Sunday, July 28, 2013

Barb's Race - Race Report

Now that the race is over and I have my finisher's medal in my hand, I have to wonder...what was I so worried about?  LOL  Easy to say now!

Before I get started on my race report, I want to take a minute to thank everyone that helped make this possible. First and hubby and best friend...aka Hot Stuff.

Without his support, I would not have been able to put in the time that made it possible to complete Barb's Race.  He followed me faithfully on his bike when I did my long runs, he went to swim practice with me when the last thing he wanted to see was a pool, and he allowed me the time I needed to train.

Also, he was very accepting of my ever growing need to acquire tri gear and he was willing to indulge me when I wanted a new bike, helmet, shoes, tri kit, bike bag, pedals, swim suit, goggle, goggles, more goggles. On top of that, he spent hours upon hours at races only to get brief glimpses of me coming out of the water, coming in off the bike, or crossing the finish line. Thank you, Honey! LOVE YOU!!!

Post race support party, only person
missing is James
Secondly, I would like to thank my coach, +James Cotta who taught me everything I needed to know to go from super-sprint triathlon to 70.3 in a little less than a year. He turned a one time rec league summer swimmer (who never used to wear a swim cap) into a swimmer that finished 5th in her age group at Barb's Race. Amazing work! Barb's Race definitely highlighted some areas we need to work on in my second year and I can't wait to get started!  Thank you, James!

Last, but definitely not least, I want to thank all of my family and friends that have supported me in my racing endeavors. Words cannot express how much it means to me to see your smiling faces at the finish line! I love your encouraging Facebook posts and text messages, even if they make me cry (BFF was exceptional at ruining my makeup at work! )

I also want to thank everyone that made a donation in my name as part of my fundraising requirement for Barb's Race! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!


Let me start by saying that I was really stressed about the pre-race meeting and two separate transition areas. It was very hard to drop off my running gear and walk away...hoping to see it again the next day.

We were allowed to bring moral support to the meeting
(hence all the men you see)

Bye-bye stuff...see you tomorrow

Race day morning was not as bad as I had been expecting, even following a restless night of sleep on a little too firm, hotel mattress. I woke up around 4:30am, drank a chia fresca and a cup of coffee, followed by a banana. This has been my standard race day breakfast for the last few races and has worked well.

Breakfast of choice
We were early meeting James in Windsor, but he was early too, so it worked out well. We made a quick stop at Star Bucks. I got a small dark roast and used it to wash down a protein bar on the way to Guerneville.

Once at the race start, James and I racked our bikes while HS parked the car (another of his many and much appreciated duties! Thank you!!!) It was weird only having bike gear in T1. Unfortunately, I forgot a couple of things, like a towel for my feet (sandy dirt) and a sweatshirt to stay warm in until the race start.

I think James is laughing at me because I'm freezing!


The swim went way better than I expected. I chose not to warm up. Honestly, I didn't want to get wet and then have to get out of the water, I was already cold enough. It was announced that the water was 71 or 72 but it felt warmer...probably because it was warmer than the outside temp.

I was in the 2nd wave for Barb's Race. I was surprised when I caught up with the tail end of the first wave relatively quickly. At that point, things got really congested and I was making contact regardless of which way I turned.

When I reached the bridge, the water got shallow. So shallow in fact, that my finger tips would drag on the bottom. I have been told by people that have done Vineman, to stay horizontal and to drag myself through the water. I tried this, but it hurt my fingers. I opted to stand up and run. This proved to be a good move as I was passing people that were slogging through the water. It also gave me somewhat of a "bird's eye view" of the best path to take to avoid my competitors.
Not exactly a straight line

This was my longest open water swim to date and it was much better than I had expected. I had hoped to finish somewhere between 35 and 40 minutes and came in well under that time. Thanks again James!!!

I think there is a certain "safety blanket" type feeling of being able to look left or right and see the bank of the river. In fact, during the pre-race meeting they told us this was one of the safest swim courses and that we could basically stand up or grab a tree branch whenever we wanted. NOTE: You can't always touch the bottom :-)

Over before I knew it
...tied for 5th in my age group ;-)
Time seemed to fly by during the swim. I think I was so preoccupied with avoiding my competitors that I didn't have time to focus on the race or the distance. Before I knew it, I looked up and could see the exit to T1. What a welcome sight!!!

Barb's Race - Swim Course by tpengilly at Garmin Connect - Details


OK, as I mentioned earlier, I forgot a towel for T1. Most of the time, this wouldn't have been an issue, but this transition area is on the bank of a river and is nothing more than sandy dirt. There is carpet lining the run from the water to the bikes, but it is covered with dirt too.

I did take advantage of the wetsuit strippers. As I came out of the water, I unzipped my suit and pulled it down below my hips. When I got to the strippers, I laid on the carpet and put my feet in the air. A volunteer grabbed my suit and yanked it off. Thankfully, my TYR Hurricane slipped off my legs like they were covered in butter (actually baby oil).

When I got to my bike, I stuffed my wetsuit in my swim bag (don't want to lose it again). I slipped on one of my bike shoes... noticed my sunglasses and put those on next. I then grabbed my second shoe and remembered I had placed my socks in that shoe.  Dang, now I have to take my first shoe off. My feet are covered in dirt and now I have to get my socks on...ARGH!

I grabbed a water bottle off of my bike and squirted one of my feet clean. I then struggled a bit with my socks trying to figure out which one went on which foot (I brought my fancy running socks that are foot specific). When I finally figured out the socks, put a shoe on, washed the other foot, and put a sock and shoe on that foot too. Last to go on was my helmet.

HS was standing by the fence, so I handed my swim bag to him. I grabbed my bike and hustled out of transition.

Let's do this!

I opted to run up the first hill in lieu of falling and taking someone else out with me :-) Sorry, Coach...still not entirely confident with my cycling skills.


To begin, my bike was stocked with chia fresca in my aero bottle, 3 chopped up Kind "Almond & Coconut"bars, several boiled red potatoes sprinkled with salt, two GU packets, and two Smart Water sport bottles in my cages. NOTE: Cut the Zip-Lock seals off the bags before the race. I struggled to open the bags single handedly. The Smart Water bottles were a perfect fit and I didn't care if I tossed them.

Now, on to the ride...

Up until this race, my bike has been problem free... not today! Shortly into the bike course you have to make a sharp right. You drop down to the old highway and then quickly have to climb. It's not a big hill, but it is steep. I down shifted before I got to the climb, but as soon as I started pedaling, I knew something was wrong. I could barely spin and felt like I was going to come to a complete stop. I looked down...BIG CHAIN RING!! My bike did not change gears. ARGH!!!

I stood up and pedaled with all of my might to the top of the hill. My legs were shaking and I thought I was done. Once I got rolling down the road again, I tested my gears and everything seemed to work fine... OK, maybe I'll still be able to climb Chalk Hill.

I noticed lots of bottles and a few bike bags along the way. I felt bad for anyone that had lost something they needed for the ride.  It's a long way...especially for those doing the full Vineman. The ride progressed as well as I could have expected, but I noticed a pain in my hips.  I suspect this came from the struggle up the hill.

It's funny to admit this, but I felt like a real triathlete (after 5 triathlons) as I made my way through the first aid station. James had tried to prepare me for what was going to happen... toss the bottle, grab a bottle, avoid the pros. As I approached the first aid station, I grabbed my empty bottle (I had emptied it into my aero bottle on a climb) and tossed it into the bin (a large area encompassed by plastic fencing). I then grabbed a bottle of Gatorade from a volunteer (still moving) and stuck it into my bottle cage. Seamless, smooth, and I'm still on my bike. Yay!!!

A little way past Mauritson Family Vineyards (that's how I know where I am at over the wineries we have visited with Ashley), I shifted to the smaller chain ring in anticipation of a climb. This time, the bike shifted and then the chain fell off!  CRAP!!!  I pulled off to the side of the road and struggled to free the chain that was jammed between the frame and the small chain ring. On the bright side, one competitor checked to see if I needed a tube and others offered helped as they rode past me. Triathletes are awesome people!

One of many wineries passed without a taste :-(

I freed the chain and got it back on the bike relatively quickly (1-2 minutes).  I caught and passed the women that passed me minutes before and continued my ride. The climb and descent to Geyserville was fine. However, HS questioned my top speed of 32 mph. I'm sorry, but they put brakes on bikes for a reason, and I learned on our trial run that the road is bumpy and the shadows make it difficult to see the bumps. I decided to play it safe and keep my speed in check.

As I rolled into Geyersville and the second aid station, a male competitor (probably full Vineman) told me that my bike bag was holding on by a thread. CRAP AGAIN!!!  I pulled over before the aid station to figure out what was wrong. At that point, I unwrapped the bag, rerouted the velcro straps and pulled everything tight.  Please, please, please....stay on my bike.

I mounted my bike and continued moving forward. Eventually I approached Soda Rock Winery and knew I was getting close to Chalk Hill. I'm not sure how far away I was, but I knew Chalk Hill was coming. Before you get to Chalk Hill there is a short hill that can easily mistaken for Chalk Hill (I saw one rider walking on this hill).  It seems steep enough to be CH, however, it is silent...there are no spectators on this first hill cheering you on to the top. Ugh... keep pedaling...

I finally got to Chalk Hill and copied the riders in front of me... they rode in the saddle, I stayed my saddle...they popped up, I popped up. Clang, clang, clang....YES! Cow bells! Spectators! Fans! I'm almost to the top.  There are chalk markings on the street encouraging their people to the top! Such a welcome sight...I wasn't sure I was going to make this climb with the way my bike had been acting. From this point on, it is basically a descent all the way to transition (not exactly, but it feels like it).

After Chalk Hill, I tried to take advantage of the descent and managed to pass a couple of people. At one point, I looked down briefly and to my horror I saw that my bike bag was once again hanging on my a thread. I was not stopping! I said a quick prayer and asked God to keep that bag on my bike. My prayers were answered and I made it to T2 with no further problems.

Barb's Race - Bike Course by tpengilly at Garmin Connect - Details


OMG! I never thought I would get this far. Seriously...I never thought I would make it out of the water!  After my not so impressive transitions at Tri for Real #2, I kicked things up a notch (heck, it's my "A" race, right James? LOL). Anyway, I dismounted my bike and ran, yes RAN, all the way to the rack. Thankfully a competitor had attached a pinwheel to our rack, so that is what I searched for.

Just like Forrest Gump...if I was going anywhere, I was RUNNING!

Once I located my bike, I changed into my running gear and headed off to the run course. Avenue of the Vines only hurt for a few days, how bad could this be after swimming 1.2 miles and riding for 56?

High Five for HS as I left T2
Such a great feeling getting off the bike and heading out for the run :-)


There was a change to the course before the race. Instead of running a long loop followed by a shorter loop, the loops were going to be equal. Works for me.  The aid stations were every mile or so and very well stocked. I drank and ate at almost every stop... oops, I mean station...I tried not to stop...I really tried not to stop.

I should have checked the run course before the race. The hills were much more substantial than I anticipated. When I got to the first serious climb, I walked. In fact, I walked almost every hill. At that point, I had lost all of my mental toughness. I was done and contemplated walking whatever distance I had left. 

When I neared the turn to head back for the second half of the race, I was bolstered by the fans lining the street. Go "1966!" they screamed. They had no idea who I was and vice versa, but they kept me moving. When I made the turn to head back out, I was greeted by the best supporters in the world...halfway done...I can do this!!!

Throughout my run, I had water, Gatorade, ice, peaches, half of a banana, and two chocolate chip, I had a GU left over from the ride. I probably ate more than necessary, but it gave me an excuse to slow down.  In fact, every stupid hill gave me an excuse to slow down.

Honestly, I am not a fan of hills...heck, I'm from Stockton and this is serious flat land. I know that in my second year I am going to have to do more hill work and I have people willing to train with me. Should I have ran on more of the hills? Yes! But I didn't and I am just going to have to accept that. I had hoped to average 9 minute miles. It didn't happen, but I'm OK with that...there is always next year and James hasn't resigned :-)

Final Thoughts

As I approached the finish line, my gait took a turn for the worse and I started a sort of hobbled run. My knees were aching from the down hill runs and the pain in my hips returned. In the back of my head, I was convinced the muscle was tearing away from my bones. I wanted nothing more than to walk. I couldn't tell what my overall time was because I forgot to turn off the "auto pause" on my Garmin.  Ugh! Just let this be over.

However, as you make your way to the finish, the last mile is lined with spectators, and they could care less who you are. If you are competing...they are cheering for you! They may not know your name, but they can see your number.  "Go 1966!"  "Looking strong 1966" "You're almost there!!!"

I couldn't let these strangers down. When I saw the final turn into Windsor High School, I ran. I ran for the last year! I ran for all of the training! I ran for all of my friends and family who had been waiting around all day for my crazy butt to finish! I ran and ran and ran. I didn't care what my legs felt like. When I crossed the finish line and I got to grab that finish line tape in my hand, I felt as if I had won Kona!

Amazing feeling!!! DONE!

I would definitely do this again and I'm already making my list of "Do's and Don'ts" for next year. Who wants to join me?