Monday, July 27, 2009

If you don't expect too much from me...

you might not be let down.

Vineman 70.3 is in the books! I just got back from a crazy tour of California. A few nights of camping and a crazy race followed by a week-long conference in L.A. First things first: race report!

Day before: Expo and packet pick-up at Windsor High School. It was a little weird to have it at a school, but pretty nice also. The sheer number of people was a little intimidating, but besides that it was basically the same as any other race. The expo was pretty nice-basically a mobile tri shop. Some other cool vendors (Avia was the title sponsor) and some pros wandering about. Pretty cool... Set up T2 the day before, which was strange. Basically you throw your shoes under a rack somewhere you hope to find them the next day. How's this for a simple transition area?

At the pre-race meeting:

Then drove the course (run and bike), and it was a little different then I expected. Some significant hills, and definitely rolling throughout. The things that struck me were: narrow, rough roads; trees and shade. crazy!; vineyards. lots of them. something like 50 along the bike course alone. The run had several short but steep hills. They would definitely get your attention. Then, back to the campsite for an early bedtime. Some pics from the drive:

Up early on race morning as always. The part of the morning I look forward to the most: coffee! Especially following a "caffeine taper"--five days this time. This was my first time ever actually using one of those camping-style coffee makers (which I bought at Target the day before). I was impressed with myself; it actually came out great! Quick check of everything at the campsite, then off through the back roads to Guerneville. Unpack my car, and one last look at the setup:

Got set up with plenty of time, and got to say howdy to Craig Pansing and Quinn Borchard, two other athletes who were ready to rock (and killed it by the way!!). Wetsuit on at the last minute, and into the water. The swim was good overall. A LOT of punching/kicking/etc., but what else would you expect with a couple hundred people eager to get going. I got in the rhythm and pushed hard. I forgot to start my watch (as usual), but felt good about how it went. They didn't get swim splits, but I my guess is 29-ish. I am happy with that. Over a 6-minute improvement from my last half, so good stuff.

Swim venue the day before:

Onto the bike and got into the groove pretty fast. There was bike traffic, but not too heavy. Hit the first little hill, and spun up as planned (easy on the hills, push it on the flats). Then it got interesting...right at the top of the hill, volunteers were telling us "slow down, crash ahead". So I'm thinking okay, back off, probably someone off the side of the road. Onto a downhill, and there are 100+ people stopped. Yes, stopped 5 miles into a 56-mile ride (race). Everyone was trying to figure out what was going on, and one of the officials finally told us a huge oak tree had just fallen across the road. Totally out of the blue. No wind, rain, snow, ice. Just decided it was time to go. It fell onto two people, busting both bikes. One guy broke his clavicle. The other guy had "several fractures" and caught an express ride to the hospital. Then we got to wait for several minutes while someone cut up the tree with a chainsaw. Then sweep the road off. Then send 200+ people down this narrow, windy road. It was madness. Not to mention any swim advantage is gone. My goal time is gone. I think I was standing around for 6-8 minutes. Some people sat there for longer, some people hardly stopped rolling. The smoking-fast swimmers got through before the crash happened. What a change in the race!

Then, I lost my gel on the road something like ten minutes after the stop (gel flask fell out on a road somewhere). I didn't really have a back-up, so I decided to go for Gatorade at all the aid stations. Not ideal, but you've got to work with what you have available. Got a nice legal pack of 3-4 people from my age group and pushed it. Kept some energy for Chalk Hill, spun up, and then pushed hard back into T2. My overall ride was officially 2:32, so figure 2:26 or 2:27-ish without the unexpected stop (not to mention fighting through traffic for the next ten miles). Pretty much at goal pace, so I am happy with it overall.

T2 was uneventful. Found my shoes easy enough, and then I was off! The cool (and depressing) part was I started my run right as Craig Alexander was coming down the finishing chute. Pretty cool... Mile one and two of the run were great. 7:15, 7:20. A little above pace, but I was hoping to work it down over the miles. Then, on the first hill, I knew there was trouble. My left hamstring was cramping already. From then on it was a struggle. My nutrition plan did not go as planned, and it started to show. I started struggling to make 8 minute pace, and then I just had to hold on to whatever pace I had left. Started walking aid stations, massaging my hamstrings. I pushed it, and I can still feel it a week later. Ouch. Anyway, the run was around 1:52, basically six minutes slower than my last half. I blame it on a lack of salt. I did not expect that heat (a high of 96 on race day...the hottest day of July, and I think the high the next day was 70. What's up with that?!).

Overall time was 4:58:29. I was not happy with it at first, but I'm getting over it. My best guess is a lack of salt and nutrition overall (I noticed that I only finished like 2/3 of my nutrition bottle on the bike). After the race, I caught the shuttle back to the start to get my bike, back to the campsite and packed up my junk. Then back to the awards ceremony. I knew I wouldn't be top four in the age group, but I knew I might still have a shot at a Clearwater spot. I walked in late, and my AG awards had already been handed out. Oh well, it wasn't meant to be. Packed up my T2 stuff and wandered through the awards area one more time. "We still have some spots to give out for men and women. Are there any guys here that want to go to Clearwater?" Are you kidding me? They couldn't get people to go to Florida? This was my secondary goal for the race. My first was 4:30, but whatever. BUT I couldn't pull the trigger. My financial situation sucks. I am busy finishing up my PhD. Hopefully I can make it happen next year... I thought about it for the rest of my night, which consisted of an eight-hour drive to downtown LA.

I have a habit of setting expectations too high, being disappointed, and getting burnt out. Not this time...BUT it's time for a break. I have been training HARD for the last two years, with my longest break being like four days. I have been completing 4+ hour bricks when it's 100 degrees outside. Craziness.

I took last week off entirely, and it was great! Some time to sleep (which I did a lot) and think about work/career/research stuff quite a bit. I am on my way to becoming an Agricultural Engineer (with an ecological restoration focus), and I spent all week at a conference on the topic. Good stuff! There is a ton of exciting work going on and I think I'm well on my way to getting involved.

For now I'll do my best to keep in shape, but not "train" specifically for anything. I'll probably swim a lot (don't want to lose the huge gains I've made), run a lot (run for dough, right?), and maybe ride hard a few times per week :) No racing for a while. Maybe Nathan and Bluewater then I'll call it a year. So far this year: 1 duathlon, two running races, and six triathlons. And it's only July...

Also, I need to survive my last class ever, which also happens to be my hardest class ever. Then on to writing (finally!) and defending sometime in October. So basically I'm going to spend the rest of the year figuring out what to do with my life. I'm also going to blog about whatever comes to mind, so be prepared!

Also looking forward to enjoying more moments like this :)

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