While setting up in the swim to bike transition area, Skippy and I got to meet RST's Lee Rudin. Lee's a petite little thing with an infectious smile and a marvellous, happy-go-lucky kind of attitude. Chatting with her brightened the foggy morning considerably. She mentioned that she had recently been reading my race report from last year's Vineman, and vowed that she was going to have to be extra careful about her behaviour out on the course this year.
"I don't wanna get written up in your race report and have everyone read about something stupid I might do!" she teased. "Let's see, I'd better not wear a yellow wetsuit; and my bike's a Kestrel, so I'll have to try to keep from letting you pass me; and, oh, what else?" "And don't stop at the swim turnaround buoy, do breast stroke, and kick somebody in the arm!" I finished up with a laugh.
Lee bids us adieu to prepare for her own race, and Skippy upbraids me with a malicious twinkle in her eye, "See the effect you have on people with those race reports? You've got everyone running scared!" "Oh, shut up!" I reply sheepishly. "But yeah, I know, my Vineman report was a pretty cranky one; I admit it. Geez, I didn't think it would make anyone self-conscious about racing with me, though!"
Jog, jog, jog through the crowds near the transition area. Hmmm, I really don't feel too bad. This is ok, I think I can keep going for a while. Out to Airport Boulevard and across the street. I trot contentedly along, in absolutely no hurry whatsoever. My heart rate hovers right around 75%, perfect. The sun is out, but there's that lovely breeze that had been so troublesome on the bike.
Trot through the first aid station at approximately the one-mile mark. Hey, a sub-9:00 mile, that's great! And I don't feel at all winded. Hmmmm.
Trot, trot, trot. I feel so smooth and relaxed. I could keep going like this all day! Wave and cheer to fellow racers. On the first slight uphill, I catch a fellow who asks good-naturedly, "Who put this hill in here?" "Ah, just wait, it gets better!" I laugh in reply. "Wait 'til about 3 1/2 miles; that's where the fun really begins."
I keep running straight through all the aid stations, grabbing water and Gatorade-substitute ("Race Day", I think it was called) and chugging it down on the fly. Several times athletes flying by in the opposite direction call out, "Go, TriBaby!" and I strain to try to figure out who they are. Geez, makes me feel like an idiot! All of these people recognize me, but I don't stand a chance to recognize all of them.
The course makes a right turn up a sizable hill at 3 1/2 miles. I power over it with ease, still keeping my heart rate at or below 75%. This is just too weird! Glide down the dip on the other side and back up the hill to the 4 mile aid station. Grab some orange slices and a PowerGel, exchange pleasantries with the volunteers, and chug right on. Hmm; this feels good.
I chug along like this all the way to the turnaround, where I check my watch and am enormously pleased to see I've made it half way in exactly 1 hour flat. Hey, works for me! Sub-10 minute miles. Wonder if I can keep this pace up on the way back?
Trot, trot, trot. Thank heaven for that breeze; it's beautiful out here today, but without the breeze we would be roasting. The rolling hills between miles 7 and 8 are tough; they were a lot easier on the way out when they were descents. I have to slow considerably to keep my heart rate down as I climb them now, but I'm still jogging, I don't have to walk. And there's the descent on the other side as my reward. The fellow whom I had warned about the rollers after 3 1/2 miles catches back up to me out here and says, "So THIS is what you were talking about! Ouch."
I begin to wonder when I will see Karen. She's a stronger runner than I am, and with all of her IM training this year I'm sure she'll give me a real run for my money at the end. I pass the spot where we passed going opposite directions last year--- me at about 7.5 miles, she at about 5.5. No Karen. Could I have missed her?? I can't possibly be farther ahead of her than I was last year! Half a mile later I finally spy her trotting along, headed for the turnaround. I'm really surprised to see her so far behind me, but I holler encouragingly, "Go, Karen! Hang in there, you look great!" She responds in kind.
The volunteer with the fabulous flaming shorts is at his regular post at the left turn around the 8-mile mark. "Now, how many years have you been doing this and wearing those fabulous shorts?" I inquire as I glide by. He laughs and replies, "How many years have you been here?" "Well, this is only my second, so I don't know." I think he called out a number at this point, but it was too late, I was too far away. Hmm; I guess I'll just have to go back next year and ask him again.
Now it's time for the toughest hill on the course, the heinous thing between miles 8 and 9. At least it's in the shade. I'm finally beginning to tire, and this thing doesn't feel good. OK, hang on, just keep going; keep an eye on your heart rate, but keep moving steady. Trudge, trudge, trudge....pass a few people who are walking, wheeze some encouragement to them...trudge, trudge..... fiiiiinallly, over the top, whew! Stretch out the back a little bit, take a deep breath. Fish a PowerGel outta the torsopack, slam it down. *whew*
More orange slices at the aid station. I'm really starting to hurt; I'd love to stop running and just walk the aid station, but I know it's more a desire than a need. I keep going. At least there's that downhill coming up before the final real climb. I catch a fellow Clydesdale racer on this downhill; he turns his head to see me and says, "Tricia! You look great!" "Well, thanks, but who are you?"
"Steve Watters. We exchanged some e-mails and you gave me some really good advice."
"Oh, yeah, Steve! Good to see you out here, how are you doing?"
"Well, I'm hurting."
"Oh, aren't we all!"
"But you look really strong."
"I'm just holding on, Steve. Just gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hang in there, just one more hill to go!"
As I pull away, I'm rejuvenated. It feels good to hear that I've helped or inspired a fellow athlete somehow. It means more than a good time or a placing. And I appreciate Steve's telling me how strong I look. Truth to tell, I know I'm having a good run, despite how much it hurts. It's good to hear someone else confirm it.
Approach that last hill and smile for the cameras. Hi, Mom! Good thing they take the picture BEFORE you hit the hill. OK, one last push, here we go!
Over the top and down the backside. I pass a gal who looks like she might be a Clyde, but it's hard to tell. Her significant other is out here pacing her and cheering her on, but I can tell she's really hurting. My killer instinct (snort) kicks in. I don't know for certain that she's a Clyde, but there's no point in taking a chance. I motor past decisively, making a big effort to appear strong and fast, wanting to psyche her out. Her footsteps speed up behind me. Oh, ok, so you wanna fight, eh? All right, if that's the way you want it, I'll accommodate you my friend.
I maintain my pace and continue to hear her behind me. Ouch, man, this is getting to be a real drag. Come on, come on, fall off; don't know how much longer I can maintain this show of bravado. We approach the aid station at 10 miles. I hear her footsteps begin to falter; I smell blood. Plow through the station, grabbing a cup of Pepsi en route and slamming it down at full speed. As I pull away from the station, I listen intently for the footsteps behind me; they've disappeared. Yes!
Whew. OK, ease up a little and regroup. That really hurt, you need to recover. Just 3 miles to go, but it could be a long 3 miles with the way you're feeling.
I close my eyes for short stretches while trying to relax and get my breathing slow and steady. Don't laugh (well, ok, laugh if you must), but I was visualizing scenes from The Black Stallion when the boy is riding the horse over the island as this great music swells in the background. Very inspiring stuff. It's a very free, flowing, joyful image of speed and grace. That's what I want here, speed and grace. Not that I get it, but it's what I want.
Through the aid station at mile 11. Keep running, a little Race Day, a little Pepsi, some PowerGel, keep going. Pass the airport while planes take off over your head, whhoooosh! A fuzzy idea of breaking 5 and a half hours comes and goes. I don't think so, not this time. Not enough left in these legs. You just gotta hold on for a couple more miles. Hold on, hold on.
The final aid station looms ahead! Grab some orange slices, a little watermelon, thank the volunteers heartily and soldier on. Just a mile left! Just a mile left! Footsteps approach from behind. They pass me. It's the black girl I'd dropped at the 5-mile mark on the bike. Hmmm, wonder if she's a Clyde. If she is, she's just barely. I'd better try to stay with her just in case.
I try for about two minutes. Then I resign myself to the fact that I can't do it. I will implode if I keep running that hard. Let her go, it's ok. Less than a mile to go, just straight down Airport Boulevard, across the street and into the business park. The crowds are cheering. "Just 400 yards to go!" the volunteers scream. Yeah, right, you're not gonna sucker me in with that; I've raced here before, I know better.
I pass a girl just before the final turn into the finishing straightaway, and then I start to wind it up. The crowd's roar propels me forward, faster, faster, there's the line, YES!
Stop the watch: 5:37:07. WOW! 21:37 faster than last year. My run split was 2:05:xx, 13 minutes faster than last year. Outstanding!
I swam faster (ok, so it was a short/fast course), and I ran faster, but... Well, I feel like Thomas Hellriegel--- the gal who caught me in the final mile of the run was indeed a Clydesdale, and she beat me by a minute and four seconds. Darn! I really must learn to run. I found out later that Cheryl (that's her name) had come from a background on the track, so that somewhat mitigated the disappointment of her running me down so decisively.
But in the end, 1st or 2nd didn't matter, because I was ecstatic with my improvement on the run. And this after I'd seriously contemplated dropping out halfway through the bike!
I learned something important at Vineman this year: Never discount the mental aspect of the tri game; it can make you or break you.
<----Return to the Vineman '97 page