Sunday, July 25, 2010

If you go straight long enough you'll end up where you were

Time for a race/travel report for my first A race of the year: Vineman 70.3. This was my big race of last year. The one that I built up to for a year. I basically trained for collegiate nationals in April, took a few days off, then kept building for Vineman for the final three months before the race. As I used to do, I set unrealistic time goals without a real understanding for the course and the variability of race conditions. When my race (run, specifically) fell apart despite awesome training for the previous two years, I was more than a little let down. My motivation fell through the floor. Add to that a nightmare summer school class, a dissertation, and IT band syndrome, and that pretty much called an end to my 2009 racing season.

This year, I had a totally different mindset. I was not coming off a crazy olympic distance training schedule. I started from scratch in January. I knew the course. I knew that the temperature could approach 100 during the run. I knew that the field would be ridiculously competitive. Moreover, even if I kicked butt, I still wouldn't take a Clearwater spot (I won't race 70.3 worlds unless the venue changes). Finally, I knew this race was to build up for that other A race I have in November... So, how to approach it? How about some fun?! I knew that one of the coolest parts about the race this year would be that I knew several people that were doing it. Four acquaintances-soon-to-be-friends from TriCats were crazy enough to sign up too!

I left Tucson on Thursday morning before the race. I think I left around 9 am, driving my car. No detour through Yosemite this year, just straight through. I pulled into Santa Rosa around 11 pm, stopped at the bank, and then on to Guerneville. Told myself it was too late to waste money on a hotel room, and all of the campgrounds were closed. So, cleared off the back seat and laid down a sleeping bag. Thought about how similar triathlon bums and surf bums (I was one for a summer) are...just triathletes have more expensive toys... Anyway, actually slept pretty well thanks to the marine layer giving some extra shade in the morning. Quick swim at Johnson's Beach (the race venue) to get the blood flowing. Then, off to set up my campsite.

Yeah, camping and can get interesting. Last year I was lucky. I pulled into a random campground and got put in a nice, secluded overflow spot. I knew it would be a crapshoot this year too. I ended up in and UNBELIEVABLE campsite at the very edge of the campground, which happened to be about 15 feet from the Russian River. Soooooo cool. Check out the view from my campsite. Not telling where it is...if I do this race next year, I want to reserve the same spot! :D

Finished setting up camp, then off to meet the guys in Santa Rosa. Lunch, movie, and then a quick stop by their hotel. Oh, this is how real triathletes do it! Real beds, room service, bath robes (which, yes, the guys actually used...), and re-runs of the Tour de France. Left before too long to avoid getting too comfy, and back to my remote campsite. Little did I know the Russian River is the Salt River or northern California. These people were having way more fun than I was. Luckily, everyone drinks all day, so as soon as the sun goes down--silence :)

Check out the floating slide!

Good sleep, then up for a pre-race brick on Saturday. Nothing eventful, just rode the first 5 miles or so of the bike (just past the first decent hill), and a quick run afterward. I felt sluggish (tapered), but good besides that. Off to packet pick-up. Got there EARLY to avoid the lines, and was in and out in a half hour. That was too easy. What do I do with the rest of my day? Rest, eat, drink, eat some more, cat nap, then off to dinner with the guys at a small Italian restaurant I would have never known about. Had a good time with Mike and Neil's families! All super-nice people, and they somehow know about all the restaurants, etc. to visit. Ended up getting back to the campsite pretty late, but I was still asleep by 9:45. Slept pretty well again, and woke up right away to my alarm clock and the buzz of cars driving to the venue. I had NO caffeine for the previous two weeks (if you know me that is CRAZY), but it was time for coffee! I made camp coffee, and drank the whole pot (~5 cups?). Then I went to Starbucks for more :). I was suddenly in an extremely good/annoying mood!

Quick race report:
Swim was great overall. For the first time, I really pushed the pace off the line and found open water early. Definitely going to go out the same at my next race. I still missed out on the front pack (I tend to start slow and then catch back up), but I was able to close the gap right at the turnaround. At this point, the water is super shallow (i.e. easier to walk than swim), so I stood up to look for someone to draft. Okay, a guy without a wetsuit in a wetsuit-legal swim. He muse be a swimmer! So, I dove in behind his feet and cruised for a while. Suddenly realize how easy I was going, so I veered out to the side. Oops, I shouldn't have stayed behind! Oh well, more or less happy with my time in the water.

On the bike I felt great! It was good to have raced it last year, knowing that the downhills could be taken with a lot of speed without crashing (well, probably). I set a heart rate cap for myself knowing that I did not want to blow up on the run like I did last year. There is not a flat section of this course--if you race it, make sure your derailleurs are in order! I had the feeling halfway through that I wasn't going hard enough, but I wanted to be conservative. I spend a lot of energy cheering other people on, which is really fun! The responses and enthusiasm you get are great! Apologies to anyone that found me annoying. My caffeine buzz was still rocking thanks to a bunch of double-caffeine gels :) Nutrition was great on the bike this year. Finished all of my calories without issue, and took 5 or 6 Endurolytes (new to my nutrition arsenal this year).

Got off the bike feeling GREAT, with a time a few minutes slower than last year. First mile of the run went by like nothing, and they kept going by despite the hills that I had totally forgotten about (still had a heart rate cap). Halfway through the run, I became THAT guy. Cheering on everyone I passed, giving high fives to the volunteers, etc. I did not walk a step, not even at the aid stations.

Coming down the chute I was taunting the crowd, blah, blah, blah. Felt fine after the finish. Food right away, no cramping, hanging out in the tent. Hardly sore the next day...stairs are no problem, I feel like going for a run, etc.

Long story short, my heart rate zones were way too conservative, probably because I set them myself, and I should have gone harder. Need to race some TTs and re-set my zones. Nevertheless, I had a GREAT time at the race. I ended up around 3 minutes faster than last year. This reminds me of how fast I actually was a year ago--I was only three minutes slower despite a LOT of walking on the run. Oh well, my goal for the race had been accomplished (lots of fun and a solid run), so I'll call it a success!

The rest of the trip was a TON of fun. Spent the night after the race on a Vineyard outside of Napa. A little too much wine and great food, but hey, that's what the night after the race is for!! Spent the next day with the guys in Santa Cruz and Carmel-by-the-Sea, and ended up in San Luis Obispo (where I almost went to undergrad!). Then, down PCH to Malibu, and finally L.A. One of the highlights of that day was a trip to a roadside strawberry stand. A huge field right off the road, with an honor system for buying strawberries--no joke!! Fresh strawberries are like candy. Now that I know, buying them at the grocery store will never be the same...

the Dos Amigos strawberry stand:

And the guys in Malibu

Dropped Neil off at LAX, then back to Thousand Oaks to visit my sister in her new house. Another good night, and then an all-day drive back to Tucson to finally get back to my girls! It ended up being a 7-day trip with a good race, great food and drinks, and awesome company. Ready for some more racing...but no more week-long trips this year. I'm tired!

Now that I'm back in Tucson, I'm trying to get motivated for work again *sigh*...and getting ready to start training again! My Ironman AZ plan starts on August 1st. It's time to mix up the training, get some speed back, and build endurance! Let the craziness resume...after some serious family time!

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