Monday, July 19, 2010

Vineman 70.3 - My First Half

My first half ironman is in the books.

I’m writing this the day after the race on Monday afternoon. This is because after the awards ceremony last night, we only had time to shower and pack up to drive home. We needed to be home that night because my dad had to be at the airport for standby work and I had a dentist appointment to get my wisdom teeth out at 9am.
Sidenote about the wisdom teeth.. I’m in so much pain. The vicodin hardly works and I’ve been spitting up blood all freakin day. Earlier after I tried to take a nap, I found myself rolling on the bathroom floor about to throw up and sweating profusely because my body was so angry at me. I think I was swallowing too much blood while I was trying to nap and my stomach finally said enough. One of the worst experiences ever.
I am now sitting and typing this with gauze shoved in the corners of my mouth drooling blood ever 3 minutes.. not exactly how I pictured the day after my 70.3 to go, so bear with me as I try and recount the race.

Just so you're forewarned, this entry is pretty detailed and extensive. One of the results of being bound to the couch because of three less wisdom teeth the day after the race. Thanks for reading.


Alarm went off at 4:50am. My hope was that we’d leave the hotel by 530 and get to the river start by 6:30 and have an hour to prepare. Luckily it did not take that long to get to the race site and we were there and parking by 6:15. When we checked out the site yesterday the traffic was terrible. But parking was surprisingly easy for 2,000+ race participants.


This was the craziest setup I’ve ever been a part of. One of the largest contributing factors to this was the fact that the transition area was open all morning. It never closed; so people were still going in and out after the pro men and women started at 6:30. It was really hectic going in. I found my rack row and put my bike up at the end spot. Initial reaction about the area was that it was covered it gravel. And it wasn’t like tiny pebble gravel, it was rocky gravel. I saw this the previous day, but I was hoping a mile of carpet was going to suddenly appear in the morning.
With my stuff in place on a rack, I watched Chris Lieto and the pro men start swimming as I made my way to the portopotty lines. After that I found where my dad set up his stuff and went to go see how he was doing. As soon as I walked up to him, I looked at his shoes and realized I forgot something crucial… my socks. Socks?! How could I forget socks. I even decided against putting socks at T2 yesterday afternoon because I wanted to wear socks for the bike. Nooooooo. I maneuvered back to my stuff and scrounged in my bag to no avail, I knew I had forgotten them completely. So I made sure everything else was in place and set off to find my mom.
She was located in a prime spot to video the swim start. I set my bag down and said, “Mom, I’m going to ask you for something weird… I need your socks.” Without hesitation she handed them off and I couldn’t have been more relieved. I was imagining biking and running without socks and I was so glad I was going to avoid that.


The socks were in place by my shoes. Good to go. Dad’s wave was up in 8 minutes and I still had to get my wetsuit on. I put it halfway on and walked over to my Dad as he was about to walk into the water. I yelled ‘Dad!’ without thinking and about 9 men turned to look at me. ‘Jim!’ worked better, and he came over for a quick hug good luck. I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t concerned for him. I was really hoping he was going to finish and do well! He was soon off down the river and I was doing some last minute spray body glide for the wetsuit.

Race start

There was one wave between me and my Dad. So I got in the super warm water around 7:35 and our wave was set to go off at 7:42. I was really glad it was an in-water start because I have a tendency to be tentative during a run-in start. I positioned myself at a nice spot below the line after doing a few water polo warm-up strokes. Heart rate around 110 getting antsy for the start. The countdown started  and the 29 & under women were off!


The swim was mostly smooth sailing. The start of it up until we were under the bridge was a little dodgy with people not swimming in straight lines, myself included. I crisscrossed a few people. But after passing the first buoy on my left side, I eased into second place and kept ahead of the annoying girl who wanted to swim next to me. The girl in first was probably 3 body lengths ahead of me already and she was my marker every time I picked my head up to make sure I was swimming in the right direction.
At the turnaround point to start swimming downstream, we started running into different colored swim caps and passing the men ahead of us. The funniest part about this was that the river depth was probably around 3-4 feet at this point and there were a lot of guys just taking a break and standing up! Haha I was swimming by people standing. So strange.
I did get a foot cramp about 2/3 of the way through and my toes were cringing, but it disappeared after I relaxed a bit. Besides that, the only other discomfort came from within my wetsuit because the water was so warm! I was sweating on the inside. I started thinking that I shouldn’t have worn the wetsuit, but I have come to realize the importance of its ability to conserve a lot of my energy (even if it was a bit hot).

Swim time totaled 26:47. Proud to announce that as the 39th fastest time out of the 1870 finishers, men and pros included.


I finally saw the rock bottom creeping up to my face and I exited when I saw a lot of the men standing up around me. Thank goodness for the little strips of carpet leading to my bike or else my feet would’ve been torn to shreds.


Now for the sloppiest transition time I’ve ever done. 3 minutes and 14 seconds of bumbling around like an idiot. The first problem was the gravel stuck to my feet. I did bring a water bottle to rinse it off, but after messing with it for too long I finally just put the socks on with a few rocks left over on my feet and prayed I wouldn’t feel them. Not the smartest idea with 69.2 more miles of biking and running ahead of me, but I knew I was wasting so much time already that I just had to move.
On to the next time-consuming task: bagging everything up! After I was finally ready to go, I had to place my wetsuit and crap into a plastic bag and tie it up. The reason for this was that T1 closed as soon as everyone was done with the swim because it was a regular river beach area for people.
So finally with my stuff tied up by the rack, I took off running with my bike in tow. I made the decision to run up the little hill coming out of the parking lot mostly on impulse because I saw so many people failing trying to clip in and ride up the hill at the bottom. It obviously wasn’t working and I was glad I decided to run it.


Freedom of the open road! Wooo. Finally.
Now the only thing in my way was people biking slower than me and the fear of getting a penalty card. The waves ahead of me included the Women 40-44, Men 35-39, Women 35-39, Men 45-49, Women 45 +, Men 50-54, and Men 55+. Don’t ask me how putting the oldest men in the race in the wave right before me makes sense, because the entire lineup of waves made no sense. The poor 29 & Under men were placed in the dead last wave. But anyways, the race meeting the day before was all about drafting and all the penalties you could potentially receive, so all I wanted was to avoid that.

The bike was off to a good start. But about 5 minutes in, I felt two of my Gu packets fall out my back pocket. It’s my only complaint about the suit, the back pockets suck. Luckily I still had one in each leg pocket. But when it happened, I realized that I had somehow forgotten 1) my Harvest power bar and 2) the baggie of advil I had prepared. So I just had to suck up the race with no advil, and I would have to grab the powerbars at the bike aid stations. Ugghhh.

The plan was to stay around 160 watts for the first 30 min and see how it felt. It felt alright, so I tried pushing the effort a little bit. About 50 minutes into the bike, I finally realized that my power meter was giving me completely incorrect numbers for my wattage. I tried to figure out what was wrong but it wouldn’t correct itself. When I was going up hills it said I was only pushing like 115 watts; there’s no way, it was at least double that. So I automatically freaked out and got angry because I really do pay attention to the power output when I ride. I tried focusing on my watch and going off of heart rate instead. And then magically after the halfway point, the power meter decided to start working again! Thank goodness, I was lost without it.

I clicked the interval button when I realized it was working again. So for the first 90 minutes of the bike, I only averaged 115 watts and 20.1 mph. For the second 80 minutes of the bike I averaged 19.9 mph at an average of 160 watts. Clearly it broke on me for an hour in the beginning.. frustrating that I don’t have that data now.

But overall, the bike was so much fun. I couldn’t have imagined a better bike course to epitomize wine country California. We went by so many vineyards and millions of grapes. I grabbed water bottles at ever aid station to fill up my aero drink. I grabbed half a powerbar at aid station 2 and 3. I wish I had remembered my bar, but I made do. I think I ate the Gu packets at the hour and two hour mark, but I don’t remember for sure. Coming down to the last 4 miles or so I ate the packet of Sport Beans that I had in my back pocket

All in all, the most memorable bike course.. just ahead of Lobsterman.

Bike time totaled 2:47:47.
477th out of all the1870 amateurs there!


Rounding the corner to head into the high school was really cool because the place was filled with people cheering. Only sucky part was the long stretch of concrete I had to run on with the bike shoes on. I didn’t want to take them off at the end of the bike because I still haven’t practiced that at all.

So there I was, clopping down the road and finally onto the grass field. I remembered I was row 12 and found my spot quickly. Threw my bike up and counted about 6 other bikes on the 29 & under racks. This transition was much smoother than the last. Well, except for the fact that I got to the run exit point and somehow missed it and ran to the wrong corner before someone noticed my stupidity and yelled at me to go the other way (thank you to that person).

I stopped my HR watch at this point and saved the data. I didn’t do that after the swim, so the total time on the watch was the bike and the swim. It was 3 hours 20 minutes and an average heart rate of 167.

T2 totaled at 2:34.


And all that now lay ahead of me was a Half Marathon. It was just a simple 13.1 miles of running. Pft, nothing. At least that’s what I was attempting to tell myself..
The first two miles felt awesome. I glanced at my watch and saw 17 minutes at the two-mile marker. I was totally fine with 8:30 per mile. And then it was around a corner after the 3rd aid station when we started going up this short steep hill when my legs said no. All they wanted was to be done after 5 km.

But shortly after that I started recognizing where I was. Yesterday during my 30 minute warm-up bike ride, I rode around the airport and this was the exact road I was on! Familiarity on my side, I just trekked on.
The halfway point was so awesome. It was on the property of La Crema Winery and they had music blaring for the athletes. We ran around two tiny ponds and stomped on the halfway timing pad to head home. The tunnel of mist was really nice and refreshing. In my head, my plan was to pick up the pace for the back half if I could. I tried and failed miserably. The muscle located next to my shin on the front of my left leg started seizing up at one point and I stopped and stretched. It was the only time I stopped to stretch. And like most Olympic races that I do, my inner quads started to twinge and yell at me.


I finally saw my dad pass by me going the other direction after the mile 9 aid station. That means he had about 8 miles go to. I was just glad I saw him.
Another note about this part of the course, it was blazing hot. Like 90 degrees hot. So everyone was in pain and heating up.

Now decisions decisions.. I really had to pee. . I knew this was going to set me back because via my watch, I had to run 9 minute miles for the last 2 miles to get home under 2 hours (goal). So at the mile 10 aid station I ran into a portopotty and peed as fast as possible.
I came out and grabbed a cup of ice to pour down my back and water to drink. However, I still hadn’t zipped up the front of my suit and when I poured the ice down my back, it just fell down all the way and collected at my crotch. Yep, I had ice just hanging out down there and there was nothing I could do but wait til it melted haha. When it finally did I kicked up the pace to get home. The last mile was tough because it felt so close, yet so far away. When I finally realized I wasn’t making the 2 hour mark, I just eased the last stretch home and tried to look good for the pictures. Because that’s really all that matters right? ; )

Run time totaled 2:03.15


Coming through the finish area was annoying. I had voiced my concerns before that our Stevens suits looked like Stanford’s big S and that people would think I was on Stanford’s tri team. But I was just shrugged off like it didn’t matter because we were in the NECTC and people would know. Well of course it happened. I believe I heard “Go Stanford!” or any of a variation of that encouragement about 20 times throughout the day. I even heard a couple snide “Go Bears!” comments in opposition to the supposed Stanford team I was racing for. And finally, coming through the finish, the two announcers calling out all the finishers went into a whole shpeel about how I was racing for Stanford. After seeing the S on my suit, “Is this a Stanford? Look how smart she is.” I believe one of them even said, “She had her nutritional thing calculated out on some mathematical paradigm… Amanda Newman!” Ugh. I always feel like people who don’t get my last name correct when they see it are idiots first of all, so to each his own. I guess coming into that run shute I just wished my suit said STEVENS somewhere on it.

I completed my first Half Ironman!! Hooray!!! What a success. They grabbed my timing chip and I posed for a quick backdrop picture with my finisher medal.

As I started walking to find water, a wave of emotion swept over me and I had to hold myself back from crying. What the.. why did I feel the need to cry? Looking back on it, lame. But in the moment, I was just so damn happy to be done. My dad had signed us up 8 months ago on Halloween night of 2009. I had spent all summer thus far training and thinking about finishing this 70.3 and it was finally over. Phew.

Final Time = 5:23:38


After downing way too much water, I found where my mother was waiting near the finish line and laid down on the grass behind her.
Coincidentally, the guy standing next to her was the mechanic who used to work at Ladera Cyclery, where I bought my first road bike. I don’t think he’d remember me, so I didn’t say anything. He just looked like Matthew Fox, that’s the only reason why I remembered him.

After waiting around for about an hour, here came Dad! He did it!!

So proud of him!!! He just strolled into the finish like it was nothing. But when we got to him, he was obviously dead. He said he was overheating and he needed shade. So my mom went to go find shade with him and I went to go get water bottles. He looked better now that he was sitting down. I went back to get food and in front of me was the best post-race spread of fruit I’ve ever seen. Peaches, nectarines, plums, oranges, cantaloupe, watermelon.. the list goes on. The lady next to me commented that this was ten times better than the Wildflower spread, so I was just appreciative of the hospitality.

After consuming the fruit, the three of us moved out of the shade. Mom took some pictures and then we went to find our plastic T1 bags that they had brought back for us. I found my row of numbers and then I saw my half empty bag.. oh no. No wetsuit. Nooooo, I didn’t tie it tight enough! I quickly hustled to the pile of unclaimed stuff that had just fallen out of the bags. Thank goodness I spotted my wetsuit right away. I lost the goggles for good, but that didn’t matter. I only cared about the wetsuit.
Then we went to the T2 area and got all of our stuff ready to go while Mom got the car.


We peaked at the results board and saw that I was 2nd in my age group, so we had to wait until 4:30 for the awards ceremony inside the gym. Waiting around just lying in the grass was cake.

Best awards at a race ever! Top 3 in each age group won a bottle of wine from La Crema (the winery we ran through during run)! For second place, I got a 2007 white chardonnay inside of the award box with the age group title on the front. I also got an envelope with a letter from Avia that I won a free pair of shoes that I just had to mail in for. But wait! That’s not all. The girl who won had already qualified for Kona, so the 70.3 Championship Clearwater spot was bumped down to me. I had to kindly decline because November is the middle of my swim season at Stevens. It really sucked, but at least I can say I qualified!

Also ended up 59th out of the 611 amateur females at the race!! There were some fast older women there, sheesh.

We skedaddled out of there after my age group because we needed to head home like I mentioned in the beginning. The hotel gave us a day rate for just showering before we left. That was nice of them.

Homeward bound!

The way I see it, I probably burned enough calories to feed an African child for a week during this race; so I was eating whatever I wanted for dinner. Thank goodness for the google maps on my iphone because I found a Panda Express with a Yogurtland right next door off the freeway we were on about an hour into the drive. Orange chicken and frozen yogurt never tasted so good : )

Solid day.

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