Before I get into it, let me just say I'm savoring the 20-24 female age group. I know what's in store for me as of next season in 25-29 and beyond--believe me I'm terrified--so I'm enjoying the times spent on the podium now because either I improve by 1,000,000% come January, or I'm in store for a rude awakening.
But for now, I'll enjoy the present and fear the future later.
So Vineman 70.3. Here it goes...
Leading up to the race:
My mom and Iflew out of LAX Friday, and wouldn't you know--the freakin bathrooms at LAX broke. We had to use one of only TWO port-o-potties that were posted outside our terminal on the street of insane traffic. Really?
We got into town early, which was nice, but then realized we were stranded at the hotel (which, by the way was a great hotel with the nicest staff ever--I recommend it Vineman-ers). My dad, who was traveling all week for business, wouldn't be coming into town with the rental car until past midnight, so my mom and I worked our magic. We managed to get a $70-something rental car for a mere $17! Thanks Hertz guy at the airport!
Once we had wheels, we hit up the local Trader Joe's and Starbucks, then headed to Johnson's Beach in Guerneville (swim start), but I forgot directions. I have no innate navigational skills whatsoever, nor does my mom, so it took us a while to get there. Unlike dudes, I don't mind stopping at the local liquor store and asking the way. We finally made it to the beach, where I ran into Beth and James. Saturday I got in my last bike/run after picking up my bike from Tribike Transport. Legs felt good. I felt good.
We headed back to the Race Expo at Windsor HS, which was good foreshadowing of how race day weather would be: stifling hot. The whole afternoon was a sweat-fest. But it was still fun mingling with familiar faces, spending too much money on Vineman gear, setting up T2, etc.
Saturday night dinner was random but pretty cool. We met up with a business friend of my dad's and her family. Turns out the husband was an elite triathlete and endurance racer back in the day. We ate a sushi place--I love sushi, but had never eaten it pre-race so at first I decided to limit my raw fish intake. My chicken terriyaki wasn't that great, though, so I ended up stuffing my face with all the rolls and raw stuff available. And of course, I ordered my favorite: seaweed salad, yum! I prayed the wasabi, gooey green seaweed, raw fish, etc. wouldn't come back to haunt me Sunday morning.
In bed by 9:30 pm, asleep by 11-ish. As you can see, I get kinda hyper when I'm super tired or have racing on the brain...
After a couple snooze hits on the alarm, we were up and at 'em at 4 a.m. Power-protein-oatmeal cooked, coffee brewed, car loaded and in Guerneville by 5 a.m. I am all about being early to rule out any potential stressful situations. Even if I have to stand around for an extra hour. In this case, I just stared at the pros, who were racked right by me, and munched on a Clif bar.
The beach was surreal race morning. It was probably in the 60s out, so steam was coming off the 74- to 76-degree water. (Warmest race swim I've ever done.) I was taking in all the energy and beauty, while feeling the typical pre-race anxiety/anticipation/excitement/confidence/uncertainty.
Honestly, I didn't know what to expect performance-wise. I had calculated two finish times--my "slow" and "fast" time. There was a 30-min gap between them. Ha! My main goal was to beat my 5:40 at Oceanside. Good news: I beat Oceanside, and fell within the 30 minutes.
SWIM (~:35:30 min)
Once again, I didn't get in a true warm-up swim. So the first several minutes were spent trying breathe, rather than gasp for air, and find my pace. I was a little frantic. Then, of all things, my goggles got kicked off. They were down around my neck! Not cool for an already slow swimmer. Got them on and was OK but still didn't find my rhythm until maybe a 1/4 into it. I tried to concentrate on having a powerful stroke but not waste energy, as I'm not the most efficient swimmer. At the turn around, it got really shallow. Like maybe a foot deep. I was scraping sand and rocks for quite a while--I need to work on my dolphin kick. I also went off course a couple times too because I didn't really study where the curves in the swim were. I probably swam at least 1.4 miles. What a rookie. Still, I went about 4 minutes faster than Oceanside.
The plan was to throw my wetsuit and goggles at mom & dad instead of stuffing it in the T-bag. Plan worked. My mom said she was amazed at how fast I got off the wetsuit. I think my transitions have the potential to be my strongest legs of the race! I think this one was about 2.5 minutes. (Our swim and T1 times are lumped together on the splits)
This was the highlight of the race, despite witnessing some spine-chilling chaos. Right away there are lots of rolling hills on some bumpy highway, which meant bottles were flying off bikes like no other, and I had to focus on dodging them. Then at mile 6, the accident happened.
Apparently, a tree fell down and took out like three guys, on of which suffered some pretty bad injuries. I got there soon after it happened (I was in a early wave) so I avoided having to stop for 10 min. like others did once firetrucks arrived. I still had to get off my bike and crawl under the tree, though, while looking at a guy all bloody and hearing, "Don't worry, it's going to be ok, help is on the way." So scary!!!
After refocusing on the task at hand--biking--I noticed a girl on a decked-out bike with a rad purple racesuit on, who looked around my age. I had to catch her. Once I finally did, ironically, I recognized her! Her name is Sara Davis and she lives in San Clemente. When I worked for the SC Times full time, we did an article on her because she was winning a lot of triathlons, and I remember being slightly envious/jealous. We ended up chatting a bit, and ended up staying in each other's view for the rest of the bike, maybe 45 miles. It's crazy how our riding ability was identical. Without hesitation, we decided that we are now new riding partners since we live so close in the OC! We've already been in touch since the race and I can't wait to ride with her.
I was pretty happy with my bike split. The course was absolutely gorgeous--and, yes, I take the time to notice the sights, that's one of my favorite parts of being a triathlete logging in miles. I'd say the bike course is easier than Oceanside's, but it's still challenging. I was anticipating a struggle at the infamous Chalk Hill at mile 45--turned out to be steep, but nothing too insane (Oceanside climbs are gnarlier).
All in all, I averaged over 20 mph, went 12+ minutes faster than O-side, did all my nutrition correctly (Bottles of Hammer Perpetuem Vanilla-Orange, Water, Hammer Apple Cinnamon Gels and Vanilla Gu w/ caffeine), felt a little queezy at times, but generally I was strong.
It was so incredibly refreshing to get off the bike, but almost scary because I was weary if I would have it in me to bust out a quality half-marathon. Got on my shoes, grabbed my visor, Garmin and extra gels and was off.
RUN (an embarrassing 1:53:xx)
At this point, my plan was to stick with Sara (even though she is 25-29 and wasn't a direct threat); since she had a soccer background, I figured she was a good runner.
But she got ahead of me pretty much right away, and instead of sticking with her I decided to stay at my pace and not go out too hard. Soon into the run, I could feel an Oceanside repeat coming on. Where were my running legs dammit?! Add to that some nasty rolling hills and temperatures reaching into the 100s, and my run was not pretty. It was awful to say the least. A lot of rolling hills happen right off the bat, which sucked. But I kept on trucking and tried to focus on everything except the pain in my legs. Even my downhill running pace wasn't going well.
Meanwhile, I noticed Crowie heading back to the finish pretty far behind the lead guys, which was very odd! Then I saw Pip Taylor (1st) and the lead women fly by--they looked amazing. Then there's me: I was arguing with myself out loud to push on and not walk quite a few times. I wanted to stop. No joke. My saving grace was aid stations. Something to look forward to and an excuse to slow down a bit. I made a point to grab two waters from every aid station, one to drink one to pour on me. Also, the whole run I always had an open Hammer Gel or Gu w/ caffeine in my hand--I went through about three total. I did, however, forget to take my salt tabs. Thankfully, I never had any GI issues, which was one perk!
The turnaround at La Crema Winery was like a party--it should be, we were halfway out of the hellish heat! While going around the winery's lakes, I passed Whitney Handy. After the race, Whitney I were talking and said she saw me approaching her and was cursing out loud. Once I passed her, I'm not gonna lie--I kind of ran in fear that she'd soon pass me again. We talked about it and agree: we motivate each other. She's a damn amazing athlete. And when she dials in her run--watch out ladies! Here were are chatting after the race...
The last six miles of the run were a blur. Reality was staring back at me on my Garmin, where I saw an average pace of well over 8-min miles. My dreams of getting a 1:40 were laughable at that point! I've worked a lot on my run since Oceanside, but it's clear that I really have to get my act together. Still, it wasn't all bad news.
I crossed the finish line at 5:20. That's 20 minutes faster than my first half-Ironman, and I shaved time off all three--swim, bike, run. Plus, I didn't feel utterly dead when I crossed the finish line. Just half-dead. Ok, so I was delirious and hurting, but not as wrecked as O-side left me. Look at that face! Ridiculous hahaha Turns out Sara had finished just two minutes before me. So we sat there and hurt together for a while. Seriously, what are the odds that out of 2,000 racers I'd see her out on the course. Talk about meant to be! That guy on the left is hurting worse than we are it looks like... Here's me thinking "Get me out of this sun and ino some shade with a big ol' plate of food!!"
But before loading up on post-race food, I checked the computer to see my results: 3rd place in 20-24 age group! Another podium! Yaaayyyy! I missed 2nd place by a minute, missed first by like 40 minutes.
After eating some excellent post-race food and making a new cute friend, I had to get out of the heat and shower up. My cute friend and me....And my other, more handsome, friend...
It was right back to Windsor at 4 p.m. for awards. There I saw the typical podium peeps: Ian, who got 1st in 25-29 males, 2nd amateur overall, and Charisa, also 2nd amateur overall for the women. She's unbelievable--I want some of whatever she's got!
As for me.... getting 3rd in my AG earned me a spot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Fla. this November! I can't even describe how stoked I was/am!!! It was like Christmas came early. Thank God my mom remembered her check book cause I didn't remember anything on the trip--no debit card, no check book, only $20 cash and a credit card. The crowd laughed a bit when I ran up the bleachers to borrow money from my mom. Me and Ian sharing race stories... he had some good ones, check out his blog.
With the awards and good news, it was time to celebrate. I was not about to poop out and go to bed. So my parents and I headed back to Guerneville yet again to join Ian, his parents and the whole crew for dinner at their house. What a fun group of people! I swear, having good triathlete friends to share your experiences with really makes the sport that much better. Not to mention, they had some killer Mexican food. I of course had some wine, but between the race, drinks and just all the energy expended that day, I was fading quickly. Guess my plan to celebrate late into the night wasn't going to happen. I felt the eyelids getting heavy at like, ohhh, 8 p.m. Not quite a rockstar just yet.
After the race, it was so nice to have that extra million pounds of pressure disappear. Being done with a big race is the best feeling, and now having another 70.3 to train for is the best outcome I could have asked for.
We woke up at 4 a.m. again on Monday to catch a flight back home. My dumbass wasn't thinking straight and tried to smuggle my winning bottle of wine and CO2 cartridges on the plane. That created a bit of havoc. Airline people must think we triathletes are just insane with all the crap we lug around--I also had my seatpost, saddle and Carbon Wing in my carry-on bag, which put quite a puzzled look on the security guard's face. And as soon as I got home, I repacked and headed down to San Clemente within an hour to get back to work and house sit. As demanding as work is right now, I'm on such a high that it's impossible to be in a bad mood. Thankful a big workload will make for forced time off from working out. But guess what? I'm racing again this weekend in Newport Beach--the Pacific Coast Sprint Triathlon.
Hopefully this blister (which continued to grow 3x the size after this pic) will be all cleared up by then.