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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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" 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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

IRONMAN Santa Rosa 70.3 - Race Report

After completing the very last Vineman in 2015 and then the very first (and last) IRONMAN Vineman in 2016, I thought it was fitting to sign up for the first IRONMAN Santa Rosa. I had decided not to do another full distance race this year, so the 70.3 race seemed perfect. I even convinced my husband and two daughters to sign up and do a relay. HS named the relay "Team Turd Ferguson" (Here's the SNL Skit he named it after). We even tried to get a second relay together, but the relay slots sold out before the individual entries did.

A couple of my friends from Central Valley Triathlon Club also signed up, so we started a private Facebook group where we could talk about the race and our preparation. I rented a house in Windsor that was between the start at Lake Sonoma and the finish in downtown Santa Rosa. Ironically, the house was just down the street from Windsor High School. This weekend was going to be a blast!

All of this was done months before the actual race. At registration time, we were blissfully unaware of all of the things that would change our plans, reorganize the relay team, restrict our training, and force some of us to skip the race entirely. The following is my account of the race. It may be too long for some, but its more of a "race memory" than a "race report" for me. Oh, there will be details about the course and other things, but there will also be personal details. If you want to get right to the race stuff, just skip the next section :-)

Where I Was (The Cold Hard Truth)

Now, before I get on to any whining about the race and all the stuff I felt didn't go as planned for me, I will start with all of the positives of the experience...
  • I had mad Garmin skills at this race. My official race time was 6:10:18. The time on my Garmin 6:10:18. After screwing up my Garmin on the last few "big" races, I was thrilled that I managed to get an accurate recording.
  • I started the race (more on this later). Let's just say that the fact that I made it to the start line was a major accomplishment.
  • I had a great time seeing my family on the race course and having Ashley running with me on the run course.

And now just a bit of whining about all of my (mostly self-inflicted) issues. I am writing about these issues, not to make any kind of excuse, but as a reminder to myself about what was going on in my life at the time. And now on to my whining...

  • 10 pounds!!! T-E-N  P-O-U-N-D-S!!!  I hate admitting this, but I was at least 10 lbs. heavier than I was at either one of the Barb's Race 70.3's or either of the full Vineman races. I might as well have been riding my aluminum road bike with 4 or 5 water bottles. Jeez, Tracy!
  • Inadequate training. At the time I thought I was doing okay in terms of training. However, after the race, I crunched the numbers and found that I averaged about 7-1/2 hours of training a week. That may have been a bit on the light side. I was doing two swims per week (usually less or none at all), two runs, and two sessions on the bike trainer.
  • Menopause. There, I said it. I have been battling this for at least the last 6 months. I haven't really had to deal with hot flashes but I have been struggling with insomnia. It's so bad that even if I take a sleeping pill I may only get 5-6 hours a night. I also think the menopause has something to do with the weight gain (that and all of my stress eating).
  • Fighting a cold. HS got sick a couple of weeks before the race and I did everything I could to stay healthy. The week before the race, I started coming down with something. On the positive side, I started taking NyQuil in the evening and ended up sleeping through the night! LOL
  • My favorite aunt. I was feeling quite lucky when my favorite aunt rolled into town a week before the race. I figured this would put me in the clear for race day. Nope. Eight days later and she was still in town so I had to deal with that too :-(
Okay, enough of that. Let's just say that between the time I signed up for this race and the actual race start, a lot of stuff was going on in my life. Things that interfered with training, things that forced me to train differently, and things that stressed me out and got me out of sorts. On top of that, HS had not been training (dealing with some of the same issues as I was) and then his knee started bothering him so he pulled out of the relay. Then my youngest daughter got a new job and a new puppy so she pulled out of the relay. The only remaining relay member was my oldest daughter, +Ashley.

And Now a Word About the Turds...

I was able to fill the relay team with my son-in-law, Max and my future brother-in-law, Tony. Max surprised us all with his swimming skills at a triathlon a couple of years ago. Max was a surfer, but he never chased the black line like my girls did. However, Max is very strong and his size 16 feet are like built in flippers! We could not believe how fast he was at that first race. He stepped up to do the swim.

Tony was a natural for the bike portion. Tony has done the "Death Ride" out of Markleville a couple of times. In fact, his first "Death Ride" was done after knee surgery and without a lot of training miles. IRONMAN Santa Rosa was about a month away when he agreed to join the team...not a problem for Tony.

Team Turd Ferguson lives. Go Turds!

Race Check-In

The plan was to meet at the IRONMAN village in downtown Santa Rosa on Friday at noon. I instructed the Turds to bring $15 to buy their one-day USA Triathlon cards and a picture ID. I was pleasantly surprised when everyone showed up on time. We were off to a good start. Once we met up, we headed over to the registration tent. The Turds had to go do something first, so HS stood in line with me as long as he could before I had to go into the "Athletes Only" area.

Welcome to Santa Rosa
Once inside the tent, I was handed my waivers to sign. I filled them out, put down HS's name and number and signed my life away. I walked to the next volunteer to turn in my signed paperwork. He reviewed it and then asked "What is the address of the place you are staying?" I had simply written down "AirBnb" in the box because that's all they wanted last year at IRONMAN Vineman. I said I didn't know the address.

Inside the tent. The tall Turd in the middle is Max :-)

"Well how are you going to get there?" he asked in a mildly snarky tone, like I was trying to pull a fast one or something. I responded that my husband made the reservation and that he was driving and had all the info. "Well maybe you can call him then?" was the response. He then added "I don't want to be a stickler, but we need this info." Really? You need the address where I am staying? Are you delivering flowers after the race or something?

I started looking through my email to see if I had a copy of the AirBnb confirmation. I was flustered at that point and unable to find anything. I saw the Turds over at another table laughing and filling out their paperwork. None of them knew the address, in fact, the volunteer that was collecting their paperwork told them not to worry about it. WTH? Ashley tried getting a hold of her dad and he sent an AirBnb reservation email that lacked the address.

Eventually I said "screw it". I wrote down the name of the house and the town and marched my paperwork back to the volunteer (I had to give it to him because he had the number range for my bib). He looked it over and at that point didn't know what to do. I could have written my home address and he wouldn't have known the difference, but I was trying to be as accurate as possible. I walked away when he finally decided to just file my papers. Ugh!

I then went to stand in line to collect my swim cap, gear bags, and bib. The lines were slow moving and I was tempted to jump to another line. Luckily I didn't because the volunteers working the lines to the left and right of me announced that they had to leave and promptly walked away leaving two lines of confused triathletes. I got my stuff and headed to the back of the tent to get my shirt and then my timing chip. Lastly, I was instructed to walk to the entrance of the IRONMAN store tent to collect my race backpack. I fought the urge to shop, grabbed my backpack and went to find HS and the Turds.

HS was hungry. The two chimichangas he bought at the gas station weren't enough to keep his hunger at bay. I on the other hand only wanted to get my run gear turned in and then go to T1 to drop off my bike and bike gear. Eating was a distraction. I wanted to get everything race related done so I could relax. Ashley said she would go with me to get my run gear and that we would meet the guys at the restaurant. I agreed.

"The calm before the storm" ~ Ashley
(Great photo, Ash!)
The location of the IRONMAN village is ideal for spectators and pre and post race activities. There are tons of restaurants and shops. However, this afternoon, most of the restaurants were packed with hungry triathletes. The wait at the restaurant the guys picked was 45 minutes. We decided to head north to Windsor so we would be closer to Lake Sonoma. We have a favorite spot where we always had lunch after Barb's Race and Vineman checkin so we headed to KC's American Kitchen.

Lunch was great as always. I got my favorite "Asian Dragon Wrap" and a glass of wine. Once we were done, Ashley had to take a call from her wedding planner and opted to stay behind. We decided to only take one car to the lake, so Tony put his bike in our truck. The lake wasn't too far from where we were at...maybe a 30 minute drive.

HS asked for directions and I told him to just follow the car in front of us which clearly had a tri bike in the back. As we exited 101 on to Canyon Road, the area became very familiar because it was part of the original Vineman route. "This is that screaming fast hill" I remarked "only we are driving up instead of down."

The drive to the lake seemed to be straight up hill. There were cones separating the traffic lanes, so we figured it had something to do with the race. As we neared T2 there were cars parked on the side of the road and in a small parking lot just off of the transition area. Luckily a volunteer waved us into the parking lot as we approached and we managed to find an available space. Tony and I grabbed our bikes and walked to the transition area.

A volunteer checked our wrist bands as we entered. Signs were placed throughout transition showing athletes the correct way to rack their the seat with the front wheel facing down on the side of the rack with the number. Easy. Easy. Except for two racers on my rack that felt the need to rack their bikes by the handle bars. Not only did this crowd the rack, but their bikes were also facing the wrong direction making things even tighter. I thought about grabbing a race official or volunteer but I figured they would walk the racks that evening and fix any issues.

The incorrectly racked bikes have bags on their handle bars

Next, we all walked down to the water. It was a long walk. A long walk, down a steep boat ramp. Max mentioned something about the swim course being changed. "It's changed?" I asked. He said they said they were changing it because of the wind. My phone was dead, so I was going to have to wait to confirm any changes. There were a few athletes in the water but most just came down to get a quick look. Yep, looks wet. We walked back up the ramp and to the truck. We were officially done, time to relax.

Beautiful day
Change of plans

As I mentioned, the house I rented was in Windsor. It turns out that it was just down the street from Windsor High School, the finish line for Vineman. It was strange driving past the school and not seeing it alive with athletes and spectators. Gone were the vendor tents and the Vineman banners. I felt a little bit sad every time we went past it.

Once we got inside the house, the name started to make sense. The house was called "Vino Velo House". I got the vino part but really didn't think much more about the name until we got there and there were all sorts of cycling decorations. Ohhhhh...velo...duh! HS and I took the master bedroom, Ashley picked a room and then Max and Tony decided to change their sleeping arrangement. Originally I think they were going to share the bed.  Once they got a look at the full size mattress in the cute french themed bedroom they decided to part ways, and Tony opted for the sleeper sofa in the front room.

Lots of ideas at "Vino Velo House" to use at
our cabin in Arnold, CA, "Stones Throw"

I tried to get to bed as early as possible. Once my head hit the pillow, I started thinking about the swim and then T1 and then the small size of the parking lot when we dropped off the bikes. I had remembered reading something about shuttles from the finish line. Were the shuttles mandatory? I was starting to get worried. I tossed and turned and couldn’t get the parking issue out of my mind. I finally grabbed my cell phone and looked up the athlete guide. Shuttles were not mandatory. However, if you were planning on driving to the lake to park, the guide recommended getting there no later than 4:45am.

HS woke up and asked what I was doing. I told him about the parking and that I had changed my alarm to 3:45am. If we got out the door by 4:15am we should be there in plenty of time to park. The rest of the night I seemed to toss and turn, not really getting into a deep sleep. Whenever I would wake up, I would start thinking about the parking/shuttle situation.

Maybe we should just ride the shuttle. If we rode the shuttle, how would Max get back? Nah, Mike can drive us. Maybe they have shuttles back for the relay people. They have to have shuttles back for the relay people. If Max rode the shuttle back, how would Mike find him in Santa Rosa? Nah, Mike can drive us. If we don't make it to the lake on time, we won't be able to park. What if we have to walk up that big hill? Nah, maybe we should ride the shuttle. 

Race Morning

My alarm went of at 3:45am as planned. I jumped up, went to the bathroom and got dressed. I then went and knocked on Max's door and then went and got Tony up. I told the guys about the change in schedule and that we needed to be out of the house by 4:15am if not sooner. HS started toasting some bagels and made a cup of Keurig coffee for himself and one for Tony. I drank a Redbull and ate a banana and a Ucan bar. We were like a bunch of zombies trying to wake up and get our stuff together. (HS said it looked more like a fire drill to him).

Logistics are my least favorite part of a race. I hate the packing and planning and figuring out drive times and parking situations. Today I was extremely worried about getting to the lake on time. I had this horrible idea that we were going to be late and have to walk all the way from the bottom of the hill up to transition.

We made it out the door about 4:10am and were on 101 within minutes. Ashley stayed behind to sleep in. This was probably a much better idea than standing around in 40 degree weather watching swimmers that you can't see. We made good time to the lake. I thought we were going to have to park in the bottom lot and be shuttled up to the start. I kept waiting to be waived into the first lot, but instead we kept going straight up the mountain right behind the buses coming from Santa Rosa. Eventually we passed the small transition area lot, now full of trucks, and made our way just up the road to a dirt lot.

Looking back, we probably should have sat in the truck for a bit. There was no sense in getting to transition almost an hour and a half before race start and standing in the cold, but I think we were all a little anxious at that point. We walked down the hill, careful not to step into some large holes off to the side of the road. Once we got to the entrance of transition, we parted ways with HS who had to wait outside.

Upon entering we were instructed to grab a body-marker and get our numbers. I took off my sweat shirt to show the volunteer that my tri suit had sleeves. He looked at my bicep, where normally he would write my bib number, and held the tip of the Sharpie marker up to my sleeve. I'm not sure what my face said, but I'm pretty sure I was giving him a look that screamed "You can't seriously be thinking about writing a freakin' number on my brand new Pearl Izumi tri suit!!!"Maybe my face said "I will hurt you!" Either way, he seemed to consider his options and then said "Well I guess I won't write a number on your arm." Whew!

I then went to my bike. The two bikes that were racked incorrectly were still racked incorrectly. Whatever. Not my problem (yet). I have my own stuff to worry about. I set my helmet on the aerobars. I then cleaned my riding glasses and placed them strategically in my helmet along with a GU for after the swim. I then set out my shoes and made sure I had a sock in each shoe. Last task was to fill up my Fuelselage (hydration bladder) in my Shiv. Not much to do this morning. I didn't have a towel or any water to wash my feet after the trek from the lake. Oh well.

My stomach was starting to rumble a bit and I decided to try and go to the bathroom before putting on my wetsuit. The lines weren't too long but it was still dark outside and buses were still rolling in with more athletes. A lady behind me remarked that the lines had been moving quickly and now they seem to have stalled. She then added that she wasn't sure she wanted to go in one after someone had been in there so long. LOL Eventually a porta-potty became available and I decided to go inside.

It was so dark inside the porta-potty that I couldn't even see that the seat lid was down. I didn't realize it until I tried to put some paper down. Why did the man before me have the lid down? Was he just hanging out? I can't believe he put the lid down after finishing unless his wife has him really well trained. The paper I put down wasn't enough so soak up the liquid on the seat. At the point I realized the seat was wet, it was too late. At least I would be getting in the water soon. I did my business and left.

Back in transition, I went back to my bike and put on my wetsuit. It was still a while before the start, but it was cold out and the wetsuit would help keep me warm. I had opted for my sleeveless suit with a pair of neoprene sleeves. My full suit rubs my neck and I feels too constricting. I don't get it. Even though it's a TYR Hurricane 5, just like my sleeveless, it fits way differently. Max decided to put his wetsuit on too. He was also wearing a sleeveless, but did not have the pull on sleeves like I did. I started to notice that everyone had sleeves but didn't want to mention that to Max.

We regrouped with HS outside of transition and watched the buses of athletes still arriving. I looked over to the porta-potties which now had HUGE lines. I wasn't sure how the people at the end of the lines were going to make it before the start. Eventually HS asked if we wanted to walk down to the lake. If we are going to stand around, we may as well stand around down there. I said I had to go grab my cap and goggles and that I would be back in a minute.

As I walked up to my bike I was shocked and a bit pissed (ok, very pissed) to see my helmet, glasses and GU laying in the dirt. To no one in particular I said "Nice. Someone just knocks my stuff off my bike and leaves it?" The lady to the right of me said someone was asking which bike the stuff belonged with. I looked to the left and the two bikes that were racked incorrectly were now facing the right direction. I assume that in the effort to turn their bike around they knocked my stuff off and then left it. Nice!


HS, Tony, Max and I walked down to the swim start. I could hear F'n James in my head telling me I needed to warm up. I figured I needed to be a big girl and do a quick warm up. I made my way to the left of the start to avoid the timing mats and entered the water. It was cold, but not as cold as it was outside. I kept making my way into the lake, getting deeper and deeper. Another racer pointed out that there were some big rocks (boulders) below, as I stumbled over one.

As the water got deeper, I started to swim. I didn't want to put my face in just yet, so I did a little breast stroke until I felt calm enough to attempt a swim. The water was chilly and it took my breath away. I finally stuck my face into the greenish hued water and found it much clearer than I expected. I did a short swim and turned around. I did my due diligence completing my warm up and made my way back to the shore. As I neared the swim exit, the national anthem was being played. I continued in my most patriotic sculling and stumbled over some rocks and roots as I tried to make my way out of the water.

I'm amused, Max is freezing.
I found Max and HS and we walked up the boat ramp to find our seed time. Max and I decided to seed ourselves between 40:00-43:00 minutes. This was about the time I swam at last year's World's Toughest Half, so I thought I would be the right time for this year. Looking back, Max and I both agreed that we should have seeded ourselves about 10 minutes faster. It took us over 15 minutes to enter the water and once we did, we had to swim around a bunch of slower swimmers. Either we were swimming much faster than expect or the other people were a little to optimistic about how fast they were going to swim.

One thing I noticed but didn't think much about was the number of kayaks in the water. The first leg of the swim was a little over 400 yards. I only saw two kayaks and they weren't very close to the swimmers. As we waited to enter the water, I watched a wayward swimmer drifting off to the left of the back. This swimmer got far enough off course that he or she actually got close to the kayaks. Maybe I was just used to the number of kayaks in the Russian River. It seemed that you couldn't go 25 yards without seeing one. Perhaps the Russian River kayaks were more to keep swimmers from crossing over instead of water safety.

After I made the first turn I found myself getting a bit off course. When I came up to sight, I noticed the buoys were pretty far to my right. I struggled to try and get closer to them. Nothing I seemed to do got me any closer to them. Eventually I decided to just keep swimming towards the turn buoy. It was sort of nice being off on my own because I was no longer being slapped and kicked. (I ended up with a nice black bruise on my arm from this swim effort.)

After the second turn, it was a short distance to the third turn. At this point we were swimming along the shoreline. This portion was my favorite part of the swim...maybe because I was close to the shore...maybe it was how the large boulders seemed to spill into the lake. As I neared the bridge, I knew I was getting close. Things started to get congested at this point. All of the swimmers were converging on one span under the bridge. After that, the course continued to narrow as we made a slight left. There were large black bumpers protecting the swimmers from the rocks and one more turn buoy. One swimmer didn't like all the hand/foot contact at this point and started doing large, over-exaggerated kicks...nothing like breaking someone's finger or nose just because they accidentally touched you.

I kept swimming. I tried standing up when I could see the exit, but it was still too deep. I swam a bit more and still couldn't touch. I put my head down and swam several more strokes before I was upright again. Finally. Worst part is over. Time to ride!

Swim exit...The only race photos I never have a smile 


This was one of my slowest transitions mainly due to the long run up the boat ramp. After exiting the water, I walked for a bit just to get my wits about me. I left my swim cap on (ever cognizant of the race photographer) and took off my Garmin. Next came off my neoprene sleeves. I reattached my Garmin and started a little jog up the hill once things leveled off. The hill climbed upwards again, so I slowed a bit. Once I got to level ground at the top of the hill, I started to jog again. As I rounded the corner by the relay corral, I looked for Tony the Turd...he wasn't there. Damn!

I eventually found my bike and struggled to get my wetsuit off. I stuffed my sleeves and wetsuit in my swim gear bag and put on my socks and cycling shoes. Next, I ripped the top off the GU and removed my bike from the rack. FYI...the person next to me that most likely knocked my stuff on the ground was already gone.

I jogged with my bike to the "bike mount" line. Just past the line was a congested row of athletes that had stopped to mount their bikes. I moved around the stopped athletes and clipped in to my pedals. I did not even consider the slight hill leaving T1. There was nothing to think about. I started to pedal and to my surprise, a rider in front of me toppled over. Crap! Seriously? The commotion almost took another rider down. I unclipped and stopped for a second to avoid the chaos. Small chain ring, people, small chain ring. I made my way up to the main road and was on my way.


The ride remains my favorite part of any triathlon. Immediately upon leaving T1, I was greeted with signs that said "No Aerobars." It was quite a steep descent, but nothing I didn't expect. I had no problem staying out of my aerobars at this point of the race. Prior to the race, I had noticed that I had some rusty aerobar bolts. These were a little disconcerting. I could just imagine hitting a pothole and having the bolts snap. I saw myself flying over the handle bars and landing in a heap on the side of the road...broken teeth and scabs all over my body. No thank you, I'll take it slow.

Leaving Lake Sonoma
One loop of the original Vineman course had just under 2,000 feel of climbing (according to the IRONMAN site). IRONMAN Santa Rosa 70.3 had just over 2,200 feet of climbing, so the two courses were similar. The one thing missing (that I didn't miss today) was Chalk Hill. Most of the roads were well maintained but there were a couple of pretty rough sections.

I had read in the race info that there was a climb around mile 5 and worried about how steep it might be. This was my first time doing a race of this distance without first coming and riding the course. The climb wasn't too bad. I think the worst thing about the ride was how crowded the course was. It was nearly impossible to get away from other riders. On top of that, it seemed that some riders insisted upon passing only to get in front and then stop pedaling. I would then slow down to get out of the draft zone and then speed up to pass them. After going back and forth a couple of times with one rider, I kept up my final effort passing him so I could put some distance between us and put and end to the leap frog game.

The ride seemed to fly by and before I knew it, I was at the first aid station. A young volunteer held a bottle of water out and the rider in front of me grabbed it. I called out for water, but by the time the kid turned and grabbed another bottle, it was too late. The next volunteer had Gatorade, which I declined. At that point in the race, I had only drank about half of my bottle so I would be okay until the next aid station. I rode past the volunteers offering food and picked up the pace again.

As I was riding, I had my eye out for Tony the Turd. He had to be somewhere. When I ran past the relay corral in T1 and didn't see him, I knew he had a head start. Every time I came up on a rider with a grey shirt, I would look at his calf. If the number started with a 4 or higher I knew it wasn't the turd I was looking for. Eventually I came up on a familiar rider. I rode up next to him and said "I thought I smelled a turd." "Ah, you caught me already!" was his reply. Already? Yeah, right. We were around 20 miles into the race, it wasn't like I ran him down leaving the lake.

The course was beautiful as it weaved through Sonoma county. Every once in a while, depending on my direction, I would catch a tail wind. It was great. The course made its way through rolling hills and vineyards and eventually on to the old Vineman course. The course became more and more familiar...only we were riding in the opposite direction. I turned off of Kinley and started to head west. Behind me, I could hear a horn. At first I thought maybe it was a course marshal on a motorcycle. I turned to look and didn't see a motorcycle.

As I was riding, the honking horn drew nearer. Beep. Beep. I turned to look again, and this time I saw a Toyota Prius coming up the road. The driver honked at the next group of riders and then slowly drove past them. At first I thought that the driver was just being a jerk, but when she finally passed me, I saw that she didn't know what to do around all of the bikes. If there was an open space, she would speed up to the speed limit, only to run up on the next group of riders and then she would honk at them.

The road narrowed and was divided by a double yellow line. The driver would not cross the line and would not pass any bikes. A group of us got stuck behind the car. As we came up to a controlled intersection, I thought for sure the CHP officer directing traffic would see that she was impeding a bunch of riders and flag her over. He just watched as we all rode past him. A lady next to me remarked that the car was only doing 15 mph.  A few guys behind me started to get frustrated and started yelling at the driver.

"Go around the bikes!" they hollered. The driver just threw up her hands. Then in a unexpected move, the driver moved into an opening between two riders. She moved over as far to the right as possible and was straddling the white fog line on the side of the road. A few of us started to move to the left to pass her and a male rider behind us said "Don't pass her on the left, she's going to move and run you over." Ugh. We settled back behind the car. I wonder if there are IRONMAN rules against drafting a slow moving Prius.

We came upon another controlled intersection with a Sheriff or CHP officer. Nothing. They just watched as we rode past. The frustration level around me kept growing. More riders were yelling at the driver and the driver seemed to be slowing down. I couldn't understand that if she was that flustered, why she just didn't pull over or take another route. At that point a few of us made a break away around the left side of the car. We had been following her long enough to know that she wasn't going to pass anyone. It felt good to finally be back riding unimpeded again.

Riding through the vineyards

About a mile down the rode, when the double yellow line ended, the Prius went flying by. I guess she was just trying to get away from all of the bikes. I prayed that her destination was close and that I wouldn't have to ride behind her again.

I enjoyed riding on familiar roads. It wasn't until we got closer to Windsor that the route changed from the Vineman route. At that point, we started on new territory, headed to Santa Rosa and T2. The course had quite a few rolling hills at this point and my legs were starting to feel a little fatigue. Even though there was more climbing than Vineman 70.3, the route didn't seem like it. As we neared Santa Rosa, the bikes started to get more congested. I tried my best to stay out of any draft zones, but it was a constant struggle. Coming down 9th Street, I got stuck behind two riders that decided they could just ride side by side and chat for a while. I decided to settle in behind them and spin my legs for a bit to get ready for the run.


I was very thankful that my slot on the rack was so close to the entrance to T2. It meant less distance running into transition in my bike shoes. It also meant more time running out of transition, but at least I would have running shoes on my feet. 

I love how my helmet, tri suit, and shoes all match perfectly

As I was running out of T2 I heard someone yelling “Go, mom!” and “Go, Tracy!” I started right at Ashley and Max and for a moment had no idea who they were and how they knew my name. LOL

I headed out on the course and was surprised at how heavy my legs felt. My quads were tight and sore and I had no spring in my step. I looked at my watch and saw that I was running a bit faster than 9:00 minutes per mile. This was too fast for my race plan so I worked at slowing down to about a 9:30 pace. A few minutes later I hear “Hey!” I turned and saw Ashley running next to me. Great, the Turds have already caught me.

We ran together for a bit before I told her that she should just go ahead without me. She can run much faster than me even when I’m rested, so I know I was holding her back. She responded “Nah, I’ll just run with you. I’ll push you.” I tried protesting, but she seemed content to trod along with me. I have to admit it was really nice having someone to talk to on the run. It helped get my mind off of my legs.
As we passed the mile 2 marker I told her that my legs were really hurting. She told me to lift with the top of my thigh and to not push off with my calves. “But my quads are what’s hurting” I whined. An older gentleman running past us laughed and said “Running just sucks!” At that moment, I couldn’t have agreed more.

It was weird finally running on the “real” run course. I had been running on my treadmill on a virtual IRONMAN Santa Rosa course (using iFit ). Once the iFit route left the city streets and merged on to the trail, I always switched to a satellite view of the course. I knew the lead out was at a slight decline and the run back was at a slight incline. I was prepared to see all of the landmarks I had grown familiar with on the satellite view. However, once you are on the actual trail there are fences and vegetation, so I really couldn’t tell where I was in terms of the map I had in my mind. The only landmarks I recognized were the bridges.

The course photographer cut out Ashley in my pic
The last bridge heading out is at roughly 4 miles. Ashley and I crossed the bridge and I grabbed some water at the aid station. I let her know that my typical race strategy is to walk the aid stations. At this point she informed me that she had to go to the bathroom and that I should just “run ahead and I will catch up with you.” Duh! LOL Either she took the shortest potty break on record or I was running really slow because it seemed like only a matter of minutes before she was back at my side. At that point, my legs were really getting heavy and I was starting to feel the congestion in my chest. I looked at my watch to check my pace.

I decided to try the run/walk method to see if I could pull myself together. My new goal was to average 10:30 per mile. If my pace dropped down to 10:20 or so, I would walk until my pace slowed to about 10:35 or 10:40 and then I would run again until it got back down to 10:20. This actually seemed to work and after a few miles of that, I was able to start running the entire mile without walking. We completed our first loop and headed back out on the course. The slight decline was a relief and my pace was averaging around 10:15 per mile.

Finishing the first loop
I was dreading looping today. Usually I don't mind running around in circles, but the way I was feeling, I just didn't think I could run past the finish line and back out on the course. As we neared the turn a lady ran up behind me and said she liked my tri suit. She asked if I was on a team and I told her I was part of the Pearl Izumi Ambador team (We take the "ass" out of ambassador LOL). She said that she worked for Shimano (parent company of Pearl Izumi) and said they didn't even get the suit. I asked "But you get free parts, right?" She said "Yeah, but I'd rather look good!" Thank you Shimano lady. You brought a smile to my face.

Somewhere around mile 10 Ashley stumbled and went down hard. A couple of people saw her fall and stopped to see if we needed anything. Her arm was scraped pretty badly and she had a nasty cut on the palm of her hand. She was shaken up a bit, so we walked until she was ready to run again. I told her that we would stop at the next aid station so she could get some water and wash out the cut.

The morning after

I continued to check my watch, but my pace was slowing. We had less than two miles to go but it seemed like it would never end. Eventually we exited the trail and were back on the streets of Santa Rosa. As we rounded the interactive fountain, a spectator was cheering for the athletes. He made a point of reading the name on the bibs and offering words of encouragement. First I heard "Go Tracy!" then I hear, with more of a question in his voice "Go Team Turd Ferguson?!?!" Ashley and I started to laugh.

From that point, we had a relatively short run to the finish. I'm always amazed at the change in energy when I get close to the finish. Where is that energy on the race course. As we neared the finish line, I told Ashley to slow down a bit so the woman in front of us wouldn’t be in our picture. We crossed the finish line together. It was a great Mother’s Day gift.

Once again, the course photographer cut Ashley out of my picture
Ashley pointing out her bib at the finsih... Go Turds!

Mother / Daughter finishers

Side note: The Turds placed 18th and I feel bad that Ashley didn't run her normal speedy pace...they could have placed much higher if it wasn't for me. Thanks, Turds!

Post Race

As soon as I crossed the finish line, someone stuck a “Finisher” hat in my hand and gave me a bottle of water. I then walked over to the person handing out the medal and waited for it to be placed on my head. The gentleman congratulated me and as I looked at his tan, thin, smiling face I thought to myself “He looks like a real triathlete” (Note: This was just finish line delirium. Everyone that finishes or attempts to finish a triathlon is a real triathlete) Anyway, I look down for a second and see that he’s still wearing his race bib which read “Andy – 1”. As soon as I realized it was Andy Potts, I shook his hand and thanked him.

Me and the Turds

I regrouped with Ashley who had been busy collecting the hats and medals for the rest of the Turds. Max and Tony joined us in the athlete area and posed for some finisher pics. It was a great way to end the event. We then made our way to T2 so Tony and I could get our bikes and gear bags. Tony’s bike was at the opposite end from mine, so I told him I would go get my swim bag and then grab my bike so he could just walk down and meet me.

I went to the corral to get my swim bag. I flashed my wrist band and walked to the area designated for bag numbers 1900-2000. The bags were in no particular order, so I picked around and tried to find my bag. After about 5 minutes of searching, I went and asked someone what I should do if my bag is missing. The person responded “I don’t know, I’m only a volunteer”. When I asked if there was someone else that could help me, they said they didn’t know.

I exited the corral and went and found Tony and Mike. I told them about my predicament and asked Tony to come help me look. We looked through all the bags again. I went to the back of the corral where they said there were some loose wetsuits but mine wasn’t there. I walked back to my bag range and started searching again. I also looked in the 1500 range just in case someone confused 1951 with 1591 or something like that. Nope. My bag wasn’t there either.  I enlisted the help of some other volunteers who began to try and put the bags in numerical order. They couldn’t find my bad either.

At that point, I was tired and my head was starting to hurt. I walked out of the corral and went and stood by our bikes. I was ready to leave. I became even more frustrated because I couldn’t find Ashley and HS, and Tony seemed to have disappeared in the corral. All of a sudden Tony emerges with a big smile and my swim gear bag in his hand. I was so relieved. I then asked “They let you walk out of there without checking the bag number?!?” Whatever, I’m glad it was Tony walking out with the bag and not some stranger. As we walked to find the other Turds and HS, Tony told me that he found the bag in the 1600’s. I guess someone read the 9 as a 6. Ugh!

Waiting for HS to bring the truck down
If you look closely at my ankle in the above picture, you will see that I still have my timing chip. I had no idea it was there. After wearing it for half a day, I didn't even notice it until we got back to Vino Velo House and I undressed to take a shower. Apparently I wasn't the only one that had a forgotten timing chip. Ashley left the finish line area with hers too but noticed it while I was searching for my swim gear bag. I ended up taking mine home and mailing it back so I wouldn't be charged $75.

Final Thoughts

The IRONMAN results page said there were 3,323 athletes. I don't know if this includes the relay athletes too, but I don't think there were enough relay teams to dramatically skew the number of individual athletes on the course at any given time. Even if there were only 3,000 individual competitors, that is still an awful lot of people. Too many for my liking.

After finishing IRONMAN Vineman last year, I thought I had my IRONMAN itch scratched. However, when I saw the Santa Rosa race I figured I should do at least one official IRONMAN 70.3. The race was not cheap, but I figured it's because IRONMAN puts on top notch events, world class events and you pay for what you get. Unfortunately, my experience at this race has convinced me that I would be happier doing smaller, local events.

I'm still feeling ambivalent about this race. There was nothing special about doing this race in terms of venue. The magic of swimming (and running) in the Russian River was gone. While the bike course was similar, it didn't offer any particular challenge like Chalk Hill did in Vineman. Maybe I'm just missing Vineman or maybe its the fact that I'm not freaked out by the distance anymore. Maybe it was my lack of preparation or maybe it was some of the issues I have mentioned with the actual race, I'm not sure. For now, I won't be toeing the start line of  a World Triathlon Corporation event any time soon...unless of course the Turds need me on a relay ;-)

#IRONMAN #EndureAndEnjoy365 #pearlizumi #hookit