Friday, August 31, 2007

Reading Is Fun!

Kids back in school... Daddy should set a good example by reading... Hope they don't notice that my eyelids are shut half the time!

So I just finished this little gem by David Walsh. The guy's got a huge chip on his shoulder because he was unable to bring down King Lance with LA Confidential so he tried again with this book.

Oy Vey!!

There's no doubt left... the Pro Tour peloton is doped for sure. But who's to blame? And how can it get fixed?

All Walsh does is present loads and loads of circumstantial evidence. Can't say he put any thought into workable solutions. But then again, that's not his job. He's a sports writer, and he wants to sell books. And bring down LA's legacy.


It's only natural that we choose to watch, listen, and read sources of information that agree with our preconceived notions about the world. Blue people watch CNN; Red people watch FOX. Blue people read the NY Times; Red people read the Wall Street Journal. But of course there is crossover too... I'm a Blue person and I read the WSJ every day. A week or two ago it had a review of the book shown at the right, The Death of the Grown Up.

The author is quite conservative, which normally is enough reason for me to pass on the book. But in this case her premise was intriguing, namely that the current generation of Grown Ups does not act its age. Whatever that means.

In some form or another--which I haven't yet explored--that idea hits home with me. I'm in my mid-40's with wife and kids, yet I still don't "feel" grown up. I can say for certain that my day-to-day life is significantly different than that of my parents and certainly even more so than that of my grandparents. I'm not passing judgement one way or the other, just sayin'...

The first few pages have been aggravating. She starts off focusing on how today's adults dress (backwards B-Ball caps, hip-huggers, etc.) and what they choose to watch for entertainment (SpongeBob). Give me a break!! Who cares about such superficial stuff as that!?!

Anyway, it'll be a good exercise in being open-minded to other view-points, and I might even learn a thing or two. I'll let you know if she makes any good points.


In other news, I did a 100-mile solo ride (mostly) in the 95-degree heat of the Santa Ynez Valley today. Gotta get over there more often... the roads are empty during the week! The return trip on hwy 154 is a bit scary though ...extra motivation to jam over the hills!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Randoms from the Weekend Up North

Just a few minutes for blogging before dinner, so this will consist of random notes from the weekend trip up for San Ardo RR and University RR. Apologies for the scatteredness...


Friday night at Motel 6 -- Four of us in one small room. The youngest (Cody) and the oldest (Me) got the floor. A word of advice: don't ever look too closely at the carpet in a Motel 6 room. And certainly don't touch it with any bare skin. I layed down the comforter from one of the beds as a pad for my sleeping bag. Not sure that was any better.


San Ardo Road Race, p/1/2, four laps advertised as 84 miles but I recorded 93 -- Arrived with 30 minutes 'til start time. No problemo. 49 starters including a few noteworthy pros like Lucas Euser (Slipstream), Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe's), Jackson Stewart (BMC), a Navigators guy, and of course Cody and one of his teammates. A few strong NorCal teams had 4-6 riders (Cal-Giant, Los Gatos BRT, Alto Velo, RHVilla) but no team had enough to fully control the field. Attacks went every lap on the bumpy, narrow, headwind section. As a result, from about one mile into the race, there was always action off the front. We participated sporadically and on the last lap, Ben was itching to go again. Jon Eropkin was solo about 10 seconds in front of the field and I suggested to Ben that he'd be a good break partner and that's all the encouragement that Bam-Bam needed so he was off to the races. Cookie and I appreciated this development as we then had a guilt-free free-ride the rest of the race. Ben's group stayed away and we were hopeful but the immediate post-race report was that Ben managed to get 7th place out of the five-man break. Huh?!? A more thorough check of the facts revealed that, indeed, there were seven riders in the break by the end.

But seriously, Ben has a great sense for getting into the right moves. The careful observer will have noticed this year that in almost every race he's done, Ben has made it into the winning break. Pretty impressive! But hey, what else would you expect from a guy who's name is written on his bike!?! Therefore, on this blog anyway, Ben will be allowed to keep his former nickname (The Hammer) until such time as something better comes along.



Ben's girlfriend Katie generously allowed us to stay Saturday night at her place on the UC Santa Cruz campus. 1,000,000 times better than the Motel 6! Thanks Katie!! Oh, and what a beautiful school!


Sunday morning, University RR, 45 starters, see post from last week for course details, etc. -- I would have won this race were it not for Ben's antics on the first couple laps. He bolted from the gun in a pure anaerobic fury, which caused Slipstream Pro Lucas Euser to scream out "OH NO!! THE HAMMER... THERE GOES THE HAMMER... HE ALWAYS DOES THIS!! ...GO GET THE HAMMER" which caused me to begin laughing uncontrollably which prevented me from getting adequate oxygen into my lungs and mitochondria.

OK, at least some of the paragraph above is true. Ben did hammer the first few laps and sent a good 15 or 20 guys out the back door. Then he stopped to sit with Katie.

Meanwhile, Cookie and I began playing the energy management game of getting dropped by the first 10 or so guys on the uphill, and then reconnecting on the downhill. He was much better than me at this approach and I succumbed to the pain after seven laps and quit. I don't like quitting races, but when it feels like you're just pounding your head with a, uhh, hammer, then maybe it's better to stop and regroup. Just as long as it doesn't become a habit. Also, note to self: get a warm-up next time.

But the good news is I was able to get the camera and take some pics...

Neil Shirley looking back at the damage he's doing to the field. There were laps where he was climbing at the front, breathing through his nose, while good guys were popping off the back!

Does he still have nightmares about The Hammer??

Cookie fell in with a chase group of some very good riders.

But in the end, nobody could contain Neil Shirley and he rode away for a solo win.

Future star Jared Barrilleaux got 2nd (I think).

A contentious sprint for 3rd won by Adam Switters. Not sure why, but there were some harsh words exchanged between Kevin Klein and Ted Huang just after this sprint.

Jon Eropkin got a nice top-10 place. Jon, weren't you overheating in those arm warmers, knee warmers, and gloves?? Probably not if you're accustomed to Fresno weather!

Uthman finishing solo. He's had a good year with solid resuls in fast crits, hilly road races, and big-time stage races. Look for another step up next year.

Cookie smiling and satisfied with a solid top-15 performance. He started the year with a gritty suffer-fest at Boulevard and finishes the year with a gritty suffer-fest at University. This dude is one tough Cookie!

Training Week -- 8/20 - 8/26

A decent week with a couple 4'ish hour rides and one-and-one-third races.

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 14 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 7 hrs
Best ride of the week: San Ardo RR; was fun to go fast for 90 miles
Other: none
- Really struggled at the University RR on Sunday. Felt like a re-run of Nevada City--couldn't do the repeated over-threshold climbing. DNF'ed after 7 laps.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Heading North

Cookie, Bam-Bam, and I are traveling north to do the p/1/2 road races in San Ardo and Santa Cruz this weekend. It feels like it's been forever since I did a road race, so I'm looking forward to these. Not sure my legs are up to it, but we'll see. I'm hoping one or both of those guys get in a nice break Saturday so I can just sit back and rest for Sunday.

Other SB racers heading to San Ardo include Mondo, Steve Smith, David Larsen, Mark Luke, and David Dubois. Probably some others too. Good luck everyone!

Also, to get a great sense about what Sunday's University RR is like, check out this page on Steephill. Current, former, and future SB folks have done well there...

Ben sprinting for 9th. I think he won it the year before.

Jake, Daniel, and Neil Shirley after the finish. Did Jake "sell" this win to his buddy Neil? We may never know...

both photos from:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ladera Ranch GP, Fooled by my Own Curiosity...

I love Google Earth, and could spend hours wandering around its virtual world. Something very cool about looking down on the terrain and seeing so much land all at once. Even back when I was flying across the country a couple times a month, and could have any seat I wanted on the airplane, I would still choose the windows and stare down for hours. Google Earth is kind of like that, except without the disgusting bathrooms and horrible airplane food.

But now my infatuation with Google Earth is being tested. Here's why...

Since I missed out on the fun fast p/1/2 crit in SLO last weekend, and despite my skinny-ass climber nature, I was thinking about trying the Ladera Ranch GP down in OC. The flyer said "WE HAVE A FAST, FOUR CORNER COURSE!" with all caps for emphasis I suppose. I was thinking, why not, it's good to work on your weaknesses, right?! And it's always fun to go fast. But then I ran into C-Walk out on a ride and he said Dave Worthington said the course has a 60 ft bump in it. Hmmm, that could be a bit more interesting. Since Chris was driving down and offered me a ride, I decided to go. (I could write a whole bunch of blog posts about riding in the car with C-Walk...)

When I got home I fired up Google Earth to check out the "60 ft bump" and lo and behold I saw this picture. The course circled the park in the middle. What the heck?!? That's no 60 ft bump; more like 160 ft! That's a West LA GP kind of course, maybe worse! Could the promoter be so sneaky as to advertise a fast course to get bigger fields? It would be fast alright... on the screaming downhill!!! I started salivating....

Alas, we show up and find the course is as flat as a pancake. Woah! How did Google Earth deceive me so badly? I figured it out on my warm-up ride. This place is a brand new, massive housing tract. I saw how rugged the terrain was just outside of the developed area and realized that they must have flattened the hills to build the houses. It would have been a huge amount of earth to move, but I guess OC developers don't let a little terrain stand in the way of "progress". So, the problem is that Google Earth uses terrain topography data from the USGS and like most government agencies, their data is a bit out-of-date. It doesn't reflect the recent man-made changes. Google Earth drapes high-res aerial photographs over a surface of terrain data, and that's what you see. Dang, totally fooled!

Enough of the geography lesson, on to the race report...

Ladera Ranch GP, P/1/2, 90 minutes, $1,500 for 15 places. Terrain: none. We had ~50 starters but were without the fastest SoCal guys because of the US Crit Championships in Downer's Grove. Of course, there's no shortage of good crit riders here, so it was sure to be fast. A few OC and San Diego teams had 4-5 guys, so it seemed likely that no break would succeed without representation from each. I got in a nice move early on that had good guys but we only lasted 4-5 laps. I went after a few more, but had multi-lap breaks in between. In retrospect, that was too conservative. As per normal, C-Walk was aggressive and spent a lot of time otf solo or with others, but kept getting brought back. Josh Webster (SC Velo) was also active, and spent a few laps alone out there despite a fast chase by the group. These are good clues about who is feeling good and frisky. I should have paid very close attention to them. With ~20-25 minutes to go, a solid group of C-Walk, Josh, and former star Jason Bausch got a nice gap. I didn't want to contribute to chasing down Chris, and I understand he didn't help chase me down, but of course I was hoping somebody would do the deed. SDBC and CyclingScience made some efforts but it wasn't enough and soon the trio had 25 seconds. C-Walk said later his pulls were 2 mph faster, but that he appreciated Josh's contribution. He also knew JB was conserving for a sprint. So they stayed away. Josh pulled the last lap, JB won the sprint, C-Walk got 2nd, and Josh got 3rd. The field ramped up with 2-to-go and I spent some energy moving up to about 6th wheel but when things got dicey in the tight turns, I backed out. I passed just enough people in the sprint to snag 15th place, the last money spot. C-Walk got $275 (plus another $75 from Michelin) which will keep him fed for a month. I covered my entry.

No more crits til Mothballs.

Training Week -- 8/13 - 8/19

Felt good all week, but the smoke and ash limited my riding time.

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 14 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 5 hrs
Best ride of the week: Tuesday, speed ride up 101 and lunch group.
Other: none
- What a difference a few weeks makes! Hard jumps and accelerations in the race yesterday didn't hurt near as much as the same kind of efforts on the lunchtime group rides a few weeks ago. How much is mental, and how much is physical???

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What a Hack!

You might not choose me as your bike mechanic. Certainly you won't if a bike's appearance matters to you, or if you care about its resale value.

Yesterday I finally got around to swapping out my three-year-old components for a new gruppo, and as I started working, I chuckled to myself because I knew something would go wrong somewhere along the way. It always does. I strip some critical bolt. Or cut a cable or housing too short. Or the pedal wrench slips when I've got all my weight on it, and the palm of my hand gets punctured by a couple chainring teeth.

Everything was going smoothly yesterday until I tried to tighten down the bottle cage on the down tube. The bolt just turned and turned but never got tight. I quickly realized that the little threaded insert in the tube had come loose and that was the thing turning. was impossible to tighten down the bottle cage. I don't ever recall putting too much torque into it, and I would think it could be fixed under warranty. Trouble is, I only have one bike and I don't want to be without it.

Only solution I could think of in a pinch...

JB Weld. The stuff is awesome, and can stick just about anything together. So I chipped away some paint around the insert, wiped it as clean as I could, and then dabbed a bunch of JB Weld all around the thing. It was dry by the morning and I cranked down the bottle-cage bolt no problem!

Here's pre- and post- hack pictures...

Of course, when the time comes to sell this frame, I'll probably have to knock off a few hundred bucks from the price!

Thursday, August 16, 2007's an orangy sky...

i can't feel this way much longer
expecting to survive
with all these hidden innuendoes
just waiting to arrive

You know the rest...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fired Up for the Rest of the Season

This is the view I had down my street upon completing my ride Tuesday afternoon. It looks like a nuclear bomb exploded in the back country, but in fact it's just the plume of the Zaca Fire that has been burning for over a month now. On this particular day, the fire had no impact on my ride, which consisted of a 30-mile jaunt up 101 at 22 mph average, then the 15-mile Tuesday lunch-time hammer fest at ~26 mph, plus another 5 miles to make an even 50 in under 2 hr 15 min.

But not everyday has been so good lately. Many of the roads up in the mountains are still closed and there's a lot of fire equipment on the others. Plus, some days the air is so full of smoke and ash that you really wonder if training does more harm than good.

Here's a good map of the fire area, showing how large it is in relation to the South Coast communities. Amazingly, in all that area, only a single structure has burned and that was just some out-building (whatever that is...)

I did sneak up Painted Cave Rd. last week and I witnessed a major brush-clearing effort by the firefighters and the forest service along the ridge. E. Camino Cielo Rd. would be the last line of defense should the fire start heading in our direction. That seems very unlikely now that they have containment on most of the southern border.

But this post isn't supposed to be about the Zaca Fire... rather, it's about my realization that this 2007 bike racing season is rapidly coming to an end.

And I'm not ready for that.

My legs are starting to feel good again, and I'm fired up for a few more races.

C-Walk and I had talked about possibly going to the Tour de Gap in Utah this weekend. It's a two-day, four-stage race with some of everything and it looked intriguing. I use past tense because now that it's only a couple of days away, neither of us is interested anymore. The thought of racing up to 10,000 ft elevation wasn't too appealing either.

So, instead maybe I'll head to the Ladera Ranch Grand Prix down in the OC. Or perhaps not, since no teammates seem too excited about it. We'll see.

But we're going for sure to the San Ardo RR and the University RR the following weekend. San Ardo is a flat-to-rolling, big-loop course straddling the 101 north of Paso Robles. Most times it ends in a field sprint. University is just a bunch of hill intervals on a small loop. Most times it doesn't end in a field sprint. One thing about both these races that may prove interesting is that they're part of the season-ending Cal Cup competition for NorCal. That means they're certain to get bigger and higher-quality fields than the Velo Promo early-season races. BTW, winning the Cal Cup is a BIG DEAL up there. Just ask Bam-Bam ...he won it a couple years ago in the p/1/2 class!

The following weekend (Labor Day) has three more Cal Cup races up North. The very challenging Challenge RR, the hilly and technical Crockett Crit, and the long-running Giro di San Francisco. Hmmmm...

But then the calendar is a bit sparse until...

The Everest Challenge on September 22-23. Only time will tell whether, for this reporter, that becomes a race or is just a pleasant tour of the Eastern Sierra. In perusing the results over the years, I see a lot of strong riders who DNF the second day. That's pretty ominous.

And then that's it. The road season is done.

Monday, August 13, 2007

SLO Crit -- Part 2

Some random ramblings and amateur-quality pics from the SLO Crit yesterday...

First, gotta apologize for a couple things. I wasn't totally focused on the races and only saw bits and pieces between lunch(es) and shopping and chit-chat, therefore, I can't really tell you any stories worth a darn. Fortunately, the world is full of bloggers so I'll point you to some other sites for better stories and coverage as appropriate. Also need to say sorry for the picture quality ...there was lots of shade on the course and I don't know how to take pictures in shade. Or sunshine for that matter. You'll get what you pay for here! BTW, if you want some quality shots, wander on over to Steve Weixel's blog 'cause I think he'll be posting some soon.


We arrived during the 4's race just in time to see a break with Cal Poly's David DuBois (the kid who's been out on the SB rides this summer). Soon TGI/Hazard's teammate Geoff Gray shot out of the field and latched on the back of the break but unfortunately they got caught just before the end. On bell lap, a guy crashed on the perfectly straight and smooth backstretch and that disrupted Geoff's and TnA's opportunity to sprint.

Next was the Women's 3-4 race and just before it started I finally met fellow blogger Cynthia who may or may not write about her race! But local Echelon gal Kimberly did.

Kimberly won the W4 race and Cynthia hung on to the 3s for awhile before drifting back to a pack of 4s. Nice riding!

Next up was 45+ and I wrote about that in the last post so we'll just move on...

Then SLO showed its funk with a cool parade of kids and grown-ups riding all sorts of bizarre contraptions. Like this...

Real racing resumed with the 3's and SB was represented with Gary, Mondo, and Chris Ellefson (sp?).

Chris was very active.

Gary continued his nice results in the crits and snagged a 3rd. Read about it here.

The 35+ raced during our lunch. No pics except for this grainy one of Choo-choo Brown making a huge effort with two laps to go that helped pull back a great solo break by Amgen's Mike Onkels.

Bell lap saw Dirk Copeland giving a great leadout to teammate Pat Briggs who won it for Cal-Giant Strawberries.

The Women 123 race was exciting and fast but I can't tell you what happened because we were on the back side of the course for most of it. Here's a pic from the front side...

Last race of the day was p/1/2. I could only convince Gina and Brian to stay for half of it, and that cost me a commitment to vacuum the entire house. So I hope you appreciate the pics!

Lap #1 and MarkZen is up front along with Nick Nitro and Neil Shirley (and a Lombardi's guy whose name I don't know).

Lap #2 and they're still up front. Zen looks a bit more pained now though!

Zen on the fence.

J-Rop and Cookie with a RHVillain inbetween.

Had the pleasure of saying "hey" to Mike White who I raced with a decade ago. Mike's a great guy who lives in SLO and owns Boo Boo Records which is a music lover's heaven! Stop by some time.

I busted Doug Knox holding a secret meeting with a few of next year's Time Factory Team riders. I'd tell you more but then I'd have to kill you...

MarkZen got hisself in a nifty little move with a C-Walk motor. It had the essential ingredient, namely a strawberry.

It's usually not a good sign when CW looks back. You want him focused on the road ahead. If he looks back, it usually means the chase is coming, or he wants to spit on you 'cause you're not working hard enough.

J-Rop made a big effort to get across to them...

...but unfortunately for the break, Daniel got on the front and took a two-lap pull to bring them back.

He looked for some help but I don't think he got any. I had picked Daniel to win this race, thinking he would drive a break of 5-10 guys and then blast out of it for a cool solo win. I think he could take on the entire Strawberry squad.

Unfortunately it didn't come to pass as he got caught up in a crash and snapped his forks. Game over.

Some pics from the front side...

Cookie working at the front.

SLO resident pro Ken Hanson pulling our heroes.

J-Rop bustin' a move.

Nick Nitro putting on a show for home-town folks

Parting shots before hitting the road yesterday (only half way through the race)...

Neil Shirley was very active and had a long solo escape. Does he live in SLO too? He certainly rode inspired. He ultimately made it into the winning move and placed 3rd.

C-Walk was also very active (what else is new?!) and this is the view most of the field had of him for most of the race. Dang! What a bony butt!! Natch, he made it into the winning move too.

I've seen Cookie carrying his bottle in his teeth a bunch of times this year. Must be an old tri habit or something.

Colter had the helmet cam. He says he'll have video posted on youtube soon. Check for it here later in the week.

Sorry folks, no pics of the end. I better go vacuum now...

SLO-motion crit

One good thing about having data from your races is that it keeps you honest. Otherwise, as you recount the race for friends and family, the magnitude and intensity of your exploits tend to get just a bit exaggerated. Those two laps you spent dangling off the front of the field slowly grows to become half the race. And you almost lapped the field. And surely you were going 30 mph the whole time until the entire pack did one huge TTT to bring you back. And then you pegged your heart rate for a massive last lap attack only to be caught just before the final corner (and conveniently out of view)...

Alas, I had my trusty Garmin aboard for the SLO criterium 45+ race yesterday and the data does not lie. I rode like a lightweight (which I am of course) and it probably cost me a win.

I'll keep this short. The field was pretty small--maybe 30 guys--and I didn't know most of them. I was solo but that was ok because nobody else had a strong team either. There were two Amgen (Bob Neary and KK) and two Morgan Stanley guys and then a lot of other solo riders. Nothing too noteworthy until the last couple laps when a couple guys got small gap. I gambled that other guys would bring them back, which is what happened thanks to a great effort from Brian Starr and others. Unfortunately I stayed on wheels too long and by the time I started to really sprint there wasn't enough road left to catch Jeff Woolsey (1st place) and Bob Neary (2nd) so I got 3rd. Normally I wouldn't be disappointed with a 3rd in a crit, except this wasn't a strong field and I didn't leave much on the road. That's what the data shows. A 35 mph final sprint?? Come on... that was 5 mph slower than one of my prime sprints. And most of the race was in zone 4. Weak.

But overall it was a very nice day because Gina, Brian, and I spent the afternoon in SLO with my baby sis and my brother and their spouses. We had a nice lunch at The Big Sky Cafe and then just spectated the other races. I took some pictures which I'll post later 'cause it's 73 degrees outside right now with no wind and I need a ride!

Training Week -- 8/6 - 8/12

Sore and heavy legs until the end of the week. Hopefully I've turned a corner and can now build up again (too bad the season's almost over!)

Number of rides: 7
Riding time: 13 hrs
Time in mid/high aerobic zone: 5 hrs
Best ride of the week: Refugio climb and tail-wind ride home on 101
Other: none

- This month-long sluggish feeling has been a mystery to me. I got lots of rest and should've felt great over the last few weeks. Maybe I need to recalibrate my sense on training load and recovery at my advanced age. I know that the same training scenario would have produced radically different results 10-15 years ago. Anyway, it makes me curious to try some of that fancy power-training mumbo-jumbo like TSS and CTL and blah, blah, blah... Two things would be required: (1) getting a power meter; and (2) learning wtf all those acronyms mean and how to use them!

Monday, August 06, 2007

We Have a Winner!

We spent a long weekend in the Bay Area and in Sonoma County so Gina could compete in the Barb's Race Triathlon which is one of the events expertly promoted by the Vineman organization.

Barb's Race is half-ironman distance--1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run--in other words, a long freakin' way. Gina had been uncharacteristically nervous about this race. A week or so ago, she snapped at me for no apparent reason (my perspective of course) and being the sensitive type that I am, I asked what the heck was up with that. She started crying and admitted she was really on edge and nervous about this race. It should have been more clear to me. She trained harder and with more focus for this race than for anything athletic she had ever done before. Every week for the last several months, she has done a couple days of Masters swimming plus an ocean swim or two, a couple of bike rides including some 3-4 hour rides on Saturdays, and her usual dose of running. And that's in addition to teaching a handful of group fitness classes at the gym. That's a lot of work to culminate in a single event where you hope everything falls into place. Not like bike racing... every weekend gives you another chance. Not a huge deal if you don't time your peak just right, or you get a flat, or simply don't feel good one day.

Fortunately, everything worked out perfectly.

I cracked up at the length of the pre-race potty line. Just like a bike race!

The race began in Guerneville with the up-and-back swim in the Russian River. We'd never been to Guerneville (pronounced "Gurn-ville", not "Gurney-ville") and found it to be a cute little touristy town in the Redwoods. I didn't know this before, but it's a popular weekend get-away for many in the Bay Area gay community. The only thing I knew about Guerneville was that it flooded a few years ago when the Russian River crested way above its banks (see picture). I can just imagine what the right-wingnut religious morons like Jerry Falwell said about that flooding.

Anyway, flooding wouldn't be a problem on race day. The river was very low, so low in fact that the weaker swimmers could stop and stand up for a break! The big question was what the water temperature would be. If 78 degrees or above, then the racers couldn't wear wetsuits per USTA rules. Natch I was hoping for 79 degrees ...I mean, who wouldn't want to see a river full of swimsuit-clad hard-body women triathletes?? Alas, it was only 75 so most all the women wore Batman-looking wetsuits. Darn...

Gina had a great swim and was much faster than she expected. I guess if you get comfortable swimming in our cold ocean, a 75-degree calm river is easy. She says she knew hers was a decent swim because when she got to the bike racks for her swim-to-bike transition, IT WASN'T EMPTY!!

We had previewed the ride route the day before and it used some beautiful roads through redwood and oak forests and along rolling hills of wine vineyards (thus the name Vineman). The course had two sustained climbs, each about 500 feet of elevation gain, but mostly it was just flat to rolling. I knew she would jam on the ride and mow down a lot of the faster swimmers. My only fear for her was a flat tire or some other mechanical problem. No follow vehicles in triathlons; she would be on her own to fix any bike problems.

But everything went flawlessly. The bike worked as it should, and she ate and drank right on schedule and was in total control the whole way. She even managed a smile when I ran into her on the course.

She finished the 56-mile ride in under three hours and was quickly out on the run. I leap-frogged her and was noticing she seemed to be struggling a bit at first, particularly when she pulled off the course for a bout of dry heaves. Now I'm no expert, but that doesn't seem like a good way to start a 13.1-mile run in 90-degree heat.

But she knew what to do. She systematically stopped in all the feed zones and drank and ate enough to refuel and rehydrate and soon she was clicking off 8-minute miles.

So after four hours of swimming, riding, and running, she was cruising on auto-pilot. That's where all that training comes in I guess. Other girls were falling apart and Gina just kept motoring along. Not that she was totally alert or anything ...when I mentioned the cool cows and goats along the course, she didn't have a clue what I was talking about. She ran past them four times...

She finished strong in 5:32:10 and won her age group ...uhhh, that would be the 40-44 age group (sorry sweetie, this is journalism--I have to report the facts as I know them). Her time was also good enough for 8th overall out of several hundred women! That deserved a nice cold shower...

I was very proud of her performance and helped her enjoy part of her prize, a nice La Crema Pinot Noir. Winning the race was great, but more significant was the training journey over the months leading up to it. She never wavered or had second thoughts. What a great feeling to work hard for something and then have it all go right. Dare I say it, but there might be an full iron-man length race somewhere in her future!

Other random notes from the race:

* Part of the bike course used some of the same roads as the 1996 Masters Nationals RR. The roads up there in Sonoma county are spectacular ...I wonder why there aren't more (any?) road races up there!?! Is it because the wineries have so much influence and they don't want their wine-tasting customers inconvenienced in the slightest? Maybe they'll let us race there if we all promise to drink more wine. I'll do my part ...for the good of the sport.

* Waiting around at the end of the run, I heard the announcer mention "the VeloGirl relay team" so I wondered, hmmm, is that the VeloGirl whose blog I link to?? So I went up and asked, and sure enough, it was VeloGirl Lorri Lee Lown! Cool ...I love meeting other bloggers! She's a nice woman who trains and inspires a legion of women athletes in the Bay Area. Her tri team got 3rd and she wrote a nice race report on her blog.

* Coincidentally, the only other SB-area woman in the race (Alyssa Steffen) finished less than a minute behind Gina and was 9th overall. Small world, eh?!?