Archive for May, 2008

Good Times in the Vines

May 6, 2008

This weekend was the Lake Berryessa Half Ironman in Napa Valley, a low key alternative to Wildflower, and perfect for an early season fitness check. More significantly, it was also my first long distance race in a year to the day after last year’s forced hiatus. For me, this event was to serve as a chance to shake off the cobwebs, feel the distance again, and celebrate the fact that I was at the starting line of a race—something I was only dreaming about a few months ago! Was it good to be back? I don’t think you could have wiped the smile off my face if you tried: )

The day started off pretty perfectly. A calm lake and wetsuit swim set my mind at ease, and I felt a balance of nervous excitement as we entered the water. After the usual jostling, I found some feet and settled into a good rhythm for the two loop swim. . .perhaps too good. Rounding one of the buoys on the second loop, I lost the feet I was following, but sighting some more yellow caps ahead, followed their line. Suddenly, I’d caught the pack of what can only be described as “struggling swimmers” and realized these were people completing their first loop—NO!! lifting my head, I realized that the exit ramp was behind me. . .I had started my third loop! Doing a quick 180, I sprinted for the dock in an attempt to minimize the consequences of my “bonus yardage”. Once back on shore, Andy did his best to cheer me on, but judging from his expression, I was sure that any hopes he had ever entertained of a successful The Amazing Race partnership had just been erased.

Although frustrated with my lack of navigational skills, I settled into a good rhythm on the bike and quickly caught two of the three girls I knew were ahead of me. The ensuing miles ticked by quickly, and I was able to focus on gathering heart rate data (after 7 years, I’ve finally given in), nutrition (1.5 blueberry Clif bars, a vanilla Clif shot, and some Luna sports drink), and picking off the guys ahead of me (one of whom mentioned: “I’ve really got to pee, and it’s REALLY pissing me off!!”. . .Umm, OK.) This course was no joke, and on the final climb back into transition, my legs were definitely talking to me.

Entering transition, I was re-energized as I saw Christine Fletcher, the first place female, heading out on the run. I did a quick mental replay of my conversation with Coach Paul, the Clif notes of which were: “This is not a race to take chances”, “You’re not really racing the last 10 k of the run” and “I’d like you to negative split it”. Although the heart rate and energy were fine, it seemed I’d left my legs in San Diego. I dialed it back a bit for the first lap—which was not to say I was going easy—I was hurting and the absolute lack of flat ground wasn’t making it any easier! The “fake it till ‘ya make it” approach was in full effect, though, and by the second loop I was feeling good and pushing the pace, giving it what I had. On the day, my effort was good enough for 2nd place, an awesome workout on a beautiful but challenging course, and lots of confidence that things are on the right track!

The only thing left to do was a little post race wine tasting.