Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vineman Relay was a blast!

I just got back from Vineman Relay, an Ironman distance race that I did on a relay team. It was my first experience doing a race on a relay team and it was so much fun!

Our original team was myself, Seht who lives right in the heart of the race and that I train with some times, and a friend of ours from this area who we've never met but know online as bSophie. We all of us have had bariatric surgery and lost a lot of weight so we named our team "Winning by Losing."

bSophie is a runner. Last year she ran a half-marathon every month and this year she wanted to move up to the marathon distance so training for this event was perfect for her. Seht does triathons but hates open water swimming (or any swimming, really) and has a mixed relationship with running. So he did the bike.

This made me that fastest swimmer on the team! That cracked me up and I like to do an open water swim every weekend so being on the team didn't even require any special training on my part.

However, we had our first set-back when bSophie developed an achilles injury about six weeks out from the event. No running for her! Finding someone to run a marathon on short notice is tough. We all sent out feelers to all our various friends and running lists and the only got back one positive response from a couple I know from SVTC. They said one of them would do it. Since they are both way faster than either Seht or myself and even bSophie, we were stoked to have our new teammate be either Fast or Even Faster.

Well, Even Faster did an ultra running event two weeks ago so sensibly decided he probably shouldn't do this. That's okay because I'm closer to Fast and sharing a hotel room with a woman is slightly more comfortable. I've mentioned Fast on the blog before, but I called her Lady Di. (I'm not sure where that came from as she's not remotely a princess, but she's done five Ironmans so that makes her IM royalty, right?) So now I was no longer the fastest swimmer nor Seht the fastest cyclist, but that's okay. Our egos survived and we were just so happy not to have to scrap the whole event.

Anyway, Lady Di and I drove up on Friday to pick up our race packets and had our second, minor, setback when my GPS told us to go through San Francisco instead of Emmeryville. I figured out what was going on as soon as I made the turn onto I-80 W and it was exactly too late to switch back. Between that and regular Friday afternoon vacation traffic, we made horrible time up to the race. Then, we got there with not much time to check out the Expo before the mandatory race meeting they wouldn't let us pick up our packets until we attended. The meeting was 99% the exact same information as we got two weeks ago at the Vineman 70.3 mandatory meeting and nothing that wasn't on the web site. We were not happy campers.

By the time we got registered, it was 5:00 pm and we still hadn't checked out the run course. We had planned to do it on bikes but we were mentally exhausted by then so we just drove it. Then we met another friend for dinner and checked into the hotel. We were so full from dinner that we didn't do the evening run we planned on or hit the jacuzzi. But that doesn't mean I hit the pillow, fell right asleep and sleep like a log. I was pretty much up all night tossing and turning. I also didn't eat enough during the day and ended up hungry in the middle of the night but too tired to get up and eat something.

The next morning, as is usual in the morning, I didn't feel like eating much so I just had my morning protein shake. We drove to T1 and it took forever to get through town and park. My wave went off at 6:45 am and I didn't really have time to eat a lot and digest it before my swim. I got in a Honey Stinger Waffle, but then was kind of full and didn't take my "15 min. before the swim" gel, as I usually do.

The water was warm, but not too warm. Waves were going off every 3 minutes so I didn't have time to swim a bit before we were off. I placed myself a bit farther back in the wave than I did for Vineman 70.3 in an effort not to get so beat up and skulled a bit in place until suddenly the horn went off, no announcement that I heard. I started out strong, didn't get too beat up and I passed my first pink cap (from the wave before us) just after the bridge (so about .25 miles in). Hey, that's my friend Vanessa! I tried to catch her eye but she was grimly determined and I had business to accomplish so I just kept going.

Very soon after that, the first white caps (wave behind) caught up. I had hoped to be farther alone before this happened. I didn't realize these were the male AquaBikers but thought they were Men 45+. So that was slightly discouraging. My 15 min. watch vibrated happened a bit sooner than I expected as well. I thought I was maybe only half way to the turn around and in choppy water and not a happy camper. But I just kept going, pushing it as much as I could, and singing a song about surfing to myself to distract me from the negative thoughts. (The part about "Like a zombie I will chase every drop. I'm not going to stop until my arms fall off." was particularly apt as I could really feel my pace in my arms.)

I got to the turn around before the 30 min. mark (thank goodness) and I was able to get mostly to the bridge before the second vibration, in fact. The way back is with the current and always takes less time and I had passed a bunch of pink caps and even saw some other colors from waves that left even earlier so I was feeling pretty good. I also had smelt pancake syrup on the way up and Lady Di had mentioned she wanted pancakes for breakfast after the swim so that reminded me that I had my team waiting for me and that felt good.

I passed the off ramp and the race clock said 57 min. which means I was on my Vineman 70.3 pace. Score! But the 45 min. vibration went off about 30 seconds from the start of the second loop. So I was 30 seconds off pace assuming the rest of the course was really 1.2 miles. I figured I'd just have to make up the time somehow or hope the return loop was slightly short (as it appeared to be). I continued to push myself but going upstream with a lot of chop around the bridge really was taking it out of me. At least my sighting is much improved and I hardly zig-zagged at all and I was keeping to the deeper part of the water more than I had two weeks earlier.

I dolphin dived around the turn around as I always do and I continued to swim as fast as I could but I had the sense that I was falling off pace. I also smelt and tasted bacon on the way up and that was yummy but also made me realize I was hungrier than I should be. Also, I was not as close to the bridges as I wanted to be when the 1:15 buzzer vibrated my cap. I told myself to really haul ass and I tried kicking more but my body wasn't doing what my mind was telling it.

When I hit the bridges, I knew I had about 400 yards to go and I told myself to go nuts. Unfortunately, I didn't have it in me so my nuts wasn't very nutty. I didn't slow down but I didn't speed up either. As I passed the bridge, the 1:30 alarm went off and I said the F work right into the water. (I wonder if anyone heard me who had their face in the water at that point? That would be amusing.)

So I just did the best I could and I got out at 93 min and change. I was not happy, but I couldn't really be sad either since I had done it three minutes faster than last year even with the swim exit being farther down. Lady Di was there cheering me on and grabbed my timing chip and ran it up to Seht, but when I got there we realized she'd grabbed my Road Id. Oops! So we exchanged the chip and Seht ran off and I collapsed in a heap.

Okay, not really, but I was so tired and hungry, very hungry. I changed out of the wet suit, got covered in mud (the T1 area for this race is just a dirt lot. Yuck) and checked my Garmin. It said I'd taken almost 94 minutes, but also that I'd swum 2.55 miles! So maybe the course was longer than last year? Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

We packed up and headed out to the downtown area for breakfast. We went to a shop Seht recommended and my breakfast was good. I ordered eggs over easy and they were perfect. Usually they are runny or hard so I was happy. Lady Di's pancake wasn't cooked all the way through though. But she got another one and we ate slowly and I was able to eat a lot more than usual, which is good.

At this point, the plan had been for us to drive back to Windsor, park and then I'd bike to Chalk Hill to cheer Seht on. But we were running late and I was soaked. And cold. So we decided to drive to Chalk Hill. We were doing fine until we hit the back-side of Windsor. We were on the course but traveling against the racers so we weren't interfering with them. However, the police officer directing traffic at one intersection just would not let us by. He was being very conservative and he kept letting cars doing in the direction of the race go by when there were gaps in the bikes and not us. We finally turned right there and ended at the back of Windsor HS but not able to get to the front so we came back and now we were a car that he was letting through at the expense of the other cars in line where we had been and we made it.

By the time we got to Chalk Hill and I changed out of my wet clothes into dry ones, we figured that Seht was gone. If he was on a pace to finish in seven hours, he was definitely gone. But just in case we waited a bit and cheered on other racers. We also saw one poor gal flat and skid out right in front of us. Her hood bent and she had a flat tire and was going to quit but SAG came and fixed her up and she rode off and we cheered her like crazy. There was also a guy on a bike with his own cow bell. When the spectators would ring theirs, he pulled his out and rang it right back and then they went crazy ringing some more. It was awesome.

Then we went back to the High School to wait for Seht.

At the HS, we found out there was online tracking of athletes. If only we'd known that on Chalk Hill! There was a split for Seht and it said he'd gotten to the 29 mile mark so early that even if we'd made it to Chalk Hill by the time we'd planned, he would have been gone. He was on pace for a 6:20 finish! Now, I knew realistically, he'd slow down at the end, but still... he'd told us 7-8 hours and so anything under seven would be awesome.

At the 84 mile check-in, he was still on pace for 6:20 though. We figured, okay, 6:30 and planned around that. Lady Di was not sure her lunch would digest by then but she did a bit of a warm-up anyway and wen went to where the bikes were coming into transition to wait. And wait... 6:30 came and went and then 6:45 and we started to worry. I figured Seht had a flat (he gets them a lot) so it was going to be 7:00 after all. That was still awesome and within our time goals so, as long as he was okay, we were okay.

Then we saw him and I ran over and grabbed his chip and gave it to Lady Di and she took off and Seht and I went to where our rack was and racked his stuff and he changed into his sneakers (which we  had brought with us from T1). He looked like death warmed over so I dragged him to the finish line and made him eat. I had him bring me some fruit and a drink but I didn't want to eat yet because I'd just eaten lunch. I had some cookie too and he was looking better and told me all about his ride and how he'd done great until mile 70 when he started having a lot of cramping issues and then the wind had picked up and slowed him way down.

Then we went to the turn around to wait for Lady Di. I must have did the math wrong because she came by sooner than I expected but we ran over to cheer for her and she said "right on time" as she went by. Then I took Seht to the car to get some necessities and I changed into my running shoes because I decided rather than bike out to the run course, I'd jog it. I figured my long bike ride was set for the next day so I should do more running instead.

I went out to the first hill and stopped at the top. There was a tree stump there and I sat on it and cheered people as they went by and waited. Lady Di came by finishing up her second loop and looked good but was off her PR pace. That's okay, as it's a hard course and anything under six would have been better than what Seht or I could do.

I waited some more and then got adopted by a dog. I am not a dog person, so I didn't really want to pet the dog and then smell like dog, but he kind of made that impossible. He was leaning on me and trying to jump on me (which I wouldn't allow since it's a bad habit) and at one point he crawled in my lap! I guess I asked for that since I did pet him and talk to him. I couldn't help it; he was just that cute and even reasonably well-behaved for a dog that had run off from his owners. Some of the runners said "Cute dog"when they ran by and then he'd run over and sniff them. And then I'd say "he's not my dog" since I didn't know his name to call him back.

Anyway, at some point he went up the driveway of the house I was sitting at and the owner saw him and scolded him and put him away. I kind of missed him after he left to be honest.

Finally, I saw her and I ran over to the other side of the street so I could high-five her. She was definitely off her PR pace and starting to stiffen up and I was worried but she's a pretty strong athlete so I figured 4.5 was still possible. Unless I was doing the math wrong, which I probably was. I ran back to the start and had dinner and hung out with Seht.

The sun started to go down and we got cold. They started handing out the mylar blankets and Seht got one. He was still in his bike clothes, mostly, and salty from the bike. I didn't get one because I had a jacket and had changed clothes so I figured it wouldn't really help and I should leave them for the people coming off the run. I did a lot of pacing instead.

Lady Di's PR time came and went but we weren't surprised not to see her and didn't really start looking until around 4.5 hours out. We also figured that would be tough, but we didn't want to miss her either.

The live timing site hadn't been updated in hours and the Live Results tent had no run splits for her either. So we just had no idea when she'd hit the turn around. I knew when I'd seen her and that it was about a 10k left from that point to the finish so we just kept calculating different run paces to make sure we didn't miss her at the finish line. And there she was!

We ran to the finish line and grabbed her and she was very cold and sweaty, but she beat five hours! Our team finished in under 14 hours! How much under we have no idea as the "live" results are still not up almost 24 hours later and we weren't paying that much attention at the finish. Then we all got our medals and finisher shirts. The medal, in particular, was amazing.  It's the same one as the Full Vineman finishers get and was built around a brass corkscrew.

We were pretty cold at this point so we got some food into Lady Di and took off, going back to the hotel to drop Seht off at his car and then back on the freeway home. This time the GPS took us the right way and we got home in record time. Poor Lady Di had to drive home from my place; I'm assuming she made it home okay. I was too wired to sleep right away so I don't think my long bike ride is going to happen. Plus, between my long run on Friday and the running and sitting yesterday, I'm kind of sore. So Unplanned Rest Day! I'll bike tomorrow instead.

This is my first experience with being on a relay team and it was definitely fun. There is a bit of anxiety in not knowing where your teammate is out on the course, but it's more than made up for by having a built-in support system as part of the race and accomplishing something as part of a team. It's a nice way to turn a workout into a fun event with a supported course, swag and a party. I'm definitely going to do more of them in the future.

I'm also going to take what I learned into IMC. First of all, push more at the end, not the beginning. Standard advice but one I never take and always pay for. Second, swim courses are not exact, so stop stressing over the whole 90 min. finish deal. Third, eat more the day before!! Finally, take the damn sleeping pill the night before no matter how tired you think you are.

I also noticed something that I hadn't noticed before while swimming. A big group of white caps came by near the end and they were all moving their arms faster than I do. I wonder if I could swim faster if I moved my arms faster or if that would just tire me out more? I'm going to try it in the pool this week and see what happens. Supposedly I have a good catch so I don't want to mess that up, but I want to go faster. I want some day to be able to do a 1:15-1:20 IM swim, in fact. I might be dreaming on that but it seems possible so I'm going to aim for it.
Post a Comment