Ok, I finally decided it was time to start a blog to document my triathlon experiences (training, racing, highlights and lowlights). Hopefully those reading will let me know how I do at this as wordsmithing and creative writing are some of my favorite pastimes. To that end, it maybe a bad time to start a blog, as I will need to provide a bit of background on me now (installment #1). If you want to jump to the race blog, just scroll down past the picture of me and the pasta!
Quick history time…I grew up in Sonoma County, out in Bennett Valley to be specific. This is a beautiful part of California, and despite not liking wine, I still enjoy returning home for whatever reason. I did my first tri ever in while growing up here. It was called the Tinman and had a 1 mile swim in Spring Lake, a 20+ mile hilly bike and then a point to point 10k run. That was way back in the late 80’s and what I remember the most are my mom’s comments criticizing my swimming and having the nerve to claim that I was the only one doing the back stroke, breast stroke and “never putting my face in the water”. Needless to say, that set the tone for my current triathlon goals (FYI Mom, i do put my face in the water!).
So the 2011 Vineman 70.3 debited a significant amount of cash from my checking account back in November 2010 and therefore provided the incentive to train for 2011 Vineman to be held on July 17, 2011. I knew from last year that my strength was the bike…leading to weaknesses in the swim and run. Not that running is bad for me (turned a 3:03 marathon back in the day) but that was years ago and there has been some weight gain since then (thank you grey goose and bombay saphire-this could lead to a sponsorship!). It was a good year at the office and I invested my bonus on a new bike…the Cannondale Slice.
I also scored a nice pair of Sram S60 wheels (not pictures, thanks racedaywheels.com) from my college roommate that did a spell with Sram at the 2010 Tour of California. Problem was that the front wheel was broken and needed a trip to Indiana for some repairs. Anyway, I trained ok in 2011. Had some patches of light training and patches of good training. In summary, I felt better for the swim, little light on the bike and light on the run training wise. But the training was behind me, it was time to hit the road.
The car was packed for a Thursday travel day (race day was Sunday). As the Slice does not fit on the trunk bike rack (ultra aggressive tri position), it was relegated to the trunk…along with my gear and the gear of the support crew (Cody/15, Courtney/12 and Kendall/10). Needless to say it was a tight fit and seeing that we had a nice 9 hour drive ahead of us, we tried to maximize room in Bruce (our reliable E320 touring sedan). So, off we went, later than I wanted but at least we were on the road. One hour into the drive and in the middle of Costa Mesa on the 405 we tagged something positioned in the carpool lane. I knew at once that it was a zinger and true to form….flat tire.
Beautiful, a flat tire during rush hour on the 405! Could anything be better? I managed to navigate across the 7 lanes of traffic and park Bruce in the emergency lane. A quick call to Mercedes Road Side Service had help on the way but the amazing Orange County Emergency Roadside Service crew was there in about 5 minutes. One good thing about having a disabled vehicle on a major freeway is they want that thing gone asap for limited traffic delays. So our nice tow truck driver told me to get everyone in the car and he would change the tire.
Problem!!!! I have my bike and the weekend gear in there. So, the Slice gets assembled on the side of 405 and the weekend gear packed in the back seat (with 2 kids). I lift the cover and find that it’s not a full size spare, but a dinky spare (meaning I need to visit the shop before I can really begin the next 450 mile drive). The tire change went so fast! The road side guys (& gals???) are great! A real pleasure and free! We both note the huge hole in our tire and he directed me to the next exit where I could find a tire shop. So…the Slice goes back in the trunk, now with the full tire consuming the majority of the space and we are off to the tire shop. Again, the tire shop guys were great. It was early, we were first in line and they put a new tire on ASAP. Biggest crapper of the whole deal was that I needed to remove my bars from the stem of my Slice to fit it in the trunk with the big tire. This will require adjustments later!
Well, 54 minutes of delay and Team Drisko hit the road full speed once again (insert record scratching noise)… LA traffic! We limped along, noting the signs for the closure of the 405 for the weekend and glad we got a jump on that. A stop at McDonald’s for a late breakfast had us fueled up for a while. Gas and potty breaks in Kettlemen City was our next stop. We got some water and decided to hit the next segment hard. The trip from San Diego to Sonoma County can be broken up in 3 stages. Stage 1 – Get the F over the grapevine. This typically takes 2.5 hours. We did ok on this leg, just over the time check. Next comes the 3 hours of boredom, from the bottom of the Grapevine to Tracy. We hit this segment perfectly! Dodging big-rigs and hybrids on our charge to the wine country. After a quick lunch we are onto leg 3 of the trip…Tracy to Sonoma. This can be a tricky one with the east bay, Oakland, Marin and the charge up 101 to Santa Rosa. The old timers of SR decided long ago, that 1 two lane freeway is ideal to limit traffic to the area. Yeah, that might be true, but now, it sucks!! Thanks all! So we hit north Marin and it just stops. What should have been 17 minutes in socal, turns to an hour in norcal ho-hum pace!! But finally, we make it and pull into my Mom’s driveway ready to tackle the weekend!!!
MORNING!!! Its Friday, Vineman -2 days. So I pack the kids up and we head to the Russian River. We plan to meet the cousins and hang out for a while, then grab lunch before a little rest. I wanted to ride Chalk Hill before the race and that was on the agenda for Friday PM. We got to the river, made out way to the “beach” and I slithered into my wetsuit. I have only swam two other times in my Blue Seventy suit the first was a dip in the pacific a few days prior and the second (or maybe the first) was the Pigman Tri in Iowa where I felt like crap in the swim. I did Vineman last year in a really nice Zoot rental from Onetri.com and was hoping the BS suit would do the trick. Once in the suit, I made it to bridge #2 and back and felt good. I think nerves got me at the Pigman so I was ready for Vineman.
The kids wanted to enjoy the river so $20 later and a kayak not built for 3, we hit the river. We sucked big time and I am so glad we did not plow into other swimmers trying out the river. The cousins arrived and my son decided he needed time in the wetsuit. I agreed and it took him a good 15 minutes to get it on. He joined his cousins on a kayak and we saw him down the river later in the morning. He had a hard time getting out of the suit despite the fact that he is much lighter than me!
Oh well, he exited the suit, we got lunch in Windsor, all 8 of us. It was a pm of rest until my Chalk Hill ride. The wind was blowing and when I got on the bike I thought “oh crap” I have deep dish wheels and I am going to be fighting the wind all day. While the wind sucked on Friday, and my back ached from fighting the wind on the out and back course, I realized that the wind only kicks up in the PM in Sonoma County. I decided, I would be fine and went back to Mom’s house for the night. We watched a little Tour de France and then crashed.
I was looking forward to my Bride’s arrival on Saturday. She is a seasoned traveller who logs almost 200k miles a year supporting clincal cases accross the country and was set to come into SFO around noon from San Diego so she could be with us (mostly me) all afternoon. Well, SFO is a crap heap of an airport and delays are always part of travel. Her first flight was canceled and she was set to arrive late in the afternoon 😦
So, Saturday was Vineman Expo in the morning where i learned about the rules and course (been there, done that). As I checked in with Courtney, Cody decided that he would scope the expo. He found some shades he like and with a quick stop at the Vineman booth we were done. Oh…BTW, I passed on the compression body cast booth and decided a trip to Norcal Bike Shop (great shop…fyi, I used to work there when it was Dave’s Bike Sport) was needed. Got a tube and some throw away bottles and droolled over their sweet gear. Next stop was my Sister’s house who offered up a pasta feed!!!
I loved it, and got to extract my bride from the norcal bus service to join us. Since it was saturday, day before race day, it was early night for all. Tucked the kids into bed, got my gear ready, and called it a night.
Slept like crap! Typical for me before a race. I was topsy and turny and never really slept. I’m glad I slept well the day before but when the alarm went off I was way ready!! I learned that while having a huge cheering crowd helps at the race, getting the crew ready is a bit of a distraction. The kids were ready using the “roll and go” technique. My bride needed the shower, hair, make-up morning which had car #1 leaving Santa Rosa 15 minutes late. That seemed fine as it was early in the morning and traffic was light (reintroduce record scratch noise) until Guernville!!! Huge back up in town. I was set depart 24 minutes after the pro’s and time was not on my side. We stopped once to air the tires of my bike and hope to send me on my way to T1 but some old hag came out of nowhere (broom style) to tell us we could not stop there at all. Evidently, her car that was jacked up on blocks needed to move out that morning…right!!! Despite pleeing with her, we jumped back in the car and manged to park. I still needed to get to T1, body mark, set up, get in wet suit, get to start…. So I made it, with just 2 minutes to spare and out of breath. But I was in the water, the bike was racked (somewhere) and I was ready…and then the horn!!!
And the race is on! 1.2 miles in the Russian River and oh, and I can’t seem to get a rythm. I’m not a swimmer so I take a little warming up. I was able to struggle through the first part of the swim until my group hit the shallow section. I pounced up and proceeded to jog a little until I felt I could actually complete a swim stroke while not looking like I was panning for gold. This effort got me to the turn around where it was very shallow and I took pleasure in making it around the bouy and heading back. A quick look at my watch told me I was slower than I wanted but I recalled the direction of the current (described to me by the Johnson’s Beach owner on Friday) and decided to settle in for the return trip home. For most of the return swim I was doing the stroke, stroke, breath trick all the while trying to stretch that to 4 strokes, then a breath. It happened every once in a while but I need to figure that out in the future. I passed under the two bridges and used them as a spring board to dig pretty deep (i.e., pushed off the wall of the support pillars-just kidding). I was actually pretty happy with my navigation skills this year. I think I actually kept it pretty straight and once I could stand, I did and pushed my way up to the end of the swim. Swim finish was 39:09, a fairly crappy ranking in my age group but at least 4 minutes better than last year (SCORE!!!).
One of the problems with arriving at T1 with about 5 minutes to pull yourself together, is that you really have no time to recall where your stuff was. I now have excellent 1st hand experience milling about looking for one’s bike in what appears to be a sea of similar bikes. Alas…I find my stead and begin the disrobing effort! Evidently the good swimmer next to me in T1 did not listen to the “pack your stuff in your transfer bag” info so luck for me, I used his towel to stand on while I peeled of my super sweet Blue Seventy wetsuit. It got packed in the transfer bag along with my googles, swim cap and towel. On went the helmet, sunglasses, socks and shoes and I was ready to roll! Yeah, but then I was in the herd of cattle slowly making their way to the mount line. I was really ready to shout out “move it fools!!! this is a race!!” but I refrained. I got to the mount area and went to the outside as directed by my bride. “Click, Click” and I am off, weaving in and out of cyclist trying to either walk or ride up the hill from J’s Beach.
Off I go on the bike. I love the bike course and being from Santa Rosa and doing the race last year, I know the roads pretty well. I put the hammer down early and hit Sunset with and average speed of 23.7 mph. I of course slowed for the corner and then proceed to prance up the next hill like a mountain goat passing people right and left. I felt good on Westside road, had a Clif Kids Fruit twist along the way and hit the 1st aid station in 50:04 with an average of 22.1 mph. I think at that point I decided that I may be going a little hard, but since I was passing people and had yet to be passed, I was having a lot of fun on the ride. I made the turn onto Dry Creek Road and continued to push fairly hard. This is the point in last year’s race where a serious age grouper passed me and then proceed to crash into a car that was pulling out of their driveway. I stopped to see if he was ok and only started back up again once someone from the house took over (I think his day ended there). That event taught me the lesson to keep your head up while riding because you never know what is around the corner. Speaking of corners, I made it to Canyon Rd and started the climb to the top. Along the way I saw another Tri Club San Diego team mate (racer 333, Mieka). She was so excited to see me and her cheers were great (we saw each other on the run and I thank her again for the cheers!) I love Strava.com as it allows me to see how my effort compares to others on tagged segments. I beat last year’s time on the Canyon Rd segment and currently lie in 29th overall out of 164 riders to complete the climb. I have no idea why I did not get a half-way split on the timing mat but I rode over it and hit the downhill! In the aerobars and down I go! Looks like I hit almost 42 mph on the downhill and thanks again to strava.com, am ranked 13th on the way down. Once I hit the turn at the bottom of the hill, I knew it was flat until Chalk Hill. I was still averaging 21.6 mph at this point and knew there was a feed station up ahead. Once there, I tossed my really nice new NorCal bike shop water bottle into the bin and grabbed a fresh G-Pro bottle (FYI – I want that back Vineman, who should I call?).
On my Canondale, there is only one location for a H2O bottle (poor design I think), the seat tube. To ensure proper hydration, I added the X-Lab Torpedo mount to my aerobars for additional hydration. I had given this a few test rides and all seemed well (aside from the deep gash in my Garmin screen by one of the mounting bolts…grrrr). I quickly found out that the G-pro bottle did not fit as well as my NorCal bottle and I enjoyed practicing my mid-air bottle retreival skills on part 2 of the Vineman course. I blazed into Jimtown (home of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dive’s Jimtown General Store) to the cheers of my fantastic family!! They were all there: Julie (bride), Cody, Courtney, Kendall (the 3 kids), Mom, sister Laura, bro-in-law Matt, nephews Max and Jake and my neice, Emma. They cheered me on as the rain started to fall, yes…you heard me right, rain at the Vineman! At this point I was very envious of those with arm warmers. I never thought I would need them on Vineman, but at this point I would have really enjoyed them! Regardless, I forged ahead. I had ridden this part of the course on Friday and knew what to expect. I was passing, then being passed, then passing again by a guy and it was getting really irritating. I hate being passed on the bike and when I get passed and then the person slows down, it really pisses me off. Such was the situation with said indivual.
At last, the turn to Chalk Hill. As it was damp from the rain, I took it easy on the downhill segment. I did not want to bail, this far in to the event and so when the climb hit, it was just me and one other guy. We navigated the steel plates on the road and after ushering him out the back door, as I was on my merry way. I hit the top being cheered by I think a banana and others. Needless to say, an early start time makes chalk hill much better as last year I was stuck in traffic the whole way. The Friday before was windy and so I passed on the aerobars for the decent but not race day! I was tucked in and was ready to fly. I must say that the wheelset from http://www.racedaywheels.com was killer and the 808’s were amazing. I bombed the decent and motored into T2 enjoying the gradual downhill of the last 15 miles. Total time on the 56 mile bike: 2:35:24 equating to 21.6 mph average and nearly 6 minutes faster than last year!
Last year’s T2 was more aligned with an underwater tea-party than a race transition. I needed to change socks, lace up shoes and do a lot of other things before heading out on the run. 2011 was different…I did the flying dismount, a brisk run through the transistion area (I think it was a little unbalanced this year as we were at the top of T2 and had to enter and exit from the bottom) and made it to my shoes super fast. I slipped on my Zoot Ultra’s and visor and hit the road. As I passed through the transition feed area I asked for a Vodka tonic. Much to my suprise, none were available but I did managed to get quite the laugh out of the volunteers! I replied…”have one ready in 2 hours.” Which reminds me…the volunteer’s were great! I wish I had the chance to thank each and everyone of them. I tried my best as I raced but I am sure I missed a few (mister Buz Lightyear at mile 5 on the run). Anyway, back to me 🙂 I made T2 very fast, I think I was 6th fastest in my AG (there really should be prizes for this).
The run!!!!! Last year, I was cooked on the run. Made it half way and then was a walk jog event for a 1:59 half (ashamed, currently hiding). This year I was determined to pace myself. So, mile one was clicked off at about 7:25…and that even included a break to stretch my nearly cramping calf muscles. I admit, bad move on my part going out a bit fast, but upon seeing that I slowed down and settled into the low 8’s. I forgot to dislodge my bike nutrition at T2 and felt like I had the buffets of all buffets strapped to my back. I managed to make it to mile 8 without any breaks and at that point decided some oreo’s and a coke would be the thing for me. Well, while they provided some kick, they were not the best on a Russian River stomach. I managed to survive the run with some walkies at the aid stations. In general, I think i kicked it…run time was 1:53:09 which was an improvement of about 6 minutes from last year. My total time was 5:14:58! I knew under 5:15 was possible and had to dig deep on the last mile, but I did! The race is in the books! I got a great hug from my bride once I was done and want to come back with a goal of sub 5 hours. That means a better swim and run, but I can get there.
Thanks for reading!