Hello Dear Readers!
I DID IT! I finally broke the 13 hour barrier I have been chasing for several years now. In fact I achieved two goals with this race. I came in under 13 hours AND I finished while it was still daylight outside! Want to here the details? Read on....
Before the Race
I arrived to San Francisco on Thursday, and had a nice shock to the system with the weather being 55 degrees. Very refreshing compared to my triple digit Houston weather. I got my rental car and headed on up the 101 towards Santa Rosa to pick up my bike (I shipped it out the week before). The guys at Norcal Cycling were awesome and I highly recommend them to take care of your cycling needs if you are in their area. Once I got my bike I squeezed it into my mid-size Camry and continued up north to Cloverdale (which was where my hotel was). Cloverdale is one of those communities where there seems to be no industry whatsoever but somehow there are people with lots of money around. I guess the residents commute to Santa Rosa for work. The hotel I stayed at was a brand new looking Super 8 hotel. The proprietors were Indian and very nice to me. Why do I bring up their nationality you ask? Well, the hotel smelled like CURRY the whole time I was there. I swear that was all those good folks ate. Fortunately, the smell did not permeate my room once I was inside it. Does that make me a bad person for mentioning it? Maybe. But I HATE curry! I guess it's my Yankee up bringing coming out. Anyway, all in all not a bad place to stay and like I said before, the folks running the hotel were very accommodating.
Adventures with Buddha
After I checked into the hotel, I went across the way to a McDonald's to start loading up my calories. It was beautiful outside and I ate by myself sitting in the Sun. There was this old guy sitting outside eating his lunch by himself as well. When I was done, I decided to ask him if there was a Denny's around (hey I had to make sure I could do my pre-race breakfast for dinner ritual). This guy looked at me like I was crazy and said there was no Denny's there and I'd have to go back down to Santa Rosa for that. He went on to say that this town is very small and if I got up at 6:30 in the morning and went outside I would see no one for a long time. I thanked him and walked to my car. Once I was in the guy had followed me and asked me to roll down my window. I thought to myself, "Bill, what did you say to piss this guy off?" Turns out this gentleman had a message for me. He said that the reason he was placed there at the same time as me was to tell me to go visit "The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas". He said it is a Buddhist Monastery that is open to the public for visiting. He said it is peaceful and there are even peacocks wandering around there. I thanked him again and
drove off pondering the wonders of the Universe that caused this event to happen. I decided then and there that I could not let such an opportunity go to waste and when I got back to the hotel I asked for directions and made plans to go there on Friday morning. Race check in wasn't till the afternoon so I had time to kill anyway.
The next morning I had a hearty breakfast at the local greasy spoon (French Toast Yummy!) and headed north to Uvalde to where the Monastery was located. It was easy to find and boy the guy at McDonald's wasn't lying. It was peaceful, serene and when I first got there I was greeting with this cool entrance:
Once I signed in I was greeted by several HUMONGOUS peacocks! They came right up to me (I am assuming they were looking for a handout) and made this really odd peacock call (click here to see video of one making the call). It was so loud it scared the poop out of me (well almost). Here are some pictures of my new friends:
Once I was done there, I then went to the Temple area. Here are some shots of the outside:
Note the picture on the lower left. That is this Master's Master in China. This picture was taken after that Master dies and they preserved his body and kept it on display.
I then went inside and took some pictures around the internal prayer and sermon/teaching area. Note that everywhere there is a wall space, a little Buddha is in place. Yup, you guessed it, there are 10,000 Buddhas in this Temple.
This is a Prayer drum. It is very large. Note the Buddhas in the wall.
This is a Prayer Bell. Makes a very very deep tone when it is rung. Hey look, more Buddhas!
One of the many bronze Buddha statues. See the little Christmas tree looking thing there? If you get close to it, each light source is it's own Buddha with a date on it. Each Buddha represents someone who died and they get to stay with the Buddha to learn I guess until the date inscribed on their box.
This is the area of the Temple where the master sits and does his teachings. The picture is of the original founding master.
I did get to see several male and female monks there, but I was not allowed to take their picture. I'm not sure if this is a general rule or if the ones I asked just didn't like my looks. I am really glad I spoke with the guy at McDonald's, not sure if I will ever have that kind of opportunity again.
On my way home I made a stop to take some pictures of the beautiful scenery. Sure looks a lot different than Houston!
I wanted to climb this rock face. But I had a Ironman to do the next day!
I thought this dead tree was interesting.
Ahhhh. A babbling brook!
There is a story behind this. Wish I knew what it was. Looks like someone purposely planted those on the river's edge and placed rocks around it. Almost looks like one of those road side memorials doesn't it?
Pre Race Dinner!
As most of you already know, I have a pre-race meal ritual I do before all my races. I find a Denny's or Ihop to have a huge breakfast for dinner. I did find a Denny's in Santa Rosa and here is my picture of dinner!
Let's take an inventory:
Coffee, Orange Juice, Eggs, Bacon, Ham, Sausage, Wheat Toast, English muffin, Pancakes and Hash Browns! Yes I ate it all and rolled myself out of the restaurant and drove my 30 miles back to the hotel. It was worth it though!
After getting about a few hours of sleep my alarms went off at 4 AM and I got myself rolling. As usual I frantically got my gear together and did my best to get to the race site by 5:30 AM. I rolled in about 5:40 and had to hustle through and get my butt moving since the gun goes off for my age group at 6:35 AM. The thing that was freaky about this race was that the T1 and T2 areas are in two different cities. I was in the mind mode of both transitions being in the same place and brought my big triathlon bag full of stuff. Once I was there I realized that if I did not fit everything into my plastic numbered bag (I was 333), then it won't get brought to the finish line. I don't know how I did it, but I got everything in except the wetsuit. Of course this would have to go in after the swim since I had it on at the time.
Once I got that all settled and my bike in proper position, I finally was ready to head to the river to start the swim. As I was starting to move the announcer was stating that if those in the white caps (me) were not in the water now, they better start running to get there in time. Yes, me and several others had to hustle to get in the water. I got in and maybe 30 seconds later the gun went off!
The Swim (2.4 Miles)
Another different thing about this race was the swim course. It was in a flowing river (the Russian River). SO you would go .6 miles upstream and then turn around and go .6 miles down stream and then go and do it again. The race director mentioned that the water is shallow and said the depth ranged from 4-7 feet. What he should have said was that the depth ranged from 2-5 feet. I kid you not, there was a few times where I went to pull and ran my hand along the bottom! So yes I stood up (along with everyone else) and dolphin swam till the water got deeper. Going against the current was tough, but then you got to rest when swimming with the current. My total swim time ended up being a little slow at 1 Hour and 25 minutes.
Transition One (T1)
I felt good out of the swim and the temperature was still pretty low so I wasn't overheated at all. I got to my bike and looked at my tiny plastic bag already full with other stuff and realized I was going to need to put my wetsuit in there as well. I did my best to get it in there and ripped the plastic bag in the process. I started freaking out a little and one of the race officials told me not to worry and took my misshapen bag and said he'd take care of it. Thank you whoever you were! I grabbed my bike exited the transition area (my time was 7 minutes and 35 seconds) and headed out for my long bike ride!
The Bike (112 Miles)
The bike course consisted of two loops of 56 miles. It was really beautiful. Everywhere you looked it was all winery foliage and cottages. The road was pretty rocky in some spots and a lot of people had busted tires along the route. Fortunately I was not one of them. Over the course of the 112 miles I lost ALL, my water bottles! I think it was one during the first 56 mile loop and then the other two during the 2nd loop. There were water stops ever 11-12 miles and they were well stocked. One thing about the course I was not expecting were the hills. The course guide stated that it was a rolling course with one challenging climb. And boy there were not kidding! Granted, this was no Lake Placid as far as the difficulty goes, but it was still pretty dang hard. Since it was a two loop course we hit this heartbreak hill at miles 50 and 100 or so. The first time around I thought to myself, "Ohhhh this is a hard one but I got it." But the next time around, I was thinking, "Would it look bad if I got off the bike and walked up the hill?" Don't worry, I didn't get off, but I did do it slower the next time around. I ended up finishing the bike in 6 Hours, 20 minutes and 55 seconds. That averages out to about 18 miles per hour. Not too shabby!
Transition 2 (T2)
I roared into transition and got all my running gear on and made sure that I sprayed a new layer of sunscreen over all exposed skin (still got sunburned though). I ran to the area where our Run Special Needs bag was stored that morning. I had three bottles of Ensure to drink. Of course, when I opened it, I spit it out because it was boiling hot! All well, I guess maybe next time I can bring a cooler or something? I exited the transition area in 5 minutes and 9 seconds.
The Run (26.2 Miles)
This was where it got interesting again. The run course is a loop you do three times. Water stations every mile and was well equipped with pretzels, Gatorade, water, oranges, peaches, GU Bites, etc. I was rally careful starting on the run by not going too fast out of the gate. I didn't want to have a Lake Placid experience where I was doing a bit of walking. The weather was still beautiful and the humidity seemed low (at least compared to Houston) so I was feeling really good. I had plenty of Thermolyte capsules (think salt) and some Aleve and some Caffeine. There were a lot of spectators along the course and I swear every 3 miles or so there was someone blaring the Rocky theme! I really appreciated that because how could you not get pumped up when you hear that? Once I got done with loop number one I assessed myself. I still was feeling good! So I kept going at the pace I had been running. NO WALKING! I even ran up the hills! I spoke with lots of fellow runners as we plodded along the course and I met some crazy characters. One guy was running in a French Maid outfit (the girls loved him). I got to talking to him and we laughed at all the attention he was getting and discussed other races we had done together. I mentioned how Lake Placid was a harder course and he said, "Yeah, I did that last weekend." I almost tripped over my jaw as it hit the ground. Two Ironman Races in two weeks. Now that is crazy!
I kept looking at my watch and marveled that if I kept this up I was going to do it. I was going to break 13 hours! Whenever I ran by a photo guy, I held up my fingers in a one and three configuration. This was such a big deal for me and I wanted to make sure I remembered that this was the one where I got my PR.
What would a race story be without something a little bad happening? As you see up to this point things were going really well and I was really excited. But around mile 22 or so I started having what I will politely call "Gastrointestinal Distress". Yeah, that. Running was starting to get uncomfortable and I knew I was going to have to make a "Stop" at one of the portable latrines. Why would I not want to do that do you ask? Think about it, these have been out baking in the sun for 12+ hours. Oh and they have been getting used. And by used I mean USED HEAVILY! Around mile 23 I said oh heck with it and took a deep breath and got in. I did what had to be done and reached for the paper and guess what? NO TOILET PAPER! At this point I was starting to get worried that if I spent any more time in there I was not going to make it in under 13 hours. So fortunately there were still seat cover wrappers and they did the job. I think I might have lost more than 5 minutes with that little incident.
The rest of the run was pretty much right on target and the last three miles were awesome! The music, the crowd and just as I turn the corner to go into the finishing chute, I see the clock. I know I started 5 minutes after the official gun so I had to beat 13:05. And as I was crossing the line I saw the clock had just hit 13 Hours! I DID IT!
My year is pretty much done at this point. I am going to take a few days off to recover and then I am going to start training for my first 100 mile trail race. That's right. 100 miles running!
That's all for now, I will post my race pictures once they are available.
Tri your best,