Monday, July 29, 2013

Race Review

First thing - I want to thank all my family and friends who have supported and encouraged me.  I love you all!

Well my attempt at Vineman 2013 is nothing to write home about, so I figure I'll put it here instead.
It was an interesting day to say the least.  I thought I had done enough training to get through it.  It was never my goal to be competitive, but rather to just finish the race.

Don't take any of the things I list here as excuses, because the truth is I didn't train hard enough.  There is no excuse for not being able to have completed this race.

The race festivities were to start Friday morning with  packet pickup.  The only thing wrong with this is that my body decided to require a hospital visit first.  I woke up Friday morning and I was urinating blood.  When I arrived at the hospital the nurse took one look at my urine sample and said, "Oh, you are sick".  Anyhow the doctor said it was either an infection or kidney stones.  He gave me 4 prescriptions two for pain, one antibiotic and one to reduced the urge to void sensation.  I asked him about the race on Saturday and he said OK as long as I wasn't taking the pain medicine.  He was concerned about me swimming or cycling while on pain meds.  I was good with that as long as I wasn't having to stop and pee blood every 5 minutes.  The medications worked great, I was able to get almost instant relief, and by Monday I was 100% back to normal (still have 4 more days of antibiotics to take though).

I made it safely through the expo at the event (that means I looked at all the stuff for sale but didn't burn up my credit card buying stuff I don't need)

Saturday morning I woke up at 3:45 after a good nights sleep.  I went to bed early and got almost 8 full hours of sleep.  It still feels weird getting up when it's dark out.  I probably could have slept 3-4 more hours easy.  I figured I would have had a fitful nights sleep filled with anticipation but it wasn't there.

Breakfast was steel cut oats with cherries and cashews, and a cup of yogurt.  I ate about half of my meal and then just couldn't put down any more.  My swim wave was scheduled to go off at 6:39 a.m.  We live about 1/2 hour from the start of the race, and they were recommending that you arrive 1 hour before your start.  We nailed it on the timing and everything was going great until we got to the event site and things started going wrong.  While we were probably a mile away from the event and looking for a parking spot, I got the sudden and immediate urge to go.  I don't think there is any nice way to say this, but between the infection and trying to stay hydrated, I had to use the restroom and the only thing I had was an empty bottle.  I wasn't going to make it to the event or the restroom.  The side of the road or a bush was out of the question because the place was full of people walking into the event, so empty bottle in a moving vehicle it was.

When we finally get into the event, I go to rack my bike and setup my T1 area.  Jeez all the racks are full, I had to wedge my bike into a spot and setup my stuff under my front wheel.  Just as I finished racking my bike I got the urge to go again.  The lines for the restrooms were horrible, but I made it through.  The only problem is while standing in line I started doing a check list, food, drinks, electrolytes all packaged up and ready to go. Then I looked down and realized I didn't have my timing chip on.  Dump my backpack out 3 times looking to make sure I wasn't missing it.  I know I had it in my hand when I left the bike rack, but somewhere along the way I had lost it.  Now I'm freaking out because it is getting very close to go time.  I still had a bunch of people in line in front of me for the restrooms and I didn't even have my wetsuit on yet.

I finally finished the restroom line and I start looking for my wife.  I tell her I can't find my timing chip and I was going to ask her to help me look for it.  Megan told me that they had just made an announcement that they had extras at the info booth.  Just then they started the first wave of Pro swimmers.  I was scheduled to go 9 minutes after them.  I hurriedly put on my wetsuit, well almost put it on.  I was freaking out so bad, I put it on backwards, stripped it off and got it back on again.  Luckily Megan was there, I was fumbling so bad at this point, I never would have gotten it zipped without her help. 

We hurried over to the info booth and got me another timing chip.  They said I would still be #380 that they would just reprogram this one to be 380.  Well I don't think that ever happened because I can't find any of my results online at this time.  I managed to get the timing chip on just as they called my age group into the water.

The swim felt terrible, I could not get into a rhythm.  Between getting kicked, hit and pulled under by my legs, I just couldn't get anything smooth happening.  I tried to stay calm, I even stopped swimming for a little bit to let everyone go by me.  I would have been happy to be the last swimmer if I wasn't going to be drowning.  The only problem is that I think my swim lessons had actually worked because every time I swam, I would catch people or pass people, then end up in the middle of the hitting and kicking again.  I'm not saying I was fast by any stretch of the imagination because I was caught by people who started after me, but there were people who were a lot slower than me as well.

The Russian River at Johnson's beach is really shallow, it's more like Johnson's Creek.  It is so shallow in some locations that you can actually hit your hand on the bottom during your swim stroke.  Other places it is 6-7 feet deep.  I wasn't getting anywhere in those shallow places, so I actually got up and walked (this would later turn out to have been a BAD idea)  I should have suffered through trying to swim with a gimpy swim stroke.   The rocks on the bottom did a good job of tenderizing my feet.  When I finally got out of the water I figured I had to be the last one from my age group still swimming, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of bikes still on our age group rack.

Transition felt like it went pretty well, and I got onto the bike feeling pretty strong.
I had setup my Garmin to beep at me every 2 miles to remind me to drink and every 10 miles to remind me to eat.  When I got to the first bike aid station, I stopped, and grabbed 2 bottles of water.  I filled my drink bottles with this water then reached into my back pocket for my electrolyte drink and tablets.  They were gone.  I was going to have to live on Gatorade and water from the aid stations.  That pouch also contained some Band-aids for blisters and a couple spare gel packets. (I would later find out that during one of the 3 times I dumped my backpack out looking for my timing chip, I must have stuffed them into the backpack.  I have real issues with cramping in my legs on longer bike rides and this turned out to be the case here as well. 

Somewhere between the second and third aid station, I almost wrecked.  There was a rider on the side of the road with a broken bike.  I slowed down and asked if he needed anything.  He said no.  Well taking my eyes off the road, also took my bike off the road.  I ended up sliding through the gravel.  I managed to keep myself upright and get slowed down enough to put a foot down and save myself and the bike.  I walked the bike back up onto the road and kept riding.

My ride was going pretty well until I hit Chalk Hill.  I had been averaging 16.4 mph.  My goal was 15, so I was pretty happy.  I decided to granny gear it and try to save energy for the miles after Chalk Hill.  I just can't climb worth a damn, even the little rollers seem to take it out of me.  Flats and downhills I'm great, I can put my head down and power through, but hit even the slightest hill and I'm done.  So about the time I get to the top of Chalk Hill, I start to cramp.  I back off and the cramping sensation goes away, but my average speed had now dropped to 16 mph.  As we are nearing the end of the first lap and getting ready to head out on the second, I ran over a piece of plastic bag (grocery bag)  The wind blew it right under me.  Well guess what it got sucked up into the rear derailleur.  I had to get off the bike and get that plastic mess out of my gears.  By the second time I finish getting over Chalk Hill my speed had dropped to less than 14.9 mph.  I have just lost 1.5 mph average speed, which means that my second lap was sucking hard.

By the time I finished the second lap on the bike, that walking time in the river was haunting me.  My feet felt like someone had been beating on them with a tenderizing mallet, and I didn't have any of my first aid supplies.  When I got into T2, I took some extra time to dry my feet and make sure they were OK.  I figured there was still enough time to walk/run the marathon if I could keep up a 4 mph pace.  My legs didn't feel to bad, but my feet were killing me.  I tried to run a couple times but I just couldn't keep up any sustained effort.  I was still on pace, all I had to do was average above 4 mph and I would finish.  The first 4 miles were OK and I was on pace.  That's when the G.I. distress hit me.  Every time I started to run, it felt like I was going to have a bathroom emergency.  I stopped and used the restroom, but that didn't alleviate the problem.  I visited several more of the restrooms along the way back to the turn around, but this put my time in jeopardy.  When I finally hit the turn around I realized that I wouldn't be able to finish (I was a half hour behind the cutoff time) unless I could run, I was done, and I just couldn't run at this point. I crossed the timing mat at the finish line and walked off the course.

I know everyone is nice and supportive.  Everyone tells me I'm not a failure, and they are proud of me and look how far I have come.  It is so hard not to get down on yourself after setting a goal and then failing to complete it.  I know in general I'm not a failure, but this activity was a failure and I'm the one responsible for it.  This was a huge commitment of time and energy and when it came down to execution time I sucked.  For non competitive age groupers like myself the only competition is yourself.  I know I am slow and will never be able to race with the faster athletes.  My whole goal is to test myself and try to finish.  It isn't like being beaten by a better athlete, it is losing to yourself.  I can't even say well today Joe was better than me he won the race.  All I have is the loss to myself.

People have asked me when or if I am going to try again.  I don't know.  On race day I would have said absolutely not, never again.  Even if I had finished the answer would have been no.  Today the answer is more hazy.  I don't know if I have the dedication to train for it.  Everyone seems to have the desire to win, but the people who are willing to put the work into it are the ones who realize those goals. 

Again, thanks to everyone who supported me for this attempt.  I am very grateful to have such a great family and friends.


  1. Hey, Scott, a lot of this comes down to expectations. Think about this: if you had signed up for the Full AquaBike, how would you feel right now? Ecstatic, right? But you went out thinking you were going to do an IM and you didn't, so it feels sucky. BTDT.

    As for doing another one, it really comes down to how much you enjoy the training. Because 99% of doing these things is the training. The actual race is pretty short compared to all the time you spend leading up to it.

    For me, I just LOVED training for my two Ironmans. But it's a big commitment. And right now I can't make that commitment. But when I can again, I totally plan to do it. For other people, the training is a drag so it doesn't make sense for them. And that's cool too. There are so many things to do in life that are fun. Might as well spend our free time doing things we love!

  2. I want to congratulate you on making it to the Starting Line in the first place; all the training and preparation that went into that effort is worthy of a standing ovation. Your writings about your training were inspirational and encouraging to read. If you ever decide to do it again, I will cheer you along again. If not, you still had one hell of an adventure, DNF be damned. Rest up, heal up (physically and mentally) and don't feel like you have to commit to doing it again or not. Thank you for being a true inspiration.