Our team: 2 new inductee’s, 2 who are out for knee surgery, 1 who decided to start trianing a few weeks ago, 2 who haven’t been able to run for a couple months due to injuries, 1 who is out to crush last year’s Half time, and 1 who showed up race without their uniform or racing bike (me). As you can see, we are a team who is practically duct taped together and barely able to make it to the starting line. But our bond we share with our racing is like super glue and we will stick it out together until the last man finishes.
Every race I have done where I have been with people always involves me playing the roll of Coach with the exception of racing with Team Venice. This weekend I got to be a team mate, be part of the group just like everyone else. (I love being a coach and love everything I get to do with my athletes; but at times it is nice to be part of a group where you get to be just like everyone else and you are treated the same. There is no expectations or pressure to perform and just get to be an have fun. There is no work involved.) This is one and only race of the year where I don’t have to plan a thing; I just sign up and show up.
I met Team Venice in the most unexpected way, but isn’t that how it always happens; a client of a client, a phone call involved and next thing I knew I was meeting up with a few people for a run in Venice Beach. After the run and breakfast and several emails/phone calls later, I was invited to join in on the festivities at Wildflower Half Ironamn last year. That is how I became part of this team. Wildflower was the first triathlon for many of them, so anything after that race would be a cake walk.
My quick flight to SFO ended up being a 21 hour day of travels, but made it to my final destination after making my way through 4 airports. The day before the race, everyone started meeting up and getting settled into our rooms. We made our way to the mandatory race meeting that is really mandatory (you can’t get packet unless you go through the meeting) and dropped off our running gear at T2. Point to point races are not my favorite, and this one logistically does not make since to me; we park at the beginning, they bus you at the end back to the beginning to only have to go back to the end to get your bike! I found myself rushing around the expo trying to find something to race in, while others were trying to find number belts. We clearly had it together.
We wanted to check out the swim, so we headed to the river to take a quick dip where my swim cap broke and lost my bracelet. After playing around in the river for awhile, I took on a little ride with one of the newer teammates.
It was a great pre-race day and I was looking forward to tomorrow’s race getting to play salmon swimming upstream and touring wine country on my bike. Later that evening we fill our time with food, laughter and a little dessert. We were ready for battle. Race day was a normal person’s dream temperature, but for me I found it cold…cold enough for my feet to be numb and get chills on the run. This possibly could be that I wasn’t working hard enough, or the fact that there were dark clouds and it was slightly raining on the bike. The sun decided to finally peak through in the final mile of my race.
I took a leisure start, tagging along on a draft line I was fortunate enough to catch. As I got out of the water to run through transition on the bedrock parking lot, I noticed I swam a time that actually looked like I tried. Even I was impressed. (Since May I hadn’t swam more than 1000 meters in a workout) Now, onto the beautiful bike course that left me riding with my head in the clouds for most of the 56 miles! One of my teammate’s caught up with me to ride up a hill together, then I rode off. My mission on the bike as not to get passed by anyone on a road bike. I was successful. However, what I was not successful at was avoiding getting “chicked” by any of my teammate’s. As the battle cry from behind grew closer, I was swiftly slapped on the ass as my mate speedily flew by me while I was sucking down peanut butter during my snack time. I never saw him until I was past the finish line.
I found the course simple and beautiful. There are slight rolling hills on both the bike course and the run. Each course does, however have a hill for you that will take your breath away. As you approach the half way point of the run that leads you through the La Crema Winery, don’t go in with expectations of getting a wine sample because you will be as disappointed as I was. Go to France if you want that type of treatment! And even though they are a sponsor of the race, you won’t even get a celebratory sip at the finish line. On the other hand, the food options at the aide stations of the run and at the end are great.
Every leg of the race had a special memory to offer. The swim – I surprised me with my effortless effort I gave. The ride – the view points were stunning, not knowing where I was in mileage I found mentally torturous, and helped someone change their flat. The run – so much fun! I ran into a friend who was spectating and stopped to chat for a few minutes, found real Oreo’s on the course at mile 11 and the volunteers gave me an entire sleeve! I also got to help pace a girl who was in my age group who was starting to falter and finished strong together.
A couple of us were able to go back and pick up our cars, then return back to the finish site where we waited until the last man standing crossed the line less than 10 minutes before the cut off. Celebration came with a break-in at the Best Western pool for a quick dip and a pizza with beer before everyone but myself had to head back to LA. We all finished between the times of 4:47 and 10:15, and all with a great story to tell. One placed 38th overall in the swim, while another had 7 flats and had to get back-up to bring in a new tire. Trials and triumphs and not a one of us willing to be taken.
That night I slept like a baby and woke to a new day with great adventures ahead of me. I decided to be a typical tourist of Northern California. I found a local coffee shop to start where I did a little bit of work until the wineries opened. Choosing one and only one to venture to, I went to Alexander Valley Vineyards where I got a private tour of the caves, got to do a barrel tasting and stocked up on a few bottles that I am waiting to be FedEX’d to me. I followed up with a trip to Muir Woods that overlooks San Fransisco and made a stop at the Golden Gate Bridge. I made it into the city in time to grab a bite to eat in China Town before my flight. The toughest part of my trip was getting there and finding the airport on the way back. I found myself lost on the highway and barely made it to my flight…thank goodness for the delay!
It was a good trip. I loved the race course, the people I raced with, the leisurely fun of it, and all the adventure that came along too. I am lucky to have a group of people like this who want to share their racing adventures with me; they are my breath of fresh air and I look forward to the next adventure with them. Hopefully we are all in one piece!