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Barb’s Race Recap – Run

August 7, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 2 Comments

This is the finale in a 4-part series. I’m glad you’re still with me!

Part 1 – Pre-race + Nutrition
Part 2 – Swim + T1
Part 3  - Bike + T2

I kept the title of this post simple, but considered several alternatives as I was writing it:

Welcome to My Pain Cave
When A Plan Falls Apart
Kill Me Now
WTF Happened?

After a surprisingly good swim and stellar bike, I just needed to tough it out for ~2 more hours and I’d have this race in the bag. I was easily on track to meet my stretch goal of finishing in 5:45 and I was ready to get it over with. I hoped my legs would to spring to life for the run as they had for the bike, but I had my doubts.

The run course is an out-and-back with a dirty trick thrown in. We ran out 4.35 miles and then had to run all the way back through the transition area only to turn around and go back out on the same course for 2.2 more miles. That turnaround was at the top of the first big hill, naturally. We covered the same ground four times before finally crossing the damn finish line. It seems very hilly when you’re running it, but my Garmin data says it has only 338 feet of elevation gain. By contrast, the Wildflower 10K course has 556 feet of elevation gain in half the distance.

I suppose the run setup is good from a spectator’s standpoint because they get to see us run by so many times. For the athletes, it is mentally defeating. In fact, I will never do Barb’s Race again for this very reason. I will do Vineman 70.3 instead because that run course is one big loop.

My legs were cramping from the get-go. I’ve never had my quads cramp like that and it concerned me. My stomach was also cramping and I hoped the PREV I chugged in T2 would kick in (it did). I stopped to use the bathroom at Mile 2 just to make sure my cramps weren’t going to produce anything, and to pee. It was touch and go on if my legs would work after sitting down… I lost 90 seconds there, but the peace of mind was worth it.

Smiling for the camera

I walked a lot. I’m actually surprised my average pace (10:35) is not slower because I walked so much. I obviously don’t know how to pace myself. When I was running, I was running fast. Too fast. So then I’d have to walk more. There were a lot of people walking and that “everyone’s doing it” dynamic is dangerous. When you get to this part of the race, the mental game really begins. Your body will do what you need it to do, but your mind has to go there first.

Because we were going back and forth so many times, it did give me an opportunity to see Caryn a few times. I kept hoping she’d catch me on the run so we could commiserate on how horribly it was going… But she was 12 minutes behind me out of the water and 10 minutes behind me on the bike, so running/walking together was not going to happen.

The volunteers at the water stations were fantastic. Everyone was very encouraging and we were best friends by the time I passed by the fourth time… I kept my sense of humor and made jokes about walking and asking if anyone had beer instead of Gatorade. I had a couple of glasses of Coke on my last loop through and it tasted surprisingly good. Usually it’s too sweet for me, but the carbonation and sugar hit the spot.

I got to 12.1 miles and looked at my Timex. If I could run ONE WHOLE MILE in 12 minutes, I could finish the race in under 6 hours. I knew my cheering section was right around the corner. Right around the corner from them was the finish line.

Welcome to my pain cave

I finished in 6:02:15.

WTF happened?? I mentally broke down. That’s all there is to it. My usual run pace is somewhere in the 8:30 range and I couldn’t even shuffle at 12 minute pace for one mile?! This is infuriating to me and explains the overall race disappointment that I have felt all week. My official run time was 2:22:01. *sigh*

Greg ran alongside me for the last quarter-mile or so and was with me at the finish line. What a guy! Immediately after crossing the finish line, my left foot and toes cramped up with charlie horses and I hobbled over to a shady area to sit down. I took my shoes off and have vowed to never wear them for anything longer than a 10K. In addition to the cramping, the bottoms of my feet were burning for the last half of the run and the tops felt like they were bruising.

My cheering section and coach came over to congratulate me. I shed a few tears about Argus and made for the food tent. It wasn’t long before Caryn was crossing the finish line and we could compare notes.

All in all, I raced well. There were a lot of lessons that I learned and will apply to my training for next year. In the meantime, I’m basking in the off-season and not feeling even the least bit guilty!

I’ve posted all pictures on my Flickr site. Thanks for coming along on the journey!

Barb’s Race Recap – Bike + T2

August 7, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun No Comments

This is Part 3 in a 4-part series.

Part 1 – Pre-race + Nutrition
Part 2 – Swim + T1

BIKE
The bike course is a 56-mile loop that winds through three famous wine regions in Sonoma County — Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley. The scenery is just stunning. I had to keep reminding myself to look around and enjoy it rather than just looking at the pavement a few feet in front of me.

Caryn and I pre-rode the bike course in June and that provided a lot of insight. There are a couple of tight turns to navigate and I was able to set my expectations on the terrain. The first five miles are flat getting out of Guerneville, but the rest of the route is rolling. There is one big climb (Chalk Hill) that happens at Mile 45, so you’ve got to save your legs for that. The roads are pitted with potholes and I adjusted my tire pressure to offset this. When we rode it in June, there was a lot of broken glass and loose gravel on the roads, but they thankfully had them swept before the race. There is on-course support at Miles 18, 28, and 40 — water, Gatorade, and bananas are offered.

I was able to settle into my aero bars and keep a steady pace until turning onto Chalk Hill Road at Mile 41. My average speed never dropped below 19 mph until the climb at Mile 45. My race goal for the bike was to average 18 mph and finish in 3:05, so I felt really confident the entire time I was out there. My heart rate was under control and my legs had a lot of fire in them. I ended up averaging 18.8 mph overall and finishing in 3:00:12.

Greg and Jeff parked at a friend’s house at Mile 38 to spectate. I saw the van and gave a holler to let them know I was coming. I knew I was ahead of schedule and they’d miss me otherwise… Greg’s poor spectating skills are often joked about (as is my modesty in cheering for them to cheer for me). Paula and Kevin came down in time to see Caryn go by. They made signs!

I knew I was going to be somewhere around 10 minutes ahead of Caryn out of the water. But she’s a faster cyclist than I am and I knew she’d be chasing me down. When my average speed started to drop climbing Chalk Hill, I knew she’d catch me. I kept waiting for her to catch me. She never did!

I was prepared to pee on the bike if I needed to, but the urge wasn’t there. I did start to have stomach cramps around Mile 20, which concerned me. I was able to go to the bathroom early that morning, but it wasn’t what I’d call “normal” and I had a feeling things were going to be off because I had eaten dinner so late… I had a plan. I had packed a vial of PREV with my run gear at T2 and I willed myself to remember to drink it as soon as I got off the bike. I hoped it would kick in fast enough to thwart any GI issues that were brewing.

Ryan turned me on to PREV and I am forever grateful. I used it once before when my stomach started to revolt after a hot and hilly training session. It worked within minutes to quell my upset stomach that day, and I was glad I had planned ahead to bring it on race day.

There were tons of spectators on Windsor Road watching the bikers come in and the runners go out. My cheering section was there — Tara, Addison, Mike, and Tiff — and it felt great knowing they were there for me. The tri club was situated nearby and the two groups joined forces as I came through the chute to the dismount area.

The clouds were just beginning to break up, but it wasn’t unbearably hot. In fact, race conditions were perfect!

T2
My Timex watch was tracking overall race time and I felt great looking down to see 3:37 coming into T2. I knew I had bought myself a lot of time for the run and the minute I took those first steps off my bike, I knew I’d need it.

The distance between the bike dismount and our transition area was far! My legs didn’t want to work and I felt like I was going to fall running on the pavement in my cycling shoes. Also, there were surprisingly few people spectating in the transition area. The whole thing was kind of surreal. Since Caryn didn’t catch me on the bike, I kept looking around for her in the transition area. I really wanted to run with her!

Official T2 time: 4:25

Click here for the gritty run details!

Barb’s Race Recap – Swim + T1

August 7, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 2 Comments

This is Part 2 in a 4-part series.

You can read Part 1 here.

SWIM
The swim and T1 take place at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville. Caryn and I got there with plenty of time to set up for our 8:14 AM start time. I think we arrived somewhere around 7:30. Of note, they do not assign you a transition spot on the rack by number (as many races do). This is a first come, first served situation. In general, I feel like the triathlete community is very accommodating of one another, but elbow room in the transition area can be a bit touchy (literally).

The water temperature was 72* — warmer than the outdoor temperature, so it was nice getting in! This race had an in-water start, which was a first for me. Once our wave (purple swim caps) was invited into the water, the mass of us plunged in and got in a few strokes to warm up. I adjusted my goggles and made my way to the far right. My tendency is to drift left as I swim, so I wanted to be as far right as possible.

We were swimming in the Russian River, which does have a slight current. I can’t say that I actually felt it as I was swimming against it, but it was there mentally. Knowing that I’d be swimming with the current at the turnaround kept me going hard. I would love to see a GPS diagram of the course I took on this swim because I was all over the place! The worst of it was that the waves were not started far enough apart (in my opinion), so I was swimming into athletes from the three waves ahead of me.

I refused to look at my watch until the turnaround. I knew it was more than halfway from the finish and I didn’t want to psych myself out before that. As I rounded the second buoy, I looked and my time was 17:57. I was so stoked! I knew I’d finish in less than 35 minutes at that pace! The traffic thinned out and I could swim longer between needing to sight the buoys and other swimmers.

As I was crossing under the pedestrian bridge, I purposely looked up to see if Jeff and Greg were there. Yep! Spectating a swim race is very difficult, so I thought I’d make it easier for them — I hollered and waved! That way I knew they’d get good pictures of me (and know when I came out of the water). Can someone tell me how horrible my form is (and how to correct it)? I’m on the left.

I was so thrilled when I stepped up on the ramp and looked down at my watch. 32:35! (Official time is 32:43) I honestly couldn’t believe I swam that fast, especially considering my shoulder injury and being unable to swim for 6 weeks during my training. I was ecstatic, and my coach was there at the swim exit yelling my name. Loved it!

T1
Barb’s Race was running simultaneously to the Full Vineman Ironman. The benefit of this was wetsuit strippers! I haven’t ever taken part in this before, so we walked over to see it happening prior to our race start so we’d know what to do. Basically:

  1. Come out of the water and make your way up the ramp. For me, I got my wetsuit unzipped and off my arms, down to waist level.
  2. Make eye contact with a stripper (!!).
  3. Lay down on your back and throw your legs in the air. Your stripper will yank your wetsuit off your legs and hand it to you.

As I ran to my transition area, I rolled my wetsuit up, tucking my swim cap, goggles, and ear plugs into it. Everything had to be stuffed back into the T1 Transport Bag, so I wanted to be efficient. The transition area is a gravel parking lot. Fortunately, the aisles along side the racks were carpeted. The areas in between the racks were not, so it was critical to have a towel for brushing off your feet before stuffing them into your shoes.

I quickly got into my socks and shoes, sprayed a liberal amount of sunscreen on my face, and got my helmet and sunglasses on. There is a steep-ish hill coming out of the transition area onto the street, so I was sure I had my bike in its lowest gear as to not drop my chain or fall over within the first few yards of the bike portion.

Official T1 time: 2:54

Jeff was there snapping photos and it felt great to be on the bike. Best of all, the skies were still overcast!

Click here for Part 3!

Barb’s Race – Mission Accomplished!

August 1, 2011 Fitness 3 Comments

I’m suffering from a severe hangover today. The highs and lows from the weekend have left me emotionally and physically spent.

I’ll be back with more details, but here are my race splits:

SWIM – 32:43
T1 – 2:54
BIKE – 3:00:12
T2 – 4:25
RUN – 2:22:02

TOTAL: 6:02:15

I didn’t exactly hit my goal of finishing under 6 hours (my disastrous run is the very obvious culprit), but close enough. At least I was smiling at the finish line this year!

To Chase Or Be Chased?

July 18, 2011 Fear, Fitness, Friends No Comments

I was having lunch today with a couple of girlfriends who just completed the Vineman 70.3 race yesterday. It’s the same course as Barb’s Race that I’m doing on July 30, so I was getting the nitty gritty race details from those in the know. I love hashing it all out!

I was remarking that Caryn and I are doing Barb’s Race together, but we are not in the same age group. I’m younger, so I will likely start 5-10 minutes ahead of her. She has been razzing me about my mental block on the run, talking smack about how she’ll be “chasing me down.” Admittedly, this scare tactic is working.

Do you push harder when you’re chasing someone? Or being chased?

I think I push harder when being chased. When Greg and I ride together, I’ll purposely try to get a head start on him and push as hard as I can to see how far I can make it before he catches me. I attribute this internal competitiveness to my improved bike speeds in recent years. At the race, I know I’ll be pushing to make it as far as I can before (IF?!) Caryn catches up to me.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 50-mile bike ride + 5K run

Monday – 2400-yard swim

Tuesday – 20-mile bike ride + 3 mile run

Wednesday – 90 minutes yoga + 2100 yard swim

Thursday – 5 mile hill run

Friday – OFF

Saturday – 52 mile bike ride + Tracy Anderson

Wildflower 2011 – Goals Revisited

May 8, 2011 Fitness 2 Comments

It has been a crazy busy week! Let’s talk about the goal setting I did for Wildflower and my accomplishments toward them.

1. Sub-30 minute swim. I hesitate to write this. I was solidly on track for a great swim this year before the rotator cuff injury. I worked hard on my swimming all winter and even had a great first (and possibly only) pre-race open water swim. My time last year was 0:30:36 and I really want to break the 30-minute barrier this year.

Success! My swim time was 27:37 — shocking! I felt really slow in the water. I was out of breath for most of it and had trouble getting into a rhythm. I had to keep reminding myself to focus on displacing water, not just moving my arms in some sort of swimming fashion. I remembered looking at my watch at the turnaround point last year and it read 17 minutes. I was apprehensive to look this year, fearing it would be much slower than that. Much to my delight, it read 14 minutes! I finished the last straight-away strong and was thrilled when my watch read 27:33 as I stepped out of the water. Greg missed me coming out of the water because I was so fast!

I made the mistake of playing Stomp Rocket with the kids in the campground on Saturday night. Not thinking about my shoulder, I made several lunges to catch the rockets and my shoulder definitely felt the pull. I took 4 ibuprofen about 2 hours before the race and hoped for the best. It didn’t feel great during the swim, but not bad enough to be a real nuisance. It was obvious I was doing more pulling with my left arm because I’d tend to drift toward the right when I’d swim for any length of time without spotting myself. It has been a month since the accident and it isn’t getting any better, so I guess it’s time to have it checked out by a professional.

2. Faster transitions. My transition times last year were horrendous at 4:40 and 2:12, respectively. Admittedly, it’s a long run up the boat ramp from the water to the far side of the transition area… but I am clearly not being as efficient as possible once I get to my spot. Maybe I should practice this week like these guys?

Partial success. I reduced my overall transition time from 6:52 to 5:46, cutting 1:18 from T1 alone! But T2 went up by 8 seconds and I’m not sure why. It felt fast, I didn’t screw around with sunscreen or anything in the transition area. I don’t know what happened… All in all, I’m happy with my transitions. The transition area is huge, so just running across it from one entrance to the other exit would take at least a minute without stopping to change things out.

3. No walking. Before you write me off as a pussy, let me explain. There are actually people who RECOMMEND walking the hills on this course, saving their legs for the flat and downhill sections. This is not my run strategy. I tested both approaches in my training over the last three weeks and I shaved 2:30 off my run time by running all the hills (even though my lungs were burning and my HR was nearing danger levels the first time). My problem is this: my tendency is to leave everything I have out on the bike course. This is a hilly run course — 518 ft of elevation gain over 6.2 miles — and it is very exposed. My race starts at 10:35 AM, which will put me on the run course around 12:30 PM. My goal is to run all of it.

Fail. I went into the run knowing that it could be a disaster and I’d still break 3 hours overall. With a 3-minute improvement on the swim, at least a 1 minute improvement on the transitions, and a couple of minutes gained on the bike (by my watch), I knew I had some wiggle — or make that walk — room. I ran the first half and made it probably halfway up the long hill on the back side of the course before I gave in. No one in my age group had passed me and I could speed-walk as fast as some of these people were running. I ran up the last couple of small hills, taking Greg by surprise as he camped out at the top of Mile 5. I sailed down the hill for a strong finish!

4. Finish sub-3:00. Last year’s official race time was 3:00:07. I’d really like to come in under the three hour mark and I think it’s possible. If I plan to shave a couple of minutes on both transitions AND the swim and the run, this is doable. Right? Tell me my math works. My bike leg was very good last year at 1:29 and my cycling has been inconsistent this year. I don’t know that I can expect to do much better than that this year, especially since one of my goals is to leave enough for a strong run. I hope my savings in the other areas are enough…

Success! My official finish time was 2:55:40. Hooray! Considering I wasn’t in the mood to race that day and I didn’t feel like I gave it a full 100%, I am thrilled with the outcome. My stomach was very upset after the race because I took 3 AccelGels over the course of the three hours. I don’t train with them because I know they upset my stomach, but I also know they are great for quick energy in a race situation. I need to find a real food substitute — maybe an Amazeball. Does anyone have any other ideas?

I am considering this year an overall success! The Olympic distance — 0.9 mile swim + 24.8 mile bike + 6.2 mile run — is a really manageable distance, and it’s great to have the first race complete. I’m toying with the idea of Ironman Canada 2012 and I’ll have to do the long course (or some 70.3 distance race) in May if I commit. The long course at Wildflower scares me greatly, especially after watching Greg and Kidder suffer through it this year… Luckily, I have time to decide!

Next up: Bay to Breakers!

Race Recap: Title 9K

November 10, 2010 Fitness, Friends No Comments

Sunday was the First Annual Title 9K: Women on the Run. This logo is on the race shirt and I really like it. What are YOU running for? One of the options is “More Wine”!

I signed up with several friends about a month ago –some running, some walking, all of us looking forward to a fun morning together. This run was one week before my final race of the 2010 season and I was looking forward to it. I knew Caryn and I would be running together and that would help keep my motivation up for a strong finish. To say that I have been lacking in the motivation department for the last few weeks is quite an understatement…

It was a beautiful week in the Bay Area, especially considering it was the first week of November. Temperatures in the mid-70s and calm. PERFECT. By Saturday afternoon, we were all aware of the forecast: rain and wind. Unfortunately for the 1100 women who had signed up for the event, the meteorologists predicted correctly this time. It rained throughout the night on Saturday and we woke up to a cold and soggy race day.

Luckily this wasn’t one of those crack-of-dawn starts and I met my friends in Palo Alto for a 9 AM start. They had a Fun Run for the kids prior to the start of the race so we all stood around getting wet waiting for our turn. I don’t mind running in the rain at all, but standing around in it is no fun. Jane’s smile is genuine — she came fully prepared in her Gore-Tex!

Mirella was running her first race since having her twin boys two years ago and trained with an iPhone app that assured her she was ready for the race. Jane and Suzie were walking with Suzie’s mom Mike. Kriss was the one who got us all signed up for the event, though she had to travel to London at the last minute for a work assignment. I bet she was glad to miss it! Caryn was here with a couple of friends she had recruited as well.

The announcer finally called us over to get lined up. Caryn and I headed for the 8-minute mile pace marker. We were the only ones there! I have never been at the front of the pack before! I was actually kind of nervous about it, and luckily more people showed up (even a handful in the 7-minute mile group). Even so, it felt pretty good knowing I was in the “fast group.”

With the half marathon just one week away, I was looking at this as a test to see if I could hold a steady pace for the ~6 miles. Caryn and I agreed to push ourselves to hold 8-minute miles since I usually settle into a pretty comfortable 8:30 pace during my training runs. What would I do without my Garmin?! For me it becomes kind of an obsession, watching my pace and making adjustments on the fly.

The course was a nice loop through the Palo Alto Baylands. We made our way through an office park, then turned onto the trails. We fought a pretty steady headwind on the way out, so I was happy to make the turn just past 2 km. I held my pace pretty well, as did the others running in this group. Caryn fell back a bit, so I slowed down a couple of times to wait and see if she’d catch up. She wasn’t making a push to meet me, so I sped up to keep my average pace. It stopped raining for a little while around 3-4 km, but then started back up before we finished. Did I mention we were running on a dirt trail? Make that a MUD TRAIL.

Everything felt pretty good and steady, and I knew I’d finish right about where I wanted to. But by 7 km, I just wanted it to be over. My fingers were starting to go numb, my heart rate was high (170 bpm) pretty much the whole time, and I was just over it. Like I am the whole race season at this point… The distance between 8 km and 9 km felt more like a mile to me, but I finished strong amidst a cheering crowd. I was surprised at how many people came out to cheer us on! Caryn finished about 30 seconds behind me and we waited for our friends to come in.

Mirella’s pace was just over 9-minute miles and her twin boys stopped playing in the puddles to greet her when she came across the finish line. Jane, Suzie, and Mike turned around after about 30 minutes of walking to meet us back in the expo area rather than spend two hours walking in the miserable mud and rain. Smart!

Mirella had made a comment about enjoying a post-race beer, but there was none to be found in the expo area. Not to worry, she had brought some in the car! We retreated to the parking lot and celebrated.

After chugging the beer to get out of the rain, I drove directly to the gym to sit in the 170-degree sauna. I lasted 20 minutes without a break because I was so chilled. I then swam a lap in the pool down to the hot tub and sat in there for 5 minutes. Ahhhhh. I could finally feel my fingers and toes again!

Race results:
9K (5.95 mi by my Garmin) 48:04
7/158 in age group
32/910 overall

The Rest of the Story

July 22, 2010 Family, Fitness, Food, Friends, Fun 1 Comment

While I didn’t love listening to talk radio in the car as a kid, I learned to perk up when Paul Harvey would provide a factual tale with a twist at the end. Here’s the rest of the story of the Vineman Half Ironman. Can you find the twist?

Greg is pretty much a triathlon machine and a man of few words, so there won’t be all the belly-aching about training and emotions that you got with my race recap. Since I’m writing it and this blog is about me, it’ll mostly be about what I felt about his training and what I felt about his feelings.

WHAT?! You’re still reading?!

If you are, good news! Of course, I’m just kidding. This is a story about a great event and the fun you can have as a spectator. After reading this, I’m sure that everyone will want to go next year! Triathlon is not a quintessential “spectator sport,” but I have a few tricks up my sleeve to prove the average spectator wrong on that front.

You might remember me talking about Mike Kidder from Kansas City. He’s the one that talked me into doing a 70.3 in the first place… He and his wife Melanie came to town as well as our friends Mike and Nancy from Santa Barbara. Mike Kidder was here to participate in the Vineman triathlon (the other Mike completed his 70.3 in Kona in June). Our friends Mike and Tiffany joined us from the Bay Area as well. We had a full house of Mikes, competitors, and spectators!

Mike & Tiff were kind enough to offer up FREE accommodations in Occidental, which we promptly accepted. The three cottages on the property were exactly what I had expected — rustic and secluded. The environment was quiet, tucked away in the trees between the coast and the real world. Melanie and I enjoyed a vodka drink at our house while we packed everything up, then made it through a bottle of pre-made sangria I had picked up from Whole Foods while in the car — and all before hitting the Russian River Brewing Co. and dinner in Santa Rosa. You might call it spectator training for the big event! In the cottages that night, we enjoyed good wine we had brought from home, served out of coffee mugs that were available in our cottage. Melanie and Mike were on Kansas City time and she was the first to, shall we say, “retire” for the evening.

We woke up in a coastal fog on Saturday morning and it was quite chilly. The rest of the gang went in to Occidental for breakfast while I went for a 5-mile run along a less-traveled road through the hills and trees. Kidder and Greg packed up their gear for the transition from bike to run (this is a two-transition course) and we finally headed out for packet pick-up just as the sun was breaking through the fog. This is the 20th Anniversary of the Vineman event and a record number of competitors were registered (remember that I couldn’t get in?). We must have hit the Expo area at the right time — or maybe wrong time, as it was in the heat of the afternoon — because it wasn’t packed. We milled about there and made our way down to Johnson’s Beach so that the guys could splash around in the river they’d be swimming the following day. The rest of us proceeded to snack and drink and soak up the rays, just as we’d be doing the following day… It was a great day on the river!

Knowing that there’s often too much to do on the night before a race, I had prepared a big roasting pan of chicken parmesan ahead of time and brought along “homemade” pasta sauce, pasta, and enough fresh CSA greens for the whole crowd to enjoy on Saturday night… but then our crowd grew, and the oven didn’t work, and we all just conceded, “Let’s go out!” We ventured back into Occidental and settled in at Negri’s Italian Restaurant. Dinner out with a crowd of 10 takes longer than you want it to and we didn’t get out of there until after 10 PM. As usual, the guys still had a bit of race prep to do before setting their alarms for a 5:30 AM wake-up call. The night before a race is never what you want it to be.

Race day! We were up early and despite the sunshine outside, I was in a bit of a fog. I honestly can’t tell you how Kidder and Greg felt… When I asked, they mentioned they were hungry and there were several jokes tossed around about me being “drunk helpful girl” before going to bed, insisting on getting up at 4 AM to fix eggs and bacon. THANK GOD THEY DIDN’T HOLD MY FEET TO THAT FIRE. We loaded up about 15 minutes later than planned and headed to Guerneville. Melanie and I sent our men off with kisses and well-wishes and made haste for the Starbucks.

SWIM
Swimming is Kidder’s strongest sport — by far. Melanie and I were standing on a foot bridge over the Russian River, so we could see all competitors pass beneath us on their out and back trips. Pretty cool! Greg’s wetsuit has a bright yellow back (and is the only one of its kind that I’ve ever seen), so we knew we’d be able to spot him quickly. Our guys were set to start at 7:58 AM and had bright red caps on. As the red caps swam beneath us, we spotted Greg and knew that Kidder should have been ahead of him. We couldn’t find him and figured we’d missed him. On their trip back under the bridge just before the finish, we spotted Mike first and Greg was not far behind. Their times were great from our estimations (30:19 with ~300 yards to go)! We found out after the race that Kidder was still in line for the porta-potty when his race started. For some crazy reason, these race officials allowed spectators to use the same bathrooms as competitors. This was “important business” so Kidder did what he had to and subsequently started the race 4 minutes behind the rest of his wave. It didn’t matter; HE SWIMS LIKE A FISH. When we were able to check the final results, it turns out that he finished the swim in 25:49 and was the first man out of the water in his age group (the timing started when he got in the water) — beating 245 other men. What an amazing feat! He finished 13th in the swim overall, among 1259 competitors! Greg finished in a respectable 33:45.

BIKE
We had a great vantage point for all cyclists coming out of the transition area and making their first couple of turns onto the bike course. Greg had a fast transition (2:45) and we saw him very quickly after the swim finish. Kidder isn’t known for fast transitions (his was 5:54) and we knew they’d be gone for about 2h30m if Greg was on track to meet his race goals. This meant a transition for us spectators as well. Melanie and I met up with Mike & Tiff to assess our own race goals. On Saturday, we had visited the Safeway and purchased enough beverages to satisfy a small fraternity. It was just after 9 AM and Melanie quickly mixed up a bloody mary (I was driving) while we all snacked on chips and dip, looking at the map for the next vantage point. We decided the best idea was to head over to the bike/run transition area, which was also the finish. We’d be able to see everyone coming in from the bike, out for the run, and in to the finish.

By the time we got over there on the back roads, the sun was coming out and we all shed a layer of clothing once we found parking. There, we fixed up Leg 2 of our drink-athlon: blueberry vodka + Crystal Light lemonade. Delicious and refreshing! We packed a bag with our libations, a few snacks, and our cameras. Positioned at the bike dismount, we got to see everyone come in — Kidder and Greg, several friends from Santa Barbara and the EDH Tri Club, and friends of Mike & Tiff. We were in the right spot! Greg finished about where he wanted to at 2:32 and Mike came in about where he expected to at 3:11. They were quick in T2 (2:47 and 3:08, respectively) and we settled in for the last leg.



RUN
After two 32-oz Nalgene bottles of vodka drinks, Melanie and Tiffany were close friends by this point, I encountered pretty much everyone I knew in the triathlon community, and the world was a very sunny place (literally and drinkatively). Unless disaster struck on the run, we knew the guys would finish with flying colors and we’d all be celebrating — as long as their stomachs held out. The three of us girls cut each other off on story after story, all the while cheering competitors out on their run (“only 13.1 to go!”) and congratulating those just finishing (“just around the corner!”). With a run split of 1:43:44, we damn near missed Greg with all of this chatter! He came by looking tired but good and finished at 4:55:47. He wanted to finish in under 5 hours and he did it! We ran to the race finish to meet him there with hugs and good cheer. After Greg grabbed some post-race food and drink, he, Melanie and I headed back out to our vantage point to wait for Kidder’s finish. It was quite a sight as both Greg and Melanie ran with Mike as he turned the corner into the final gates at the finish. With a run time of 1:59:19, he finished in 5:45:30. Hooray!

POST-RACE
We wrapped up at the finish line area and the guys were gracious enough to postpone showers and rest to grant Melanie her one wish: to visit a tasting room on this visit to Wine Country. We drove the race course back out to La Crema, a race sponsor and the winery the runners had to circle, and found their only tasting room is in downtown Healdsburg. Off we went!  In addition to great wine (our third leg of the drink-athlon), Melanie got a cute T-shirt at La Crema and Kidder surprised me with a generous gift from Stephen & Walker Wines for “taking his challenge” of completing a Half Ironman this year. I was in tears with gratitude and friendship. Keep in mind , Melanie and Mike are the ones that introduced me and Greg. They are friends of the highest order!

After the guys showered at the cottage, we headed to dinner at a favorite place of ours — River’s End in Jenner. Mike (of Mike & Tiff) was sober enough to drive the rest of us tired and drunk “competitors” along the windy roads out to the coast. We got there just in time to see the sunset where the Russian River meets the ocean. Greg’s dinner recommendation did not disappoint and we all enjoyed fantastically fresh food and a race recap from everyone’s perspective. Of note, the clam chowder was different and better than any I have ever had. Of course, there was more wine served as well.

We got up on Monday morning and, luckily, Greg and Kidder weren’t too sore to pack up everything from our cottages to head home. We all thanked our gracious hostess and loaded up in the Element. Melanie hadn’t trained properly for her first drink-athlon and was not feeling her best. To this I said, “Bloody mary, anyone? I like mine with a twist.”

And now you know… the rest of the story.

Independence Day!

I did the un-American thing and celebrated Independence Day in Canada this year. For me, it was all about completing my Half Ironman race and being “free” from the intense training that has been my existence for the past six months. While I missed some fantastic weather and a barbecue with friends back in California, this was my weekend to make good on a new year’s resolution and six months of training. Bring it on!

My expectations going into the race were to finish in under six hours and not want to kill myself in the process. I’m already a week late in getting this updated, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer:

Swim – 36:39
T1 – 4:19
Bike – 3:05:13
T2 – 2:58
Run – 1:50:44
Total = 5:39:51

SUCCESS IS MINE!

Well, kind of. I pretty much wanted to kill myself by the time I finished. But, I didn’t have a blunt object handy so I was left with no choice but to grind it out. The taste of victory was strangely identical to the salty saliva that fills your mouth just before you vomit, so I can’t recommend it. However, I chased that with some chocolate milk at the finish line and the world started coming into focus again.

Grab a drink and settle in for all the gory details, including many lessons learned:

PRE-RACE

My start time was 6:30 AM, so it was an early morning. I got up at 4:45 AM and felt like I had slept pretty well, which is rare for me the night before a race. Having packed everything the night before, the morning ritual at the hotel was short (though I got up early because I wanted extra time to get things moving in my GI tract). I got up and ate a piece of peanut butter toast and a banana, as well as 16 oz. of FRS. I got dressed in my new tri suit and a pullover and woke Greg up to head down to the race site at 5:30. I ate a yogurt in the car and had a glass of Trader Joe’s Essential Greens Veggie Juice + Very Green Juice Blend to simulate the concoction we make at home.  The weather was overcast and ~55 degrees (F) on race morning.

I picked up my timing chip on the way into the transition area (usually they give it to you when you pick up your packet — I’m not sure why it was separate for this race). I got my transition area set up and went back out for body marking and a final visit to the porta-potty (I had my single-use Handi-Wipe ready to go. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way at a previous race). I caught up with Greg and Argus as I was putting on my wetsuit and we made our way down to the beach. Greg snapped a couple of pre-race photos, I splashed around in the water with Argus, and we parted ways.

This sounds so obvious now, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me at the time. I was talking with a fellow competitor — a man who is 50+ years old — and he told me that he did this event last year and came in DEAD LAST in the swim. I had to admire him for coming back for another beating. He asked me if I knew about the “tides.” He was referring to the currents of the ocean and that they were quite strong in one direction. In other words: Don’t swim straight for the buoy because you’ll miss it. Thank goodness for this man! Again, it seems so obvious now, but my head wasn’t thinking about that and I’m chalking it up to a lesson learned.

We wished each other good luck and I got my goggles and ear plugs in place for my start. My stomach was doing its usual pre-race clenching. My adrenaline was pumping and I knew I was ready.

SWIM

The water temps were about 60 (F) and were warmer than the air temps so it felt good to get in. I splashed around and did about 25 yards of strokes to warm up before the race start, which is something I rarely do. I think it probably helped, so lesson learned there. I knew from reading the race materials that this was a “cattle call” start and there would be no waves: everyone doing the long course was starting together.

The start of a swim is never pleasant, and it’s usually limited to ~150 people. This start was probably ~400 people, both men and women. If it sounds unpleasant, multiply that by a zillion and you’re getting close to reality. For people who are really frightened of open water swimming or otherwise claustrophobic, this is a living nightmare. There are arms and legs and torsos and open mouths everywhere. I was no more than 20 strokes in when I looked up to spot myself and the first buoy. I happened to meet eyes with a male swimmer just ahead of me who had LOST HIS GOGGLES. Oh dear! He was frantically looking all around, to no avail. There were too many people and too much chaos. I felt bad for him, knowing that he had ~1.1 miles left to go and he would have to do it without eye protection. Lesson learned: I’ll tether my goggles to my wetsuit next time.

I hoped I’d finish the swim in about 35 minutes and this was a 2-loop course. When I exited the water after one lap, my watch read 18 minutes. Having to come into shore, run around a buoy, then swim back out adds time and the water was very choppy. By the time I started out for my second lap, the crowds had thinned considerably and I was able to settle in. It was a triangle-shaped course and I felt like I could “relax” and swim with the current on the straight-away, which helped me mentally. I got out of the water in just over 36 minutes (by my watch) and I was pleased with this. The swim exit was the usual uphill run on a sandy beach, which is surprisingly difficult.

BIKE

I am not fast in the transition area and I don’t care too much about it. I don’t want to be over 5 minutes, but I’m otherwise happy to take a breather and make sure I have what I need for the next leg. I got to the transition area faster than my neighbor Richele (who finished in 2nd place overall). She’s a Vancouver local and mentioned that the swim course was much rougher than it was last year, so I had a little more confidence with my swim finish going into the bike leg. In my new tri suit, I couldn’t find the back pocket to stow my banana, so I opted to carry it rather than risk losing it. I ran out of the transition area and made a quick mount onto my bike at the appropriate line. I felt confident, having ridden the course the day prior.

Even with cycling as my strongest suit, this was not a great ride. Having to do four loops on the same course made the “flat” course less flat. Overall elevation gain was 2041 ft; it wasn’t the Death Ride by any means, but it wasn’t a ride along the Bay Trail either. The course was good for spectators and it was good to see Greg and Argus on an out and back each time. Otherwise, it was mentally defeating to have to do the same short course over and over and over and over again. It just wasn’t fun. At the second loop, I couldn’t tell where I was among my competition because the Sprint Distance athletes were on the course and there was a lot of traffic on the road. It was a little stressful, actually, based on the stern talking-to we had gotten related to drafting. Rather than trying to compete against others, I settled in with myself. I knew I needed to average somewhere around 18 mph to finish the bike leg in ~3 hours. This would leave me enough time to have a disastrous run and still finish in under six hours overall. I was averaging over 18 mph after the first loop and never dropped below, so I knew I was well-positioned. Traffic cleared out by Loop 3 and I engaged in a little meditation to help pass the time. This really helped me calm down and level-set myself mentally. I made my last climb up the hill at UBC while Greg cheered me on. Argus was growing weary from all the excitement… I finished with an average pace of 18.2 mph and knew I had time on my side going into the run. And that is a good thing!

RUN

If you want proof to the idea that “You get what you think about whether you want it or not,” this run is it. I have been afraid of completing this race for many weeks now. It hasn’t been about swimming 1.2 miles. It hasn’t been about biking 56 miles. It hasn’t even been about running 13.1 miles. It has been about running 13.1 miles AFTER doing those other two things. Because cycling is my strongest sport, it’s hard for me to not leave it all out on the bike course. By doing this, I don’t leave enough in my legs for the run. This race was no exception. Why can’t I learn this lesson?? I got out of the transition area and realized almost immediately that I had forgotten my water bottle (which I had dropped a Nuun tablet into). Damn! I’d have to get water and gels only when they were available to me at aid stations. About 2 miles in, I realized that I was toting along about 60 oz of fluids in my bladder and it wanted out. This just makes an uncomfortable situation nearly unbearable. I’m not so die-hard that I’ll pee down my leg and into my shoe, but the potties weren’t so conveniently located that I could make a quick entry and exit… So I held it, all the while continuing to drink at every aid station as my body threatened to bonk again. There is probably a lesson here, but I’m still not convinced that spending the extra time to go in a potty is worth it (especially in a one-piece tri suit)…

It’s a two-loop run course that is basically a Figure-8. The first couple of miles are through a nice wooded section of trails that loops back to the transition area, then you head out along the coast for an out-and-back along the waterfront. I got into a pretty good groove around mile 5 or so and thought I’d be able to knock out the second loop at a reasonably steady pace. Just as I was coming out of an aid station where I was complimented for the third time on my great tan, I made a turn onto the sidewalk. About 5o yards down, a fellow athlete came up behind me and gave me a big shove!

Actually, that’s not what happened at all.

I wish my story was juicy like that. The truth of the matter is my feet got caught on each other and I did a windmilling arms + cartoon-fast-feet stumble that resulted in a fall. DOH!! I don’t know why I didn’t put my hands down, but my elbows took the brunt with a slight assist by the left knee. After a very quick assessment of my injuries, I was back up and running. I ran a few hundred feet and then stopped to walk and assess the damage further. My body quickly filled with adrenaline, so I used it and ran on. I looked and looked for Greg and finally saw him — what a welcome sight! As you can imagine, he was a bit aghast to see me dripping blood. I slowed down for a quick photo and ran on, more miserable than ever. My mind was working on me.

I kept a keen eye on my race watch that was chronicling my overall time (my Garmin was tracking my individual events). I knew I had a little time to burn, so I made the most of walking through the water stations and even stopped at one to stretch out my right glute. I was really miserable and I knew I was down to a mind-over-matter finish. I hated every minute of those last five miles. I was bitter. I was angry. My legs were cramping and my head was dizzy. It was all I could do to mentally talk myself to the turn-around point and then talk myself to when I would next see Greg. When I saw him, I was near tears and begging him, “I need you to run with me! I need you to be there with me at the end!” And he did! Argus was safe in the car and Greg ran with me the last half-mile or so to the finish, talking me in the whole way. I was so elated to look up at the race clock and see 5:39 as I finished!!

POST-RACE

From there, my emotions consumed me. I could not contain my tears and the physical pain hadn’t even begun to set in… I don’t know how to describe it. Greg wasn’t quite sure what to do. I was bleeding all over and crying semi-uncontrollably, so I’m sure he was a bit overwhelmed. The other race participants were very nice and concerned about my wounds as we commiserated in the recovery tent. I felt so grateful to have finished within my expected time and so spent from the exertion. It’s very hard to explain. When I called my parents later, my mother said, “Now you know what it’s like to have a baby. You work so hard for this moment for so many months and you go through all of the effort and then it’s done. There’s nothing left to do but cry.” For me, the good news is, I got a medal and a few bragging rights for my efforts and not a baby!! Ha!

I knew my age group was a shallow field and I felt like I had done well, so I made Greg stay for the awards ceremony. In the meantime, I visited the Medic Tent to have my scuffed elbows fixed up and we got my gear packed up from the transition area. I was admittedly disappointed when they announced the third place winner in my age group and it wasn’t me… By the time we got back to the hotel, a friend on my Facebook page told me I had earned fourth place. Damn!

My post-race shower was nothing but fire. Let’s see, I had the wounds on both elbows and one knee from the fall, I had additional chafing in unmentionable places and realized only at that moment that I had small chafe wounds in every spot there was a seam on my new tri suit. My entire body was on fire. So much for the hot tub later! I got dressed and found my cheering section completely exhausted, napping together on the bed. Triathlons are hard work for everyone involved!

If there had been fireworks and a bonfire with s’mores at the finish line, my Independence Day would have been over the moon. I settled for a handful of Advil and many accolades from my virtual cheering section via Facebook and text messages.  It was a wonderful day (in a very masochistic way, of course)!!