Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vineman Race Report - Part 2

It took about thirty-five minutes to get to Guerneville. It was dark and misting when we got there, but the tiny town was bustling with triathletes preparing for a very long day. Johnson's beach was definitely crowded with wetsuit-clad competitors and bundled-up spectators. The place was bustling.

Kristine and I had to separate while I set up my bike in the transition area. I racked the Rocket, hung my sunglasses and helmet from the bars and set my socks and cycling shoes on a small white towel.

It didn't take long, but when I emerged from the transition area, Kristine was nowhere to be found. We were only about twenty minutes from the start of the race and the clock was ticking. I became more and more agitated with every minute that passed. I found my parents, but that wasn't enough - Kristine had my wetsuit! I was freaking out, running through the crowd shouting her name: "KRISTINE! KRISTINE!"

After some frantic searching and a lot of that frantic shouting, we finally found each other - she had been waiting for me at an alternate exit from the transition area. I can't tell you how relieved I was to have found her, but with only five minutes until my swim wave was set to start, I didn't have time to express it. I frantically squeezed into my wetsuit. Seriously, no one has EVER jumped into a wetsuit that fast. The announcer was calling for athletes... I had no time! I jumped up as soon as my the suit was over my shoulders only to realize I had somehow misplaced both my wave cap and my timing chip during the crazy ordeal.

I sprinted - sprinted - from Kristine to the entry area and thankfully found someone with extra caps standing next to someone else with extra timing chips (such fortune)! I threw the cap on my head, strapped the chip around my ankle and dove into the water. My heart-rate was through the roof. I had about forty-five seconds to try to clear my head and regulate my breathing before the countdown began. I floated leisurely up toward the front of the pack and was in good position when the gun went off, but at that point, I already felt like I'd run a marathon. It was a stark contrast to the serene calm that I'd enjoyed at the start of Western Australia!

Swimmin'

The swim was... imperfect. One guy, a pro triathlete who went on to win the race by almost an hour, shot off like a missile. I found myself at the front of the first chase group. There were swimmers behind me and beside me, jockeying for position. It was frustrating. I had to keep reminding myself to race my own race, and several times I intentionally slowed down to leave the pace-making to some of the other guys. The middle half of each lap was incredibly shallow - so shallow that I was scraping the rocks and dirt on the bottom with every stroke.

Before the turn-around on the second lap, we started catching swimmers from the later waves, and swimming through that scrum made staying on the heels of the guy in front of me very difficult. Hell, even swimming in a straight line was difficult - there were people everywhere!

Fortunately, I was nearing the finish - after twelve or fifteen minutes of essentially swimming on top of other triathletes, I reached the shore, jumped up and jogged into the transition area. The best part about the entire swim? My family going absolutely nuts on the beach when I ran by!

Out of the water

Transition was painless. It could've been faster, but I decided to be slightly more deliberate. The day was going to be a long one whether I took thirty extra seconds to get my socks on right or not. So I made sure to get my socks on right. Before I knew it, I was on my bike and pedaling. I was one of the first five guys on the road.

Big smile in transition

As with Western Australia, the two-loop, 112-mile bike leg was rather dull. Sure, the scenery was nice, but I barely saw a soul the entire time. For the most part, it was just me, my bike and the whoosh-whoosh of my disc wheel. A couple things:
  • I noticed early on that I was riding faster than I had expected. The trend continued through to the finish. I averaged almost a full mile per hour faster than I had projected. (Thank you, disc wheel!)
  • The sun was hidden behind the clouds for 85% of the ride, meaning temperatures didn't start to rise until noon. Awesome.
  • I was hoping to see Kristine and my family at the end of the first lap and was sad when I passed by that corner early and they weren't there, but I was surprised and psyched to see them waiting for me at a fast corner, two miles further down the road. After almost three hours of solitude, their cheers really inspired me to hit that second lap hard.
Speeding along at mile 58
The second lap was a bit of a blur: I settled into a rhythm that remained unbroken until the end. And for the record, that's exactly how I want it to be, every single time. No flats, no fiascoes - just miles melting away. The end of the second lap was even better than the end of the first. By the time I came down the finishing straightaway toward the bike-to-run transition, the sun was shining and my family and friends were cheering in full-force around the dismount line. It doesn't get much better than that.

On to part three.