Over the next three days I am going to recount my Vineman adventure in the three main segments of the event -- the Swim, the Bike and the Run. As with every USAT sanctioned event, it all began with the swim.
Leslie and I arrived at Johnson's Beach in Guerneville just in time to see the first wave of elite athletes coming up from the beach on their bikes. By my calculations, they must have finished the swim in about 25 minutes. I'd be happy to do twice that time!
After getting my bike and gear situated on the rack in Transition 1, I put on my swim gear and waded into the murky waters of the Russian River (I expected it to be much clearer) for a warmup swim. This was my first time in open water since May of 2006 at the Heritage Park Triathlon in Olathe, KS. And I as I started swimming I remembered why it is so important to practice in open water -- it is so different than swimming in a pool with lane markers. After a momentary feeling of panic that I hadn't fully prepared for the river swim, I calmed down and started to warm up.
When it came time for the start of my heat I moved to the far side of the river along the banks. I like to get away from the other swimmers so I don't kicked, bumped, smacked, etc. in the frenzied start of a heat. With over 120 swimmers starting at once, it looks something like salmon swimming upstream to spawn!
I started slow but settled into my breathing pattern as I headed upstream to the turnaround point. At several points the water got so shallow some people stood to walk but I kept swimming, even with my hands touching bottom at times. It just seemed wrong to me to be wading instead of swimming! I had fun with the swim -- waving to my nephew standing on a bridge over the river, saying "thanks" to the kayakers who were there to provide assistance, if needed. I think it kind of startled them :)
At the turnaround point I checked my Garmin Forerunner (yes, you can swim with it) and it showed 27 mins – right on schedule to finish in around 50 mins since the second half was downstream (and slightly shorter). So, I kicked it into a little higher gear and headed back towards the beach.
Feeling strong, I hit the beach two minutes ahead of my goal. As I ran toward my bike in the transition area, I shed my Zoot speed suit, cap, goggles and swim socks (a lifesaver when running in the gravel areas of the bike transition).
[Note: Leslie took this picture of me running up the beach with the sun glinting off the river -- It's out of focus but I kind of like it]
I was pumped up and ready to get on my aluminum horse and ride. In fact, the ride would go much better than expected and was the highlight of my race. But that’s a story for another day.