I was hating on myself, hating on triathlon and wishing I had just stayed home puttering in the garden and cleaning the house. And then I snapped out of it and remembered that I love my current level of fitness and that I was riding faster than I had ever ridden in a race before and that very few people are willing to toe the line at all and that I was doing something great and that I SHOULD JUST FOCUS AND PEDAL HARDER, DAMNIT! So I did.
Chalk Hill is ‘the big one’ of Vineman and honestly it just isn’t that big. It also marks the beginning of the end because once you’ve made it up that hill you head down and to the finish line which is just some number of miles away. That’s when I really picked it up. I even passed a woman in my age group and that was truly the highlight of my ride.
Bike time – 3:37:20 avg 15.5 mph. Close
My feet were numb at the end of the ride because it was kind of a chilly morning but the approximately 800 mile run from dismount to our rack took care of that little problem. By the time I got there, swapped shoes, dropped the helmet for a cap and switched sunglasses my feet almost had feeling in them and I was ready to go!
T2 time – 4:44 which was still a little slow but oh well!
The run was amazing. Jenny and I just ticked off those miles one after the other and I felt fine. I couldn’t even believe I was running that strong after riding my bike for 56 miles – it was like a miracle. We went out too fast I think but it wasn’t killing me and I just tried to focus on the fact that my breathing was okay and I was doing it – I was running strong! By then the weather had warmed up, the sun was sort of out but not beating down hard and we had a nice breeze. Every time we hit a mile marker Jenny would say ,”see that – ANOTHER mile down. We’re just ticking them off! Pretty soon I’ll be able to go pick up that stuff I bought at the yard sale!”
The run course was just as pretty as the ride course and was also a series of gentle rollers. I walked up the hills toward the top and we stopped at every aid station to drink or get salt or eat. We made 2 port-o-potty stops, as well. I never got sick and I felt pretty strong until the last 3 miles and then I started to fade a bit and my knees started to hurt. My glutes and quads were sort of sore, too but not unbearably so. Jenny just kept pep talking me telling me to empty my mind, focus on running, and remember “we only have 3 miles to go – we only have 2 miles to go” and then we only had 1 mile to go and the horse could smell the barn and was ready to finish!
We passed many, many people throughout the run and it was very satisfying. It validated that being a little conservative on the bike was a good plan for me for this race. Not that I intend to make that my strategy for every race but for this one it was the right choice.
Finally there it was – THE CHUTE! They called Jenny’s name and then they called my name and she started yelling out to the crowd “First time Half IronMan here – doesn’t she look strong!!” and the crowd roared and I threw my hands over my head and ran to to mats with a huge smile on my face. We did it!
Run time – 2:24.16 (11 min/mile) which is a 7 minute half marathon PR for me. booyah!
Total time 6:55.33 which met my goal of going sub 7.
Jenny has all the pictures – my camera just didn’t seem to make it out of the bag. Have no fear, people – it happened and you’ll see visual proof soon enough.
Jenny was a joy to have on this maiden voyage. She’s a ton of fun to hang out with, she’s easy to travel with and she kept me strong out on the course. I think it was a little hard for her to go so slow but she’s feeling great and she has another Half Iron race next weekend. That’s right – Jenny is doing back to back half iron distance races because that’s how she rolls. She also missed the wedding of a very good friend to be here, a sacrifice that has not gone unnoticed, my friend. Thank you so much for being here with me and for me.
To several people in Forward Motion Race Club for mentoring and encouragement. In particular to Joe Foster and Monica Mazzocco-Zucker for bike help and to Chris McCrary for swimming and running help (I tried to lift my knees -I really did!). To Dana, Maggs, Liesbeth, Sharley, Carrie, Kelby and Roberta I send thanks for all of your words of encouragment.
Shout outs to the Good Doctor for all those early morning rides on Tuesday and Thursday. I hope we get to that next week. It made a difference. Double shout outs for telling me I needed to put on a little weght (tee!)
Thanks to every single other person out there who sent encouragement and who asked about the race and who gave me cheerful comments and wished me luck. It really does make a difference.
I’d also like to thank my bike for not breaking down on me or flatting. I am always so grateful to my bike when I get to T2 and nothing bad has happened. The bike’s reward is that it is in the shop being cleaned and tuned up right now. I may not be able to ride until next Monday but I’ll live with it.
My knees are still sore, my legs are getting more sore by the minute and what was a sore throat and some minor head congestion over the weekend has blown up in to a full scale head cold but in spite of all of that I feel great. I met my goal and did something extraordinary and find myself, once again, deeply thankful for my health and vitality and the inner drive and bravery to train up and toe the line. Life is good.