Friday, July 25, 2008

Vineman 70.3 2008

Sonoma County, California. Wine country. Hence the name of the event -- Vineman.

480 miles (780k) from home, it is. There's no good way to get from here to there other than to drive, so drive we did. Beloved European friends who haven't been to California yet, please note: We never left the state. We didn't even get near the top of the state. Italy can fit comfortably inside the borders of California with room to spare on all sides.

Anyway. We left home at 6:30 Friday morning, freshly cleaned and tuned Roubaix on the roof rack, and arrived there 7.5 hours later. Not a bad drive, really. Most of it through the Central Valley where California grows most of its produce. We passed truck after truck loaded with tomatoes, garlic, onions, or turnips.

We were lucky enough to stay with friends that Basta has known since college who live about a half hour from the event. The husband, Randy, is his friend the very good cyclist who took him on the trial ride of the course last year. Randy has also been giving Basta tips on how to be a better rider via email and phone calls throughout the year.

Saturday morning it was off to do packet pickup at Windsor High School. While Basta got his race stuff, I went expo-shopping. Alcis was a big sponsor and I got a tube of their Alcis cream at half price. That stuff is wonderful, I tell you. Pricey, so I was happy to pay half. But really works. Eases aches and pains, has a faint but pleasant aroma, doesn't sting, isn't hot. It just kills pain. Love it. I've been rubbing it into my bruised hand every few hours.

Basta got his packet, wristband, race numbers, and a very nice technical event shirt. Then we headed over to T2 and he set up his running stuff. This is a point to point event, so they start at the river about 15 miles away, swim there, ride the bikes into the hills and then down to the school for T2. So athletes leave the shoes and whatever else they need for the run there overnight.

Basta was there early and was able to lay out his shoes and visor on a towel under one of the end racks that wasn't full yet. 8 shoes per rack, the packet said. More than that and the rack is too full.

His shoes are upside down on the orange and brown towel, row 15. Note the Looney Toons dude is taking up far more than his fair share of space. Mr. White Towel is pushing it, too.

It was hot. Once the morning fog burned off the sun came out and it was quite hot there at the high school. Randy and I found shade under an awning while we waited for Basta to finish his futzing with his transition area. We weren't allowed in there -- athletes only. Basta futzed for a while. He likes to futz. Once he had placed his shoes and visor just so on his towel several times, he stepped back to memorize his rack location. The number, the landmarks around it, what it might look like on race day full of bikes. This is important. Nothing worse than not being able to find your stuff as you're racing into transition.

The rest of the day we relaxed. Had the obligatory pasta dinner. No wine for Basta. I finally got an expert opinion on the alcohol question: One shouldn't have any alcohol (or junk food, for that matter) 3 days prior to the event. Basta had his last glass of wine with dinner on Wednesday.

I had volunteered to do Bodymarking, mainly because as a volunteer I can get into the transition areas and move around like spectators cannot. Plus, volunteering is fun. As a Bodymarker I needed to be at the start at 5am. Basta's wave went off at 7:26, so he'd have quite a bit of time beforehand. But he likes to arrive at events very early, so that was fine.

The alarms went off at 4am. By 4:30, we were headed off to the cute little town of Guerneville. There was a dense fog the entire 30 mile drive between bed and race. That's common in this area.

Basta dropped me off at the corner where the Bodymarkers were stationed. There I received my volunteer t-shirt and Sharpie pen. It was quite chilly -- 45F (7C).

Bodymarking. Race number down both upper arms, towards the front so that the number can be read from face-on. The number again on both hands, so that the athlete can still be identified while wearing a wetsuit. One more number on the right thigh just above the knee. Finally, the athlete's age on their left calf.

The bodymarking is all about the photos, you know. The photographers need to identify the person in each photo so that they can make it available to admire and buy. They need as much help as they can get in figuring out who you are via your race number, hence the numbers all over the body. The age on the left calf is so that you can tell if the person in front of you is in your age group.

And srsly, now I understand some of the male fascination with Asian women. It's the skin. Smooth and silky. Writing on them is like writing on a whiteboard, they are so smooth. Asian men and women both. Latinos are pretty silky, too.

Basta got his bike situated then came to me to be bodymarked. #912. Can you tell? His portion of Indonesian blood makes him pretty easy to write upon. Still, it helps to stretch the skin taut as you write. Another volunteer passed along the tip that if you have the athlete make a closed fist and then angle their hands down it stretches the skin on the back of the hand smooth, thus making it much easier to write upon. Good tip.

And there he is showing off his age group.

In this event they use age on race day, not the typical USAT rule of age on Dec. 31 this year. He's used to racing as 54 this year and thought I had written the wrong number on his leg. Trust me, honey. I read the race packet.

He went down to the beach to get his transition fully set up and I went back to work. Soon a flood of people came pouring through, all looking to be marked. There were at least 10 of us armed with Sharpies and we were all kept non-stop busy for over an hour. I had a good time with it. Chatting briefly with the athletes. Wishing them luck. Admiring their muscular arms and thighs as I wrote on them. My but triathletes develop nice bodies.

The sun came up and the fog lifted to high grey cloud cover. But it was still quite chilly.

Official water temp was announced: 72F (22C). Wetsuits were allowed and almost everyone wore one.

I was still in the thick of bodies to be marked when a horn sounded, a cheer went up, and off the pros went. Every 8 minutes after that they sent off another wave. Basta's start was 56 minutes after the pros.

As things started to slow down a little bit up in the bodymarking area, a nice-looking young man with his arm around an older woman walked up. "Hello," he said, with a strong Latin American accent. "I'm looking for some way to transport my mother to the finish line. Is there a bus or a shuttle?" I noticed that his jacket said "Team Brasilia." Other volunteers told him that there was no bus, but maybe she could catch a ride with someone as lots of people would be driving to the start. Trouble is, Mama speaks no English.

I said that if she spoke Spanish we might get by, but I knew no Portuguese. He said, 'oh, she speaks Spanish!' Basta is seriously considering making Ironman Brasil as his first Ironman (sorry, Crister. We'll get into why later), so I thought it might be interesting to talk to her. I said I'd give her a ride. They were very appreciative and sweet. We introduced ourselves. She is Lilia, her son Cristiano. We made arrangements to meet back at the same corner at 9am, then they headed off to get Cristiano ready to race.

Eventually most of the bodies had been marked. When a bunch of us had been standing around for a while with no new athletes to mark, I headed down to the beach to check out the proceedings.

The swim start is at Johnson's Beach in Guerneville. You swim upstream up the Russian River, round a buoy, and swim back. There is a barely noticeable current. Water depth is reported to be 4-7 feet, so yes, you can run parts of it instead of swimming if you so desire. But then you'd risk cutting your feet on the rocks or what-have-you on the river floor, so I don't see much point in doing that. Especially since almost everyone swims faster than they can run in chest-high water.

T1 was on the beach in a nice fenced-off area. The spectators could stand outside the fence right in line with their favorite athlete and see the transition up close.

Basta, having gotten there so early, once again scored an end spot on the rack. He marked it with his sweatshirt so he could find it easily.

By the time I got down there Basta was in the water, waiting for his wave to start. This is a tread-water start as opposed to a run-from-the-beach start. Or, really, a stand-up-and-wait start, if you find a shallow spot towards the side of the river and would rather stand than tread water. In either case, Boom, off they went at the appointed time. All the 50+ men in their purple caps.

The Press-Democrat, the local newspaper, was on hand covering the event. They took great pictures. One similar to mine, though much closer-up, appeared on the front page of their Empire section the next day. In the big blown-up picture you can quite clearly pick out Basta. He has a copy of it framed along with his finisher's medal on our workout room wall now.

Their picture is here: Vineman Ironman Picture 16

And here is mine.

The purple-capped men started trotting up the beach out of the water and into transition less than a half hour later. I was inside the fence, camera poised, just beyond Basta's rack, staying out of everyone's way.

He did the swim in good time: 37:20, officially. That's 6:34 faster than Oceanside.

Transition was speedy. 2:51 versus 4:32 at Oceanside. He's gotten a lot better at ripping that wetsuit off and getting it off his feet without drama.

As Basta approached the rack, he shouted, "I'm hungry!" at me. Uh oh. That's not good. Well, he had a good amount of calories onboard the bike, and time to eat. I hoped he'd take advantage of that.

When he was ready to ride he took his bike and started trotting off back the way he'd come, towards the swim-out flags. He quickly realized that wasn't the right way and looked back at me, shouting, 'where do I go?' Twenty spectators lining the fence and I simultaneously pointed him towards the bike-out arch. He saw it, turned, and headed off on his bike adventure.

The main point of me being down inside of T1, and indeed volunteering at all, was so that I could have access to his stuff. To get your stuff over to the finish line, they gave you a plastic bag in your race packet. You are to put your race number on that bag, close it tight when it contains everything you want back, leave it under the rack, and it would be transported to T2 by volunteers. While that no doubt works just fine, it was easier for me to gather up all of his stuff and put it in the car.

I waited until most of the rack was clear and I wouldn't be getting in anyone's way, then I went over and started collecting Basta's gear. As I was gathering, a man came up to the rack next door and started trying to pull his wetsuit off. He had trouble. "I hate this," he said. "This is the worst part of triathlon. I HATE this! " He moaned and groaned as he tugged and pulled on his wetsuit. He had an entourage on the other side of the fence shouting advice to him, too. "Pull down!" "Pull out!" "Stand up, step on it, and pull your foot out!!" None of it was working for him.

I took pity on him and pulled his wetsuit off. First, off the hand. He was trying to get it off his feet with only one hand free, the other still trapped in wetsuit at the wrist. Dude. Give yourself a chance. Once I had his wrist free I yanked the wetsuit quickly off both feet. He said, 'oh thank you, you're a sweetheart, thank you so much!" over and over again. His entourage called thanks to me, too.

Before I'd finished with him another guy plopped down on the carpet by us and asked if I'd strip him, too. I said sure, grabbed his suit at the armpits and pulled it all the way down off his legs in one big swoop. He thanked me profusely and trotted off with his suit over his shoulder. Fortunately, these were the last few guys at the tail-end of the pack and I hadn't inadvertently started my own one-woman stripping service.

I took Basta's stuff to the car, then watched the bikes go off for a while. The clouds didn't look like they were going to clear and it was nowhere near warm enough to take off my jacket. I worried about Basta not having arm warmers with him. Big difference from the 86F (30C) that was forecast. But as they rode more inland it was sure to get much warmer.

Lilia found me at the appointed time and we headed over to the high school. Now, my Spanish is not great. I can hold a very basic conversation that includes a fair amount of charades. I wouldn't call myself fluent.

But we managed. Lilia has two sons. One is a professor who teaches in Japan. The other one, Cristiano, does the triathlons. He's done full Ironmans. She expected him to finish this event in 4 hours. That's really fast. I was sure I was misunderstanding her and asked her about that in a few different ways. Finish the bike in 4? No, the whole thing. 4 hours then you see him in transition before he starts to run? No, 4 hours for the whole thing. Ok. Sure enough, his official time was 4:36.

I told her that Basta was thinking about doing Ironman Brasil in Florianopolis. She said that Cristiano has done that event and enjoyed it very much. She said it's a beautiful island where a lot of ex-pat Europeans live.

She said a whole lot of things I didn't understand, too. I think she forgot and slipped into Portuguese rather often. And she gave me a quizzical look now and then, like "what the heck are you trying to say to me?" But we did ok.

We made it to the high school and were guided into a close parking lot. Lilia came with me to find where the entrance to T2 was, then landed herself there, camera ready, waiting for Cristiano to come through. She'd be there a while.

The hours went by and the sun still did not make it through the clouds. I still had my coat on. Perfect weather for biking and running, though.

When my elasped-time watch hit 3 hours exactly, I saw Basta round the bend.

I don't think he saw me as he went past and I yelled, 'great bike time!' Official bike: 3:02:59. Oceanside was 3:26:17, so that was 23:18 faster. 23 minutes faster! All of time and effort he's put in the bike has really paid off.

I went over to the Run Out area and caught Basta on the way out.

His goal, as we all know, was to beat 6 hours. He had about 2:30 hours left to make that goal. Plenty of time to do this run. Heck, even I can run a half marathon in less than 2:30.

About 1 hour into Basta's run the sun broke through the cloud cover and the temperature shot up to the forecasted 86F (30C). I was able to take off my jacket and change into shorts for the first time.

I went back to the actual finish line and found the whole expo set up there. I ran into Randy. He'd ridden his bike from home, following much of the race course. He'd had a good 53-mile training ride. He and his buddy stopped at a porta-potty along the course and found Basta in line for it, too. Good timing!

We took up station at the finish line and waited for Basta to come through. Given his 56 minute offset from the first start, he'd need to cross the line with the official clock showing less than 6:56 to beat his goal.

Yes, he did it. By a long shot (click on the picture to see it bigger). His official finish time: 5:49:13. He made his goal by 11 minutes. He beat his Oceanside time of 6:21:56 by 32:45. Fantastic.

He was thrilled, I was thrilled, Randy was thrilled. He was a lot more coherent when he stopped running than he was at Oceanside, too. He said, 'thanks to my coach!' many times, which made me happy. He called Randy his bike coach and thanked him, too. He was very, very happy.

We went off to athlete food right away because Basta said he was starving. Basta got a full plate of food and ate his chicken breast while waiting in line for drinks. He went back and got another one while I got his drink. He was really hungry.

We ran into Lilia and the much cherished Cristiano at the picnic tables. Basta and Cristiano talked about their day. Lilia told him that Basta was going to do Ironman in Florianopolis. Cristiano said we must keep in touch so they can help us out in Brasil. He took Basta's cell phone number and we got their home address and phone number. He thanked me again for taking care of his mother.I hope it works out that we can meet them in Brasil.

Eventually we left the event, loaded up the bikes onto the car, and toasted a fine day with champagne on the tailgate.

Then we headed out to do a little wine-tasting. We managed to see three wineries before they all closed at 4:30. We bought some wine to have with dinner that night. Basta was still wearing his triathlon outfit so of course everyone asked him all about it. They all raved at his accomplishment, and he loved the attention.

So if you made it this far, leave him a 'congratulations' comment, eh? He worked hard for this.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Off to Sonoma

We leave tomorrow morning, early. Early enough to beat the LA morning traffic and early enough that we'll make it through the SF Bay Area afternoon traffic, too.

Basta went to see the kinesiologist for his plantar fasciitis. The guy said there is a lot of scar tissue in there and just rest won't cure it. He's done 3 sessions of deep-tissue massage on his feet and legs. The results are dramatic. Less pain with hope of healing. He recommends ice after every run and stretching exercises. Far, far better than the doctor's recommenation to stop running, have a cortisone shot and take naproxin for two weeks. Why oh why are they so stupid? There's a place for drugs and surgery, certainly, but it's not the answer for everything.

So the bike is ready, the foot is better, the fires have diminished and the air might be a little clearer up there. Forecast is for a high of 86F (30C). Hot but not as hot as it can often get up there. Water temp is right on the edge of wetsuits being allowed.

No idea on the forecast time now. He did Oceanside in just under 6:30. That was a cold water swim and a cool day. This will be a warm swim and a hot day. He's using the same bike. His swimming has improved somewhat and he's that much more fit from continued training. But the heat really slows a person down. So who knows if he'll post a better time.

We'll have a good weekend regardless.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


So next time I post such a pollyanna-ish la la la everything is wonderful entry, please smack me upside the head. Or remind me that I'm tempting fate.

Fate doesn't care for being tempted, apparently.

For starters, Basta drove his bike into the house.

Specifically, he forgot that the bike was on the roof and drove the car into the garage. Crossbars on the roof rack of the cool new car broke, cool new bike rack, with cool new bike still attached, came crashing to the ground.


To put it gently.

The car wasn't badly hurt. A scratch on the roof that you can't see. A couple hundred bucks to replace the crossbars. The bike rack is fine. The bike, though . . . totalled. Bend front wheel. Shattered frame. Fuck.

He took it to the bike shop and they commiserated, but said there was no hope. He'd need a new frame. They sent it off to Kuota who will do some analysis on it and let him know what was broken and what can be saved. They have a 'crash warranty' which they will apply towards this wreck, maybe. That will allow him to buy a new frame at a discount. No idea what the final bill for the bike will be, but $2,000 seems to be realistic.

The bike shop doesn't have a frame in his size in stock, either, so he can't buy one and get it built in time for Vineman. So he'll be doing Vineman on his old Roubaix. No tri-bike benefit.

He rode the Roubaix yesterday and found the gears were shifting erratically. He dropped it off at the bike shop where he bought it -- a different one than where he bought the tri bike -- and they will give it a tune-up and have it ready by Thurs. We leave Fri.

The next thing is his foot. He has plantar fasciitis. Very common runner's injury. He's had it for some time and I've prescribed ice, stretching, and wearing supportive shoes at all times. Well, he ices it sometimes, stretches it rarely, and walks around wearing flip-flops most of the time. So it's gotten worse. It's gotten to the point to where he dreads running and he's screaming in pain after every run.

So no more running for him. These past two weeks I've had him doing pool running. He's fit, he can run the distance, he doesn’t need more miles. He needs to keep what he has and also let that foot heal. So, pool running it is. I've done it with him and it's kind of fun. Definitely works the leg muscles.

He's still not stretching, icing, or wearing anything but flip-flops, so I don't expect this to heal any time soon. He's seeing a kinesiologist this week who will probably tell him to ice it, stretch it, and wear supportive shoes. Maybe he'll do it then. I hope the guy also does some deep tissue massage or something that will be helpful.

He can run on it, and he will do the event. He'll be in pain afterwards, but fortunately he won't be doing any long-term damage to himself.

Then there's the fires. They've been burning for weeks in California and the air quality is terrible. The Western States 100 mile event was cancelled because of very poor air quality, as was the Donner Triathlon and probably many others. Sonoma isn't as bad off as those places and the event will probably go on, but air quality is 'the worst they've ever seen,' the newspapers say. Lovely. It's still a week away and we can hope the fires will go out and the air will clear. But it doesn't look likely.

Finally, I fell, tried to catch myself, and broke my hand. Well, it's probably not really broken but it's swollen and hurts like hell. I'm typing to you using just my left hand. Not so speedy, that is. This doesn't affect him or his event but still. It hurts. Woe is me.

Crister -- your estimate of 12-13 hours for a full is right in line with mine. Maybe a little more optimistic.

We leave for Sonoma in 5 days.