On Sunday, I raced Vineman 70.3 in Sonoma County, California. For those of you not in the know, that's a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run.
I knew it could be a hot day, so I was prepared. I had done a few key runs and bike rides in the heat, intentionally, so that I would be acclimated to 90+ degree temperatures. And, I had been drinking Gatorade, about two liters, daily for the two days preceding the race.
I had a really good race. Though, with all my hydration, I had five port-o-potty stops. I suppose that being well hydrated beats the alternative in this weather.
With the weather projected to be hot, I was glad to be one of the earlier waves to start. The gun went off for our swim at 7:18 am. The Russian River is a shallow river and it is possible to stand up in waist-deep water at many parts. Though I got clobbered by aggressive swimmers a few times as usual, it went okay, and as expected, my swim was about the same as my pace last year.
I quickly pulled off my wet suit and grabbed my bike out of transition. There's a short, very steep hill, as we leave transition. Rather than grind up the hill on my bike and kill my legs at the beginning of a long ride, I ran up the hill with my bike, actually passing people riding up the hill, and then mounted the bike.
Being an early wave, I was getting passed not only by women in my age group, but also by the waves of men (and women) who started after me. It is a little demoralizing getting passed by so many people. Nonetheless, I kept a steady pace of 16.5 miles per hour on the rolling hills of the course.
Speaking of hydration, though, I was very well hydrated. So hydrated, in fact, that I stopped three times while on the 56 mile bike ride to use the restroom, or should I say port-o-potty. But it worked out well because I never seemed to encounter a wait, and while I was in the bathroom I managed to talk a volunteer each time into filling up my front water bottle with Gatorade. So by the time I did my business, I was tanked up with Gatorade and ready to go.
On the positive, toward the end of the ride I started passing some people. Maybe some of them started too fast. But, by the end of my bike ride, it was approaching noon and the temperature was well over 90 degrees.
My bike to run transition was pretty good -- 3 minutes and 16 seconds.
As I started the run, I definitely noticed the heat. By now it was approaching 95 degrees. I was still feeling okay. I remembered that the run was hilly, and with this heat I knew that I was going to have to be especially conservative.
While I was apprehensive about the run, I know my strengths: I can run hills, having practiced running them in my Hollywood Hills neighborhood for months, and I know I can run in hot weather. A lot of people were succumbing to the heat and a lot were walking. I was able to run the entire course, with the exception of two port-o-potty stops, and walking for a few seconds at each aid station. There, I'd slug down one cup of Gatorade, toss one cup of water over my head, grab a piece of fruit and keep on going.
The last three miles were especially tough, and I had a little bit of stomach upset, but nothing that slowed me to a halt. My previous ten minute per mile pace slowed to closer to 11 or 12 minutes per mile, but I was still running, which was better than many people around me. I think a lot during those last miles about why I push myself to do these things -- because I love the challenge, and quite simply, because I can.
My half marathon split was 2:19. Far from my best half marathon, but considering that I had just swam 1.2 miles and biked 56, and it was 95 degrees outside, I was very pleased.
My finishing time: six hours and 35 minutes. That's thirteen minutes faster than last year.