Monday, June 9, 2008

Showdown at Sundown Race Report

Race day we headed out from our house for the drive up to San Pablo Bay around 12:30; transition was opening at 1:15 and we wanted to get there in time to pick a good spot, get set up, and relax for a bit before the race. Once we arrived we walked over to check in before unloading our bikes and gear. There weren’t too many people up there yet so we didn’t have to wait in line to check in which was great. After picking up our numbers (74 me, 225 Jen) we walked back to the car to grab our stuff then headed over to transition to set up.

The racks were assigned by bib number, I was the first person to my rack and there was only one other girl on Jen’s rack. My rack was right by the bike in and out and was a straight shot from the run in from the swim and run out from T2. I picked the end spot so I would have a little protected area to set up my transition items. We stood around and talked to a couple other folks in the transition area then we found a spot in the shade and hung out with Jen’s Mom who was down visiting from Montana.

After hanging around for a couple of hours it was time for the pre-race meeting where the course was reviewed and the rules discussed. One important item of note was brought up in the meeting – the extremely steep hill that was about 20 yards after the mount line. Jen and I had walked up it earlier to check it out and we both had our bikes in the easiest gear in anticipation of the hill. The dismount line was at the top of this hill to avoid people flying down the hill into a sharp curve. We discussed our options on this and decided it would be best to take our shoes off at the dismount line and run down the hill barefoot instead of in our bike shoes which wouldn’t offer much traction.

Once the meeting was complete it was time to get the wetsuit on and get out in the water for a warm-up swim. We had about 20 minutes until the first wave started which was perfect. The team competitors were starting first followed by all the men then all the women. We both swam about 200y as a warm up just cruising along by the shore then it was time to get out and get ready.

The Swim
I stood on the beach with my heart pounding in anticipation of our start and I took a few deep breaths to relax. I glanced off to the side and saw Jen who gave me a big smile and a wave which made me smile and relax a bit more. I had positioned myself near the front and to the left side of the pack; since this was going to be a short swim I knew I would be going pretty hard and didn’t want to get caught up in the washing machine in the middle. There were 112 other men starting at the same time as me and I figured it would be better to go out strong and get passed instead of having to fight my way through a bunch of people. The countdown began, the horn sounded, and we charged out into the water to the sounds of applause and cheers from those in the back of the pack and all the ladies on the beach. I ran out a few paces then saw an opening in the water so I took my chance and dove in and started swimming. The first few yards were like any other starts, head out of the water for a few strokes, head in the water for a few strokes. By the time we had gone about 30 yards the pack had started to thin with the fastest taking the lead and the rest of the lead pack stretching behind them. I noticed a lot of other swimmers out 10-15 yards from the buoys but I was holding a nice tight line which allowed me to pick off some swimmers once we started heading back towards shore (the course was a half moon). I was able to get onto a pair of feet and draft for a large part of the second half of the swim which was great. Not only did it make the swim a bit easier but this guy was also going in a straight line so I didn’t have to sight quite as often as I did in the first half. Once we rounded the second to last buoy I started kicking hard and passed my draftee and a few other folks that were ahead of me. I swam right up to the shore until I was clawing at the sand then I stood up and ran up the beach to T1. Swim time plus short run to T1 – 5:52.

I was pretty discombobulated coming out of the water and running hard up the beach didn’t help much. Luckily for me I had spent some time visualizing my transitions so I knew what I needed to do without having to think about it. I had my wetsuit off and biking gear on and was out of T1 in 1:41.

The Bike
They weren’t kidding about that hill – it was tough. Even after the talking about it during transition set up and the warning from the race staff in the pre-race meeting, some people still were geared too high and were having trouble with the hill. Luckily no one fell over in front of me but I did have to swerve around one guy who was struggling and near to tipping over. After the really steep part there was still a bit more of a climb and there were a couple of people that decided they would run their bikes up the steep part then mount on the not so steep part; turns out that wasn’t such a good idea after all. As I passed by I heard them saying “I need to get further up the hill before I can get on”. Mounting on a slope is tough enough, doing it after a hard swim and a run up a steep hill is nearly impossible. The course followed the side of the park entrance then turned onto the road and headed out along the beach. There was another short climb right away followed by a nice downhill stretch with a few flat sections thrown in. As I was flying down the road thinking “this is great” I suddenly remembered “oh shit, this is an out and back” and knew there would be some climbing in the last couple of miles. For the most part the course was rolling hills with short flat sections in between; the hills weren’t as steep as they were at NAPA but they were steep enough and frequent enough to keep me from really catching my breath for the first three or four miles. After I was able to get a couple drinks and settle into a rhythm I caught my breath and focused on picking off a couple of riders in front of me. I passed five people on the bike and was passed by three people. There was one rider who would pass me on the flats only to have my pass him on the climbs; this was nice though because it gave me a goal to work towards on the climbs and then again on the flats as I would try to keep him behind me for as long as possible. He passed me on the final descent back into the park area but I blew by him in T2 and didn’t see him again until about a mile into the run. On the final stretch before the dismount line I got my left foot out of my shoe then I clicked my right foot out at the line and quickly pulled my shoe off. I held that shoe in my hand and ran my bike down the steep hill back into transition. Several people in front of me didn’t take their shoes off and they were doing all they could not to slip and fall as they tried to run down the hill. Bike time – 30:21.

I ran my bike into transition, racked it, pulled my shoes on (quick laces are freakin sweet), took my helmet off, grabbed my hat and race belt, and ran to the exit. T2 - :59.

The Run
The run started the same way as the bike did, with a steep climb up some stairs and a dirt trail. I reached the top with my heart pounding and I was breathing hard but was able to relax a bit and get in a groove on the slight downhill on the way out of the park. The run course turned onto the same road as the bike leg had but it went to the left instead of the right. I was holding a good pace and could hear a couple people behind me for the first mile or so then I heard someone making a move behind me; guess who it was? That’s right, the guy from the bike leg. I recognized his outfit and finally got a good look at him – he was about my age so I picked up the pace a bit to stay a few feet behind him. On the final mile I noticed that either I was picking up the pace or he was slowing down a bit; as we made the turn back into the park he waved me by saying “it’s all you” or something like that. I pushed past him and headed up the final hill into the park which took all I had left in the tank. Near the top I started to feel like I was going to puke so I took some deep breaths and told myself that I was almost to the top and that it was all downhill from there. Right as I hit the top of the hill I could hear the announcer saying that the first place in my age group had just crossed the line. I didn’t know if anyone else in my AG was ahead of me but I knew that there was a good chance the guy I had just passed could be so I pushed the pace down the hill to stay ahead of him. At the bottom of the hill I glanced behind me and saw that I was a good 400 yards ahead of him at this point. The finish line loomed ahead of me and the final surge of adrenaline hit as I pushed hard to the end. Run time – 21:56.

Total Time: 1:00:46

I stopped at the end and congratulated the guy behind me. He said he just hit the wall and couldn’t go any harder when he waved me by. We talked for a few minutes then I went to stretch and watch for Jen. She came in a few minutes later and I cheered her on and told her push it and pass the guy in front of her, she did - (Sorry Robert Avery). I knew there was a chance I had placed in my AG so we hung around until the results were posted. Turns out I was 3rd in my AG and 15th OA. Jen also kicked ass and was 5th in her AG. The awards were three deep in 10 year age groups; the award was a bottle of wine in a cool customized box. Since I don’t drink wine I got the box as a prize and Jen got the wine. Final note – the guy who waved me by was named Jeff and he was in my AG.

3rd of 17 M 20-29
15th of 211 Overall

74..Zach Barnes..Dublin,CA...29.....M.....01:00:46....3....15


Paul said...

Sweet race! That's a nice prize too! Way to kill it. Man if that race was closer I'd totally do it next time.

Anonymous said...

Great race. Wish I could have been there to cheer you on.
3rd place is extremely impressive & very inspiring, WOW.
Dragonfly on the Water...

Michele said...

Congrats on a great race and the 3rd place age group finish.
You and Jen sure took to triathlons quickly.

Kim said...

awesome job zach! congrats on 3rd place! youre speedy!