Monday, December 11, 2017

An Open Letter to the Person that Hit Me and Left Me on the Side of the Road

NOTE (12/11/2017): I'm done with all of this. Out of the loop. People speaking for me without talking to me. It's time to move on with my life. Yes, I am mad but I just don't have the energy for this. Nothing I say or do will change anything. Half of my backside is numb and I just have to deal with it...of course, you still have all of the feeling in your body, no scars, no nightmares...enjoy!

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NOTE (12/1/2017): I've been working on this letter for over a month (its now a little more than two months since the hit and run). I shelved this post for a while because it stirred up too many emotions. I feel that now is the time to finish it because I can feel a lot of anger and resentment building up and I just want to get this out once and for all. (Not published at this time).

___________________________________________________________

To the A-Hole that Hit Me and Left,

First, I would like to ask you if you care that you hit me but I know that’s a stupid question. If you cared, you would have stopped. Your actions answered the question before I even asked it.

So, knowing that you don’t care and that you have no regard for human life, I am writing this letter in hopes that perhaps someone else will read it and think twice about their own actions. Maybe someone will read this and decide that they are going to obey the traffic laws and give cyclists three feet clearance. Maybe someone will read this and they will stop and render aid if they hit a car, pedestrian, or cyclist.


Please note, there were three of us that day that you hit. No, hit is not the right term. There were three of us that you ran into, over, and through. We were riding single file along the white line on the side of the road and ...ONE...by ONE...by ONE ...you took each one of us out in a different and horrifying way. This letter will only discuss the pain and horror you inflicted on me. I will let the other two riders tell their own stories.

The Terror

The last memory I have while still upright on my bike was the sound of gravel and loud sound of cracking. In the split second before you hit me, I did not have time to process that what I was hearing was the sound of your tires driving through the gravel on the side of the road. Yes, the gravel to the right of the white line. Forget about three feet of clearance, I would have given anything to have only had one foot of clearance and not to have you directly behind me. Oh, and the loud cracking I heard, that was my friend’s bike being snapped and broken as you drove over it and him.

That’s the extent of my memory. I was knocked out for a couple of minutes. The next thing I remember is that I am standing up. I was dazed. I looked around to try and get my bearings. I can only say that at that moment I felt as if I had been picked up and dropped in the middle of a horror movie. My two friends were severely injured and laying in the road. There were bikes and parts and gear strewn all over.

There was a gash in my head and blood was running down my face. I thank God that I had the wherewithal to grab my phone and call 9-1-1.  Please note, I did not call for help because I am some sort of hero. I called for help because of the sheer terror you had left me to deal with!

I was alone on a country road with two injured friends and I was scared out of my mind! I needed someone to help us. I should not have had to do this. It was your responsibility to stop and call for help immediately!


The Physical Pain

When you hit me, an artery was torn somewhere in my left buttock. I spent my three days in the hospital cinched in a T-Pod in an attempt to stop the bleeding without surgery. I was denied food or anything to drink for the first two days because the doctors did not know if the bleeding would stop on its own. I had stitches in my forehead. Other wounds were bandaged and wrapped. The left side of my body was covered in deep purples bruises and extremely painful road rash.

First day home
After I was released from the hospital, I spent the next two weeks at home, unable to return to work. I'm sure you were back to earning a living before I even got out of the hospital. I was fortunate to have my husband and daughters with me doing what they could to make me comfortable.

Comfort was fleeting though. Trying to find a sleeping position that kept me off of the bruises and road rash was nearly impossible. Getting up to go to the bathroom or move about the room caused even more pain as scabs on my knees and elbows split open again and started bleeding.

As the swelling receded, a huge hematoma became apparent. I'm sure it was always there, I just couldn't see it because of all of the other damage you inflicted. Thankfully I was able to find a surgeon willing to drain the hematoma so it could start to heal. What started out as a swollen, numb, lump on my upper left buttock is now a hard, semi flat, tingly, painful area (and yet it was still oddly numb).

People keep telling me that it is just the nerves "waking up". Honestly, I wish the nerves would go back to sleep because the burning, itching, and zapping that strikes at random times is very disconcerting. I am trying to get back in to see my doctor to see it there is something that can be done to help.

Do you want to know what really pisses me off about the physical pain?

What really pisses me off about my physical pain (over two months out and I still have no feeling on my left side) is that I don't even feel like I have a right to complain about anything given the extent of the damage you inflicted on my two friends. I feel like I just need to shut up and accept it because I don't have any broken bones or because I am not in the hospital. I've been told this is similar to "survivors guilt", maybe that's what it is, but it sucks because I suffered and continue to suffer.

Hematoma after three weeks (The lump is NOT my butt!)


The Suffering of Others

Speaking of suffering. You put my husband and daughters through an incredible amount of suffering too. When you hit me, my daughters were down in southern California celebrating my oldest daughter's bachelorette weekend. They had rented a house and were having a fun weekend up until the point when my husband had to call them and tell them that I was in the hospital because of what you did. I would have given anything not to ruin their plans. However, they ended up cutting things short and coming home early. I understand why they came back early, I would have done the same if anything had happened to one of them. However, they should not have had to do that!

When my family walked into my hospital room, the pain and sadness on their faces was too much. We all started crying. I didn't want them to see me all banged up just as much as I am sure they didn't want to see their mother with stitches, scabs and bruises all over my face. You were probably at home at that exact moment enjoying dinner with your family.

I do take a bit of solace in hoping that you and your family suffered even the slightest bit of distress when the police showed up at your door and told them what you did. Did your family cry when they found out that their father hit three people and left them on the side of the road? (12/11/17 Note: After reading the police report, your family did not want you driving that truck!)

The Intangible Losses

One of my favorite activities was riding my bike. I rode with friends from the triathlon club, I rode with neighbors, I rode with co-workers, and I rode with my family. If anyone had a ride planned, I was ready to go! You have ruined, no I think STOLEN is the right word, my joy of riding. In your one single, heartless act, you have taken road cycling from me. Maybe if you would have stopped to help us, I would be able to fathom getting out one the road again. If I thought that someone would help me if the unthinkable happened, I might be able to consider riding again.

Below are several of my favorite pictures from my rides. I want to cry every time I think that I may never enjoy this again just because I am scared of some heartless jerk running me down and leaving me again. On top of that, I couldn't stand being involved in another incident where friends were injured. My husband talks about going out riding with my co-workers. I'm not sure I could stand knowing he was out on the road. I don't want to get the same call he got about me.

Heartbroken that we may never have our date-rides

Riding with my daughter and son-in-law

My co-workers

Tri club friends

Racing

I can't finish this letter...enjoy your life selling vegetables under the freeway on Saturday mornings. Watch for cyclists!



Monday, October 9, 2017

Hit and Run - Anger, F-Bombs, and Church

After a restless night of sleep, I woke up with the intention of going to church. I needed to go to church. It was one more step towards my ultimate goal of reclaiming all that is "normal" in my life.

It was about twenty after seven so I knew I was going to have to hustle a bit to try and get out of the door on time to make the 8:30am service in Manteca. HS had already made coffee, so I took a few sips and made my way to the shower.  The warm water felt great on my black and blue body, but I kept my wash time to a minimum and proceeded to try and get ready.

Road rash reality
Step one was reapplying sterile pads to the road rash. I struggle to be as independent as possible, but HS eventually stepped in when he saw my frustration level rising. I was snappy with him. I just wanted him to hold the pad while I tried to wrap the ace bandage around me. I was trying to wrap the bandage so the metal clips were in front and not somewhere that I would I would have to sit on it.

Step two was reapplying the silicone scar sheets to the areas that were no longer considered open wounds. The sheets rolled, curled and stuck together. I was finding it exceedingly difficult to get them to stick and was starting to even more frustrated. Tears welled up, but I tried to hold them back.

HS popped into the bathroom to let me know that we were going to have to leave soon. My hair was still wet and I had no makeup on. I grabbed my concealer and started applying makeup to my black eye and oddly colored cheek. I looked in the mirror and started to cry. The first time in over a week putting on makeup and all I managed to do was make myself look worse. The makeup was no match for the yellow and grey hues on the left side of my face. I only succeeded in making it look like I was trying to hide something...poorly.

I grabbed a makeup remover towelette and wiped off my face as I started to cry. Mike came back in the bathroom to see what I was doing. I was quickly sinking into a sea of self pity and anger. "My makeup only made me look worse" I cried. He responded but I'm not sure what he said. He knew there really wasn't a way to help. Words only seemed to make my mood worse.

I moved on to trying to dry my hair but it was a hot mess. I think during my rushed shower I left some conditioner in my hair. The tears continued. I went to the guest bath to rewash my hair with the hand held shower head. Gingerly kneeling on my "good" knee, I hung my head in the tub, applied shampoo and then rinsed. I went back to the master bath and tried running a brush through my hair. I cried some more.

By this time, it was well after 8am. HS came into the bathroom to say something and I snapped again. "Why can't we just go the f*****g 10:00 service?" I screamed. Yes, that is how bad it was. I was dropping F-bombs in our discussion about what church service to go to. Ugh. It was ugly. HS said it was fine if we went to the 10:00 service. He said I didn't need to go to church if I didn't want to. "I need to go," I cried. I was so frustrated and angry that I couldn't get ready in 30 minutes like normal. I was mad that we couldn't go to our "normal" service time. I was mad. Mad at everything.

HS left the room. Probably so he wouldn't have to take the brunt of my verbal assaults. I sat down on the edge of our bed and cried. And cried and cried and cried. If my anger and self-pity were quick sand, I would be up to my neck at this point.

HS checked in on me again. I was frustrated at my wardrobe options. It wasn't cool enough for a sweatshirt, but a bit too cool for a short sleeved shirt. The one pair of workout pants that I could comfortably wear were in the drier getting "freshened up". I pawed through the options in my closet. Running top, race shirt, cycling jersey, cycling jersey, cycling jersey. OMG! Thank's to my Pearl Izumi "Ambador" status over the last two years, I have an abundance of bright, fun, screaming pink jerseys that mocked me this morning. The thought that I may never don a cycling jersey again smacked me in the face.

Yes, this is my closet!

I continued to search for something to wear and settled on last year's CIM shirt. Long sleeve, but loose, it would cover the wounds on my arms but not be too warm to wear. I sat on the bed and continued to cry. Not only did the unknown driver needlessly injure me and my two friends, but he had destroyed my favorite bike, stolen my joy of riding, and erased the last few months of training for CIM. This was going to be my year to qualify for Boston. In a second it was gone. I cried even more.

Eventually I pulled myself together enough to get dressed, finish drying my hair, and to apply some mascara and lip gloss. No foundation today. At this point, I didn't care if people saw the yellow and purple hues on my face. I would wear them like a badge this morning. I left the bedroom and went to sit on the couch with HS until it was time to leave.

Our ride to Manteca was silent. I continued to simmer in my anger. Cars appeared to fly past us, but I had asked HS to not get in a hurry because riding in a car was stressful for some reason. I think I was worried about how bad it would hurt if we got into a accident. My battered body was not ready to hurt even more.

When we finally pulled into the parking lot, we only had a few minutes to spare. HS looked like he was going to park in our "normal" spot, but I asked him to drop me off near the front because there was no way I would be able to walk fast enough to make the service on time. He drove around to the front row and was about to drop me off at the center walkway when he noticed an open spot just to his left. Perfect. He parked and we made our way inside.



I was secretly hoping for one of those sermons that, when you heard it, you assumed had been written specifically for you. The current series is called (Be)Loved and the topic for this week was called (Be)Careful. I'm not sure what I was expecting...maybe something along the lines of (Be)Careful riding your bike because some stranger may run down you and your friends and leave you on the side of the road. Alas, the sermon was not Tracy specific. It was a great sermon, just not the grab me and shake me message I was hoping for. I desperately wanted something to dissipate my anger.

When the service ended, HS and I made our typical exit out of the side door. I shuffled along next to a woman with a cane. I think she was racing me. I let her take the lead. At the sidewalk, HS and I ran into Pastor Brian. He recognized us and stopped to give me a "gentle" hug. He was aware of the hit and run and had messaged me a couple of times during the week to see how I was doing.  He asked about Jessica and Dal, and we discussed some details about the unfortunate events of last Saturday.

Pastor Brian is a cyclist himself. He admitted that he often rides alone. I pray that he finds a riding partner. While I have learned the hard way that there is no safety in numbers, it is a much bigger gamble if you are on your own. If you are by yourself and someone hits you and leaves, there is no one to call for help.

If Brian want to continue riding alone,
this bubble-wrap outfit might be his best option

At the end of our chat, he asked if he could pray for us. We stood in a small circle in front of Crossroads as Pastor Brian prayed for me, Jessica, and Dal. Honestly, his words were a distant noise that I struggled to focus on. Why can I not pay attention to what he is saying? Pay attention, stupid!! I heard names, but everything else seemed lost. What I did notice was that the powerful gusts of anger and self-pity that billowed my sails suddenly ceased. I was at peace. It was amazing.

We said our goodbyes. HS and I found our truck and headed to Target for more bandages and some pain relieving spray for my road rash. I tried conjuring up a little anger. I thought about CIM and not being able to race. Nothing. I thought about how badly my body hurt. Nothing. Nothing I could think about seemed to raise my ire.

I'm not sure how long this peaceful hiatus from anger will last. I pray that it will become my new "normal". Am I angry that my friends are hurt? Yes. Am I angry that our loved ones were put through this anguish? Yes. However, I am thrilled that the anger is no longer consuming me from the inside out. I still suffer from random bouts of tears, but I no longer feel like I am losing myself.





Saturday, October 7, 2017

Hit and Run - A Week Later

This morning I woke up and looked at the clock. It was 6:42am. "I was just leaving the house at this time last week to meet everyone" I said to HS. I can't believe it's already been a week.

At roughly 7:28am on Sept. 30, 2017, three lives changed

Five years ago today, I completed my first triathlon (I can't believe it's already been five years). I was immediately hooked on the sport and more specifically, cycling. I absolutely loved going out for a ride with my friends, teammates, and co-workers. If anyone wanted to ride, I was there. Today, one week after two friends and I were hit by a car and left on the side of the road, I can't say if I will ever ride again.

One happy group of finishers

I am a basket case of emotions. I cannot express how absolutely thankful I am to be up and walking around, kissing HS, chatting with my daughters, hugging my fur babies, posting on my blog. On the other hand, I am wracked with guilt that I am able to do all of the things I just listed and that one of our riders is still in the hospital with very serious injuries. I fight off bouts of self pity for a bunch of various reasons. I am unwilling to even divulge any of the reasons because they are stupid and trivial.  Tears come at random times and I laugh and joke when it may not be appropriate. 

Yesterday I tried reassembling Beauty. I don't know what I hoped to achieve. I think I secretly hoped that doing so would restore all the missing pieces of my memory. That didn't happen. Instead, I was merely saddened by the loss of a dear friend. This bike started as an upgrade to an aluminum frame, store brand bike. I wanted to go on group rides without +James  bitching at me about group ride etiquette and my tri bike. I was also tired of trying to keep up with a bunch of cyclist on carbon frames.

A year ago today we said goodbye to Buster

I've been documenting my recovery with photos. Again, I don't know what I hope to achieve. It did come in handy at the doctor's office so I could show her what I looked like in the hospital and when I got first came home. I choked back the tears when I looked at my body in the mirror today. The football lump on my backside is hideous and weird. However, when I look at my pictures from Monday, I can see the change and pray that my recovery continues.


I'm not sure what the future holds. I hope to return to running and swimming. Cycling (and even riding in the car) scares me. When I see friends posting about their rides, I am afraid for them. At only a week out, I know it is way too soon for me to say what I will and won't do. I will continue to play it by ear...maybe one day you will see me back out on the road.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hit and Run - What I Can Tell You

Before I start my story, I want to take a minute to say thank you to everyone for all of the love, prayers, and support. It means more to me than you could ever know. 
  • Thank you to HS who rushed to the scene of the accident and has been my rock through all of this. 
  • A special thank you to Renee for calling him while I was on the phone with 9-1-1.
  • Thank you to my daughters, Ashley and Lindsey, who have pressed pause in their lives so they can be home taking care of me (this may be bragging, but HS and I raised two amazing young women). 
  • Thank you to my son-in-law, Max, who spent his weekend dog sitting.
  • Thank you to all of my co-workers and frequent riding partners at the City of Stockton for all of your kind words, prayers and support...and for the beautiful flowers! And to Eric Houston for his efforts to help find the driver.
  • Thank you to James Cotta for your support and your tireless search to find the hit and run driver. 
  • Thank you to Trisha and Tony for rescuing me from hospital food with a big bag of gummy bears and for their CSI work.
  • Thank you to the amazing staff at San Joaquin General Hospital. Everyone I encountered was so caring and understanding. 
  • Thank you to the all the emergency personnel that were on scene and to the young man taking care of me in the ambulance. I don't remember your name, but I remembered your face when you popped into my room Saturday night to check on me.
  • Thank you to the drivers that did stop and offered assistance.
  • Thank you to the second half of our Saturday riding group. Things happen for a reason and I am so thankful you were behind us.
  • Thank you to my Central Valley Triathlon teammates, my fellow Pearl Izumi Ambadors, my church family at Crossroads Grace Community Church,  the cycling community in the Lodi/Stockton area, and last but not least, all of my family, friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers for your prayers. They truly made a difference.
I wish I could thank everyone individually. Every Facebook post, text message, Instagram comment, and email means so much to me. This event has been a life changing experience, not because of my injuries, but because of the outpouring of love.

Typical Saturday Ride

I had made plans to ride with some friends on Saturday morning. HS was supposed to ride with us, but he had a very upset stomach and decided to stay home. I met up with my riding partners at Bear Creek High School and discussed which route we wanted to take. One rider suggested heading up to Lodi and looping back on Peltier Rd. Peltier is a heavily traveled road and can be dangerous in spots. I suggested taking Armstrong Road east since the ride is nice and the roads are pretty quiet. HS and I have rode this route a number of times and have always enjoyed it.

Once everyone was ready, we clipped in and pedaled off. I turned around to do a quick head count and noticed four riders still in the parking lot. I asked Jessica why they were still there, but she didn't know. I thought that maybe they decided to take the other route. Jessica, Dal and I continued to ride. We were uneasy about one of the other riders because he had forgotten his helmet but still wanted to ride (this is a big no-no).  Our route took us up Thornton, on to Devries, and then a right turn on to Armstrong. Traffic was light as expected.

And Then It Happened

Our ride was uneventful up to that point. Just a typical Saturday morning ride. The next events are a blur. The last thing I remember was hearing the sound of tires in gravel and loud cracking. Crack! Crack! Crack! My Garmin shows me accelerating from 17 mph to nearly 21 mph in a matter of seconds. Less than seven seconds later, I am no longer moving. My Garmin doesn't detect movement again for almost two minutes.


The next thing I know is that I am standing on the side of the road looking around, trying to figure out what happened. Blood is running down my face, but I can move. I see Dal laying on his back with at least half of his body still in the road. I believe he was to the right of where I was standing, but I'm not sure. He was moaning and seemed to be in a great deal of pain. I turned and saw Jessica on the ground, but she seemed to be mostly off of the road. She was also moaning and in pain.

I've been told this is what adrenaline does for you
According to my phone, I called 9-1-1 at 7:30am and stayed on the phone for 14 minutes.  I remember running back and forth between Jessica and Dal. I know I shouldn't move them, but I was concerned about traffic. I looked to the west and saw a big truck headed our direction. I was terrified. I ran into the road and started waving my arms. I prayed that the driver would see me. Thankfully, a driver coming from the opposite direction stopped and quickly jumped out of his vehicle to help me stop the truck.

I'm not sure how much time passed, but I saw the other four riders approaching. I could tell from the looks on their faces that things were bad. I asked Renee to call HS because I was still on the phone with 9-1-1. Time was a blur after that point. I remember seeing HS pulling up in his truck. Tears ran down his face when he saw me. He was just thankful I was alive.

I'm not sure what possessed me to snap pictures at this point. I guess since my phone was in my hand it just seemed like something I should do. Honestly, I don't remember taking the pictures or even the arrival of the fire trucks and ambulances.

Jessica is sitting up and being attended to on the side of the road.
HS standing next to Beauty

The next photos are not vanity selfies. I snapped these in an attempt to see how bad my injuries were. 


I think I was afraid to snap the side of my face with the injury.
It took me a while to get up the nerve to take a picture of the injured side of my face.

In the ambulance, I was finally brave enough to check out the other side of my face

I'm not sure how I ended up with my water bottle in the ambulance. I think I may have picked it up off of the road. I kept trying to take a drink but the EMT in the ambulance would tell me not to drink because I may need surgery. Surgery???

To be continued...

Hit and Run - A Week Later
Hit and Run - Anger, F-Bombs and Church



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Another Run at CIM

The California International Marathon celebrates its 35th year this year. It will be my 5th attempt on this course trying to get a Boston qualifying time. On my first attempt, I missed the qualifying time by :04 seconds. I was devastated.  Since that time, I’ve only managed to run slower and get further and further away from that elusive qualifying time.

Post race with HS
Last year I thought I had it in the bag because my qualifying time would be for 2018 and I would be in the 50-59 age group. I had an extra 5-minute cushion that I should have made given my times from the three previous years. Unfortunately, in my exuberance, I went out way too fast and crashed and burned at the end. Once again I made the trip home licking my wounds and thinking “if only I had done this” thoughts.

Immediately following the race, I doubted whether I would go back and try again. Obviously, it is not meant to be.  I followed a marathon training plan. I gave up swimming and most cycling to strengthen my running. The day before the race, I made sure I didn’t spend a lot of time at expo. I made arrangements to stay with my daughter and son-in-law in Folsom just like I did the first year.  I tried to do everything right so I would be ready on race day. 

Virtual Goodie Bag

A couple of days after the race, my virtual goodie bag showed up in my email. I knew what was in there. It was the “re-run” special that allows you to sign up for next year’s CIM at a much-reduced price. I knew I needed to decide. I kicked the idea around for a while and missed the first signup period, but I made the second one and only had to pay a little extra. My sister, who also ran CIM in 2016, signed up again too.  I asked HS if he wanted to run it again and he said “No” so I got my oldest daughter, +Ashley to sign up.

Mother / Daughter run at IM Santa Rosa 70.3

My Plan for 2017

My first year running CIM, I programmed my desired pace into my Garmin. This kept me from running too fast or too slow. I will be using this feature again this year. However, I also plan on starting off with the pace group for my qualifying time. If I’m lucky, Karyn Hoffman will be leading this group again and she will keep me on track.

  • Weight Management

I'm not sure what I weighed last year at CIM. I'm pretty sure it was more than I wanted to be. After my annual Halloween candy binge, I never seemed to get back on track. Thanksgiving only made things worse. Lets just say that I continued on my weight gain path all the way up to IRONMAN Santa Rosa 70.3 in May 2017. When I weighed myself after that race, it was obvious that things needed to change.
It took a few months (and a dismal race performance at the Tri for Real #1) before I was able to get my nutrition on track. I have managed to lose 10 pounds since Santa Rosa and am now back at my normal starting point for wanting to drop 5 pounds. With three months to go before CIM, I think I should be able to lose the last few pounds in a safe and reasonable manner. So far, just cutting out weekday wine has made a big improvement.


  • Training Plan

Once again I am looking to Hal Higdon for my training plan. I have opted for the Advanced 1 plan. I thought about doing the Personal Best plan, but that was a 30 week plan and I only had an 18 week window. This nice thing about this year is that I am not coming off a full iron-distance race. I feel pretty fresh and not completely beat up.
I have also started reading Hal's book titled "Run Fast". Of course fast running is in the eye of the beholder, but I feel like I have room for some improvement. One nice thing about reading the book is that I am starting to understand the science behind his training plans. Now that I know what an interval is for and how to do it correctly, I'm hoping that I will see some improvement in speed.


  • Race

For the past few years, I've avoided extra, "unnecessary" (in my opinion) races that wouldn't give me the training miles on my calendar and that would only pose a chance at an injury. Unfortunately, I think I got out of the practice of racing. This year I am not going to worry about injury. If it happens it happens. I am not going to let the fear of getting hurt stop me from doing what I enjoy.



A Pleasant Surprise

Much to my delight, HS changed his mind and signed up for the race. Although we typically don't run together, its nice knowing that we are both working towards the same goal. When I come home and see a note from him that he is out on his run, it motivates me to get on with my workout.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Blog About a Blog

One of my duties as a Pearl Izumi "Ambador" (We take the "Ass" out of "Ambassador") is to write several articles a year for the new Pearl Izumi blog at www.endureandenjoy.com.




I was super excited to finally see my first post published last week, so I decided to share it here too. I will post links to all of my future posts under "Blog in a Blog".

My Two Wheel Addiction


#endureandenjoy #ride365 #williamscycling #iamspecialized_tri #iamspecialized_mtb #trek

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dirt, Sweat and Beers - Race Report

Before signing up for a triathlon class in 2012, I had my eyes on this race. It seemed short enough to tackle without any real knowledge of triathlons. However, because Hot Stuff was going to be out of town that weekend at the Moto GP races in Laguna Seca and because he was taking his truck, I had no way to get my bike to the race. I asked a couple of people if they could drive me but no one was available. I put the race out of my mind and signed up for a trail run instead.

Flash forward five years. After racing long distance triathlons for the last few years, I needed a mental and physical break. I decided that this year I would go back to shorter, local races that I could enjoy with my teammates and with new triathletes going through the same class I went through. As soon as I saw Dirt, Sweat and Beers I knew I wanted to do it. Besides, it was a mountain bike tri and I have a new mountain bike that I have been dying to try out.

Pre-Race

This season I've gone back to basics. Breakfast was my tried and true favorite of soft boiled eggs on toast with a cup of coffee. I drank a Red Bull on the way to the race for an added pick-me-up. The one thing I didn't do was prep my bike gear. I am so used to having extra CO2 and tubes in my tri bag that as I was packing, it didn't dawn on me that I needed a different size tube. It wasn't until I got to the race venue that I realized I had nothing on me to deal with a flat. Fingers crossed it wouldn't be necessary.

Getting to the race was simple and there was plenty of parking (free parking!).

After we parked, HS and I grabbed our gear bags and hopped on our bikes to ride over to registration and the transition area. I grabbed a spot next to James and HS found a spot on a rack with a couple other Central Valley Triathlon Club member. As racers continued to show up the racks became a little congested. A couple of extra racks would have been nice...just for a little extra space for the mountain bikes.

I set up my transition area and got ready for the swim.



Swim

The swim is held in a lake designed for water skiing competitions. If you look at it on a map, it looks like a giant circle. For this race, we were starting at one end of the lake and swimming straight towards the exit and transition for 400 yards. Apparently, the water was a bit deeper than normal because of all of the rain this year. However, there was still plenty of access to the shoreline for the swimmers that preferred the comfort of being able to touch the ground every once in a while.




I heard a lot of swimmers remarking that they were keeping close to shore, so I opted to move towards the middle. I decided to wear my LAVA pants to see how they felt in competition. I have been toying with the idea of racing in them and this seemed like the perfect place to try them out.

We lined up at the rope stretched across the water and waited for the director to tell us to go. It was a mass start with about 100 competitors. Mass starts make me nervous, so I can only imagine what our new triathletes were thinking. A few of the brave ones signed up for this race even though they are only half way through the class. I'm not even sure if they have had the transition class.

As soon as the director said go, I tried to get ahead of the pack. There was a lot of bumping and foot slapping, but nothing aggressive or overtly annoying. I passed several swimmers (more than normal) and after a few minutes I was in clear water. When I raised my head to site, I was surprised at how many swimmers appeared to be ahead of me. It seemed like they were almost to the exit. However, it was probably more like 10-15 yards. I put my head down and kept swimming.



The relatively narrow water way made it easy to go straight. A couple of times I got a bit close to shore. I could tell because my left arm would sweep through the long stringy weeds and get caught up in my Garmin. I looked up to site again and saw the boat dock. One swimmer following the shore too closely swam right to the dock and had spectators yelling to go around. Thankfully, I missed the dock and was alert enough to realize that the exit was just past the dock.

T1

This has got to be the shortest transition run I have ever done on a race. You get out of the water, cross a sandy beach that is probably no wider than 10 feet, cross a grass section about the same width and there you are at the bike racks.

I found my bike quickly and started to change. At that point I realized I forgot to advance my Garmin, so I pressed the necessary button and went back to my task.

I struggled to put dry socks on wet feet and got flustered when an athlete came in and slipped their shoes on without socks. Argh! I should have opted for bare feet. LOL I grabbed the rest of my gear, and hopped on my bike. I was off. My first official race on my mountain bike.

Bike

The bike course is through Delta farm land. It's pretty flat, but there are lots of different terrains to make it interesting. As we left transition we climbed to the top of the levee and proceeded down a gravel road. I was thankful I was clipped in as it definitely made riding much easier. The course was marked with wooden stakes capped with a pink flag every tenth of a mile. As long as you kept the flags on your left you should be OK. The course was a double loop for a total of 11 miles.

I was having an absolute blast on my bike. I was spinning away and passing guys. I did a quick count and only saw five riders out in front of me. I pedaled away to see if I could catch up. At one point, the course made a slight dip with a turn into a very sandy area. The guy in front of me went wide and right into a deep section of sand. He fell and when he got up and started riding he aimed his bike across the trail and towards me as I was passing. I called out that I was on the right and narrowly missed a collision. The sand continued for quite a while but was broken up by a mud puddle.

The site of the muddy section gave me pause. Just looking at the marks from the farm equipment made it apparent that the mud was deep and thick. The riders in front of me were far enough ahead that I didn't get a chance to see them cross. I've never crossed anything like this, so I put my head down and powered throw it. It went much better than I expected and I couldn't wait for the second loop to do it again.

On the back section of the course I saw the "4-Mile" mark. I'm not sure if the other miles were marked or not, but I knew I was getting close to finishing the first lap. The start of mile five was through a really rough section of trail. I did my best to struggle through it without burning out my legs which were starting to feel a little fatigue from riding through the sandy section. The course made a sharp left on to a paved section. As we neared the end of the first lap, a group of 20 or 30 riders appeared in front of me. They turned off a dirt path coming from the middle of the fields.

What just happened?!? My first thought is always that I went the wrong way but I remembered seeing the 4-Mile marker. I was on the right course, these people just cut through the middle of the field probably taking a mile or more off of the 5.5 mile lap. And they also skipped that really rough slow section!! There was nothing I could do about it, so I continued riding and set about trying to pass all of the people that just pulled in front of me.

Found this on Strava...someone's posted route showing their cut through the field.
The start of the second lap took me back up to the top of the levee and back to the gravel road. As I made my way through the second lap, I saw where the other riders got confused. There was a road coming off the bike course that had two cones supposedly blocking it off. Blocking it off for some or looking like "Hey, turn here!" to others.  It probably would have been better to string some caution tape across the cones and maybe mark it off with flour as often done on trail runs. Thankfully, no one cut in front of me on the second loop.

As I made my way along the paved section for the second time I saw a female rider in the distance. I closed the gap with her and a male rider. We climbed the levee for the last time but there was no one at the top to direct riders. The male rider was turned around closer to transition when someone on the staff asked if he had done two laps. I wonder how many others only did one lap? I entered T2 right behind the female rider.

T2

Super fast transition if I do say so myself. I remembered to press the lap button on my Garmin this time and was feeling good about the race. I decided to grab the bottle off of my bike at the last minute because I wasn't sure if there were going to be aid stations and I was starting to feel a little warm.

Run

The lady that came in just before me on the bike took off running and she was fast. I still haven't figure out how to find that gear in myself. I seem content to just plod along at a pace that is tough but nothing that really tests my will.

The course started off around the lake. The trail was packed dirt and was easy to run on. As soon as the trail turned away from the lake there was a volunteer standing at the junction to point the way. I made the sharp right turn and continued running. A little farther down the trail were a couple more volunteers, but that was the end of the course guidance. They pointed the direction to run and said "Good job".

The trail soon turned sandy. I mean really sandy like you were running across the dry part of the beach. I slowed down a bit and was caught by several male runners.  I continued on and at one point started walking through the really sandy sections. How long is this crap going to last was my only thought? Eventually I came up to one of the guys that passed me. He was standing at a tee in the road.

He looked at me and asked "Which way do we go?" There were no clear markings, no volunteers, and nobody else at that moment to follow. Going straight would seem to lead us away from where the finish line was, so it seemed to make sense to go left. We turned and up ahead saw two more runners standing in the path contemplating another split in the trail.

However, this time the split had two cones sort of blocking one direction. One guy thought we should turn and go through the cones (the same mistake many cyclists made). The other guy thought we should go straight. Turning would only lead it right back to the path we were on, so eventually we went straight. And when I say eventually, I mean eventually. It was the weirdest moment I have ever had at a race. I think there were 6 or 7 of us standing there discussing the route before a agreement was reached. Who stops to discuss the course in the middle of a race? LOL

A minute or so later, a two or three runners went around us. This group included the female that has started running in front of me. At that point I knew we had made a wrong turn somewhere. I could hear her making comments about how did a female get in front of her (I was thinking the same thing on the bike LOL). There was nothing to be done at that point. I considered turning around and trying to find the section I missed, but figured it wasn't worth it and would probably create more confusion with the runners behind me. The course was supposed to be a 5K run but competitors that I talked to afterwards had distances between 2.5 and 2.8. I was closer to the lower end.

Finish

I crossed the finish and collected my finishers medal. I changed into my flips flops and went back to the finish to wait for HS and the rest of my team. A couple standing next to me was talking about the poorly marked course. I couldn't help but add my two cents when I heard them talking about the short cut on the ride. The guy said he saw 20-30 riders cutting across the field. He said he was behind me on the bike and trying to catch me when all of a sudden all of these riders appeared. At that point, all we could do was laugh. He also made a wrong turn on the run. I began to wonder if any one competitor actually raced the course as intended.

During the raffle following the race it was announce that a survey was going to be sent out for suggestions about how to make the race better in the future. I will definitely have a few to offer about course markings and I will definitely be back next year to try this one again.

Central Valley Triathlon Club - Post Race


#endureandenjoy




Monday, May 29, 2017

Stones Throw - Triathlon Training Dream Cabin

A few months ago, HS and I sold a couple of condos with the intention of buying a vacation rental instead. We originally looked at a place along Highway 50 but that didn't work out. We had considered the Tahoe area, but any place that was in our price range wasn't necessarily a place we would want to stay at or rent to people. Our next thought was Bear Valley, but when we heard that we would need a snowmobile in order to see the property we changed our mind and stopped in Arnold instead.

Snowy day in Arnold
There was still plenty of snow in Arnold, but you could still get around and it didn't require a snowmobile. As HS navigated the snow lined streets, I scrolled through the Trulia app noting properties to look at. One property caught my eye as I scrolled to the bottom of the screen. It was like no other cabin we had seen. It was modern, and different, and had a huge wall of windows. I started to make note of the address when I happened to look out the window. To my shock, I was looking at the that same cabin. "There it is!" I exclaimed to HS.

Love at first sight 

We drove on to the first property on our list, but called and asked the realtor if we could look at the modern one we just saw. She said sure and set up an appointment that same day in just a few hours. We drove and looked at a couple other places to kill time and grabbed a bite to eat. When we finally got to see the inside of the modern cabin, it was love at first sight for me, HS...well, he eventually grew to love it too. I guess for me, it was the fact that it was brand new and it was entirely different from the ranch style houses we had always lived in.

Special thanks to Kip Machado and Carmie Sanchez at Better Altitude Properties for all of your help!

I love how the windows seem to let the forest inside
We looked at a few more properties after that, but none could compare. The modern cabin was mid-way in our price range and to me it was ideal. I could see it being an attractive property for families looking for a unique property for their vacation. I could also see it being an ideal training location for triathletes looking to blend vacation and training time together. We put an offer in and it was accepted. Now the hard work began trying to setup the place.

Furnishing a brand new cabin - top to bottom
can be very stressful
After finally getting our keys, we spent the next couple of months arguing over design ideas and attempting to buy furniture. Coming to a consensus on how to decorate and what to buy was often difficult. HS and I both had veto power, so many, many, many ideas were squashed before anyone could whip out their credit card to make a purchase.  Eventually the cabin came together and we were able to come up to stay without a long list of chores. We finally had time for a little recreation...I could finally try out my triathlon training dream cabin.

Swim

There are a couple of swimming options up here. One is the pool at the Blue Lake Springs recreation center. They even have designated lap swimming times. I haven't tried to pool out yet, but it looks nice and now that summer is here, there are lots of people. During the winter, however, you could probably have the whole pool to yourself.

I wouldn't recommend this
When things start to warm up, there is also Fly in Lake.  There are other lakes in the area but you can walk to Fly in Lake in a matter of minutes from Stones Throw.


I tried swimming in Fly in Lake a couple of weeks before IRONMAN Santa Rosa 70.3. It would be my one and only OWS before that race. This practice swim was in the beginning of May and the water was absolutely freezing. I had on a full sleeve wetsuit but the water temp still took my breath away. My face and fingers were frozen. I think I lasted about 15 minutes before I got out.

Yesterday, about a month after that first swim, HS and I went back down to the lake. I had packed my full sleeve wetsuit for the weekend, but when I saw all of the kids swimming in the lake, my pride would not allow me to wear it. HS and I walked down to the lake and set up our beach chairs. I saw a man swimming butterfly across the lake (show off). Another guy got out of the lake, stuffed his goggles in his pocket, put on his running shoes and took off running down the street. I guess I'm not the only one that thinks this is a great place to train. I watched the kids playing in the water and finally decided it was time to get in.

Cap & goggles and my Kindle (in case I decided not to swim)

What I like about this lake is that it feels like a safe place to swim. There are four floating islands in the middle of the lake that are about 50-60 yards apart. If I wanted to, I could swim and stop at each one. However, just knowing that they are there is enough for me. I could just keep swimming.


The water on my second swim was much warmer. However, there seemed to be a cold stream of water from the inlet to the lake all the way across to the overflow. I had to swim through that, but once I got over to the water on the far side of the lake, things seemed much better. I was able to get 30 minutes of swimming done this time. The one think I noticed this time was that I actually enjoyed it. There was no pressure to race, all I had to do was swim nice and easy. I cleared my mind and focused on my stroke.

Bike

There are four bedrooms in the cabin. The first one is right off the entry and given that every bedroom has it's own bathroom, this one is used as a bike garage when we come up to stay.

Bike storage

Bikes are always welcome here

Up hill or down hill, but never any flats

We haven't ventured too far out of the neighborhood, but MapMyRide has a lot of interesting routes that I am anxious to try. I was hoping to try one this weekend, but when we arrived at the cabin and started unpacking we realized that HS didn't pack any cycling clothes. I, on the other hand, had two pairs of shorts and two jerseys because, well, you never know. I asked HS if he wanted to borrow a pair of my shorts, but he didn't think my Pearl Izumi Sugar Shorts (my favorite riding shorts) would look good on him. He's probably right...I like them because they are short and you can get a good tan.

LTD Map Jersey and my Sugar Shorts
I also stumbled across something on Facebook called "Bike to Arnold." Apparently you ride from Stockton to Arnold. If I could figure out when they hold this ride, I would definitely want to do it. I think Rodger from S.W.E.A.T Fitness did this ride as well as Robert Fuller from RS Bike Lab. Rodger or Bob, if you're reading this, give me the details.

Run

What can I say about running. You can run anywhere, right? Being from Stockton means that I'm basically running at sea level when I'm home. Hills? What are those? At Stones Throw, I get a slight intro to elevation training. If I really want to up my game I could head up to Bear Valley for a 7,000 ft training run. Even though the area where our cabin is at is only about 4,000 ft., I did notice a change after a week long stay when we were setting up the cabin.

Pre-run selfie on the deck at Stones Throw
Usually, when we are at the cabin working I will run for about an hour. If I turn left at the driveway, I get a nice long climb. I've learned my lesson trying this run on cold legs, so now I will take the dog for a walk first and then I will do this run. I've even set up a Garmin segment for this run called "Barrelling Down Patricia". It's the last half mile to the cabin and it's basically all down hill. If you are brave enough, you can really get going! Hope to see your time on the segment.

Hilly Run/Walk

Relax

When you are done with the swimming, biking and running, there is still plenty to do in this area. HS and I have found several great places to eat in Arnold... Sarafina's Italian Kitchen (make a reservation a week in advance or eat in the bar like we do), the deli at the Chevron staton...just try the "Porker Club", you won't be sorry, but you may have to put in some extra miles to burn off some of the calories.

The "Porker Club"...best gas station food ever!
If your family thinks you've been ignoring them, take them to see Big Trees State Park, the Moaning Caverns, Arnold Rim Trail, or downtown Murphys. Speaking of downtown Murphys, there are some great restaurants and tasting rooms. Our favorites so far have been Alchemy, Murphys Irish Pub, and Twisted Oak Winery. There's so much to do up here, I can't begin to list it all.

One of my favorite places to relax after a workout
Local Events

There are some local events you might want to come up and do:

April - Angels Camp Triathlon (hopefully it will be back next year)
April - Mr. Frog's Wild Ride (century ride)
July - Hernia Hill - 5k, 10k & Half Marathon
September - Bear Valley Triathlon