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.