02 September 2013

Race Report - Challenge Penticton!

I am struggling.  It’s all I can say.  I am struggling to get back into any kind of a routine here in Portland.  Year two of med school is officially underway but I can’t focus for anything.  All I’ve been doing is eating, sleeping and day-dreaming.  I keep reliving the innumerable memories from this past weekend.  I have a lot I want to record here.  It was a wonderful experience.  Suppose I’ll start with a race report.


This was a special event from the very beginning, from the day I sat with friends Nate Dogg and Maura Olcese in class and we decided to go for a full-distance event at the end of the summer.  It was something I’d been considering, but the companionship of doing it with some good friends was the impetus I needed to pull the trigger.  And it set the tone for the entire journey.  We were able to discuss our training, share the highs and lows, anticipation and build-up, anxiety and excitement, and ultimately make the trip together.  In my opinion, this is when triathlons are at their best: good friends, a good challenge, and good times.

Maura, Nate and I at Yellow Lake, doing a little recon work
Next significant point: some drama in Penticton last year resulted in a breath of fresh air, as a large corporation (which shall not be named but whose initials are WTC) lost control of one of their crown jewels to Challenge Family.  I had heard fantastic rumors of the Challenge race experience and I was eager to participate in what was purportedly an athlete-focused, family-friendly, fitness-fueled, week-long extravaganza of music/food/wine tours/swimming/underpants runs/street dance parties/hospitality/biking/community support/volunteerism/running.  So the infamous Penticton course… site of Ironman Canada for the past 30 years… the third oldest full-distance event on the planet… with all of its history, and scenery, and crowds… was going to be under their direction?  SIGN ME UP!

(And before you all start feeling bad for WTC, don’t worry, they made out just fine.  They started a whole new race right down the road in Whistler.  They named it Ironman Canada and designed a shiny new course.  They scheduled it on the exact same day as Challenge Pen.  They offered twice the normal allotment of Kona slots to attract age-groupers.  And they paid last year’s Penticton winner big bucks to show up for their race.  They’re a real class act, those guys.  But I digress…)

From my first email, I quickly realized Challenge was a horse of a different color.  My experience with them became more and more familial (which is actually the best word for it) with every interaction.  It wasn’t long before I had a comp’ed entry, a homestay in the works, and the promise of a local IPA when I arrived.  It was an indescribable pleasure to work and communicate with Kelly, Barb, and company.  I could tell they really wanted the event to be a success, and I wanted to help out any way I could.  So all summer I looked forward to meeting the folks up in Penticton, who were working hard to make me feel welcome and appreciated.

Concluding thought, before I actually jump in to the race report.  Call me an idealist, but there is a marked difference between a family-run business and a corporation owned by a global private equity investment firm.  I’m not afraid to go on the record here: if by some terrible stroke of fate I am only permitted to race twice a year for the rest of my life, I will proudly and happily show up to Wildflower in early May and Challenge Pen in late August for the rest of my career.  Ok, enough politicking.


We made the drive up from Portland – Nate, Maura, Elena and I – on Wednesday afternoon, which afforded plenty of time to really nail the pre-race routine.  We met Albert and Antonia Mahon, who graciously welcomed us to their fabulous home in the foothills overlooking the city.  We ate well, slept even better, and went through all the motions to be comfortable and ready for race day.  I will say, three full days of anticipation is perhaps more than I need.  By the end I was really chomping at the bit to get out there and compete.
Couple nights before the race, from the Mahon residence;
Penticton is just crazy beautiful

Race morning dawned with cloudy skies and a brisk wind.  I was relieved to hear that the water temp was right at 22°C, which would allow us to wear wetsuits during the choppy swim.  The field was relatively small, but not without some big names.  In fact, Chris McCormack, many times a world champion and perhaps the biggest name in the sport, had come out to play.  Jamie Whyte (the guy I chased for the entire run at Vineman but who kicked my ass at Calgary), Scott Defilippis (who I dueled up Nasty Grade at Wildflower), veteran Anthony Toth, my coach Chris Bagg, and local favorite Jeff Symonds (rhymes with “diamonds”) rounded out the list of top contenders.
First wave of age-groupers making their way out into the water
It was a typical beach start followed by some dolphin diving.  Wasn’t long before I was in a three-man pack moving at a comfortable pace.  The swim, actually, was pretty uneventful.  Being a newbie at the distance, I erred on the side of comfort and settled into a nice rhythm.  I felt smooth and relaxed the whole time, and it went by pretty quickly.  My time of 1:01:44 was a little slower than I’d hoped (which became a theme for the day), but turns out the buoys were a little wonky – a product of the intense winds the night before – so we all swam a little extra.  By some accounts it was a 4.2k swim, which is made more believable by Macca and Jeff’s lead swim time of a mid-55.  I was thrilled to be out of the water only 6’ down on the lead (a pretty customary deficit for me over half the distance!) and half that to the main chasers, which included Bagg, Toth, and Whyte.
Some of the field, just before the gun; they actually combined the men and women,
which increased my odds of finding feet, but not necessarily my success in doing so.
Chris "Macca" McCormack followed closely by Jeff Symonds
Positives: well strategized and paced; remained calm and relaxed
Negatives: open-water sighting (as always); I think I was reasonably close to making that 59’ group but missed out in the first few hundred meters!


The bike was without a doubt the part of the race I was most anxious about.  Usually, at the end of 56 miles I’m good and ready to get out of the saddle.  I hoped the slightly decreased effort (race plan was to average 145 bpm vs. the 155 I usually hold for a half-distance event) would buy me another 56.
Bikes all set up in T2
All anxiety quickly disappeared though, as I made my way out on to the one-loop bike course around 7:15 am.  The wind had quieted, the skies had begun to clear, and the morning glow over the eastern mountains welcomed us down the valley.  I settled into a comfortable, slightly cautious pace.  Which resulted in my being passed by two dudes in pretty short order.  I just sat there with my HR at 140, feeling like such a softman as I watched them ride away from me.  It took every shred of restraint I could muster not to chase after them.  But I trusted my coach and his experience at this distance, and this race in particular.  Hopefully I’d see them again down the road.  112 miles is a long ways.

This famous bike course is nicely divisible into three distinct sections.  The first of these – about 40 miles of cruising down the valley to Osoyoos (pronounced “soy sauce”) – rides like a dream.  It is downwind, slightly downhill, and absolutely breathtaking.  But when you come into town you make a hard right and are immediately riding up Richter Pass, into a headwind.  After the descent you make your way over a series of seven rollers before hitting the out and back section, where the turn-around at mile 75 marks the end of this second stage, the hardest of the three.  The third and final segment feels just as hard, however, due to the onset of fatigue.  To borrow a word from Coach Chris, if you haven’t nailed your pacing and nutrition, the second major climb of the day up to Yellow Lake is interminable.  From the summit it’s a bomber 15 miles or so downhill back to T2.
It is impossible to find a map of the Challenge bike course in jpg format.
Turns out it is exactly the as the old IM Canada course, so just use your imagination. 
The bike was a fair test, fo sho!
As I hoped, the first third went by without event (besides getting passed by those two dudes).  I started my nutrition plan and was pleased to notice some unquestionable signs of adequate hydration.  Then came the climb up Richter, which I essentially just spun up.  I kept the HR low and controlled and it was really a non-event.  The scene at the top – with an announcer, a decent crowd, and some music over a loudspeaker – was a welcome boost.  After the lengthy descent I hunkered down to dispatch the seven rollers.
Probably the coolest photo every taken; Jeff Symonds asserting his will on the gorgeous bike course
Photo props to Rich Lam
This part of the ride was as scenic as the last.  It was easy to loose focus, mesmerized by the flowing green valley nestled between towering ridgelines under what had become a radiant blue sky.  I saw Elena and Amy VT for the first time, and laughed hysterically when they held up a sign some of my classmates had painted.  All it said was “ANDREW DON’T BE A PUSSY!”  I thought that was pretty great, and recalled how many people were following along back in Portland and at home in Boise.  When I passed the 100k sign I thought of roommate Bryan Mullaney’s ultramarathon, only one week prior.  I was just starting to feel a little dullness in the legs, and thought to myself, “How could anyone ever run that entire distance?”  The realization made what I was doing seem pretty manageable.

The out-and-back presented an opportunity to see how the race was unfolding.  About 3.5 miles from the turn-around I saw Macca and Jamie Whyte blow by in the opposite direction, and figured that was the front of the race.  7 miles to the front, maybe 16-19 minutes back, not too shabby.  Not much longer I saw Coach Chris, riding strongly in 5th position about 2.5 miles from the checkpoint.  When I made the turn myself I figured I was in 11th position.  With a top-ten finish as my goal, I braced for a hard couple of hours to T2.  What I didn’t know was that local man Jeff Symonds was actually leading the race, so far ahead of Macca and Jamie that I had missed him completely on the out and back!
Macca at the turn-around, mile 75
Fortunately for me, the climb to Yellow Lake was not interminable, but rather quite smooth and methodical.  I had been nailing my nutrition, hydration and pacing, which paid off on the long climb.  But contrary to what I had expected, the long descent into town was probably my least favorite part of the race.  I had prepared mentally for a pleasure cruise into T2.  What I actually got was another solid 10 miles of actual work.  The descent itself included quite a few false flats and long, straight stretches that required considerable hammering.  Then when you finally bottomed out along the banks of Skaha Lake you still had about 5 miles of riding across town.  I was a little pissed.  But the crowds down Main Street welcomed me back, and my mood was instantly lifted as I readied myself for my first marathon.

In the end I hit transition after posting a 5:13:45 bike.  Not bad for my first attempt at this distance.  But not that great either.

Positives: pacing, nutrition and hydration; enjoyed every moment
Negatives: just freaking slow!  This is where I lost the most time.  And I think it comes down to two things – bike fitness, and equipment.  The former will take time and many more seasons to improve.  As for the latter, I’m thinking I should make an actual tri-bike a real priority for next season.  I’m not trying to make excuses here, but aerodynamic disadvantages are significantly amplified over a course that is 112 miles long.  Trying to compete at the pro level on a road bike is absolutely absurd, when you stand back and look at it.

Jeff on the final stretch into town, along Skaha Lake; he looks like a bullet
And here's me.  It doesn't take a degree in aeronautical
engineering to figure this one out.

I hit the run course feeling awesome.  I ate a banana coming out of T2 and ended up having to run with the peel for a solid mile or more, which I thought was pretty funny.  I called to Elena as I went by, telling her I was going to go run a marathon, which I ALSO thought was pretty funny.  Finally I settled into a rhythm, and let the HR come down to where I wanted it (mid 140s).

The first half of the run went really well.  I felt great, was cruising at 6:45 pace, keeping food and fluids down, and all at the comfortable aerobic HR of ~150.  Then around mile 10 I caught my first sight of the leader: Jeff Symonds was absolutely crushing the run, and the field.  He blitzed by in the opposite direction with no one else in sight.  He was followed nearly 15 minutes later by Scott Defilippis, who was also running like a champion.  His race-best 2:46 marathon catapulted him into second position.  When he is on that guy can run.  Next came Jamie Whyte, running well but with Macca nowhere near him.  Coach Chris looked strong in fifth position and had a few others trailing behind.  As he passed he told me to keep it steady.  Before I knew it I was at the turn around… and in 9th position?!  I couldn’t believe it!  I had passed one guy on the run, but apparently two more had abandoned, including Macca.  I was in the money!  I was elated!

The run course stays relatively flat for the first ten or so miles, then gets pretty hilly for the next three into the turn around in at Okanagan Falls.  Then you come back the same way, so everything is just reversed: hilly for the first three, flat for ten.  On my return journey, I made it through the hilly section in pretty good form, staying on pace and letting my HR creep up to ~160.  I carried some momentum into the flats and passed the cramping Dan McIntosh for 8th position.  But around mile 18 I could feel the wheels coming off.  Despite my best efforts to eat, I could not keep the HR up, and watched in desperation as it trickled off to 145, then 140.  With 8 miles to go I had officially climbed aboard the struggle bus.  I told myself to hold on to 7:30 pace, and this thing would be over in an hour.  But then I sadly thought, “An hour?!  Really?  Man… this distance is rough.”  Usually, over the half-iron distance, when I feel that bad I’m only a few miles from the finish.  I can get away with 20 minutes of pain and will myself to the line.  But I was way too far away for that.  I had to keep it together.
Then I saw my friend.  Nate Dogg saved my race.  I had been hoping to spot he and Maura all day.  He went by me looking liking a champion, breaking his usual stoicism to ask with some incredulity, “Are you in 8th?!”  Hell yes, I was in 8th.  A spike in morale kept me from walking.  Less than 20 minutes later the same thing happened when I saw Maura.  She was upbeat and looked like a million bucks.  We exchanged encouragement and huge smiles, and I decided that I wasn’t going to walk until I hit the line.  This was my first marathon.  By God, I wasn’t going to walk any part of it.

Eight miles to go… don’t think about it.  Seven miles to go… eat something.  Six miles to go… eat something else.  Five miles to go… where the hell is town?  Four miles to go… thank God, solid crowds from here on in.  Three miles to go… just get me to Main Street!  Two miles to go… HUGE CRAMP!

I immediately came to a standstill.  I was pretty bummed.  I had run up every single hill, and through every single aid station, and now a cramp was going to bring me to a halt?!  I looked down the long straight away through town and tried to hold off the onslaught of despairing thoughts.  The two mile strip of road - lined by spectators and framed by the distant lake - stared right back at me.  It wasn't just going to lie down.  I'd need to earn it.  I quickly choked down my last gel and a salt chew, and took a few tentative steps.  Then I was running again.  In the end, who cares if I didn’t run the whole thing?  I’ll just have to try this again.

Less than two miles… these crowds are awesome!  A mile and a half… only ten more minutes!  One mile to go… there is Elena!  I’m so close.  I can taste this!  Half a mile… these Canadians are in an uproar!  With a little human power, what can't you do?  Final stretch along the waterfront… the soft red carpet, the electric finisher’s chute, the quaking grandstands, the dazzling sunlight, the overpowering colors, the cool breeze off the lake, the watchful sky, the quieting tape… that seemed to understand what you'd done and reassured you that it was indeed a worthy effort.

A 3:09 marathon put me at the line in 9:28, good enough for 8th place
and a broad, toothy smile
Many hours later, my friends and I revisited the finishing chute to witness the last weary competitors trudging home.  The fanfare they received will stay with me for a long while.

Here's your winner!
I felt just as pumped up when I crossed the line.
Positives: first half was fantastic, I think my aerobic pace puts a 2:50 marathon in the realm of possibility
Negatives: nutrition…?  All I know is the wheels definitely came off, and I was on the struggle bus big time.  When you cannot keep your HR up that is a sure sign there isn’t enough in the tank.  And as it falls, so follows your pace.  Gonna have to come up with a new nutrition plan for the last 2 hours of this race.

Thank Yous

Where to even start here…  First thank you has to go to Challenge Family, who stepped into a difficult situation and produced a world class event.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was an unbelievable experience.  The pre-race correspondence, the social media, the pro meeting, the homestay, the athlete’s dinner, the race itself…  And to top it all off, when I crossed the line, the CEO of Challenge himself, Mr. Felix Walchshofer, stepped out of the crowd to shake my hand and offer his congratulations.  Over the weekend I was fortunate to have several interactions with this warm, genuine man, who clearly gets what triathlon is all about.  And it shows so prominently in the community he, his mom and his mother have created.  So thank you Kelly, Barb, Felix and company.  I certainly am a fan.

Next thank you goes out to Antonia and Albert Mahon.  You guys were such gracious hosts and made us feel most welcome.  It was fabulous to get to know you and share some meals and moments with you on your beautiful porch.  We will certainly be in touch.  See you next August, if not before.

A special thanks to friends Nate and Maura, for making this thing happen.  And to Elena for being so supportive, both during the race but also during the months of preparation.  The best things in life truly are shared.  Hope to repay you all in the years ahead.

And of course, huge thanks to Coach Chris for everything you did in the build up to this race, which really took a season of work.  When we identified this event as a candidate for a long-course debut, I knew you would be an invaluable asset.  You do it all man, the workouts, the race plans, the nutrition, the mental coaching… couldn’t have done it without you.  I’d say I owe you way more than 20%!

And last but not least, thanks always to all you twitter and blog followers, friends and family who kept me in your thoughts and prayers.  Was a great, fun, looooong day.  I can hardly describe what a great experience I had, how deeply I was moved by the community of Penticton, how proud I am to have joined the Challenge Family, and how blessed I feel to have participated this past weekend.  I will certainly be going back.

What Next?

Whew, the longest race report yet.  At last, you’ve made it to the end.  Thanks for reading.  Some of you savvy readers may have noticed a discrepancy here on the blog.  I seem to have skipped a race.  Confession: I did not, in fact, race the Lake Stevens half back in July, as originally planned.  I instead jumped into the Calgary race the following weekend, which I am yet to account for here.  I’ve decided to save that report for another day.  It was a great weekend as well, but in unexpected ways which require a bit more processing and introspection on my part.  So we’ll revisit that frontier at a later time.

70.3 Austin in a couple months, time for a little break, and to get back in to some kind of rhythm at school.  Stay tuned, the show will continue!

05 August 2013

Race Report - 70.3 Vineman

I’ll apologize in advance: this one reads a little long.  I may have gotten a little carried away with some details and mental imagery, especially on the run.  But I can say in all honesty, this was my best race ever.  So cut me some slack, I’m excited about it and want to be able to relive the memory when I’m 80 years old and can’t remember my own name.


Getting down to a race in California always presents the opportunity for adventure.  We were able to capitalize on it, as my girlfriend Elena and I made a great little trip out of the journey south.  Highlights included:
  • An early morning swim at Applegate Lake in the Rogue River Wilderness
    Little post-swim breakfast
  • Climbing around the biggest tree I’ve ever encountered, in Redwood Nat’l Park, where one of those iconic goliaths had gotten so big it actually splintered apart at the trunk and four new trees had erupted out of its root structure.  It looked like a massive fortress of red wood spires and gnarly wooden battlements.
  • A breathtaking drive through Sonoma County, and getting set up at the funky Guerneville Lodge, where you can camp on a lawn that actually runs right down to the Russian River.  It was so close to the race start we got to watch them drop buoys and set up the swim course
    Buoy line the evening before the race
The night before the race, I spoke with Coach Chris on the phone.  His consistent piece of advice, which would become a theme for this race, was simply to “let the effort build.”


River swims are always a little different.  Although the Russian River is dammed up, there was nevertheless a slight current.  The swim upstream to the turn-around buoy would keep the group more compressed than usual, then the return journey would go about a minute faster.

I cut it close, but got everything set up in transition and jumped in the river just in time.  The water was warm, but WTC allows wetsuits up to 76 degrees, which basically just means everyone wears one and gets super hot.  There were 30+ dudes at the start, so many they actually had to cap the pro entry.  And the names were ridiculous: Bevan Docherty, Terenzo Bozzone, Joe Gambles, Tim Don, Jordan Rapp… Andy Potts and Craig Alexander no-showed, but they weren’t really needed to make this a first-rate field.

I swam hard and moved well off the line, settling into my usual group at this point, which I’m going to call second pack (it seems there are usually 1-3 super-swimmers who go off the front alone, then a main chase pack of serious contenders, and then a second pack).  I later decided that my homies were moving a little slow and set off alone.  Perhaps I’m improving…!?

The swim took a surprising twist when – about 900 meters in – the river became so shallow that you could literally rake the bottom with your fingers on every stroke.  At many places it was so shallow you couldn’t even extend your arm all the way.  I had outswam a few dudes who caught and passed me dolphin diving!  I couldn’t believe it.  I clambered to my feet to try a few dives myself only to see that the entire men’s field was doing it.  They were strung out ahead of me, standing and diving, standing and diving, the final 100 meters to the turn-around.  And on the other side of the river, already on their way back to T1, the leaders were doing the same thing.  It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a race.  I ended up doing a fair bit of diving myself, but when it was deep enough to swim I elected to do that.  I found that I went just as fast, and the standing and diving really messed with my rhythm and heart rate.
Not a lot of room in this river; in the age group waves many swimmers get
pushed to the sides where they have to walk
I was passed by Meredith Kessler, the women’s leader in the water and a phenomenal swimmer, around 21’.  Then one or two other ladies.  We’d only had a 2’ head start, so it was bound to happen.  I ended up swimming 27:52, which I was pleased with.


The bike course down there was simply stunning.  Rolling terrain punctuated by scrubby hills, with every corner of every acre being used to grow grapes, save for the Tuscan-style villas and wineries that dotted the landscape.  There was a chill in the cool, humid air as I settled into a rhythm.  I was passed by Kenneth Rakestraw – another young guy in the field – who I’d seen at Wildflower already this year.  I tried to pace him for awhile but he slowly distanced himself.
It was a chilly morning
Photo props to Triathlete Mag

I was passed by another dude at mile 15, but ended up pulling him back around mile 25 as his energy flagged.  Which leads me to a thought about race pacing.  And since this is my blog, you all either have to read it or read around it.  So here is a nice little nugget of Langfield wisdom for you: if you’re like me, and not in serious contention for the podium in a field of this quality, you are really just looking to have your best race, and to be consistent.  So I’m confused by guys in my position who ride outside of themselves at first, reportedly “responding to the dynamics of the race,” only to fade on the back half of the bike or run.  How do they not know that’s going to happen?  Better by far to build into the effort, something I’ve learned from Chris.

I was riding and eating well, passing a couple more dudes between miles 35-40.  I was super surprised and super thrilled when Elena popped up in the middle of nowhere, around mile 37 on the side of the road.  I gave her a wave but kept my focus; I was trying to decide the best place on the course to pee.
Chalk Hill is the second spike, a few hundred feet only, nowhere near as bad as it looks here
Finally I hit Chalk Hill and smoked it, passing a couple more guys as I jumped out of the saddle and hammered.   Dammit I love hills.  And the speedy descent that required little to no pedaling for about a minute provided the perfect opportunity for you know what.  I was at T2 before I knew it, and executed one of my better dismounts.  On the way out I saw Elena and my two friends Tom and Katie who had come up from Palo Alto to watch.  Of course this got me really pumped, so I threw my hands in the air and yelled “WHAT’S UP Y’ALL?!”  The best part was still ahead.


Here is where I had some serious fun.  I think everything just came together: a solid training block, a restful taper, productive nutrition during the 48 hours before the event, effective fueling with gels and sports drink on the bike, and an excellent race plan.  For the first time ever, I felt like I was able to run to my potential.  I wrote sort of a lot about this part, so if you’re bored already you should probably just skip to the end.

Recalling the travesty that occurred at Boise – during which I sullied myself and brought shame on my entire family – I started slow to allow my stomach to settle and let the effort build from there.  I covered miles 1, 2 and 3 at a comfortable pace.  Then I risked it all… and took a gel.  And to my delight, it went down with no problems!  My stomach, which had been rejecting them outright at my last race, took it in stride.  I got a little concerned around mile 5 when it started to clench up, but then I farted and immediately felt better, and wasn’t at all embarrassed to give a triumphant holler.  Miles 4, 5, and 6 were covered a little faster.  Then I took another gel and charged into the La Crema Winery.
La Crema should probably try to get some better real estate
I had started the run about 2’ down on Jamie Whyte, a veteran competitor out of New Zealand.   He had been an excellent carrot for me to chase thus far, pretty much maintaining that gap for the first half of the run.  But in the vineyard – with row after row of grapes rushing by – I was invigorated.  I relinquished my hold on my heart rate and let it climb into the high 160s, a little sooner than planned.  But I was feeling good, eating well, and thought I’d be able to sustain it.  I cruised the two miles of dirt trail, typically one of the slower stretches on the run course, with my fastest splits yet.  When I exited, I had started to make up some ground on him.

With about 30 minutes of running to go, I entered the only out-and-back section on the entire race course.  It’s always motivating to see your competitors cruising by in the other direction.  Some were running strong, with smooth strides and determined expressions.  The faces of others – to borrow an expression from legendary TdF announcer Phill Liggett – were “a perfect picture of pain.”  Both images are motivating, the former pushing you on to try and remain in the company of such veterans, the latter luring you on in the hope of overtaking some stragglers.

I hit the turn-around after holding pace for mile 9  hooting at Elena, Tom and Katie  but I could start to feel the wheels coming off, so I braced myself mentally and committed to four miles of pretty severe discomfort.  I took another gel and started pleading with my legs.  My head was doing everything in its power to shut things down, so I relied on one of my favorite mantras: “this is hardly the time to run like a softman.”  Miles 10 and 11 went by with considerable effort.  Then, after over an hour of chasing, I caught my man.

Jamie looked at me and in his New Zealand accent said “Chraist its gatten fast out here, innit it?”  We ran together for a bit, but not feeling like I’d have much of a sprint in me if it came down to the final meters, I decided to step on it with 2 miles to go.  I took my last gel and tried to hammer it home.  I was thrilled when he didn’t follow, and covered the final miles in 5:45 and 5:25, respectively.  The high-fives down the finishing chute; Elena, Tom and Katie yelling at me; complete surprise as I saw my 4:05 finishing time, good enough for 16th overall in one of the toughest 70.3s on the circuit… all broke into a huge smile as I hit the tape.


I can’t help myself… I’m just so happy with this race.  Not so much my placing, or my time, or what have you.  But I think it was my best effort and execution to date… about as good as I can do given my current fitness, experience, equipment, etc.  And that, my friends, is a very satisfying feeling.  So that's the main thing.

Also, while I’m reticent to dethrone last year’s Rev 3 Portland race, I think this was actually the most beautiful race I’ve ever done.  The river swim, the rolling vineyards of Sonoma county, the picturesque La Crema Winery we actually ran right through, the immaculate high school in Windsor that served as T2/finish area, it was all stunning.  Definitely a repeat.

Another big take away was the fueling plan.  I included the general outline here so I can consult it from here on out, although my pre-race nutrition I'm going to keep to myself:
  • Swim: 1 gel 15' before race start
  • Bike: 3 bottles sports drink, 1 bottle water, 4 gels at :30, 1:00, 1:30, and 2:00
  • Run: gels at miles 3, 6, 9, 11 with fluids as needed (mostly water, one or two sports drink/cola)
Lastly, Bevan Docherty is going to win Kona this year.  You heard it here first.
Bevan winning. Again.
Thank Yous

First thank you goes out to Elena, who added to this trip in untold ways and was so supportive.  Thank you for being the trip planner/camp finder/navigator/head chef/sous chef/prep chef/tent dismantler/car loader/car unloader/public relations lady/financier/dog groomer/sandwich maker/hike locator/IT consultant/wine taster/girlfriend.  And Tom and Katie, you guys were awesome, and I can’t thank you enough for coming up.  Great seeing you both and hanging out after the race.  Turns out you can have a lot of fun in the wine region of CA.

And gotta thank Amy at Vineman for all of the communication, planning, camping recommendations, and general helpfulness.  Also, I don’t know who you are, but all of you folks who were involved in the design and early development of this race all those years ago… it really shows.  Yes it is run by WTC at this point, which always provides a seamless, smooth race experience.  But you could really tell the course was designed by locals, and this event has been held in this active, supportive community for years.  It had all of the charms and character of a small, local race, and I hope it never loses that.  I will certainly be coming back any chance I get.
Sonoma, so beautiful.
Thanks Coach Chris, I think we nailed this one about as best as we could.  In case I haven’t made it clear, I’m quite happy about it.  And Athlete’s Lounge for the support out on the course.  I will be coming into the shop again soon.

And as always, you blog and twitter followers, and general hooligans who read this stuff.  You’re always in my heart and mind when I’m racing.

Calgary race report already in the works.  See you soon!