Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Week at the Races

We got back earlier than expected. As you can guess, then, that's not really a good sign. I'll get to that soon. The lead up to the race was going well, perfectly even. John's team was getting everything done on time and the energy was high. I was co-chef and having a great time in that role (there was a lot of me saying to the crew early morning, "wakey wakey eggs and bac-ey").

My morning view of the track from the RV.
I, thankfully, was also on a pseudo vacation. Not quite Hawaii though ;) I was very ahead with work before leaving in anticipation of being cut off from service. Internet didn't work after the first day, and phone was alright but not great. It's all good - I enjoyed the idea of shutting it all off for a few days. It was the first time in a long time I pretty much just stopped checking email, twitter, fb, instagram, etc., religiously. Didn't even miss it.

So what else is there to do in downtime? Run. (No bike cuz I forgot my shoes/helmet the morning we left, F.) After going to this race last year too, I knew the area, 80 miles north of Sacramento, has become one of my favorite places to run for the nothingness it offers. You just hit the highway and go - engulfed in rolling hills, some farms, tree orchards, and the occasional puddle (we lucked out on missing a giant storm the weekend prior). No traffic lights, and rarely any cars. I ran three days in a row, and had no goals or expectations for each run, but they all went great. I'm still in offseason, so you can argue that I should have sat on my arse and rested up there, but I could not pass up those sessions. In fact, I think those runs served to bring back some fresh motivation to start training again!

Lucho mentioned he checked out the satellite view of where I was; if you're curious, see that red dot?

I love where I live, but I am jealous of all you folks out there who live in remote areas. Many times it was so desolate that is was safe enough to run in the middle of the lane to avoid the camber of the road. And the most life I saw each time I ran consisted of cows. Me being the weirdo I am, enjoyed a good "mooing" conversation with the herds, and I even got them to "talk" back - hell, I even got them to run with me! Ah, the simple things.
Gorgeous road and scenery for running... all to myself.

And at sunset... #nofilter
Oh yea, and the shower situation. The first full day there, Thursday, the track was still rather empty so I was treated to a scorching hot shower post-run. Mmmm. I was optimistic that they got a better water heater this time. Not the case. On Friday, more teams arrived so I planned my shower time to avoid "rush hour" in hopes of getting hot water. No such luck. It was a cold one (not quite freezing though) and the shower head was f-ed up so, let's just say, it was a sorry sight seeing me shoved into a corner trying to get bits of water. That said, by Saturday I did not shower, but rather used baby wipes and cottonelles. (By Sunday, I had the resources and time to venture into town and borrow a crew member's hotel shower.)

Enough about me. The race. Refresher: 25 hours of driving a freakin car around a 2.8ish mile track in the hills! No light feat!

A peek of the track.
John preparing.
"I wanna go fast!" - a wise man

The story: The guys start at 11 a.m. Saturday after a big pre-race ceremony on the track (see left). Weather is ideal. Things are going smoothly until we had a couple hiccups during a yellow flag. We get some penalties that set us back in the rankings. But then John gets in the car and has the drive of a lifetime going from 12th or so back up to 3rd. He was in the car for four-ish hours, getting back out around 8pm ish? I have a hot plate of food waiting for him :) Fast forward to 11 something, and it's cold outside. Some guys are on rest breaks gearing up for a long all-nighter ahead. I am sitting on a chair bundled up John's brother's wife watching them prep for a pit stop and driver change. The car pulls up and something's clearly wrong. Next thing you know they're rolling the car into the paddock. Not good. Next they're jacking it up and crew guys are scrambling to get under the car to diagnose. Then, within seconds, I hear, "It's over. We're done." It didn't seem real to hear that. But then they start describing the giant hole in the engine and I see the oil everywhere.... and I see John's face. I think: "Oh shit, this is no joke. We are done." There's shock, but the diagnosis is clear. Nothing can be done.
I think this was the "last pit stop" situation; still hope
at this point.

Just like in triathlon, there are some things you just can't control in a race.

Then I was thinking, "This will be a good lesson in sports psych" in that, this is where people show their true colors. You can either whine and be pissy or stand with your head high, accept it and move on graciously. John's team chose the latter.

They were the defending champions. They're an even stronger team than last year and did everything right (minus getting a new engine) to defend their title this year. But shit happens.

Instead of making the guys more coffee that night, we cracked some beers and had some laughs. Still stayed up waaay to late. I'll be honest, that night and into the morning I found myself feeling more upset than I thought I'd ever be about not getting to see them finish. I was really, really sad! It hurts more when you're still engulfed in the race. Although, by morning there were clearly a lot fewer cars out there. Many teams "died" over the night. It's a brutal race!

Sunday was another long day in the car (extra long it seemed after what had just gone down)...

Personally, now, I'm ready to get back to work!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Time to Race!

After my last post on offseason, you're probably thinking WTF with the title of this blog! Don't worry, my offseason is still in full swing and it is not I who is racing this weekend. In fact, I get to enjoy more of a "vacation" weekend for the next several days.

It's the beginning of December and that means one thing: The 25 Hours of Thunderhill. If you recall, John is a race car driver (yea, triathlon is his second hobby - talk about time management), and he and his bro own/operate a race team in which they're also both the main drivers. This weekend is their A race: a 25 hour car race around a course that's just shy of 3 miles in length, full of rolling hills and lots of fun. (There are two other guys who will be driving with them and their shifts will be anywhere from 2-4hrs I believe.)

I went to the race last year, but just for the weekend. This year I'm leaving earlier with the whole crew thanks to a work schedule I was able to tweak. 

It's a very unique experience to witness a race like this, even as someone who comes from a racing family. It's a special environment...

The race track is located in the middle of nowhere just outside of Chico in an area with lots of vacant rolling hills. This time of year it's cold, as you can imagine. Like real cold, not SoCal cold. The cell service is sketchy, and internet is pretty much non-existent. For a phone/computer addict like me, this scares me, but it's also quite refreshing. It's all good though because I'll have my hands tied anyways, as I get to play co-team chef with John's sister. The team is quite large (at least 10 I think?) and it's a job cookin for them all! Did it last year. The highlight is not doing dishes in a giant camping-style sink in 30-something degree weather with hands so cold you can't feel them.

Speaking of cold, we're sleeping in an RV on the track and there's one place to shower in this cold, concrete building and getting a hot shower is not likely. For me, that = I'll really be roughin it (or sucking it up and taking an icy one). Brrrr. Good practice in toughening up for the cold triathlon swims I'll face next year? (

Besides cooking, I won't lie: I will be doing a few workouts. I remember last year having some of the most memorable runs ever out on the open roads and trails in the area. So if I do get in some sessions it will be for the pure enjoyment of it! John said we can even run on the track one night before the race commences. Fun!

Then as of Saturday afternoon it's all business. That's when the race starts - and then they don't finish until, you guessed it, 25 hours later on Sunday afternoon! It's a trip to just be used to the sound of cars racing around, but it's a bigger trip when they all finally stop and it's silent.

Last year John's team won their class in true championship style.... they're ready to defend!

Oh shit, 5 am - time to hit the road!