Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vineman. When You Start to Sizzle, You Move Your Ass.

As usual, for the math geeks and the short attention spanners, here are the numbers:

Swim (Watch split): 0:35:28
T1 (approx): 0:04:10
Bike: 3:02:50
T2: 0:07:01
Run: 3:06:03
Total Time: 6:55:34

Race day dawned before I got up, which was pretty cool. I was lucky enough to have an early start, at 7:02 AM in wave 5. Riding down to the start I had my first thought about how different this race was going to be, since all I had on my back was my mesh Zoot bag. That's right, no transition bag for this race. The Zoot bag contained a pretty minimal kit, too. Wetsuit, flip flops, body glide, goggles, swim cap and sunblock. Everything else I would need before T2 was attached to the bike.

I was strangely calm as we got into transition. I didn't even use my ipod or go through any of my pre-race jitters. Seems like before I knew it, it was 10 minutes to start and I said good luck to a few friends and headed down to the water.

The horn sounded and I took off. I had a little crowd control problem in the first hundred yards or so, but I got clear and found a rhythm pretty fast. I made my along the line of buoys and the only thing that worried me was that every time I hit the one I'd been sighting on, there was another pair. I really wished I had counted them ahead of time so I would have known where the turn was. I'd been warned ahead of time about how shallow the river got in places, but I wasn't ready to grab muck before the halfway point, or to swim into the legs of someone who had stood up to walk at the turn. I don't think he was ready to fall on his ass either, so we'll call it even. Around the turn and into the back stretch I ran into problems. Navigational problems that is. I realized how far off I was when I got close to the bridge and realized I was headed to the wrong side of the leg. I made a hard jag back toward center, only to get stuck behind a frog-kicking girls from a wave or two ahead of me. She wound up getting her ankle grabbed as I jerked past her. Sorry. And then it was out of the water. Final watch split: 00:35:28, my slowest half iron swim so far, but still nothing to sneeze at.

Pretty clean, considering I had to get my swim gear off, bike gear on and the whole shebang repacked into the Zoot bag so it could get moved to T2. I was really looking forward to those flip-flops. 4 minutes or so and I was on the bike.

This bike course rocks. Apart from some rough, narrow roads, it's not technical. It's mostly flat/rolling and a lot of it even has shade. As I came up on the first turn, I felt like I was on a course to make my first goal of the race, which was to finish the bike under 3 hours. I know, it was way too early to feel like that, but I did. A couple miles in, I was approaching a hard right turn into a short, steep climb and there's a volunteer yelling STOP!. Right about then I hear the siren and jam on the brakes. My back wheel starts to slide, but I get my foot out and keep from falling, stopping about a foot shy of the side of a moving ambulance. Not a good sign.

The ambulance passes and I start riding again, from a cold stop up the steep hill. I start talking to the guy next to me about how that just totally messed up our rhythm. Strangely, he agrees with me. We crest the hill and there's another volunteer saying there's been an accident and we'll have to get off our bikes. Also not good. A few hundred yards later, we see the ambulance and a giant tree across the road. There's a cluster of bikers standing there waiting to walk under the tree. There's a fire truck and a cop car on the other side. Going under, I realize that there's a guy under the tree. The paramedics are trying to get him onto a backboard. I shudder.

Clear of the tree, we take off. The guy next to me asks whether I think having a tree fall on you is more or less likely than getting hit by lightning. I have no idea, but I know he's drafting, so I accelerate away. Within the next mile I heard one crash behind me, and then heard another one and turned just in time to see the guy slide into the embankment.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I felt strong pretty much the whole time. I remembered my lesson from Wildflower and had 6 scoops of CarboPro and 3.5 Nuun tabs spread across 2 water bottles. My other two were plain water. I exchanged two bottles at the first aid station and rode away with more water and a bottle of Gatorade. I never touched my Gus, but I never felt hungry. It must have worked too, because I also never cramped up on the bike.

My only moment of trouble came on the way up Chalk Hill when I suddenly found myself unable to shift into my easiest gears. WTF? At least it wasn't Wildflower. Chalk hill isn't particularly rough, except that it's at mile 42 or so and you're past the last aid station. I stood up, powered up it and dropped back into aero on the other side.

Not too long later, I was in T2, feeling good but a little disappointed that my dead reckoning split was 3:05. Turns out it was 3:02, but I think that without the attack tree I would have made it under.


This is just sort of embarrassing. I got to my spot pretty quick, but I had trouble getting my ice jug open. Then the guy next to me on the rack showed up and wanted to chat about the tree. Finally, I had to wrestle out of my jersey and into my Barney Butter jersey, which required a fresh application of Body Glide to my sides and chest. The jersey tore me up at Longhorn and I didn't want to have that experience again. I finally got out on the run 7 minutes later. Need to work on that.


This was an unstated, though internal goal of mine. Run at least half of the course. I'm pretty sure I did it too, though my time doesn't bear it out. It took about 3 miles for my legs to loosen up from the ride. What has two thumbs and needs to work his bike to run transition? That's right, this guy.

Anyway, once my legs loosened up, I found a pretty good rhythm and was able to run more than walk for most of the way out to the turnaround at La Crema Winery. I didn't see many friends on the way out, except for Chris and Joanna, my fellow Barney Butter-ites. I got a confused look from Chris when I called his name, but had a quick chat with Jo as she passed me. Somewhere past the big hill, I heard the following, which threw me for a second: "The sexy thing is that you're running."

And then Brian Melekian ran past me, looking like he wasn't working at all. We had a quick shouted chat and I was on my own again.

Around this point, I still wasn't hungry, but I had a Gu and a salt tab, just to be safe. I still felt good, although the temperature was climbing. When I got to La Crema, I grabbed a couple of fig newtons at the aid station, along with water and Gatorade. Bad idea on the newtons. I couldn't chew them. I choked one down like prison penance and threw the other two away. On the dirt path through the winery, I felt okay, but the heat and dust started to get to me, so I decided to walk around the first pond and run the second. Oops. The second one is way longer. As I crossed onto the trail, I ran into Derek from TNT and we made snarky comments before I ran on.

Derek caught me at the aid station where I made my second mistake and grabbed some flat cola. What kind of cola? What's a pirate's favorite cola? That's right ARRRRR-C cola! (You're welcome Ben and Mike.) This is supposed to be good on the run for some reason but all it was good for was making me burp.

I ran/walked with Derek for the next few miles, wondering why I hadn't seen more friends. Of course, as soon as I said something, we started seeing all sorts of San Diego TNT-ers. I also saw Dana and Paul about this point. At about mile 8, I had a second wind and Derek dropped off. I ran on through about mile 9.5 before I melted down. My calves started to cramp. And I don't mean "oh, that kind of hurts." I'm talking about mucles rippling up and down on the tendons twanging nerves like like badly tuned banjo strings. It got so bad that from mile 10 on, I couldn't run more than a hundred yards or so without the cramps coming back.

This is of course when I saw Gunn, Jason, Penny, Jodi, Robin and pretty much everyone I knew. Awesome.

I gritted my teeth and ran/stumbled my way out into the neighborhood where Betsy caught me at a walk and told me to run the last mile with her. I tried, but the calves rebelled and she pulled away. As I turned into Windsor High for the finish, I saw Iris heading out. I gave her a big high five and dug deep to find something to run through the finish.

I crossed the finish at a run, grabbed my medal and water and headed out to...realize I hadn't turned in my chip. I went back.

So what did I learn? A lot. I learned that it's okay to hold back and leave something in the tank for the run. I spent all last year burning down to the cinders on the bike because I knew that with my feet I wouldn't be able to run. I learned that 6 scoops of CarboPro is hard to choke down, but the 675 calories it give you is really useful. Especially on top of the bagel w/ peanut butter, glass of apple juice and clif bar I had for breakfast. That and 1 Gu (100 calories) was enough to put me through the race with more than enough fuel.

I learned that 3.5 Nuun tabs and 5 salt tabs isn't enough on a hot day. Given that I never felt tired or hungry, I have to chalk the muscle problems up to salt and lack of bricks.

Finally, I learned that my style of racing, which is definitely more relaxed than that of most of my friends, works for me. It's not for everyone, but I'm really digging racing on feel. I'm still happy with not having a computer on my bike, and with not using my heart rate to make speed decisions. I'm happy having my watch and taking splits but not really looking at them. I'm enjoying the races, even when they hurt, and that is progress.

So yeah, my swim was my slowest 1.2 miler and my run was longer than my bike again, but I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed my race and I wasn't destroyed afterward. In the final analysis, despite the issues I ran my fastest 70.3 to date and accomplished my only major goal, which was to break 7 hours. I call that a success.

I've got a lot to do to get ready for Pumpkinman and for the challenges to come, but this race showed me that I'm on the right track.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Holy Mother of God...

It's finally here. Tomorrow morning we hit the road for Guerneville and the long awaited running of Vineman. It feels a little bit weird, to be honest. We all signed up for this thing back in December which, for those of you playing along at home, was in 2008. Two thousand friggin' eight! This is by far the longest lead time I've ever had for a race and it's messing with my head, man.

I mean, I'm not worried about the race itself. The horn will go off at seven o-freakin' early on Sunday and I'll run into the water with the rest of the numbskulls who paid money for this and sometime later I'll finish and they'll hang a shiny thing on my neck. Hopefully, shortly thereafter, there will be beer.

It's just strange in that unlike any of the other races I've done, this one doesn't feel real. I'm not nervous. I'm not excited. I'm just ready to go do it already, but there's still 3 more days to get through. Sheesh!

Are we there yet? No, wait, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Don't turn the car around...oh, damn it all...

So that's it 'til after the race, kids. See ya at the finish.