Sunday, July 30, 2006

No, not public relations – personal record! Doing my fifth Vineman in a row, I turned in my best time ever – 5 hours, 34 minutes and 31 seconds. The old PR, from 2004, was 5:38:23.

The difference this year? The swim. My split was 37:14, more than three minutes better than my best-ever swim, and six minutes better than my '04 swim. I kept my head down, I reached and I kept my elbows high. Still much room for improvement, but isn't that always the case.

I need to point out, as well, that this Vineman -- renamed the Ironman Vineman 70.3, part of Ironman's much-hyped half-iron series -- was not in fact 70.3 miles. Ironically. A bridge in Geyserville damaged by the floods this past winter still hasn't been fixed, we were told, so the course had to be shifted and it grew to 57.5 miles instead of the usual 56.

Overall, it was a very satisfying race. Sure, there weren't enough porta-johns before the start, causing lots of anxiety among the racers; and it sucks to finish a hard race and then have to take a school bus a half-hour to Guerneville to get your car, then drive drive the car back to Windsor to get your bike, then drive home for more than an hour, taking measures to avoid the inevitable last-weekend-in-July traffic at the raceway in Sonoma; and it would be nice if there was more shade provided at the end of the race; and the pre-race talk the day before, does it need to take more than an hour?

All that said, I realize putting on a split-transition, three-discipline event for 2,000 hardcore athletic types is a challenging proposition. And the Vineman 70.3 folks did a good job. And you really can't beat the location. Riding through all those great, beautiful wine valleys on a Sunday morning is just a treat. I think it seemed even better this year because we knew how awful it would have been had the race been a week earlier, when temperatures along the course were over 110 degrees. There was something deeply disturbing about that heatwave, coming amid all the talk of climate change, and with so much of the world unhinged (due in no small part to our country's botched reaction to the outrageous acts perpetrated against us). Or something. I don't know. I just felt lucky to be out there today, even when it began to hurt.

I will say that the National Weather Service completely mangled the forecast. The high for Santa Rosa was predicted to be 72. It was 88. But I was fortunate to go in a pretty early wave, so I was done by 12:53 p.m., when temps had probably not even hit 80. Still, I was hot and thirsty at the end after going hard the last two miles – really hard the last mile. The effort left my stomach not eager to have anything more thrown into it, but I sipped water and juice and an hour later, my appetite returned. Been eating ever since.

The numbers:
Swim (1.2 miles).….37:14.5
Bike (57.5 miles)..2:56:06.3
Run (13.1 miles)...1:51:23.7
TOTAL: 5:34:31.1

83rd/222 in the male 40-44 age group
496th/1,221 finishers (1,950 entered)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ten Days in Hell
Recent high temperatures here in Napa:
Tuesday, July 25.......95
Monday, July 24........98
Sunday, July 23.......106
Saturday, July 22....107
Friday, July 21...........96
Thursday, July 20.....93
Wednesday, July 19..89
Tuesday, July 18.......90
Monday, July 17........97
Sunday, July 16.........96

Couple of notes:

  • The average July high in Napa, based on 88 years of record-keeping, is 82 degrees.
  • The official high in Napa is recorded at the State Hospital, about a mile and a half east of my house. It's a good reflection of the temperature here in town – as opposed to the airport, which is four or five miles south of town, a stone's throw from San Pablo Bay and thus typically 4-8 degrees cooler than in town in summer. What's confusing is that if you go the National Weather Service to find the current temperature for Napa, you'll get the hourly report from the Airport. That's because the State Hospital does not report hourly, only at the end of the day.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Week in Review
Last weekend, Dan left me two messages that he was indeed coming over for a Saturday morning ride. I didn't pick up either message. Fiddled the early-morning away doing who-knows-what, then finally got my stuff together and was literally heading out the door when Dan arrived, in what was clearly cycling gear. We did ride: up Oakville, which my Garmin asserts is a nearly 700-foot elevation gain in just over a mile, then over Veeder, and back home, totaling about 35 miles. Good stuff. The traditional polluting of air followed, in the name of baking bread in the homemade backyard earthen oven. First two loaves: a little charred. Second two: better. All eaten, all enjoyed. And did you know the oak coals (still working on that first dismembered wine barrel) removed from the oven can serve as excellent coals for the grilling of London broil in the Weber? I lie not.

Sunday, Niko and I endured the heat together -- lots of heat lately, as is the case everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, it appears. Wait -- Moscow rainy and cold. Worse, my persistentoothachece was at its agony-inducing peak. Pain in the jaw, the eye, the temple, the horror, oh the horror. (This in addition to the tooth itself being extremely sensitive to cold.) I had to lie down for a while. But a strange thing happened. After a bike ride in the evening, Niko took a bath and I a shower and when I got out of the shower, the aches were almost entirely gone. Just for a day, but I took it.

There were more workouts -- couple of easy runs and one with some intervals, six miles with four 2:50 half-miles snuck in there, for kicks. Peter and I rode up Wild Horse Road, another steep climb, and did it twice just to make sure that stupid hill was crystal clear on the fact that we had kicked its ass. There was another ride up Veeder, the easier way, from Redwood, with Laura J visiting Napa from Chicago. And of course the usual flapping around in the bath water that is HealthQuest's pool during hot weather. Four swims in all.

That's how today ended, or at least, that was the last halfway interesting thing that happened today -- a swim, as the sun set. Why the late swim? Long story, but a key part of it all was that at 4 p.m. I had presented myself at the office of Dr. Raymond Scott DDS, MS, for the purpose of getting the roots to my No. 3 tooth (second molar on the upper right) excavated, filled and sealed. I'd had another root canal not long ago, but not on a molar and not in a situation in which the tooth was hurting terribly badly. So Dr. Scott drills into the matter and finds the inflammation in two of the four roots is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being worst. What this meant, presently, was that the anesthetic he'd shot my gums up with wasn't really reaching all the tissue, and that's why I was experiencing piercing pain the likes of which would have had the most dedicated, virgin-eyeing Islamofascists terrorist spilling the beans completely to his freedom-loving American captors. Dr. Scott did what he could to minimize the pain by bathing the area in what I gathered was a topical anesthetic and by and by we got through it, the work was done and five hours later I feel just fine.

Must go to bed soon. Tomorrow morning I need to run, but I also need to watch Our Man Floyd in the time trial. What a Tour. Then it's down to San Jose for Mom & Dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

July 1, 2005-June 30, 2006
Just occurred to me that our official rain season ended a few weeks ago. It was a wet one. Huge rainy December, of course (remember the flood?), and then day after day of rain in March on into April. Here are the month-by-months, adding up to 40.70, if my addition is sound.


Source: California Department of Water Resources

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's a Lifestyle, I Guess
More of the working out thing. Today's report:
  • Swim 3x500, plus 260 yards to make it a mile.
  • Run 8 miles in 59:20. Legs are back!
What Zidane Should Have Said: A PR Professional's View
"Many have asked, 'What did he say to provoke such a response?' I have thought long about that question. And in my mind, I have replayed my opponent's words many times, so of course, in all honesty, they are etched deep in my consciousness.

"But I will tell you this and this everyone must understand: In the end, the nature of the provocation is immaterial. On the field, representing my families -- yes, families: my family of teammates; the vast family of my countrymen who love France and French football; and my immediate family whose respect is more important to me than anything -- it was my obligation to act as a sportsman, to rise above insult, degradation, provocation. Surely that is no less important than scoring goals and winning matches. There is no excuse for my failure to do so. None. All I can do now is express my regret, and commit myself to living my life in such a way as to re-earn a measure of respect."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Recent Workouts
  • 2,000-yard straight swim, 38 minutes: Great swim! Felt smooth and comfortable (well, more than usual).
  • 6-mile jog (9 minute pace): Legs still recovering from Kenwood? Very sluggish.


  • 1,500-yard swim, mostly freestyle 200s with some back and breastroke. Easy swim.
  • 25-mile bike, including Veeder climb.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunday Ride
Ran into my friend Peter at the pool yesterday and we discovered we were both planning to ride before the World Cup final at 11. So we made a plan and hooked up in Yountville for a most excellent 50-miler through the eastern hills (aka, Vaca Mountains). That's up Silverado Trail, east onto Sage Canyon, veering left at Chiles Pope Valley Road, then back over into the valley on the Ink Grade-Howell Mountain combo. Ink Grade tops out about 1,800 feet, so altogether we were over 3,000 feet in climbing. With Vineman three weeks off, it was just the ride I needed.

By the way, this was the second ride in four days with Peter. He and his family invited Niko and me to spend some time with them at a beach house they were renting in Santa Cruz. While the kids played on the beach on Thursday afternoon, Peter and I rode south and east through the foothills just in from the coast. Real nice 30-miler, marred only by the fact that a couple miles shy of home, my chain broke. Drats to that, but I fixed it Friday in San Jose (thanks for the help, Dad) and all is well.

Been on the bike a lot more the last three weeks and am definitely starting to feel stronger. I think I need one very long and hard ride and a couple more medium-long and hard rides before Vineman (well, before 10 days before Vineman, so I have time to taper a bit), and I may actually be able to do a sub-5:40 race.

Additional note on Santa Cruz: We busted into a 1996 Argyle Pinot Noir Nuthouse Willamette Valley for dinner Thursday night (with grilled wild salmon). Wow! Many, many layers of fruit and earthy/meaty flavors and aromas. Perfect balance and texture. Just killer Pinot. Besides Calera, does anyone in California even try to make Pinot that will taste like this 10 years down the road?

Kenwood update: Results finally posted. My official time was 43:54, and I finished in 78th place out of more than 600 runners. Woo-hoo for me!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Kenwood Footrace
For readers flung far, Kenwood is a leafy little unincorporated town about halfway up Sonoma Valley, the 20-mile crescent that runs from Sonoma northwest toward Santa Rosa, bisected by State Route 12. Kenwood once would have been called a farm town, but this being Wine Country 2006, the price of admission for a 2BR/2BA cottage is probably a cool million. And the most common businesses in town are probably bed-and-breakfasts; there's one on every block, I think. So farm town doesn't quite work anymore. Nevertheless, on the Fourth, the small-town feel flows. There's a big pancake breakfast, World Championship Pillow Fights, parade, chili cookoff, fireworks – all kicked off, at 7:30 a.m., by the Kenwood Footrace.

This is a 10K with some history – 2006 marked the 35th annual running. The course is certified and certifiably about as beautiful as you can imagine, starting alongside the "downtown" park, heading past vineyards and pastures into the hills for a few miles, through more vineyards and woodlands, too, then back toward town through yet more vineyards and oak-dappled terrain. Quiet country roads, dirt trails, paved paths, it has a little of everything, and no cars.

The other time I ran Kenwood, in 2003, I was surprised and hurt by the hills. From about Mile 1 to Mile 3, the course climbs some 250 feet in elevation. (The second half of the race is mostly downhill, but with one more significant climb.) I hit the hills hard in '03, and my muscles weren't ready. My quads tightened into knots.

So this year, returning for the first time to Kenwood, I made sure to warm up well, running slowly for 15 or 20 minutes until about a quarter-hour before the race started. When I stopped I noticed I was sweating just a bit, despite the cool morning temps (around 60, sunny with a bit of scattered marine layer on the edges). Good.

The race start was a little frustrating; a lot of slow runners positioned themselves at the front of the pack. Why? Maybe they didn't realize what they were doing. Or maybe they're the sort who drive at the speed limit in the fast lane on the freeway. Anyway, it took about 10 seconds to reach the start line, then a couple of minutes to break free from the crowd and find my pace.

I ran 44:52 in 2003, and thought I might be able to cut a minute off that time this year, on account of the proper warm-up and just generally being a more fit runner. Of course, I am three years older and theoretically at least that ought to work against me. (But I don't feel any older, he said, defensively.)

I have to say this about 10Ks: After doing four marathons and 15 triathlons (eight half-iron distance) in the past four-plus years, a 10K is delightfully simple. I love triathlons and love training for them, but it's great to compete with a pure focus on simply getting out and running hard for 45 minutes. No wetsuit! No transition setup! No flat tires!

I used my Garmin on the run and despite some tree canopy issues in the hills, it mostly kept its bearings. Despite the crowded start, I managed the first mile in 7:01. Then came the hills, and for the next two miles my pace slowed to 7:30. The only mileage marker on the course is at three miles, and I hit that in 22:01. I felt good, really good. Nothing hurt – not the Achilles, the knees, no aches, no pains. I can't emphasize enough how fun it is to run in a race and not have anything hurting.

We dropped 120 feet from Mile 3.3 to 4.4. Running those downhills, I thought about the signs Caltrans has for truckers coming down I-80 from the High Sierra: "Let 'er run" (or "ride," or "rip," something like that). I lengthened my stride, letting gravity do as much work as possible. I completed that 1.1-mile stretch in about six minutes, still feeling fairly frisky – which was good, because right when we bottomed at the 4.4 mark, we had a 100-foot climb over the next 0.8 miles. I knew it was the last climb, so I went at it hard, staying well under 9 min./mile pace.

The last mile was great: 120-foot decline, first fairly steep then leveling out a bit. I went hard, using runners ahead of me as targets. (I was passed once on the second half of the course, but came back and got that guy, an amazing runner who must have been well into his 60s.) Down the final straight, a few hundred yards maybe, I passed a younger woman and wanted to make a run at a younger guy up ahead, too, but the effort finally began to get to me: It wasn't the legs or the lungs; it was the ol' lower GI. I felt like I could make it to the finish without having a major incident, but no farther. I'm not sure if anything disastrous would have occurred had the race been a tenth of a mile longer, but I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

Final time on the Garmin, from gun to finish line: 43:52, a 7:01 pace. Considering how challenging the Kenwood course is, I feel good about that: One minute faster than three years ago.

Afterward, I had some time before the noon Germany-Italy match, so I did an easy 1,500 yards at the pool. Now, with the match over, why not an easy spin on the bike? A "triathlon" day after all.