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 bikes...by 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!

Swim

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 

T1


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.

Ride

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.

T2

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
Run

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