olivia, 20, a triathlete/swimmer/runner/relaxer extraordinaire. i like getting sweaty. enjoy.


346pzlzWhen I was able to secure a spot in Vineman 70.3 in November I was beyond excited. I posted to Facebook and called my mom in excitement. Come the week before July 13th, though, and all that excitement had given way to dread, fear, and regret. Could I do it? Would I do it? Would I keep dropping out of races? Do I even like doing triathlon anymore? All of these were questions I was internally battling. Spoiler: I actually really enjoyed myself, and less than 24 hours after finishing, I had found and registered for a 70.3 to do in the fall with more in consideration.

I left Santa Barbara on Friday, immediately after taking a final in Italian 1. My trusty travel partner, moral supporter, and general hero, Kent, took the first half of the journey. I took the helm around Soledad. We elected to stay Friday in Berkeley. It’s free(ish), and there’s nothing quite like your own bed for the ever important “two days before race” sleep. Plus, our house is full of friends. I conked out extremely early and woke up feeling quite good, but apprehensive. I had to write up a midterm then head up to Windsor to get my packet.

Until this day, I was going to sleep in my car the night before the race at Johnson’s Beach campground. Of course, roundabout 8am the day before the race I decided that this was, indeed, a horrific idea and booked a hotel. It was no Shangri La, but Extended Stay America South Santa Rosa, you certainly aren’t a bad place. Around 12:30 I headed up to Windsor. The drive was fraught with traffic, but I had my tunes and nowhere else to be. Parking at Windsor High School was basically the 7th Circle of Hell. I got lucky and found a place right across the street, but I easily could have missed the 2:30 mandatory meeting. I didn’t though.

 I sat at the top of the bleachers and watched the video. I was dreading actually doing the race still. It was here, though, that the problematic portion of the day began. As the video was finishing, they made it clear that no bikes would be allowed on the shuttle back to Guerneville. This foiled all of my plans. I was already looking at a late departure time, but this would make it such that we wouldn’t arrive in Santa Barbara til the wee hours of the morning. I immediately called Kent, and the blessed man begrudgingly agreed to be picked up in Berkeley, stay with me in Santa Rosa and even drive me to the race at 5:45am. Seriously, this one is a keeper. I told him I’d be down there by 6ish, after I finished unloading the car and got a bit to eat.

The real panic ensued when I pulled my Cervelo P2 out of the car and the back wheel wouldn’t roll. It was literally stuck. To be honest, I took it up to the hotel room and sobbed on the ground. Already I was doing a terribly long race I was terrified to do, and now the bike that I bought for it back in October is gravely injured. After a minute or two though, I bucked up and realized I was probably near someone who could fix a bike. I googled the nearest bike shop and discovered a Performance Bicycle about a quarter mile away. I threw the rocket ship back in the car and zoomed over.

If there’s one recommendation I can give, it is go to Performance Bicycles in Santa Rosa. The people who helped me were fantastic. They fixed it in about 5 minutes, for free! Really: awesome, fun guys that were joking around with me while I was there—go! After it occurred to me that it was 4:30 pm and I had had popcorn to eat that day. Not ideal for loading the stores the day before a race. In another gift from god, I was able to stop at a Trader Joe’s and pick up some post race yummies along with a wrap before flying back down to Berkeley.

I got dinner with Kent and his family and then we headed back up to Santa Rosa. Troubles ended here. I set up and organized everything, and got into bed.

 At 5:37am my alarm reminded me of my looming doom. I sprung up, got dressed, had coffee and some yogurt and jumped in the car. My heavenly boyfriend drove me to within a mile of the start, but given the traffic and the fact that I wanted to make sure my bike really was fine, I rode the last mile into town. It made for a good way to get my body moving.

When I saw Johnson’s Beach, I got my first bit of excitement. At the very least, 12 hours from then, I’d have completed my first 70.3. Everyone else was nervously excited as well, so feeding off their energy was good for me. I was pretty early, but I like it that way. After setting everything up and going to the bathroom I still had about half an hour before my wave start, so I sat in front of the announcer’s booth and watched the other starts. In, perhaps, the coolest moment of the day, the legendary Julie Moss happened to be right there. If you don’t know who she is, google her name and watch her absolutely incredible Ironman finish from 1982. I wasn’t able to talk to her, as she was talking to Heather Jackson’s mom (Heather won Wildflower this year), which also was really neat. The Women 55+ wave were right before me, so it was really cool to see that even 50 years from now I could still be competing in these events. A lot of these women are extremely badass too. Once they corralled my Women 29/under wave, I was ready. The water was a lovely temperature, and I had only a few things on my mind.

First and foremost, I did the race for my friend Nick Johnson who passed away in March. We grew up competing with and against each other and won awards like the 110% Award at Junior Guards for always putting in such effort. Along with that, he was really one of my better friends in high school. I made a pact with myself that no matter what happened, I would cross the finish line at Windsor High School and dedicate the race to him. Considering the start was at Johnson’s Beach, I thought it too great a coincidence to overlook. Throughout the race, even, I would think about him, asking for even an iota of his physical and mental strength. I miss you Nick, but you’re forever in my heart and mind!

After my last race at Cal Poly (where I DNFed), I realized I needed to go back to my old habit of starting on the extreme wings for swims. Though I’m fast enough to get out of the pack, I don’t like starting long races at full sprint, and I quit water polo 3 years ago, so I’d prefer not to be clobbered and held underwater. The Vineman start went smoothly, both because I think most of the girls in my wave were way less concerned with throttling it and overall they seemed much more courteous than in collegiate races. We were all laughing together and wishing each other good luck before the start.

 Once the horn blew, I started off. My chief worry was my shoulder. I injured it about a month ago and had been having trouble with my entire arm and hand going numb. Fortunately, that didn’t happen at all during the race, meaning that I get to declare myself free from that injury (though I might have developed a different one later in the race). The swim was frustrating. I haven’t been swimming at all in the last about two or three months, so I’m severely out of shape. It wasn’t until I looked at my rank and time after the race that I realized, considering the wall of 50 year old men I swam into and the portions of extremely shallow water that required dolphin diving or walking, I actually did pretty well, especially within my age group.

Transition was smooth, a little slow, but I mean, I was about to take off for 56 miles, I needed to be ready.

 Once on the bike I felt decent. I passed a lot of people right out of the gate. The only other tri I had done on the TT bike was a sprint, so I was excited to spend more time on the little beauty. I went out conservatively. I had never actually ridden more than 50 miles (and that was once in January) so I was somewhat… frightened. Somewhere around mile 14, though, I really felt good. I started pushing a bit more and trying to hold the drafts (5 lengths behind, of course) of people a little faster than me. This tended not to work, as the people I chose either died out or were just too fast for me. I am really strong on the uphills and really flew by people there; however, I definitely need to continue overcoming my fear of descents. I know I lost some precious time by gripping the (somewhat perilously faulty) brakes. To explain my last sentence, my bike is happier with going than stopping and the brakes are somewhat squirrely and very squeaky. It’s definitely time to take the bike to Hazard’s… The course was beautiful both scenery and temperature wise. A lot of the bike is shaded, meaning that even when the sun came out, it didn’t affect me too much.  I knew about Chalk Hill. I was dreading Chalk Hill. I got to Chalk Hill, and really, it wasn’t bad at all. I think even Claremont and Euclid (the two choices of hills to begin a ride in Berkeley with) are far, far worse. Granted, it was around the 43rd mile and I was decently fatigued already. Being that my longest ride ever was 51 miles and I only was able to train to about 40 mile rides before hurting my shoulder, neck, and back pretty severely, the last haul into Windsor was one of the more difficult portions of the race. My pace slowed and I lost a lot of time at this point. Had I needed to go even ten more miles, I’m pretty confident I would’ve been booking a ticket on the bonky express. Fortunately, I was able to dismount and transition to running.

By this point in the day it was decidedly warm. I took my time in transition. I put on socks, sunscreen, a visor, had some water, and generally just tried to relax. I said before the race that if I made it to the run, I would make it through the race. Unfortunately, I guess I hadn’t really factored in that heat made running well, hard.

The first two miles were good. I was conservative and held perfect 8:40s. The third mile got hilly and I got walky. This was the theme of the run: run some, walk some. Not a problem. I didn’t want to hurt myself or pass out from heat. The run really was uneventful because I wasn’t pushing at all, just maintaining, well, consciousness. Aid stations were spaced well. By that I mean there were a ton of aid stations. There was a lot of direct sunlight, which means that I’ve been peeling my sunburn off the last week, but overall it was as pleasant as running the last 13.1 of a 70.3 could be. There were two highlights of the run. First, running through La Crema Winery. Not only was it a dirt trail, meaning that my poor screaming knee got a reprieve from cement, but it was also shaded and beautiful, as evidenced by the fiery 9:00 sixth mile. To me this indicates that I definitely am able to run a sub-2:00 in my next 70.3, as I wasn’t necessarily lacking for energy or strength. The second highlight was seeing my lovely Cal Tri team along the race route. Their cheers were so necessary. In tandem with that, right as I entered the Windsor High School grounds, Kent came running up and cheered for me. Apparently he had just gotten there, so he saw me right as I finished. I was so happy!

After, I grabbed my chicken breast and some fruit, sat against a tree and basked in fiery 70.3 glory.

My final time was 6:04:57, very very close to my original goal of a sub-6:00. Next time!

Looking forward, I’m excited to do the San Francisco First Half Marathon next weekend, then (possible, depending on the status of my knee/exhaustion) I’ll do the Lompoc Sprint and try and beat my time from last year. Following that, I’ll take a much-needed vacation to Costa Rica before heading back to the Bay Area. I’m doing the inaugural Oakland Sprint Tri on August 31st (really excited by this). My plan, thereafter, is to do some Century rides around the Bay, both to work on riding long haul distances and to explore the beautiful place I live. On November 2nd I’ll be competing at the Surf City Challenge, a new half-iron distance in Santa Cruz. I look forward to getting another crack at the distance with a cooler run portion. I really want to see what I can do when I’m not worried about keeling over from heat.

 Overall, all the dread and worried metamorphosed beautifully in a renewed joy for multisport. I had really drifted from it in the past months, and I’m happy to be back in the saddle again. I feel like I really accomplished something at Vineman both physically and mentally and moving forward, I hope to retain this really positive mindset.  From the beginning, my goals for triathlon centered on health and fun. Though I am naturally extremely competitive, that isn’t why I do the sport. I do it because I enjoy the outdoors and being active. I think Vineman and my enjoyment of it really extended from this. I wasn’t racing, I was doing. I didn’t cross the line throwing up, I crossed it smiling. I don’t need to win races to be happy anymore. The happiness comes from summiting Chalk Hill, from running through La Crema Vineyard and from swimming under beautiful bridges while thinking about a lost but never forgotten friend.

In closing, I want to thank every person that volunteered for this race in any capacity. Seriously, it was one of the most well run races I’ve ever seen and all the volunteers seemed genuinely happy. That positive energy was indispensible. I also really need to (yet again) thank Kent. I seriously could not have done it without you. All the training, all the money spent would’ve been useless if you weren’t there. I think, Kent, that you had just as much to do with finishing as I did. I want to thank all the rest of my family and friends, too, for all the well wishes and thoughts. Lastly, I want to thank the fabulous support of the Santa Barbara Tri Club and resident IronStalker Michael Simpson. I was thinking about all of you watching me (well, my splits) during the race, and I did my best to do you proud! Here’s to Vineman 2015!

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