Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vineman Half-Ironman Race Report

No, I didn't sneak out to California to do this race. A former Athlete's Foot-Hitek teammate, Jenny Meyer, sent out this race report and it's such a great one that I asked her if I could share it on my blog and she agreed. So without further interruption....

Friends, Black Swans, Fellow Crushers of Bone

Yesterday I completed the Vineman 70.3 Half-Ironman Triathlon. I did not drown, fall on my head (again), or re-break my feet. I have a fantastic white outline of a bathing suit on my otherwise scarlet back, but that is the worst of my injuries as of this morning's inventory.

The race took place in the heart of California's wine country - not whine country, as my brother Robert admonished me on the drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to Santa Rosa. At the expo, I saw more shapely, immaculately-shaven legs than I have ever seen - on men. A man with a Schwarzenegger accent explained all the race infractions that would earn you time in the penalty tents on the course - sort of like in hockey. I started getting nervous. I reeeeally didn't want to get a time out. Robert elbowed me when they started talking about the penalty for peeing in the vineyards.

Triathlons are so weird! You have to have so much stuff. Everybody seems to have a better idea of what's going on than I do - but then, that's something I'm used to. The swim took place in the Russian River. 1.2 miles. I watched people calmly piling up their creams and gu's and biking paraphernalia, while I was just praying that I left the right shoes in the right places and trying to inconspicuously rip the price tag off my brand-new wetsuit. I got in the water and panicked. I couldn't breathe!! ... duh, it's water. Pick up your head, dummy. And yes, I peed in my wetsuit, and I loved it. Sorry, Mitz. From that point onward, the swim was fun - when I wasn't being kicked in the face or groped underwater. When I got nervous, I just had to remember to breathe.

Ooooh it felt good to get out of the water! I saw Robert, in his Stanford kit and ready for his own ride, grinning at me from the sidelines as I ran my bike up the embankment. "BONECRUSHER!!!!!!" I bellowed as I clip-clopped up the hill (those were laughs of abject terror, right?). The bike ride was... well, boring. Beautiful, don't get me wrong. 56 miles. Vineyards, golden hills, yada yada yada. But you couldn't get within 7 meters of the person in front of you or you'd be penalized for drafting. And I've never biked that far without chit-chatting with people or stopping for breakfast. I was going along at a decent rate, drinking a lot, getting passed by dudes with aero helmets and disk wheels. I felt pretty snazzy with Rob's aerobars attached to my ride, although I think I was the only "competitor" with peanut butter sandwiches duct taped to my handlebars. I couldn't enjoy the scenery so much because I was just trying not to get a time out. I was also concentrating on not falling off my bike, and I was worried about getting a flat. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to confess that I did indeed pee in my bike shorts. More than once. If you don't think we can be friends anymore, I'll understand. Best part: 5 miles from the end of the bike portion, I saw a girl in my age group (you have your age written on your calves) hop off her bike to help one of the aero-helmetted guys who got a flat. I heard him protest, and I heard her say "your race is probably more important to you than mine is to me." So classy. "You're awesome!" I yelled at her. (Nobody would ever want my mechanical assistance, I'm pretty sure. But I'm also not that noble.)

I saw Mom and Rob at the transition area, where I yelled "I DIDN'T FALL OFF!!!". Slipped blithely into my running shoes (sort of) and started trucking into the run. Now, maybe you'll remind me of this when I start making noises about doing an Ironman: the run felt AWFUL. Like starting at mile 20 of a marathon, and then doing 13.1 miles. It was around noon, and the course was hilly, and the sun was beating down with sadistic insistence. I was passing people the whole time, but at a dead shuffle. I finished the entire event in a total of 5 hours, 41 minutes - achieving my goal of under 6 hours. Finisher 678 of 1800+ finishers, 125th woman, I think. Slower on the bike, but faster on my feet.

So... I think it'll always be the marathon for me. Less stuff to worry about, more socializing, more exuberance. Lower center of gravity, less far to fall. The triathlon means slow, prolonged discomfort. I can see how one might prefer the zany smorgasbord, but I couldn't thoroughly enjoy any of the disparate pieces out of consideration for all of them. Those of you who did Lake Placid yesterday - dang. Are you able to move?

Jenny "The Bonecrusher" Meyer

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