this is what i've been waiting for, my big race of the season. actually it was my second half im of the season, but the first was just a warm up, especially considering i had pneumonia 3 weeks before, missed all my peak brick workouts, and pretty much never recovered in time for oceanside 70.3 in march. my race went horribly there. i was just happy to hit the start line let alone finish. after that i went back home and re-worked everything. hit the weights, dropped some weight , and climbed climbed climbed every chance i got. i can now say that i'm starting to love cycling!!! thanks in part to my two riding partners, ted and cole. ran into ted, an old photo friend, and cole while riding at the rose bowl one day, and they invited me for another ride later that week. these guys are freelancers like me with the fortune to schedule rides at various times in the day which leaves our options open for all kinds of distances on any given day when we're not working. thanks guys!!!
i'd heard so many great things about vineman, and given our location in los angeles, it's a relatively easy drive to get up there. i was lucky enough to have a spot at jordan's family cabin just a few minutes from the race start and stayed with 3 guys who'd done the race several times. still though, i wanted to drive the bike course the day before and get myself acqainted. i'm glad i did!!
the days leading up to the race were not optimum conditions. crazed and physical work week, long drive up north ALONE, gears slipping the night before as i did a final bike check, oh and did i mention the big neighborhood party 'til 1am that they had at the corner of the street near the cabin?? thank god for the ipod!! um, yeah, not all signs were pointing to success.......
luckily i was able to get to the race early enough to find a race mechanic to tweak my gears. note to self: i need to learn how to tweak the back derailleur when switching out my training wheel for my race wheel. i can't possibly go to the mechanic for every race!!! so when i rode through the safeway parking lot to double check everything, i then realized my computer wasn't giving me a speed or distance readout, just cadence. no amount of tweaking was helping, and i needed to get into t1 and get ready as i was in wave 2. maybe the magnet was damp or cold. maybe it'd work by the time i got on the bike. here's hoping it would, cause there was nothing i could do about it now!!!
the racks were already packed. i've never shown up to t1 so late. i always frown at those who saunter in and then cram their bike in somewhere it doesn't really fit. there was a rack one row over with all sorts of random numbers on it including some from my age group, so i racked there and hoped i wouldn't get dq'd for doing so. it was a question of race kharma, and i just wasn't willing to cram in on my fellow racers who'd arrived early enough to get their spots. quickly laid out the minimum for the point to point pack up to come, put on the wetsuit and off i went to the swim start. the swim was a bit chaotic. apparently the waves were going off a few minutes early, so random colored caps were flying through the chute and jumping in late. what a bummer. but there i was on time with all the purple caps sitting and waiting in the water and talking leisurly when all of a sudden, no gun, nothing, people just started to go for it. i took coach ian murray's advice and went down the right side to avoid the current in the middle of the river. seems that only a few of us knew that strategy as every time i breathed to the left i could see i was going by quite a few women who were clumped in the middle. i was so far right i was knocking into branches!!! but it worked so well along with my notes from my last swim session with ian. i used a much wider entry and tried to concentrate on wrist above finger, elbow above wrist. then i would pick someone to take out. one after the other, i was able to pass a few swimmers in my age group and then some slowpokes from the previous wave. ian was right. with just a few tweaks to my swim form, i was able to cut off 4 minutes from my previous fastest half im swim!!! hardly a true comparison since my training has improved leaps and bounds, and it was a totally different swim course, but i know those notes are helping my swim already!!!
outta the water and onto the bike. still no speed or distance readout. oh well, guess i'd just have to go by my cadence and heart rate which were the only things working. turned out to be the best thing to happen to me! i tried to maintain between 80-85 cadence to stay comfortable for the whole distance and knowing i had to save something for the hill at mile 45. no idea how fast i was going at any point. didn't care. just concentrated on perfect circles. the rolling road through the vineyards was just breathtaking, and for the bike being my least favorite leg of the race, i didn't want it to end!!! oddly, my calves were unusually tight and crampy the first 20 miles. wondered if i was simply still cold or hadn't warmed up enough that morning (my only pair of running shoes were dropped off at t2 the day before!). took some salt which i never really do on the bike. don't know if that's what ultimately turned things around, but i was feeling much better by mile 30 or so. also, at about mile 15, my yellow splash guard went flying out of my aero drink bottle while passing over a small pothole in the very bumpy road. let's just say i was using most of my water to periodically rinse gatorade off my face and shades. DOH!! what i noticed is that in previous races, i'd come outta the swim in a pretty good position, and then every woman behind me would pass me on the bike. this time, i passed a few, a few passed me (there goes patricia anglano!!!), but for the most part, i got the sense for the first time that i was holding my own position on the bike!!! chalk hill really felt like nothing. it took me minutes to get over it and then i knew i had something left to hustle it into t2.
into t2 (barefoot on top of my shoes!!) and by now it was pretty hot. so lucky to have been out in wave 2 that morning. couldn't imagine still being on the bike. a woman on my rack at the breath of life race in ventura last month asked me if i'd been doing any heat training in prep for vineman. you shoulda seen the look on my face. she said "you have a month left. do it all in the heat." so i did some 40 mile ride/ 8 mile run bricks starting at 1pm and practicing with salt, and i'm certain that had everything to do with how well i felt on that run sunday. on my way out on the run, michelie jones was heading in for a 2nd place finish. i yelled out "go michelie!! you're my hero!!" she actually took the time to look behind her, make sure nobody was on her tail, and give my a hand smack!! pretty much just went by heart rate, and was amazed at how well my legs felt. i just tried to concentrate on the forward lean i'd worked on with coach mike gwaltney at the track. tried to control the "chicken dance" that my left arm likes to do, and just focused on hydrating and eating properly to keep me going. the course was definitely rolling, i wouldn't say hilly, but i decided to just walk the steeper ones and try to save my legs a bit. still i was keeping a 10 minute pace!! that's fast for me in a tri of this distance. all along the out and back course, i saw so many people in the la tri club kit, even people not in the club who i've met at previous races, all yelling "go la!!" or "hey monica. looking strong!!!" i swear, the club dynamic out there is so great, so supportive!!! i remember my 4 years racing prior to being in the club and how sick i got of hearing "go la!!" out there that i finally had to join 2 years ago. so glad i did. so fortunate for the friends i've made, the races i've had the opporutnity to participate in. my level of training and racing has gone up up up due to the club, so thank you thank you thank you!!! in the end i pulled off a 2:14 half marathon, not far off from my old pr's in just a straight foot race, so i was thrilled!!! my goal was anything under 7 hours with a dream time of 6:30. final time: 6:12:22.2, slow by some standards, but if you only knew how far i've come.....that's the beauty of his sport. you can choose to compete against others, or you can compete against and better yourself. me, i suppose i go for a little of both, always trying to pass women with certain numbers on their calves, but always thrilled with every time i cross that finish line in whatever time it takes me to get there. every finish is another affirmation of simply being alive and having the fortune to do what we do.
i'm so looking forward to the road ahead in prep for im brazil. a little rest for me, and then i ramp up the mileage for the nyc marathon in november. crazy thing is that my running has improved so much, i have no idea what my marathon pace is since i last ran one over a year ago!!! everything feels effortless, like i could still push it so much more, and then i'm freaked out at my pace. i'll be back to the track with mike for mile repeats by next week to start figuring it out. then it's all about im brazil and LONG RIDES THROUGH THE WINTER!!!! WOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!
so it's official, i'm going long. this is my first of many posts on the road to brazil. hope you'll check back often and give me your insight and support to the finish!!!