Woof. What a race.
1.2 Mile Swim, 56 Mile Bike, 13.1 Mile Run. 70.3 Miles.5 Hours 29 Minutes 32 Seconds
Here's the splits:
Swim: 36:13 (A little slower than I'd like, but I think the time is incorrect)
Bike: 2:45:22 [20+mph] (A little faster than I'd like, even w/ a flat!)
Run: 2:03:25 [9:24 min/mi pace] (A bit slower than I'd like)
Total Time: I wanted a sub 5:30, so overall, I was happy!
I woke up sans alarm at 4:30am, and was ready to go within minutes. For some unknown reason, even after only 5 hours of sleep, and after my second night of camping, I had major adrenaline, and I was pumped. Alana, Nelson, Katie and fellow Vinemen Paul Jesse, Damian Esparza and Matt ?? were staying at Inn at the willows, which happened to be .5 miles from the race start, which made for a very short commute to the transition area. Even though I would have loved a bed to sleep in, staying this close to the race can't be beat! Paul and I made our way down to TA at abotu 6:05, with our swim wave starting at 6:54am.
The weather conditions were great in the low/mid 60's with fog surrounding the area. Coupled with redwood trees on both sides of the russian river, it made for a great swim start!
The water was as calm as can be for the swim start. No butterflies or nerves or anything, which is always nice since this is when triathletes usually start getting nervous. Honestly, the swim start is so beautiful, its one of those "Man am I lucky to be here or what" type of mentalities. After a brief warm up and mental clarity, the gun went off, and the M29 and under were on our way. Fortunately, I didn't experience any of the human blender from San Diego International, and had no traffic issues getting through the mass of people.
This was the view from shore:
and from up above (from a later swim wave):
The swim wasn't particularly challenging, except for the distance. I personally don't like long swims, but I did get over really quickly. One very funny thing to note about the swim is at one point I actually did swam into a bush.
Yes, a bush.
I was swimming a little too close to shore, and when I went to take a stroke, I caught the branch of a low hanging bush. I laughed it off, looked up, and realized that the guy in front of did the same exact thing! One thing I know I need to work on (am I still saying this) is swimming in a straight line. The swim course is 1900m, but I know I did 2000m (+?)!
This is me charging the swim exit and happy to be out of the water!
What a convoluted mess. The bike racks were very close to one another, and there was only room for one person in the row going in or out. Fortunately, my bike was right near an exit, so I had minimal problems getting out, although Paul Jesse did have some issues w/ his bike, and nearly took out an entire rack. The greatest part is that he was called out by the announcer at the time: "Here's 454, Paul Jesse, who can prove that if you can't get your bike out safely, you might as well take out the entire rack!"
The Vineman website says "The bike course is simply a great course", and I can confirm that. It was 56 miles of beauty going through the rolling hills and flats of Sonoma County's wine country, passing numerous vineyards, with great views of the hills in the distance.
Right around the 10 mile marker, as I was going up a hill, a small group of cyclists formed while doing the ascent. I was quick to realize that it was turning into an 8 person draft pack, and saw up ahead that it was going to be flat, which meant that people were most likely going to continue drafting. As we crested, I started to hear a motorcycle engine from behind me. Realizing it was probably a race official scouring the course for people drafting, I quickly backed off from the pack. As the motorcycle passed it, I realized that the guy on the back seat was my TNT Coach GURUJAN DOURSON, and I also realized that he was back to his "penalty dourson" ways. I opted not to say Hi to him to avoid any conflicts with preferential treatment. About a minute later, he pulled up along side of a woman, held out a red card, and started lecturing her about drafting.
Fast Forward to the morning after the race for a second.
A bunch of us from the campsite got up and strolled into town to get some breakfast, and low and behold, Gurujan and Ali were there. As we were exchanging stories from the race, I mentioned that I was right behind him when he gave the drafting penalty, and then Gurujan started into one his stories.
He said that as he was coming up to the pack, he saw this one guy on a bike that was really pushing the limits of drafting distances and times. He said that his person was pushing him to limit of "Referree Rage" (which, in true Gurujan fashion, gave a detailed shpeel on "ref rage"), and because this person must have either really knew the rules of drafting, was coached really well, or was really lucky, and it was driving him nuts!
Then Gurujan goes "I pulled up along side him and IT WAS YOU DENNER!"
Needless to say, the entire group bursted out into laughter!
Ok, back to the race.
The bike didn't start off to well for the first hour or so. I had some minor to major lower back discomfort that I never had before. It was starting to stress me out to the point where I wondered if I was even going to be able to finish the bike. I took some additional salt tabs, and gave my back a really good stretch on a downhill, and thankfully that helped me out quite a bit.
The ride between mile 15 and 45 went really well. It was the flatter portion of the course, and I felt really good, and started to pick up the pace. The beautiful scenery also helped w/ the motivation. I was moving along at a pretty fast clip, and finally caught Paul Jesse right at about the halfway point. He passed me again about 5 miles later, and mentioned that he thought he just got his first drafting penalty. All the sudden he slowed down immediately. I quickly grew frustrated with him and yelled out "if you're gonna pass me, pass me Jesse!" He wasn't picking it up, so I got out of the saddle, and hammered past him. Shortly after I passed him, who else but Gurujan passed me again on the motorcycle and says "Great pass on him Denner!". Of course that made me feel extra good since Gurujan coached both Paul and I :)
I started to realize at about 2:15 into the bike that I was probably pushing the pace a little too hard. It was hard for me to slow down since I did feel great. Everything felt dialed in, but I had this one thing in the back of my hand saying that I had probably gone to hard.
Then mile 54 hit. We were crossing a bridge over the 101, and the road quality was pretty bad. Right as I crossed the bridge, I heard "PPPPPPPSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
uh oh. I had a flat.
I had a flat on a tubular tire. On Marty Taylor's 808R tubular tire.
Unforuntately, I don't know how to change tubular tires (Dave Wilcox - you are a bad omen).
I quickly pulled over, got off the course, and inspected. Even though Marty's tire had the Tufo sealant in it, there was two gnarly holes in the tire, and there was no way that the sealant could have fixed those things. I started developing the "Oh Crap what do I do?" phase. Paul passed me, asked what happened, and then yelled that I should ride it in. I decided that 2 miles out, it would be easier to just ride it in without having to change it, so I did just that. So, in order to keep weight off the rear wheel so I wouldn't damage the rim, I pedaled out of the saddle for the last 2 miles. Let me tell you, this was not fun. Although there was one quite funny thing about it: I actually passed some guy with my flat!!!! Unfortunately, pedaling out of the saddle just made my quads more fatigued than they already were.
Fast Forward to Tuesday: I spoke with the guy who changed the tire on Marty's wheel, and he said that it was better that I didn't try to change the tire since the spare that I had him put on Marty's wheel wasn't stretched properly. This would have made for a very difficult if not impossible tire change, which would have sent my frustrations through the roof!
I approached transition, and knew the that the half marathon was going to be interesting.
In and out, no messing around
Are you familiar with the term "When the wheels come off"?
I guess since I didn't take the wheel off to change the tire during the bike, so some wheels had to come off, and those wheels were my legs.
Take a 56 mile bike ride that I pushed a little too hard + Flat Tire + Hot Conditions (high 80's/low 90's, and minimal shade) + Hilly course = one brutal half marathon!
I tried not letting the flat get to me. I left T2 saying to myself "I can let it bother me, or I won't. People are tested not when things go right, but when they go wrong. Deal with it, and do the best you can do."
I then looked at my watch and said "All I have to do is run a 2 hour half marathon, and I can easily meet my goal of going sub 5:30".
And then I realized All I had to do was run a 2 hour half marathon... as if it was easy.
I started the run according to plan - start off at a really easy pace, and gradually build. The first few miles were flat which allowed me to fall into a pace. I started hitting the first few hills, and opted to walk a few so that I wouldn't be too fatigued for the second half, which is when I planned on picking up the pace to finish strong, which I always try to do.
What are those white things on my arms you ask?
One thing I did do to try and prevent the heat from really getting to me was buying the DeSoto Skin Cooler Jersey and DeSoto arm coolers. Apparently the material helped keep you cool, and as weird as it looks to wear these arm coolers, I figured I'd give them a try. One thing that I really liked about the arm coolers was that I could put ice IN them, right on my wrists. I have heard that keeping ice on your wrists helps cool you down since it is a major blood pathway (not sure if it's true or not), but I was willing to try anything. Another thing about the skin cooler stuff is that it works really well if there is a little bit of wind, and if they are wet.
I eventually made the turn at mile 4 into what I call the hills from hell. You make the turn, and you see a few hills, but the hills don't go up and down. They go up and only halfway down, and then there is another hill right after it that does the same thing. There was 4 of them. Ugh. This is what they look like from the top:
What was motivating is I finally saw someone I knew on the course (Luke Walton), but up ahead apx. 20 seconds was Paul Jesse (that is one nice thing about all those breakaway training jerseys they wear - you can always spot them on the course). I knew I could reel him in. After making it through the hills from hell, I caught him at about the halfway point in the run (a reoccuring theme it seems between Paul and I). We commiserated over the heat and brutal hills, and knew the either of us really wasn't enjoying the run. For the next few miles, we would walk aid stations, and go back and forth from someone leading to someone falling back. By this time, I felt some nutrition from the bike just sitting at the top of my stomach, and I would have done anything to get it out of there b/c I was close to getting a side stitch/cramp. I tried some cola at the aid station to try and burp it up, but it wasn't working.
At about the 9 mile marker, I finally decided to pick up the pace, and see if he could follow. He answered by picking it up as well. This went on for about half a mile, and then all the fatigue started setting in. He picked it up, and I couldn't answer. I wasn't that worried because I have caught him a number of times, and thought that if I can keep under control, I can pick it up at the end. I started walking a little more than just aid stations and tough hills. I remembered Marty's mantra of "Shut up body and legs, deal with the pain, we need to push through the pain!
Unfortunately, my body and legs were yelling louder, and they were winning the battle.
The next 3 miles were slow. My legs were very fatigued. It didn't hurt to run, I just couldn't pick up my legs enough to get a fast pace going. I knew from this point out, it was survival to get the 5:30 mark. I knew I could do it, but I knew it was gonna be close.
I endured the last 3 miles as best I could, and finished in 5:29:32 - 28 seconds to spare.
One funny thing to note is that as I was coming down the finish chute, the race announcer said "Here comes Ryan Denner, wearing tube socks on his arms!" (I knew it was only a matter of time before my fashion statement was made public to everyone :)
Alana and Nelson came over to congratulate me, but I could barely speak. I motioned over to the powerbar tent so that I could be in the shade. I immediately sat down, and couldn't really speak for about 5-10 minutes.
Alana always likes to take pictures of me immediately after a race, which aren't very attractive, but do provide some entertainment value for you:
Hmm, what did I just do?
Oh! Make the pain go away!
Smile for the camera!
The Day After
The day after can be summed up in one sentence: I have never been more sore in my entire life. My legs were in a world of hurt. I couldn't take steps longer than about a foot. Stairs were a major challenge. Going down them was twice as bad. Getting out of the car required more arm strength than leg strength to keep me upright! Alana and I made the 10 hour drive from Sonoma to San Diego, and it was finally nice to sleep in a BED!
What I do it again? In a heartbeat - especially this race.
The course was absolutely beautiful (especially the bike course), the volunteers were great, I had good friends both doing the race and cheering me on. Although this race wasn't as "epic" as lavaman, I put a lot of time into training for this race, and have a sense of accomplishment like no other.
I am gonna take a few days or a week off and rest and re-focus on some other things, and not sure if I am going to do LA Tri in September or not.
Until then, I will be learning how to change a tubular tire, and spreading the word of arm coolers (unless you are my competition)!
A HUGE THANKS to all who came up and supported and cheered, and a big thanks to Nelson "Yangsta" Yang for "making everything happen!".
Here are some more pics from the trip:
Our Support Crew
Damian looking way too happy after the race
Or maybe Delerious is a better way to put it
Ginger looking very happy after her "catered workout"
Some dude ducking for cover from the hot sun
The theme of the ride home: a blur
Northern california coast
Thanks for reading!
Actual Race pics to come soon!