Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Three weeks before this race I received notice that the swim venue was changing due to water quality conditions at Almaden Park and the swim would be moved to Uvas Reservoir roughly 20 miles south of the original swim course. This would mean there would be two transitions for this event instead of the original plan for one. I’ve only done one other race with two transitions and it’s not my preference. It just adds to the stress because now you need to make sure you have exactly what you need for the bike and run at two separate locations. I was grateful though that the organizers cared enough about my health that they didn’t want me swimming in polluted water. Logistically two separate transitions are hard on the race promoter as well.
After a seven hour drive my wife Liz and I arrived at T1 to drop off my bike and scout out the new swim venue. It was interesting because we would actually swim around a long peninsula with a large hill. I can’t recall ever doing a swim where you cannot see the start or finish once you’re in the water. The other thing I noticed was that the water level seemed low and the distance from the point of exiting the swim to transition was maybe 200 meters on dirt and brush. It would not be pleasant for this tenderfoot. After the bike drop we drove half of the bike course towards T2 at Almaden Park and then to my cousins house in San Jose where we were warmly welcomed and treated like first class clients at the Ritz Carlton.
No wonder I swim slow

I arrived a little later than I normally like to before a race and was still trying to sort out what I needed. This had more to do with two transitions than poor planning. Once I had everything set up it was time to get my wetsuit on and head towards the water. Unfortunately I was headed in the wrong direction. What I thought was the swim entry was actually the swim exit! We were swimming the opposite direction than what I had envisioned the day before. This may not seem like a big deal but when swimming is your weakness it’s very important for me to do visualization of what my swim looks like days before the race. I hurried down to the water and asked the race official how much time I had…”Ninety seconds!” he said. It was just enough time for me to get in the water and swim to the start line. At least the water was warm. The gun sounded and my swim was off. I started swimming and was actually staying with my group at first and then started to fade. I just didn’t feel strong during my swim like I did at Wildflower. I don’t know if it was being disoriented and rushed to get to the start but I just was not feeling like I had power in my stroke. It just didn’t feel like my day. I reached the boat ramp and for me there is nothing like getting your feet back on solid ground.
SWIM TIME: 49:58


With two transitions you have to take your wetsuit and other swim gear and shove it in to a bag that the race volunteers will transport to the race finish for you. Once I did that I was on my bike and out on to my favorite part of the triathlon course. The bike course wound around the reservoir and the Morgan Hill area and was very beautiful as we rode past small wineries in the area. It reminded me a lot of Santiago and Live Oak Canyon in Orange County. It also had more climbing than I thought it would have with some short but very steep hills. I was still feeling a little disoriented by the swim. In a kind of fog like state. Maybe it was fatigue from little sleep the night before. I honestly have to say that I was not really enjoying my race and a lot of doubts were creeping in to my head about triathlons, doing Ironman etc. After 12 miles I hit a faster section of the course and started finding my rhythm. I passed a number of racers including two who had passed me earlier. I originally wanted to do a three hour bike leg and was on track at the halfway point of the course but then came more hills and a slight headwind and I knew it was probably not possible. Going by feel I didn’t really think I was having a good ride. Sometimes a race is all about expectations that you place on yourself. It shouldn’t be that way because so often it robs you of the joy of just competing. As I pulled in to T2 I was determined to do a quick transition to a strong run.
BIKE TIME: 3:09:38

Last Mile!

I dismounted my bike and had to jog to the opposite end of the transition where hopefully I would find my run gear I had placed in a plastic bag for volunteers to ship from the reservoir to T2. I noticed there were still bags at my rack, a good sign, but I had to pick up a couple of bags before I found my bag. I should have marked it more clearly! I put my shoes on and my running hat then started putting my bike helmet in my run gear bag…what am I doing I’m losing time! Start running Greg! I told myself. I left transition and started my 13.1 mile run. This transition is usually the hardest for triathletes, going from the bike to running. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, it takes the legs some time to adapt to this new demand you've placed on them. I usually don’t look at my GPS for the first mile. I like to start my run by listening to my body and run accordingly. On good days after my bike workout and I start my run, I feel good after a half mile or so. On bad days…well, let’s just say I feel better but not good. Waiting to look at my GPS at mile one either confirms I’m feeling better…my expectation or sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised and find out I’m running faster than I feel like I’m running. Does this make sense? My goal for the run at this race was a 9:30 mile pace. When I reached the mile 1 marker I looked at my GPS and was running at a 9:00 minute mile pace! Could this be one of those days? I felt comfortable that I could easily maintain this pace. Then my mind went back to Ironman Arizona and how my first few miles of the marathon were at a 9:20 pace and how I later struggled to run under 12 minute miles. Am I going to fast out of the gate? I decided to throw caution to the wind. This is half a marathon and a training race. If I blow up and have to walk later so be it! Now my race took on a whole new meaning to me. What was disappointing was now thrilling. How fast can I run a half marathon after a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike? At mile three I was over the euphoria of my fast start and noticed a pain on the bottom of my left foot at the ball of my foot. I’ve never had pain there before. What is this? I remembered that I sometimes have a habit of throwing hex wrenches in my shoes just in case I need them on the bike. Did one make its way in to my run shoe? I wanted to stop and take my shoe off and check but I was now having the run of my life in a half iron distance race. I kept telling myself, “I’m not about to stop!” “I can just gut it out!” So I kept going. The pain not getting worse but not going away either. I still managed to keep my pace up and my confidence kept building that I was on my way to my best 13.1 miles in a triathlon. As my run came down to the final miles I remembered I wanted to dedicate my final mile to a friend suffering from Alzheimer’s, Betty Wakeling. This last mile brought such joy and clarity to this race that seemed mentally challenging for me at times. What a blessing to race for Betty and so many others and of course the memories of my uncle. As I ran that final mile and crossed the finish line not only had I PR’d (Personal Record) my run but I also set a PR for a Half Ironman distance race!
RUN TIME: 1:55:18

"Iron Cuz" with Guy and Rob
When I reflect back on this race, how I performed and then compare it to my training data, it not a surprise how each discipline played out on the race course. I feel I'm a little behind in my swim training. My bike is on target and I've been working very hard on my running. Although I'm confident at this distance I was reminded many times during the race just how hard the sport of triathlon is.
Regarding my left foot...after a post race hug from my wife and family I couldn't wait to get my left shoe off to see what was going on. The wrenches in my was a sharp rock I stepped on getting out of the water from the swim. It almost took me down. Liz saw it but I had forgotten about it until after the race.
Ron's cuz Harry and wife Claudia

During this trip I did have the blessing of being reunited in a sense with relatives in NorCal that I haven't seen in years. I also heard stories of days long gone by of my uncle, father and cousin Harry in Colorado.

On the drive home from the race we didn't stop at any of the local wineries but we did stop in Gilroy, the "Garlic Capitol of  the World" to have some famous garlic ice cream!
Garlic Ice-cream!

Lastly, Thank you Lord for the blessing of this healthy body and thank you for your grace allowing me to use it in a way that I pray is pleasing to you.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading these reports. Please don't ever think it is boring. Keep the details coming. And most of all, thanks so much for running for my mom in the final mile. You big wonderful jerk, you make me cry every time I read these things. I think of you often when I'm training for my Century. Thanks for inspiring me.