All photos taken by my dad, Eric Willis. I love him!
The hype for this race was pretty wild. Vineyards, wine, a beautiful location in California. This race was meant to be a treat. Troy flew in Friday night and mom and I had the van packed and ready to go camping. Saturday morning we hopped in the car and drove two hours up to Windsor for packet pickup. It was a scorcher of a day and the projections were that it was going to be even hotter for race day. I grabbed my packet and we spent the day checking out the swim, bike and run courses. The evening was filled with a great salmon dinner by dad, some marshmallow roasting, and a luxurious night of sleep in the van.
4am wake up call and we were off. We had scoped a good spot to park the van where my parents could skedaddle after the swim without getting into a traffic jam. The race area is extremely congested and difficult for friends and family to maneuver through. The two transitions are 15 miles apart and it’s all a little tricky.
I headed down to the water, racked my bike and got ready for the swim. The swim is in a river, you swim up river first, and then back down river to finish. It’s so shallow that you can stand up at almost any spot in the race.
When we went around the turn buoys I stood up and dolphin dived and the water was at my knee/thigh level. I got a good start out of the gate and spent about half the race on some nice feet and then the second half by myself. I didn’t feel the nice rhythm that I was quite used to in the water, but I felt ok, and emerged ready to get going on the bike.
Transition was crazy. I was allowed to hand my wetsuit over the fence to my mom, so I did that, but it was a little weird. The transition was in a dirt lot and by the time I got off with my bike I was a muddy mess, and my bike was a dusty wreck.
I obeyed my 5 mile rule to chill and get my legs under me. We had a nice flat section, but then they took us into a curvy crazy section where all the volunteers were telling us to slow down and one volunteer yelled that there was a bad accident at mile 7.
We head up this big hill and just on the other side I see about 30 racers stopped in front of me. There are ambulances, and police. A lady is yelling that a tree fell onto the road and pinned two cyclists. They were halting the race because they had to see if the wire that was down was live or not, and they had to get the racers safely into the ambulance, and they had to remove the tree. I just unclipped, stayed calm and messed with my new Garmin that didn’t seem to be behaving how I envisioned. People in the crowd were going crazy, one lady was yelling “Can you release the names of the cyclist”? I slowly moved away from her. Sheesh, calm down. Cyclists piled up behind me and I couldn’t help but think about how this would effect my race. I’m a slower swimmer and I spend so much of my race trying to catch the fast swimmers. Anyone in my wave who was a faster swimmer would not have been stopped in the accident, so they were long gone.
Note: There were actually 3 racers involved. The tree was about 4 feet in diameter and came down between two cyclists. For the one in front it hit him in the back, entangled him and his bike in the tree and I believe he either broke, or nearly broke his back. He is still in the ICU. For the one behind the tree it ensnared him and his bike and he broke his collar bone. The next rider crashed as a result of the tree falling and ended up in the bushes and broke his collar bone.
After about 10 minutes they opened the road again and everyone took off, like a road race. People were riding 6 across, on a very narrow twisty road, they weren’t obeying the center line rule, and the road was still open to traffic. And…they are triathletes, with triathlete handling skills…need I say more. I have never felt more unsafe in my life in a race. It was total Danger Will Robinson! I waited for the congestion to dissipate but a mean little pack was forming.
I’m not going to do the whole tattle tale thing on this blog, but I will just say that the rest of the bike was a tad frustrating, and I had trouble enjoying the scenery. I will say that I will think twice about ever doing another race where the course is left open to drivers. If you can close down the roads in San Francisco for Escape from Alcatraz, then you should be able to close down the back roads in Sonoma county. I felt very unsafe and at one point watched a police officer wave a car out in front of me. It was just odd and not what I was at all expecting for a 70.3 with such a great reputation.
Into transition and off to the run. It was hot hot hot. I have heard reports from 95 to 106, and to me it felt like about 102-103ish. Ice down the sports bra, ice down the pants. Water with ice, Gatoraid with ice…just lots of ice. From mile 1 on I could tell that it wasn’t going to be a repeat Kansas performance. I was hitting around 8 min miles, and didn’t feel motivated to go much faster. I did enjoy myself through. The course was quite hilly, lots of little ups and downs. I liked the run, but was begging for cooler temps.
I came through the finish glad to be done, ready to sit in a tub of ice! It was great to see my dad’s coworkers Jonathan, and Jeff out there. They both knocked it outa the park! Also Keith was on course, but I didn’t see him. He was out there though. It was a bummer not to have all my practical coaching hommies racing with me, but I thought it was a good effort on a day that was riddled with challenges! I made a few friends, and had the wonderful support of my parents and Troy. Many thanks for all the well wishes and congratulatory notes.
So..at one point during the race a guy rode by and said “nice bike”. I was like “thanks” cause, you know, I get that a lot. Then I looked at his bike and WE HAD THE SAME BIKE. Now if you ride a Cervelo I know this is nothing new for you, but it’s RARE RARE RARE to see another Isaac. So, after the race we took some pics together. Notice how I just cozied up to this guy, apparently if you own an Isaac I’m more apt to snuggle my sweaty body up to yours. Oh, sonja…
Swim + T1: 36:45
11th F30-34 (1st,2nd,and 3rd overall were in my AG, and all three of them were under 4:35, pretty tough competition)