Every race is a learning experience and this one was no exception. On Friday night we went to the pre-race talk with the Pros and heard Joanna Zeiger (among others) speak. The MC talked about how she had had one bad race after another (mechanical failures, nutritional issues, physical problems) and her response to that was “Sunday is a another day” and it was with that in mind I approached my race.
Race Day –
Setting up – One of these things is not like the other:
We got to T1 to set up and I unrolled my socks to discover that one was the kind that goes just to the top of your shoe and the other one was an ankle sock. I should have taken a picture but I didn’t. I did decide that the mis-matched socks were a good luck charm and carried on. I didn’t have a lot of time before my wave went off so I went through the normal pre-race port-a-potty panic (I was still in line with 14 minutes until my start) but it all worked out and I was on the beach in my wetsuit, cap, goggles and wearing my chip with moments to spare.
Meh. I swam. As always I spent the entire time wondering what the hell I was doing in the water. Water is for fish – people don’t belong there and OMG will I NEVER get to the turn around???!!! When I finally got there I felt something hit my foot and realized it was the bottom of the river. I could see the bottom of the river and I could touch it. Absurd. I stood up to take a look around and then dove back in, being careful not to scrape my nose, and finished my swim doing my normal crazy zig zag in my normal 45 minutes which was okay because I have not been swimming much lately.
T1 – Bikes!
There were bikes still in the rack!! I was very excited and uplifted by that. I had a hard time getting my wetsuit off (nothing new there!) but I got it all together, stuffed my wetsuit and towel and cap and goggles in the plastic bag and took off.
The Bike – What Scenery?
When I first got going there was a woman with a 59 on her leg ahead of me. I decided I would just pace off of her for while but then I felt like I was going too slow and it bugged me so I passed her. We played cat and mouse for a long time and I came to know her as “59” because I didn’t make nice and exchange names with her. I was killing it on the hills and she would pass me on the flats. I finally got tired of 59 and just dropped her at about mile 40, before Chalk Hill. I didn’t see her again for a very long time.
I noticed a few interesting things on this bike ride. First of all I noticed every once in a while I would look up and think “oh – it’s so pretty out here” which was a distinct difference from last year when I found the race so annoying for disrupting my sight-seeing time. Last year as I got near Chalk Hill I found myself in the center of a lot of chatter about the hill and this year I was annoyed at the prospect. But I wasn’t cruising with a steady crowd all around me. I was riding and either passing people or getting passed but no one was tittering about a hill that really isn’t that big a deal.
I had wanted to have a 20 minute PR over last year’s bike split of 3:37 As I got to the top of Chalk Hill and looked at my watch and saw 3:45 I wanted to cry. How COULD that happen??? I was so much faster. Then I looked again and realized that was 3:45 total – including the swim and T1 and I looked at the other time on the watch which was 2:53 so I was happy – oh so very happy because in my head T2 was down the hill and around the corner. Only it wasn’t. The ride kept going and going and going and I started thinking “give me some chute – this distance is killing my time!!” and then I thought “oh – yeah – that’s how this goes. PEDAL FASTER!”
Total bike time was 3:19 which was 2 minutes longer than I wanted it to be but it was still great. According to my favorite pace calculator 56 miles in 3:19 is a pace of 16.8 mph which made me very happy.
T2 – bikes, damnit
I found my spot easily and switched my stuff. Nothing interesting there except there were alot of bikes in the rack. I put that out of my mind because it was women 45+ so that was 3 age groups below mine as well as my own so big deal, right? I did my best not to dwell on the obvious and just got the hell out of there.
The Run – My Journey Through Hell
I started out running and thinking “oh my – it’s hot” and found myself really pushing to keep running to the first aid station which is just after mile 1. Not a happy thing. In fact I found myself walking very early on and thinking “come on – just run. You can do it – just run” but it was really hard. It also occurred to me that the race was going to take a very, very long time if I kept walking so I did my best to run when I could. Every time I saw someone in FoMo team kit I tried to pick it up and whoever saw me would say “You look great!” When my friend Joe said that to me I responded, “Is always better to look good than to feel good” because I did not feel good. I felt wrung out and limp and hot… so very, very hot.
I tried to focus on short term goals – the next aid station, that cow up there, the next house, “run the flats you can walk the hills” but it was a death march from the get go. I forged on just waiting to get to the winery which gets you to the half way point. When I got there I convinced myself that the irrigation ponds and the moisture from the grape plants made it cooler and that it was easier to run on the dirt. That worked and gave me a good mile’s worth of running and then I made a decision to stop at the porta-potties as I came out. Big mistake. Huge mistake. It was even hotter in there, I didn’t really need to go that badly and when I got who should I see right ahead of me but 59. DAMMIT! I started running and I passed her and said, “and so we meet again” and made some comment about the heat but pretty soon I found myself walking again and she passed me and I just couldn’t muster the energy to take her. I let her go.
With about 4 miles left, after walking for way too much of the race, inspired by 2 men who had decided to walk the whole thing, I got sick of it all. I also got passed by a woman with 55 on her calf and I thought “oh no – I’m losing another place. This is no good at all” I picked it up and ran and passed her and then I started to walk and she passed me. I started thinking I would let her have it and then I thought “OH NO YOU DI’NT!” and I started running and she started walking and I kept running. I had no idea where she was but after considering letting her take my place a couple more times I resolved to hang on and keep her behind me and I did.
I forced myself to run from one light post to the next…. run to the mailbox and you get to walk from 1 light post to next and then run, run for 3 light posts and you can walk for 1 and then finally, finally I was at the point where people were cheering and ringing cowbells and I ran.. I ran and ran and ran because the Vineman has the most torturous path to the chute of any race in the world and you hear “almost there – just 5,000 meters to go!” over and over and then finally you are running on the grass and you run some more “just 100 meters to go!” and finally you hit the first mat and you know the guy is looking up your name and then you hear you name and WOO HOO!!!! you smile and give a little what what arms in the air and finally, finally you are DONE!
I was more than done I was cooked to well done. Charcol briquet done. Don’t even stick a fork in me because I’m so dried out it will just blow a hole in me. Done. And just after I crossed that line 55 came in behind me – 11 seconds off my time – woot!
My run took a whopping 2:50 and more than eroded the bike PR for a finish time of 7:02 over last year’s 6:55. On the plus side I didn’t die – I didn’t even quit.
The biggest thing I learned, and I’ve learned it before which is why it was such a big lesson this time. is that I never, ever, ever want to finish another race wondering if I could have gone harder. I feel that way about this race. I know it was very hot but I’m not convinced I worked as hard as I could have and I hate that feeling. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt that way but I intend to make it the last time. Oh yes I do. And you know what? The next time is a new race. There’s always a new race and another day and you can always try again and tri harder.