My first Triathlon
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Vineman - TriathlonFull Ironman
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Santa Rosa, California
1000F / 538C
= 12h 50m 26s
Age Group Rank
Vineman marks my second iron-distance race. The first was IM Florida in 2004. I tried to go for another one last year, but ended up pulling out because I simply wasn't enjoying it. It became work to me, and that is the deal-breaker. There were things in my life that demanded my attention and triathlon simply wasn't one. I'm glad I waited, because this year was different. I was ready this time around, and I wanted to give it all I had! I think I trained fairly hard this past year, although looking back, there's always something that you think you could have done better. More bricks, more running, more, more, more --- but really...is more necessarily better? Read on, and you tell me.
This trip, this race, this year, would not have been possible without my girlfriend, Christina. I'm not saying that for brownie points or for any other reason other than it is simply the truth. She allowed me the flexibility and freedom to get my training in, often at her own expense. She got left with my kids for those long weekend workouts, or had to entertain them for a few hours at night while I was out running. Or at the very least, she has had to put up with my craziness, crabbiness, exhaustion, and plain old butthole-ness since January when I started. That, in itself, deserves a medal!! So this race wasn't about me - it was about us, and new beginnings, and triumph over all kinds of nasty $hit in the last year. My biggest goal for this race, and I mean this quite literally, was to make her proud of me. I wanted so badly for her to be there for my first IM, and I wasn't about to let this one slip through my fingers. This day was for her. For us.
The trip started at 3:30 in the morning on Aug 1st. We had an early flight to San Fran, with the idea being that we got in early in the day, got up to our hotel, and commenced to chillin'. Right. Plane was late leaving Denver, and from there it just got worse. Line after line after line. DIA really does have their $hit together, especially when compared to other airports. SFO is ridiculously chaotic and disorganized! Takes for-freakin-EVER to get anywhere!! It was 3-1/2 hours from the time we got in until we got to the hotel. Retarded. But we ended up with this bitchin Chrysler 300 as a free upgrade, so it all worked out alright, I suppose :
On Thursday we slept in a little bit and headed out to Bodega Bay to sit on the beach for lunch. It was amazing - calming, relaxing, and a bit scary with the freakin seagulls fighting for a scrap of our pb&j sandwiches! We had never been to a beach together, so this was pretty special.
After the beach we went up to the race site, got all nervous, drove the course, got more nervous, then Christina visited a winery and got a few samples. Being the dedicated triathlete, I stood by and watched, with full intentions of coming back on Sunday and sampling the grapes! We had a very nice Italian dinner that night with the coach from my tri club, Charley, who was doing the full Aquabike.
Friday was nutty - went to the river and swam a little bit. the water was quite warm....made me nervous about not wearing a wetsuit, so I did a practice swim without it. Then came registration, buying trinkets, getting everything ready. Constant chaos. We met Charley and his wife, and Jenny for dinner. Standard pre-race meal -- steak and potatoes! Crying shame there couldn't be any beer to wash it down...sigh...
Saturday -- game day. Clock goes off at 3:30 in the morning, and right then I decided "nope. not doing it. I'm sleepy, dammit!". Uh-huh -- i was up 2 minutes later, pacing and trying to stay calm knowing I had the longest of days ahead of me. I choked down my bagel, slammed an Ensure, took a variety of pills for stomach, head, psychosis, you name it. Got my gear on, grabbed the incredible amount of crap we had between us, and headed out to Johnson's Beach, the swim start.
Arriving anywhere at 5:30 in the morning on a Saturday is crazy. Arriving at an iron distance triathlon at 5:30 on a Saturday morning is certifiable. I was one of the first to arrive, so there was no congestion at all. Got all marked up, and headed to my designated rack space. It didn't take long to rack everything, mostly because you're only dealing with bike and swim crap. Being a two-transition area race, the run stuff had to be set up the night before at T2..15 miles away. More on that learning experience later...
I got everything organized, grabbed my nano, kissed my girlfriend, and headed down to the beach to walk around and try to wrap my head around what was I was about to do. It was so incredibly beautiful - foggy, mist on the water, cool but not cold, just perfect. I took a few pictures and then sat on the beach and looked down the river. It's hard not to get emotional when you're in a situation as enormous and profound as an ironman. I started thinking about all it took to get there, all the pain, agony, triumph, failure, everything. I thought about how I wouldn't have made it without the support of Christina, by far the best iron-sherpa in the world. I thought about my dad - how proud we would be if he could have been there to see me compete. The tears really didn't stand a chance, and flowed down my cheeks rather freely. The only thing that would have made this any better was if my kids could have been there to cheer me on. But they were there in spirit, and Christina was keeping in constant contact with everyone back home. Make no mistake though - my kids, and my dad were with me this entire day. I would make everyone proud.
It was time to get serious, and get ready to get in the water. Went back up and got my suit on, which is amazing, considering the amount of trembling that was going on! But again, Christina was there to help me zip up, calm my nerves, and tell me how proud she was. That's all you really need to hear from the person you love - from that moment forward, I knew this day, no matter how difficult and painful, was going to turn out ok. It had to - I had the best support out of anyone there!
01m 58s / 100 yards
I knew from the day before that the water was warm, but miraculously, it had stayed around 75 degrees overnight, and wetsuits were allowed. Although not so much for a security blanket, as you can pretty much just stand up whenever you need to in that river, but more for trying to conserve energy in an attempt to glide through the water. Right. Glide like a cannonball. With green sleeves. Knowing I wouldn't be able to hold her for many hours, I gave Christina a long kiss and hug and then proceeded to get in the water. It's always nice to be surrounded by people who are equally scared, and I was actually providing some advice to those that were doing their first iron! Countdown was pretty casual, and then the horn blew and we were off!
As always, there's a lot of jockeying for position. Bumping, hitting, kicking, getting felt up, you know - a typical day at the beach :
) It took damn near half a mile to find some clear water, although I think it's because everyone has passed me by that point. At the turnaround, I looked up just before I swam directly into someone's calves...standing up. It was about 3 feet deep at that point, and there were a lot of people walking! I thought - hell no...I came to swim this thing, so dammit, I'm swimming! So although I was scraping rocks, I managed to keep swimming until the water deepened a bit more. Pretty strange sensation though.
Second lap was more of the same, but the fog had broken now, and I could see that there was going to be clear skies. Clear skies = no shade = oh $hit. I didn't know it at the time, but Christina had run forward and camped out on a bridge that crossed the river. She found me and my Green Lantern wetsuit and got some cool pictures. My time wasn't really what I wanted, although it was dead on for the speeds I have been swimming all year. I came out in 1:23, but for some reason the mat didn't pick me up until I left T1, so it looks like 1:28, but that includes transition. No worries. One third of the day was now done, and I felt pretty damn good!
I heard Christina yelling for me when I exited the water, and I lit up when I saw her there as I ran past. T1 is pretty low-key for a long distance event. I got out of my wetsuit easily enough, rinsed the feet, got the bike crap on, and ran over to hand her my bag with all that in it, stole another kiss, and then grabbed the bike.
Heading out of T1 there is a pretty steep little hill, and everyone has a different piece of advice as to how to get up it. Ride in low gear. Run with shoes clipped into the bike. Run IN your shoes to the top of the hill. I opted for the last one, and I ran my ass up the hill, which all told was about 100 yards, but trying to clip in probably would have resulted in me on my face. So good call on my part. Got on the trusty steed, and headed out for Phase 2!
5h 49m 2s
The Vineman ride is a phenomenally beautiful one. Rolling hills, trees galore, and acre upon acre of vineyards. Stunning to see, and I was truly mesmerized as I cruised through the countryside. I felt stronger than I have all year on the bike, and every time I looked at my bike computer, I was hovering around a 21 mph average. I didn’t get passed by anyone for almost 40 miles, and that ended up being a relay guy, so I don’t count him. Just after that came Chalk Hill. Everyone writes about this hill and how brutal it is, but honestly, living in Colorado I wasn’t too worried. Underestimated that one a bit….it was somewhat of a bitch. Pretty steep, but manageable – it just didn’t stop. I kept my distance ahead of the guy chasing me though, and got off the hill feeling pretty strong still. As I rolled through the flats into town, my speed increased to 27 mph and it felt great. I was getting hungry, but the Fig Newtons in my Bento box weren’t really doing it for me. I knew a few miles ahead was my special needs bag with my PB & honey sandwich and some Pringles. Ahhh Pringles….my secret weapon and absolute favorite long course snack! As I pulled in to grab my bag, I heard my name being screamed by not one, but two voices! In addition to my very loud girlfriend, there was Paul, the boyfriend of one of my other clubmates that was racing. Ok – so that was cool enough, but he was also decked out in a GOLD jumpsuit with a huge blue afro wig!! He would definitely leave a mark on the day, and on everyone who was there. I pulled up to the curb with my bag of Pringles and goodness, and unbeknownst to me, there is another Polar teammate of mine right next to me, mirroring my motions! I bent over, he bent over, I stood up, he stood up. Christina got some pretty funny pics of the two of us side by side. After grabbing the food, filling the aerobottle with cold water, and gazing longingly at the shady grass across the street, I blew a kiss to my support squad, and headed off for lap two.
Right away I knew it was going to be a tougher time than the first one. It was hot, I was tired, and I had a long way to go still. I woofed down a few Pringles, and that seemed to satiate my appetite for a while. Dessert was a nice big drag off the Hammergel flask chased by some Gatorade Endurance. Because of the huge canopies of trees, there were some wicked shadows on the road, and at 25 mph, they disguised the cracks and bumps quite nicely. I launched a water bottle, and the parts of me that shouldn’t ever get bruised…..got bruised. Couldn’t see the holes until I was on top of them, and I
) paid dearly!
Coming up on Chalk Hill again at mile 100 or so is just demoralizing. I swear it got steeper from 2 hours prior, and my legs agreed. Instead of 8-10 mph up it like the first time, I was hovering around 5-6…barely moving. The heat of the day was setting in, and I was debating back and forth over how much to drink. Stay hydrated…don’t drink so much that you slosh…gotta chase the gel with something…don’t want extra calories for my stomach to deal with…but have to keep energy high. Complete mindf#ck stuff. So much so that I ended up telling myself that the run would completely suck, and I would be ok with a DNF. I had gone too hard, eaten too little, and was way too hot.
By the time I rolled into T2, I had all but convinced myself that my ride was horrible
(although 5:49 is actually pretty good!
), and I had nothing left to run with. The thought of doing 3 laps in the heat, with those nasty hills out there, was more than I could process at the time. I stormed into the racks, pissed off and scared. As I put my shoes on, my run doubts were immediately justified – because of the two transition area setup, we had to set the run gear out the night before. Not really a big problem, except I completely forgot to take into account the fact that they would be sitting in the hot sun for hour upon hour, waiting for me. My feet were on fire, and I hadn’t run a step yet!! I grabbed the rest of my crap
(special needs with extra socks, lube, etc.
), and headed to the change tent to get into my tri shorts. By the way – putting on tight shorts when you are hot and sweaty takes some serious acrobatic skill! Slammed the 4 Tylenol I had with me, and headed out to begin the Death March. The first aid station is at the run start, so I grabbed a few grapes, got hosed down with some water, chugged a coke and began “running”. It’s in quotes, because I don’t think both feet got off the ground at that point, thereby not qualifying as a “run”.
12m 17s min/mile
I could hear Christina about 200 yards away, screaming her head off! I glanced at her and told her I didn’t feel good, and this was going to suck – or something like that, and managed to hobble past, with the appearance of a run. Ignoring my bitching, she was all about encouraging me, telling me that I could do it. But once I got around the corner, out of sight, the mindf#ck surfaced again, and I stopped to walk. 5 minutes in, and I’m walking already – fan-freakin-tastic. I pathetically limped my way to the first aid station about a mile in, and surprisingly, I was only at 9:34. Goes to show how bad the brain can mess with you. I welcomed the stop, and grazed on coke, Gatorade, and water for a minute before continuing on.
The run at Vineman is nothing to sneer at. It is difficult. Lots of non-shaded areas, and they all seem to be on hills! I played the run-walk-bitch-self motivate-run again game for about 3.5 miles. Then, right as I started to feel a small little glimmer of hope, I turned the corner and stared dead on into a nasty-ass hill. Not very long, maybe ¼ mile or so, but fairly steep, and in one split second, it justified my fears and hesitations from earlier. This was the big bitch of the run. If I couldn’t do this, I may as well hang it up. I tried, unsuccessfully, to run up it. Ended up walking, which compared to most of the others out there, wasn’t too much slower than trying to run! Up at the top, there was an aid station, and about 400 yards down was the turnaround. So yeah – I basically stopped for aid twice in half a mile! I got a little excited about running down the hill now, and began to pick up the pace a bit. It’s silly how easily I forget that running downhill is really no easier than running up. In fact, I think it’s harder sometimes, especially when my shoes are soaked from running through every hose-bearer out there! Some woman came up along side me at point, obviously noticing I was struggling pretty hard, and began telling me about her strategy of “run 5, walk 1”. Sounded pretty decent, so I decided to give it a try. Damned if it didn’t work! I ran for 5 min, with the promise of walking for 1, and it actually seemed to get a little easier as I did that more and more. Coming into transition though, I was not about to stop running in front of all those people. That, and as I rounded the final corner of the first lap, I could see crazy Paul jumping up and down like a madman in his gold jumpsuit, so I had to keep running a bit – damn him! I could hear Christina, but couldn’t really see her until I got into the parking lot area. I flashed a little smile, but I knew inside that it was total bull$hit. I hurt, and I was struggling mentally worse than I ever remembered before. I ran right next to the finish chute, crossed the lap line, touched the finish line banner in hopes of it bestowing some sort of magical power to actually finish the race, and collected my first lap wristband. Then I saw they had a mist-tent set up, and holy crap, what a godsend!! I hosed off for a few, and managed to convince myself that I could walk the last two laps and still finish, so what the hell, right? Grabbed some more coke and grapes, and started walking lap 2. Yeah – that lasted all of about 10 seconds. All I could hear was “GET RUNNING FARRELL! MOVE IT DENNY!!”, etc., etc….guess who? My loving girlfriend, sporting the Team Farrellmone Tshirt! Well hell – tons of spectators around, not many athletes, so it was pretty damned obvious who that crazy girl was yelling at. I had no choice but to start running! As I ran by her, she was nothing but smiles, encouragement, and beaming with pride. It felt so shitty of me to say “I don’t think I can do this” to her – but it just came out.
After about 10 minutes or so into Lap 2, employing the 5-1 strategy, I began to get my head around things a little better. I made deals with myself to run the full 5, or the next aid station if it was in sight. Worked pretty well too. I stopped for no more than one minute, chowing oranges, Gatorade, coke, and peaches at each one. The 3rd station tripped me up because they had ice. Sweet, sweet ice! I grabbed a little cupful and took it with me to munch on. Being the rocket scientist that I am, I decided to put some cubes in the brim of my visor. Ice melting into cold water = nice refreshing drips down my forehead. Yeah. Ever had brainfreeze from the OUTSIDE?? It SUCKS!! I was reduced to walking, trying to shake off the pounding I had created in my skull. It took a minute or so, but when it did subside, I could see the corner where I had to turn to go up Bitch Hill about ½ mile ahead of me. I decided that I “deserved” the walk time, and hoofed it for over 10 minutes. My justification was I needed the walk time so I could actually run Bitch Hill this time. As I rounded the corner, the mother/daughter team volunteering there had some spray bottles. They hosed me down, and I told them “thanks for the go-juice!”. They laughed it off, but I meant it! In my head, that little bottle of mist was magical, and it was going to get me up and over that hill. And you know what --- it did!!! I ran the whole thing up, past the aid station, to the turnaround, then back to aid before I stopped and rewarded myself with an orange/coke buffet. Whew! I was now about halfway done with the marathon, and I actually felt pretty good!
The run back into the crowd again was fairly uneventful, until I got around all the people again. There were lots of people calling my number, yelling “go yellow laces!” and “go Polar!” – and I drank them all in and turned it into energy. This time, I saw Christina and Crazy Paul and actually smiled at them! I collected bracelet number two, hit the mist tent, and grabbed my special needs bag. My feet were starting to hurt, but they were also starting to blister from all the moisture. The one lesson I learned from Florida that I actually put into use was fresh socks. What a beautiful thing – a quick wipe with some Blister Shield, a fresh pair of socks, and I felt good as new!! Final Lap – let’s do this thing!
This time, I ran the start of the lap, saw my wonderful woman and was able to flash her a genuine smile this time. The one thing I recall distinctly was her telling me “JKR”. This was what I had written on my arm in Florida – JKR…Just Keep Running. Then she said something that I would take with me for that last 9 miles “You can do this – do it for me – do it for US”. Actually choked me up a little, hearing that. I smiled, and felt more empowered than I had for the whole day. I would do it – and I would do it for US, dammit!
That last lap I ran more than the other two put together. Although not my fastest lap, surprisingly. I think it has to do with the slower pace, not having walking breaks, whatever. I just wanted to finish and get off my feet! I ran through every aid station – saw Jenny, Sarah, and Roberta out there and tried my best to muster up some words of encouragement, but I think it came out as “ughhggghh…..phhttt….”. I made damn sure to thank every single person out there – without them I would not have been on the way to the finish line.
In the last mile, I ran with a guy who had his name, Frost, plastered across his ass. I assumed he must be pro or something, I don’t know. We ran together for a while, talked about PRs, etc., until it came time for the final sprint to the finish. I hate the people who take someone else’s finish line shot by sprinting ahead of them at the last second. It gains you nothing, and really ruins the other guy’s experience. So I dropped back a bit to let him go ahead of me. I made sure to leave enough room for my sprint, though, and sprint I did. I saw Christina and immediately I felt the emotions well up inside. She looked so proud, and I could tell she was emotional as well. Then Crazy Paul appeared out of nowhere, IN the finish chute, screaming yelling, waving his Colorado flag, and running me in for a few yards! I heard my coach, Charley, yelling as well, then I heard my name on the loudspeaker. I tell you, that is the best feeling in the world! I broke the tape at 12:44 and change – I broke 13 hours, which meant I made my goal. I actually did it!!! I quickly collected my medal, water, and finisher’s shirt, and got out of the way. I could see her coming through the crowd towards me, and I lost it. The tears flowed freely now, and she got the longest, sweatiest embrace ever! All the sacrifices she made for me. All the support, encouragement, and advice she gave me. All the tolerance she afforded me. It was all for this moment. It felt so good to be done, but it felt even better knowing that I had done her proud. That I had done US proud.
Turns out I got penalized on the bike for riding side by side for a little bit, so my official time is 12:50. But I know how long it took me. 12:44. That’s my time. And I’m happy with it. Florida was 11:50 and pancake-flat. Coming in less than an hour more for an immensely more difficult race – I think I did ok. Vineman commands respect. There’s no way around it. Will I do it again? Probably not. Will I race ironman again? Well…jury’s out right now. As of race day, hell no – never again. But now, looking back over a week later? Don’t be surprised if you see me out there again in a couple of years. But for now, it’s back to normal life. Spending time with those that I love, and trying to give back a little of what I was given for the last year. God knows I couldn’t have finished without it. As for Christina – you couldn’t ask for a better supporter. This race was for you, baby. This race was for us. I love you.
Last updated: 2007-01-07 12:00 AM
01:23:00 | 4224 yards | 01m 58s / 100yards
0F / 0C
Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
05:49:02 | 112 miles | 19.25 mile/hr
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Shoe and helmet removal
05:22:00 | 26.2 miles | 12m 17s min/mile
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]
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