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Monday, October 14, 2013

Sunnyvale Government -- the big picture financial environment

If you didn't know, I live in Sunnyvale, California.  I really have an enviable quality of life here and compared to almost any place else, there is nothing to complain about.  Complain we Sunnyvale residents do, though.

Let's look at the city's infrastructure.  We have a large number of parks that are decently maintained.  The bathrooms in the parks are functional though older.  The grounds are kept fairly well though not immaculately.  So I'd assess them as functioning, but nearing a time when they will need to be refreshed.  We have a small number of city pools.  The flagship pool, built in the late 1980s, is shared with Fremont High School and is in good shape.  The locker rooms for it could use investment as they break down fairly regularly.  The heater for it has broken down a number of times in the last year.  The other pools run very short hours and are suitable only for recreational swimming.  Some lack changing facilities.  They generally look to have been built in the 1960s and 1970s.  They show their age and are in need of investment.  In a city of 146,000, we have one library.  The building for it is well maintained and the offerings are decent.  But it, too, is showing its age.  A few years ago, a bond measure to replace it failed.  Really, for a city the size of Sunnyvale, I would expect a large main library and three or four branch libraries.  There is a large civic center with theater, athletic courts, senior activities, etc.  The bulk of it appears to have been built in the 1960s or 1970s with the senior-focused area perhaps built in the 1980s.  It is well maintained, but once again, could use investment.  City Hall also dates from the 1960s.  To sum it up, most of our city amenities are between 30 and 50 years old with most closer to 50.  These are not buildings of great architectural value or interest.  They are very plain and obviously designed for function, not beauty.  While they have been well maintained, they could all use updates that are more than incremental.

Sunnyvale sits in the middle of the most economically productive region in the country, Silicon Valley.  It's quite common to find neighbors who work at companies like Cisco, Google, Facebook, Apple and so on.  I believe something like 30% of the population has a graduate degree.  You can look it up, but average home prices in Sunnyvale make people in other parts of the country cry.  According to this link: http://www.city-data.com/city/Sunnyvale-California.html, average household income is ~$94K.  In the southern part of the city, it is much higher.  As you can tell, this is not a remotely poor city.

Let's look at city revenue for Sunnyvale and its neighbors. The city budget shows me that the city expects to collect $31 million in sales tax revenue this year or $213 per resident and $49 million in property taxes or $339 per resident.  This compares favorably to Cupertino as they expect to collect $270 per resident in sales tax and $219 per resident in property tax.  Mountain View is our neighbor to the north and they expect $208 per resident in sales tax and a whopping $751 per resident in property tax.  I suspect the expansion of the Googleplex has led to a very large expansion in Mountain View property tax.  Santa Clara borders us to the east and they expect $356 per resident in sales tax and $239 per resident in property tax.  Los Altos expects $483 per resident in property taxes and $87 per resident in sales taxes.  But Los Altos is not a good comparison -- if you live here, you know why.  In summary, Sunnyvale tax revenues are lower than all of its neighbors except Cupertino.

While Sunnyvale tax receipts are lower than just about all of its neighbors, it's about to get worse.  Cupertino is looking at a large property tax increase from the new Apple campus.  Reports are that Apple will spend $5 billion on their new headquarters which would increase Cupertino property tax revenue by more than $140 per person. Just about every bit of Cupertino retail space is being renovated so they can expect sales tax increases as well.  Santa Clara will have the new 49ers stadium which won't boost property taxes since the city will own it.  But it will certainly boost sales taxes and profits from the stadium would go to the general fund.  So while Sunnyvale is currently second to last, it will soon be dead last.  Sunnyvale will still have more population than its neighbors.  But all of those neighbors will have the means to make improvements that will make Sunnyvale look substandard in comparison.  Although, in general, their facilities are already nicer than Sunnyvale's.

Before I go on, I need to point out the impact of Proposition 13.  Sunnyvale has a lot of residents who have been here a long time.  I met a man this weekend who told me he's lived here 67 years.  I went to a city council meeting and many of the residents who spoke pointed out their very long residence in the city.  believe it's good to have people of all generations in a community.  But Proposition 13, by limiting the property assessment increases to 2% per year, has institutionalized a tremendous financial privilege for long term residents.  On my street, there are two styles of houses.  One style has ~1350 square feet with a two car garage and the other ~1550 square feet with a one car garage.  Lot sizes range from 6000 square feet to 10,000 (weirdly shaped) square feet.  Tax values range from less than $80,000 to over $1 million.  I'm not kidding.  Some residents are paying more than 12 times the property taxes of other residents.

This is the reality Sunnyvale city council members are facing.  It's not clear that tax revenues are high enough to sustain what is already in the city.  Amenities are nearing their end of life dates and will need refurbishment or replacement soon.  They are likely more expensive to maintain already.  Neighboring cities already have nicer amenities and are looking at large revenue increases in the present or near future.  As a city council member, you have a responsibility to safeguard the future of the city.  And to do that, the city needs more revenue.

There are two ways to increase tax revenue for Sunnyvale.  One way is to increase the property tax base.  New housing is selling for ~$700 per square foot and developers will put it in densely.  So a spare five acre plot could add $120 million to the tax base.  New headquarters for a company like LinkedIn is likewise going to add several hundred million dollars to the tax base.  Do this half a dozen times and pretty soon you've added a couple of billion dollars to the property tax base and maybe $20-30 per resident in increased property tax.  The other way is to boost sales tax revenue.  I haven't studied it, but I imagine Sunnyvale sales tax looks less robust than it used to.  There are a couple of vacant car lots and the big box stores are not doing so well.  The downtown redevelopment is finally coming together, but that has been a real hairball.  Even though Sunnyvale has not been good at this, I think sales tax is where the city should be looking for growth.

There are a few reasons why I think this is the way to go.  First of all, new housing increases demand on city amenities.  In the tax per resident ratio, you're increasing the denominator and the numerator.  Also, if you consider the preponderance of people working in different municipalities than where they reside, new office space or housing will increase demand on transport resources at peak times.  New retail, however, increases transport demand more equally.  Furthermore, the city can get new sales tax revenue without new development.  There is lots of empty and underutilized space throughout the city.  The shopping center at the southeast corner of Fremont and Mary lacks an anchor tenant as does the center at the southwestern corner of El Camino Real and Bernardo.  The old Trader Joe's space on Sunnyvale near El Camino Real is vacant.  There are empty car lots.  Finally, the city can increase sales tax revenue by attracting retail that better matches the demographics of the city's new residents.

I'm not weird for Sunnyvale.  I moved here because of the schools and to be close to employers.  For five years, I both worked and lived in Sunnyvale.  I now work in Santa Clara.  But just about all of my shopping, from groceries to clothes, takes me out of the city.  I eat dinner in Cupertino and Santa Clara restaurants both more than in Sunnyvale.  About the only thing I don't leave Sunnyvale for is DIY home improvement supplies and Sports Basement.  This is happening because the retail in Santa Clara and Cupertino match me better.  If you did a poll to find the best restaurant in Sunnyvale, In 'n Out Burger would probably win.  I like In 'n Out and I like Five Guys.  And I might eat in either of those once, maybe twice a month.  When my wife and I hire a sitter and have a date night, we end up outside Sunnyvale.  Like I said, I'm not weird.  When I talk to the parents of my kids' classmates, we hear the same thing.  There is just little entertainment and non-fast food dining in the city.  Yes, there are lots of holes in the wall doing fish and chips or sushi.  On date night, I'm not looking to order my food from a formica counter.  Indian food in Sunnyvale is an exception to all this.  Too bad I'm not Indian.

So where does this all point?  I don't completely know.  I want the city to match me better in terms of entertainment and retail.  And I think it would be good for the city and its future.  But it may already match people who have been here longer than me.  I am aware that I'm kind of asking for gentrification.  But come on.  30% of the population has graduate degrees and average income is quite high.  Fine dining and shopping is completely appropriate for Sunnyvale.  I don't really want more housing, but it's not because I dislike density (I actually don't.)  I just don't want any more strain on the schools.  The school districts bet wrong on future demographics in the 1980s and sold off too much real estate.  So there's no place to add school capacity.  I suppose the school district could do a bond issue for buying up land, but that's another discussion.  Or maybe our schools have to get more dense with multiple floors.  I'm not too keen on that latter idea and would pay more taxes to avoid it.  But Prop 13 disallows that option.

I think more than anything else, I recognize that being a city council member is hard.  They're balancing a bunch of contradicting interests.  And I don't actually think the members are corrupt.  One is a troll.  And some more trolls are running to join him.  I don't vote for trolls, no matter how pure their motivations are.  The idea that the city has gone to hell and it's because the council is in the pocket of developers is just not supported by any evidence.  Maybe city salaries are higher than they need to be.  But the real culprit is that Prop 13 makes things more difficult for cities over time.  Inflation has averaged 3.7% since 1975.  Since 1975 consumer prices have quadrupled while Prop 13 has only allowed assessments to a little more than double.  Of course property values have increased more so turnover has made things not quite as dire.  But all that does is push the reckoning further out.  This is kind of hard to explain, but remember related rates from math class?  Ultimately, to keep what it has, Sunnyvale has to turn over its population and increase development or get Prop 13 reformed.  The latter is beyond the scope of Sunnyvale politicians and stopping the development will lead to a downward spiral.  I'm not asking anyone to move out of Sunnyvale, but you have to recognize that an $80,000 tax assessment when the city only gets 0.15% does not generate enough taxes to pay for itself.  The money has to come from somewhere and the city council members are responsible for figuring out where.  We can disagree with where they're trying to find it and hold them accountable on that.  But, once again, the money has to come from somewhere.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sandman 2013 Race Recap

This is the fourth consecutive year I've done this race.  Why do I keep going back?  Simply, because it's just a barrel full of fun.  It's completely old school with a spacious transition area and no chip timing.  You have a brisk 1000-1200m swim around the concrete boat.  Then a 13 mile bike that starts off with 6 miles of climbing.  You finish with a little more than 6 km run on the beach.  Simply put, it's a course that throws a deceptively large amount of intensity at you and provides a lot of challenges for pacing.  Don't let the short distance fool you.  You can't just hammer the course.  At least I can't.  Yet.

At the start of the swim, the tide was coming in and the seas were choppy.  Just eyeballing it, I think the waves were 3-5 feet.  The high tide was okay for the start -- I got to water deep enough to swim rather quickly.  But then about two strokes in a wave crested into me and literally threw me back onto my butt.  My butt literally hit the sand.  So I got back off, ran out a bit and managed to dive under the next wave.  Then I just tried to push the swim at a good pace.  Of course, sighting the buoys was a little more difficult with the swells.  But you have the ship and pier as easy landmarks.  I took the buoys pretty wide and generally avoided traffic.  I experimented with my Magellan on my wrist and it FUBARed the distance.  But judging by the charts, I got to T1 in 20:38.  Considering conditions and the fact that exiting the swim requires you to run across deep sand, I'm happy with that.

I didn't really rush in T1 and earlier I had decided to try a flying mount on the bike.  To be honest, I was a little disoriented.  I think the sloshing in the ocean threw my balance off.  The flying mount didn't go well.  I was trying to get my left foot into my shoe and crashed into the guard rail on the little pedestrian bridge linking Seacliff Beach to Rio del Mar Beach.  I managed to get my handlebar stuck in the rail and banged up my hand and foot as well.  It took some time to extricate myself from the guard rail and adjust my brakes.  Luckily, it was a low speed encounter.  But I got out and started motoring onto the course.  I don't quite understand how the multisport setting works on my Magellan so it was still saying I was swimming.  I was also wearing it on my wrist and couldn't really see it.  So the entire bike was a perceived effort undertaking.  I wasn't completely on fresh legs, but I feel like I maintained a pretty good effort.  I passed a lot of people and of course a few people passed me.  Towards the end, I made a stupid shifting mistake and managed to slip my chain.  I've now done that three out of four years.  Even with all the mishaps, I think my time was somewhere around 47 or 48 minutes.  This is the 16-17 mph range.  Take off the two or even four minutes I lost to mishaps and you have a really respectable bike ride.  Interestingly, I think basically biked the same time as the year before.

T2 went quite a bit better.  When I got out to the run, I noticed my left foot was throbbing a bit.  And the tide made things quite a bit harder by pushing the runners onto softer sand.  Nothing really to report about the run.  It was harder than the year before because of the tide, but interestingly, I ran almost exactly the same time -- 35:30.  I'll take it.  My family was waiting for me just before the finish so I grabbed my daughter and carried her across the finish line.  My son tried to run beside me there, but the sand was a little too thick for him to keep up.

Overall, my official time was 1:49:00 which was 1:47 faster than the year before.  Of course I was disappointed with the year before because I totally got the pace wrong.  But considering my mishaps on the bike and the more difficult conditions, I'm happy.  I've been focusing on longer races this year and by doing that, you lose some sharpness on the shorter ones.  Plus, my family was at the finish.  That always makes the races better.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 Vineman 70.3 Recap

Short Version:  

After the disaster that was Wildflower, I needed an injury-free, mellow race to restore my confidence and sense of enjoyment.  I deliberately failed to set time goals, but figured I'd probably do around 6:30.  No goals meant I was just out there to enjoy the day.  I left the hotel at 5:25, deposited my gear at T2 and then drove to Guerneville.  5:25 was too late.  Setting up T1, getting body marked and into the water was a rushed, harrying experience.  I got into the water about 1 minute before the start.  So much for my normal routine of listening to music, meditating and setting myself mentally.  I took the swim at a very relaxed pace until it became too shallow for me to stroke.  Then I walked a bit.  Later, I had some problems with my goggles listening.  But I had no time goals and the water was shallow.  So I stood up and fixed it.  It was that kind of day.  My swim time was something like 41:58 -- about four or five minutes slower than a good, controlled effort.  T1 was pretty comical.  My setup was not well thought out and I had to pack my whole bag up.  I ended up spending more than eight minutes there.  I didn't feel like ruining another pair of cleats so I biked up the hill right after the mount point.  No time goals means taking it easy on the bike.  I stopped at the first aid station, used the restroom and topped off my fluids.  This bike course is really easy and I averaged 18.3 mph with almost no effort.  I couldn't find my T2 spot and was in no hurry.  I put on a knee brace and was disappointed to find the porta-potties occupied.  I took off at a really easy pace.  About three km in, I noticed some slight knee pain so I backed off.  I started walking intermittently and lost some mental discipline.  At about the 10 km mark I decided I did not want to be out there for another two hours and resolved to run more.  So I did.  My lack of fitness then made itself apparent.  But I finished decently and came in at something like 2:33.  That put my total time at 6:35, right around what I expected.  And I'm not injured and should be able to train properly for the rest of the season.  I know a 5:50 or better is well within reach for Big Kahuna.

Too Long (I warned you) version:

Wildflower was a bad experience for me -- I aggravated an injury and had inadequate fitness due to illness and travel.  I thought about not doing Vineman, but I knew that Wildflower would sit in my mind gnawing at my confidence and motivation.  I needed an experience that proved I was up to the Half Iron distance.  But I haven't been able to train at full intensity.  So I came to Wildflower with no time goals.  I was to just enjoy the day.  Being of a quantitative mindset, I did have an idea of how long it would take me.  I figured an easy effort would probably be around 6:30 -- 45 minutes on the swim, 3:10 on the bike, 2:25 on the run and 10 minutes in transition.

I left my house too late on Saturday.  I took the kids to lunch at King of Thai in San Francisco and got stuck in traffic getting to the Golden Gate Bridge.  All in all, I got into Windsor two hours later than I expected.  I never set up my T2 spot that day -- we had dinner with friends and I missed the 8 PM cutoff.  This tardiness bled into the next day with me leaving the hotel at 5:25.  I got T2 set up by 5:40 and was on my way to Guerneville.  My wave started at 6:48 and I did not enter T1 until just after 6:30.  The rest was a mad dash to get set up and into the water.  My normal routine is to listen to about thirty minutes of music and meditate for ten minutes after I set up my spot.  I make sure to hit the bathroom, too.  Not today, though.  I got into the water maybe two minutes before the start.  But this was to be a mellow race for me so I just took it easy.  I kept a relaxed pace from the start until the water became too shallow for my stroke.  Then I walked a bit.  That was annoying as the riverbed was uncomfortable on my feet.  After the turnaround, I noticed my goggles were leaking a bit.  So I stood up and fixed it.  Like I said, this was a mellow effort on my part.  I kept my easy pace and mostly stayed out of the way of the speedier women in the wave after me.  I ended up with a 41:58 on the swim.  I haven't done much open water swimming this year so my wetsuit form is not so good.  An in-form me with an aggressive mindset probably does this swim in 36.  But 41:58 is okay for this race.

T1 was comical.  I didn't run.  I got to my spot and got changed relatively quickly.  But I wasn't prepared to gather my gear up.  That took a few minutes for me to figure out and I put my own bag on the pile.  I still didn't run and exited T1 with my cleat covers still on.  If you couldn't tell, I was taking the idea of not caring about my time pretty seriously.  I mounted right at the exit of T1.  I actually don't mind starting on little hills and I already had my bike in the right gear.  Then it was off for the 56 mile bike.

My triathlon bike is still new to me.  I was most concerned about my neck and shoulders.  I haven't trained enough in the aero position to be confident of my neck holding up for hours.  Also, my front cogs on my triathlon bike are a 56/44 while I run a 53/39 on my road bike.  On the rear, I run a 12/27.  I was worried that climbs would be overtaxing.  There's a significant power differential pushing 39/27 versus 44/27.  I tried to compensate by taking it super easy and conserving as much energy as possible for the climbs.  My plan was to push 180-190 watts.  But very shortly into the ride, my cadence and power meter signals started dropping out.  I suspect that there was radio interference caused by my hydration system.  Consequently, I had to pace myself based on heart rate and perceived effort.  It's a good thing I wasn't concerned about my time.  I just took it easy.  I went to the bathroom at the first aid station and topped off my fluids.  Orange and lemon Gatorade don't mix together so well.  But Gatorade tastes better warm than just about every other sports drink.  I went to the bathroom again somewhere around mile 35.  I stayed extremely conservative with my effort and came onto Chalk Hill expecting a real climb.  I geared down to 44/27 before the climb got started and thought it would be really long.  Three curves and it's over.  There was a volunteer at the summit and I asked him if that was the top.  He told me it was and I thought he was bullshitting me.  I said something to the effect of "Is that it?"  The rest of the bike was uneventful.  I was bothered by some chafing.  I think I should just coat my entire body in three mm of Aquaphor before every race.  The last five miles I upped the effort slightly.  I ended up averaging 18.3 mph on the bike and finishing it in 3:03:53.  In hindsight, I took it too easy on the bike.  20 mph should be pretty easy on this course even with bathroom breaks.  I'm not skipping bio breaks until I'm threatening for a world championship slot.  20 mph results in a 2:48 split or basically 16 minutes faster.  So we're around 22 minutes faster entering T2 if I'm in form mentally and physically.  I ate a Nutrigo bar every 30 minutes starting fifteen minutes into the ride.  This worked well and I absolutely did not bonk.

I walked into T2.  If I'd given it even a moment's thought, I would have left my shoes on the bike and walked in my socks.  I couldn't find my spot.  I have to remember to bring a helium balloon.  I was wandering around and then just decided to rack my bike.  Then I found my shoes and put on my knee brace.  I put on a hydration belt as well.  Kathy Harris noticed me and said, "Hi."  Her wave was six minutes behind me and we're usually about the same speed swimming.  At least we were last year.  Anyway, I told her she must have had a good bike.  She nodded and got the hell out of transition.  She was actually racing, not looking for a mellow day.  At least my ego hopes she was.  I trotted to the porta-potties and found them occupied.  Bummer.  So I left T2 at a very easy jog.

I really did not know what to expect of the run.  My knee has kept me from really training full blast.  I haven't done any long bricks and my long runs have topped out at 13 miles at a very slow pace.  I did a little run the Thursday before and noticed my knee was still a little balky.  So I took it easy and resolved to back off even more at the first twinge I felt in my knee.  But first, I had to use the bathroom at the first aid station.  At about 3 km I noticed some twinges in my knee so I backed off and started walking the uphills.  My heart rate had been fine, though.  At the second aid station, I had to use the bathroom again -- this would have been avoided if I'd gotten to the race on time.  After I felt the balkiness in my knee I kind of lost it mentally.  I basically lost the will to run though I forced myself to run the flats and downhills.  In the winery, I got tired of being on the course and resolved to run again.  Making the resolution is easier than executing on it, though.

The rest of the race was a matter of me trying to muster the will to endure.  I mostly failed.  I would walk the aid stations and then run for maybe half a mile.  Then I'd walk a bit until my heart rate got down to 140 and then run to the next aid station.  I took the knee brace off because it was chafing.  This was mostly a lack of mental fitness.  My heart rate did not spike and frankly, my body did not hurt that much.  When the course came back into Windsor proper, I resolved to just run the rest of the way.  I joked with one guy that we had to run at the end because that's where the cameras were.  I expected my family would be there, too, and I did not want them to see me walking.  So I ran.  My family was waiting.  I gave my daughter a high five and my son took off running down the sidewalk.  He kept up with me for probably the last 300 meters.  I passed a few people who never should have been ahead of me.  My run split ended up being 2:33:57 -- just awful.  A bad time would have been 2:10.  My run was frustrating because that's where my mellow approach fell apart.  I didn't have enough physical fitness to run a mellow half marathon and I didn't have the right mental state to endure the discomfort.  Nonetheless, it was a good race.  It's unusual for the logistics to work out where my family is at the finish line.  Seeing them at the end is just an awesome feeling.

So back to the time accounting.  My total time was 6:35:33 and I was expecting around 6:30.  So I basically hit my mellow goal.  And I left a lot of time out there.  Let's say I do a 2:10 run split.  There's another 24 minutes to add to the 26 minutes from the bike and swim.  So there's 50 minutes.  I spent 15:45 in transition.  Let's say I knock that down to 10 minutes.  That totals to 55 minutes and change.  The rest of my races this year will have time goals.  So I'm thinking my goal for Big Kahuna is going to be 5:40.  Actually, when I set the goal around Labor Day, it will probably be lower than that.  I know that entire course well and I can nail it.

Overall, I accomplished my Vineman goal.  My knee actually feels better than it did the day before the race.  I know this distance is not bigger than me.  Yes, I need to adjust my training a bit.  For mental reasons I need to get in a couple of 18-20 mile runs.  I need to get out in my wetsuit and work on my form.  But I know what I need to do and I feel like my body is finally healed enough to absorb the training.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wildflower 2013 -- My Health Was Not Right

Short Version:  Wildflower 2013 was my first long-course triathlon.  I aggravated a Baker's cyst in my right knee about 6 weeks earlier and 10 days prior I caught a respiratory infection.  That illness took five pounds off me in a week.  My swim was okay despite really poor sighting.  My bike was a disaster -- the injury was reaggravated and after about 30 miles, I had problems maintaining 60% of threshold power.  I decided to DNF after the bike, but couldn't find the medical tent.  I decided to just walk the run because I remembered Harriet Anderson's story of what she did when she was injured in Hawaii.  I walked the entire run course.  So I finished, but about three hours slower than I planned.

TLDR:

This story really starts earlier.  In February and March, my training was progressing nicely.  I was regularly climbing Redwood Gulch and Hwy 9 on my bike.  My long runs were going well, with me consistently hitting training PRs.  My swimming splits were improving and I was starting to "feel fast."  I switched saddles on my bike to an Adamo and that was a revelation in comfort.  I noticed some discomfort on my right calf and IT band, but I attributed that to the break-in period for the Adamo.  In hindsight, I see my bike fit is off somehow.  I entered the Santa Cruz Half Marathon and I almost instantly knew something was wrong.  My heart rate was not matched to my pace, even accounting for the race start surge in adrenaline.  I was having to labor to maintain my non-aggressive target pace.  At 10K, I recognized the Baker's cyst pain and started walking.  I ended up running a couple of km at the end simply because I just tired of being out there.  I first experienced the Baker's cyst in 2010 when I was very new to triathlon.  I got over it with rest and losing 30 pounds.  I've also tried to watch my biomechanics.  I think I got a little overconfident in terms of injury prevention.

April was a bad training month for me.  With the Baker's cyst, plus some travel and work, it's been very hard to follow a training regime.  But the big hitter was an illness.  I touched back in the US from Korea on April 20.  On April 22, I was felled by a tough respiratory illness.  Later that week, I traveled to San Diego for my brother-in-law's law school graduation.  I was still ill and as you can guess, a graduation is not good for maintaining your normal healthy diet.  Still on April 29, I weighed five pounds less than on April 21. My body fat was only 1% lower and I know I was very well hydrated.  I knew I was significantly weakened.

I thought about withdrawing from Wildflower and probably getting half my entry fee back.  But I was very busy at work and the deadline for that passed.  The illness had kept me from training so I didn't know the state of my knee (although Baker's cyst symptoms usually appear in the calf unless you have a truly severe one.)  During a couple of mountain runs in Korea, the injury had still been apparent though better.  So I knew Wildflower was going to be shaky.  I told myself that my only goal was to finish.  In mid-March, I felt like I was on pace for a 5:50 or maybe 6:00 time.  I had done races and or training sessions on much tougher courses with times that translated to well below those times.  But I knew was weakened from illness and possibly still injured.  I told myself I just needed to finish.  I didn't completely buy what I was saying, but I kept repeating it to myself.

I drove to King City the night before and stayed at the Motel 6.  I need to remember to pick a different place in the future.  The Motel 6 supposedly has non-smoking rooms, but it smells like that's regularly flouted.  The WiFi did not work and the TV reception was poor.  I bought some food at Safeway and that was my dinner.  I left around 5:40 and hit the Starbucks drivethrough.  After some English to Esperanto translation problems, I managed to get a medium black coffee.  I have no idea what that's called in Starbuckian Esperanto.

I got to Lake San Antonio unobtrusively and after some missteps found packet pickup.  I bought a new Bento box because I left mine at home.  Transition set-up, body marking, etc. was pretty routine.  Bathroom lines were not bad.  These Tri-California events are a bit annoying with the Christian religiosity they bring in, but it's not too hard to ignore.  Majority groups almost always act with privilege, usually unconsciously.  I got a quick warmup in the water and was all set to go for my 8:30 wave start.

The swim start was a bit of a washing machine, but not too bad really.  I placed myself in the very back which was probably a mistake as the starting area was pretty long and narrow.  I was swimming through traffic for quite a while.  The water was very warm and visibility was not good.  I couldn't see people's feet until I was almost up on them.  I ran into a few people inadvertently and took a kick to the neck.  No big deal there.  A bigger deal was when I was passing a guy on my left and took an elbow to my left goggle.  My left goggle started leaking slightly.  Maybe I should work on a shorter glide, higher turnover style of swimming for the start of races.  Anyway, that leaking goggle would torment me the rest of the swim.  I did stop at one point and try to reset the goggles to kill the leak, but to no avail.

I had problems sighting.  Actually, I was fine until I got off line and headed towards the wrong buoy.  I got so far offline that the event motorboat came by and told me.  My GPS says I swam 2764 meters.  With decent sighting, it probably would have been about 2000 meters.  I had an official swim time of 48:28 so I'm actually not disappointed with my swim performance in terms of  speed in the water.  My sighting was problematic, but some of that was lack of preparation -- not reading the map beforehand (doh!) -- and my goggles becoming damaged in a freak way.

Vision in my left eye was extremely blurry when I came out of the water and that eye stung badly.  But that all cleared by the time I got to my bike.  T1 was uneventful and I got out smoothly.  I knew we had a climb early on and I took it really easy.  My heart rate came down into the 140s and I actually felt confident.  People were passing me, but I always let people pass me up the first hills.  The topless girl cheering everyone was slightly entertaining and drove home the point that I was much too strait-laced in my youth.  This first climb was actually my only "normal" climb of the day.  My data shows a 229 Normalized Power on that stretch, a little below my late-March threshold of 235.  I peaked at 378 watts on the climb.  This is consistent with a normal me taking it easy up a relatively short climb.  But my heart rate peaked at 183 (which I remember seeing on my display.)  That was a bad omen.  For that effort, my heart rate should have stayed below 160.

Things started deteriorating pretty quickly for me.  Somewhere around mile 11 or 12 my IT band started aching and I noticed my right hamstring and upper right calf were working too hard.  This is consistent with my past Baker's cyst experience.  I had a hard time maintaining power at even 180 watts.  There were some downhills and I got more speed from gravity than I'm used to.  Upgrading my tires seems to have paid off there.  I ate my first Cliff Bar a half hour into the ride and every thirty minutes thereafter.  That proved to be a little late for starting my nutrition.  Next race, I need to prepare my own food.  All the pre-packaged options are too sweet.

A little over an hour into the bike, I started bonking.  It took me a minute or two to recognize this, but the recognition was reassuring.  I started perking back up about fifteen minutes later.  Things went fairly smoothly at this point, though I couldn't maintain much power.  My right buttock and hamstring started tightening up.  Around mile 25 I stopped at a porta-potty and my right hamstring cramped when I got off the bike.  That was the first time I thought about DNF-ing.  I decided to at least finish the bike.

Things got worse.  Looking at the data, I see a lot of flat miles at 150 Watts and my heart rate in the 170s.  I took a break a couple of miles before Nasty Grade just to get my heart rate down.  And then Nasty Grade came.  The thing is, Nasty Grade is really not that nasty.  It should just be a few miles of monotonous climbing.  It doesn't compare to Redwood Gulch or even Hwy 9.  But I was just wasted.  I bailed about a mile in and started walking.  I walked to the summit and mounted back up.  There's another short climb right after Nasty and I had enough to get through that.  I cramped a bit, but I knew dismounting would just hurt more.  After that, it was just survival.  My right leg became more useless with each mile and I got to where I could hardly push 120 Watts.  Luckily, there were some descents.  I made my way into T2 limping along side my bike.  I had decided to find the medical tent and DNF.

I asked the volunteers at the aid station in transition where the medical tent was.  They didn't really know, but thought it was up the stairs.  I limped up the stairs and found a tent I thought was the medical tent.  It wasn't. It was a taping and massage tent.  The person there thought that medical tent was by the finisher's chute, but didn't know how to get there.  I was kind of annoyed and frustrated with all this. Then for some reason, Harriet Anderson's story came into my head.  I remembered how she taped her arm to her body and finished at Kona.  It turned out she had a broken clavicle.  I thought, "She's twice as old as me.  I can be half as tough."  So I limped back down the stairs and walked onto the run course.

My right leg was still hurting, but not as bad.  About 500m in, I tried to run.  That was not a good idea.  So I walked.  I got annoyed by people passing me and wanted to run.  I kept on walking.  I was pissed off and frustrated.  The positivity of all the volunteers was grating.  I kept on walking.  I started feeling better.  I talked with some of the other contestants.  The pain in my right leg lowered to a level where I could just ignore it.  I walked up the hills and passed people.  They ran down the hills and passed me.  I wanted to run, but I kept walking.  About 6 miles in, I felt okay and was happy I did not DNF.  I walked with a guy on his 17th or 18th Wildflower.  This conversation made me want to turn the race into a personal tradition.  Then my feet started hurting.  Not too much at first, but I knew I was developing blisters.  At mile 10, my feet were hurting worse than my leg had been at T2.  At mile 11, I couldn't think of anything else but how my feet were hurting.  I kept walking because there was no way I would not finish.  I thought about running -- my feet weren't going to hurt worse.  I did not because I feared having to leave on a stretcher.  I tried to remember the Heart Sutra.  All I could think about was finishing and the pain in my feet.  I got pissed at myself because I had lost control of my mind.  I recognized getting pissed off was another example of losing control of my mind.  I was still pissed.  I kept walking.  I finished.

I went straight to the medical tent.  The blisters were as I expected.  About half of the balls of my feet were blistered.  My right foot was worse than my left.  They had not popped (that would have actually lessened the pain.)  In the medical tent, they cleaned, sterilized and bandaged the blisters.  There's just not much to do for blisters.  I went back to transition, packed up, waited for the shuttle, blah, blah, drove home that night.

All in all, a healthy me probably would have done the bike at least an hour faster and the run 90 minutes faster.  And then I was looking for the medical tent for about 15 minutes.  Take 15 minutes off my swim if I don't swim almost an extra half mile and I'm three hours faster.  My official time was 9:07.  I could have been right around 6:00 pretty reasonably.

I'm glad I finished.  I don't yet have enough self control to keep from beating myself up over quitting.  Also, I think what turned out to be a 13 mile hike was actually good rehab for my right leg.  During the event, I was thinking Vineman was off the table for me.  Now, I think I should still do it.  It is funny that I finished the race mostly because I couldn't figure out how to DNF.  And finishing actually hit my goal.

Finally, Harriet is undoubtedly more than twice as tough as me.  Maybe one day I'll be half as tough.  But honestly, I hope never have to be.