Vineman 70.3, in 2008, was my first half-Ironman. I have since raced multiple other half-Ironman distance triathlons and I have done the Full Vineman twice, but I have not been back to Vineman 70.3.
When I raced at Vineman 70.3 in 2008, I had been on my Cervelo P2, my first time trial bike, for maybe 6 weeks. I done some Olympic distance races, but never anything like a half-Ironman. I had no idea what to expect for myself, how my body would respond on the run, or what goals to set going in. I estimated I could finish in 6 hours or maybe 5 1/2, but .I really had no idea. I flew through the swim in just over 26 minutes, which until only recently remained my best half-Ironman swim split. When I got off the bike and ran out of T2, I checked my watch, did some math in my head, and estimated that I could finish in less than 5 hours if I could manage an 8-minute/mile pace. I managed to hang onto that pace, barely. My legs protested the entire time and the last three miles were especially tough. I needed to stop at the porta-john the entire time, but there was almost always a line or and I told myself every time that I could wait until the next mile. I managed to hold on and finished in 4:59:55.
I had never been to a race like this. I had trained for it on my own with no coaching or instruction and I really didn’t know any other triathletes who could give me training tips or mentoring. When I finished, I made a bee line for the restroom. It never occurred to me that there might be recovery food in the athlete area. Rather than stick around, I took the bus back to T1, where my car was parked and where I had a change of clothes and money to buy food. It took forever and eventually I got something to eat. I stopped for a very late lunch and drove back to Chico. I gained a lot of confidence from that race. When I recovered I was stronger than ever. My 10-Mile time trial times dropped like crazy.
A lot has changed since then. I have far more knowledge and experience about racing and training and far more races under my belt. I have a wife who is not only my main training partner, but who loves and supports me more than I ever could have imagined. This time am racing with plenty of other people I know, including my wife and friends from Sacramento and Chico. As president of the Chico Triathlon Club, I wanted everyone to step outside of their comfort zones and challenge themselves, whether through more challenging races, longer races, or more competitive races. Vineman 70.3 was always one of the races I encouraged people to try and many took the plunge. Some are racing their first half-Ironman ever and others are racing their first half-Ironman in a long, long time. I know they will all do well. As for me, this time I have a context. I am faster, stronger, and smarter than in 2008. How much a difference, I cannot be sure. My body will tell me on race day. One more thing for certain is that this time I will stick around for food after I finish.