After finishing the 56-mile bike portion in 3:08:19 -- an average of 17.8 mph -- I was about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. All I had to do was average 10 minute miles and I'd finish well ahead of my goal (6 hrs. 30 mins.) for the Vineman. So, I ran into to the transition area, parked my bike and sat down to put on my running shoes. As I left the transition area my legs felt strong, but a dull pain in the ball of my left foot foreshadowed the ordeal that lie ahead.
My brother Jon met me as I came out of the transition area and jogged along side me (wearing flip flops!) and asked how I was feeling. I said I felt great but thought maybe my sock was bunched up under my left foot so I stopped, sat on the curb and checked. Nothing wrong. Just felt like the ball of my foot was bruised. So I got up and took off on the 13.1-mile run.
I ran the first three miles in 9:25, 9:42 and 9:44. Not a bad start. But then the heat, my aching feet, and eventually dehydration took its toll on me. I dropped from 10 min/mile pace in mile four to 12:17 min/mile in mile nine! This was just after we made the turn at LaCrema Winery and I should have been cruising home but I was exhausted. Many people slowed to a walk and I thought about it often, but just tried to keep my feet moving.
This paid off in miles 11-13 when I started to sense the end in sight and picked up the pace. I finished with 10:26 in mile 12 and 10:53 in mile 13. My total run time was 2:22:01, essentially 22 minutes slower than I anticipated. But in the end I finished at 6:28:43 -- one minute and 17 seconds ahead of my goal (6:30:00).
My brother Jon met up with me at the one mile marker and jogged alongside (in his flip flops, of course!). When he asked me how I felt this time I had a one word reply, "pain." But he encouraged me with talk of sitting around his backyard lounging by the pool. Jon peeled off to take a short cut to the finish line and just as I rounded the corner for the final sprint, my daughter Shelby came bounding in and challenged me to a race to the finish by saying something like, "If you don't beat me, I will beat you" (meaning with her fists!). I politely declined, saying something like, "Dad," "can't" and that one word again, "pain."
But having Shelby run the final 100 yards with me was priceless. I will never forget it. The picture says it all: me, straining to keep my feet moving and Shelby with her recently purchased "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" under one arm bounding along beside me, taunting me.
I didn't have quite the same feeling of elation crossing the finish line as I have in shorter triathlons. This feeling was more of relief, gratification that it was over, and struggling to hold it all together and keep from getting sick or blacking out! But Leslie was there with sponges and water, cooling me off, and the rest of the family was wisely keeping their distance!
But I did recover enough to limp to some outdoors showers, rinse off the muddy river water from six hours earlier, and get my bike and all my soaking wet, sweaty, gear loaded up to head to Sacramento.
Vineman was over. I had finished under my goal. I was exhausted but elated. Content and tired, I caught a nice nap on the two hour drive to Jon's house, where I have been relaxing by the pool all week, accepting Jon's offer from Sunday afternoon...somewhere around mile 13.