Barb’s Race – A Run I Will Never Forget


Barb’s Race
Sonoma County, CA
July 27, 2013

This summer, 7 teammates and I participated in Barb’s Race – a women’s only 1/2 iron distance triathlon run in conjunction with Vineman (the full-iron triathlon Kris participated in).  Two years ago Kris and I both did the full Vineman with several teammates.  Last year we came by ourselves – Kris did the full aquabike and I did Barb’s Race for the first time.

This year started out being a girls’ race day.  Last fall, while on a bike ride, I mentioned this event to a few of my teammates from our women’s cycling team.  In no time, there were 8 of us signed up and ready to start planning and training. 4 weeks prior to the race, Kris decided to take one more shot at the full Vineman … since he was going to be there anyway, why not?!

While we are quite familiar with this event and venue, this year was definitely unlike any other!

Kris showing off his cup stacking skills at the aid station

First up was the fundraising – The registration for this event is $150 plus a promise of raising $250 (this was new – in the past, fundraising has been optional).

The money raised goes directly to local cancer related groups.

Garage Sale Fun

I was a little intimidated by this at first but must admit – my teammates are good at raising money!  A couple were able to raise it all through online donations from family in friends.  For the rest of us, it just took volunteering at a few aid stations and hosting a garage sale … and, we were set … now it was time to get training.

My training was to start up the week following the Phoenix Marathon.  Yeah, that didn’t really happen. After reaching my goal of Boston Qualification, I shut down a little and needed recovery … then, recovery turned into zero motivation to get into a training plan again.  Because of that, my training was all over the place:

Swim: 4 open water swims and 1 pool swim – totaling less than 4 miles
Bike: Just over 65 hours – almost 950 miles … but, with an avg speed of 14.5mph
Run: 26.5 hours – 137 miles … mostly on trails, a lot of walk breaks and avg. pace of 12 min/mile

In the 20 weeks of training, I had 2 solid weeks where I hit 13 hrs and 15.5 hours.  I also had 3 weeks of no workouts and the rest varied between 1.5 -8 hours … Yeah, all over the place!  I totaled less than 100 hours of training over 20 weeks – that averages to less than 5 hours per week … less than half of what I should have done.  Luckily I have a wonderful support system of amazing women who helped get me out on enough training rides/runs that somehow I actually felt pretty confident going into this race.

Joey is ready to run!

Running was the hardest thing for me to get back into.  So, instead of running the streets, I turned to trail running.  I recruited our dog Joey to keep me company.  On the first few runs I refused to take my Garmin because mentally I couldn’t handle the fact that my body couldn’t go as quick or as far as it just had in the marathon.  It took some time to find the joy in running again and let it be just about me and my dog.

Blue Jay Hideaway

Although my training wasn’t where it needed to be, I was excited for this event.  I love my teammates and was looking forward to spending time with them and their significant others.  I was also very ready to get out of the AZ summer heat!

The Redwood

Since we had a large group (13 of us), we split up into two rental houses.  One was the house we have stayed in the past two years – Blue Jay Hideaway.  Luckily we were able to find another one a few houses away – The Redwood.

We like staying in Guerneville, within walking distance of the start.  Not only does it put us in a beautiful neighborhood along the Russian River, it also allows for an easy race morning.  The other option is to stay in Windsor near the finish and drive to the start.

Surprisingly, arranging logistics amongst the group wasn’t too complicated.  We booked the houses as soon as we were all registered and then the rest fell into place as we went.  Once we figured out which days everyone was available for travel, put put together our carpool groups and went from there.

All of us drove there which gave us 4 vehicles to use while there – one being the Tribe Multisport Sprinter (which is how Kris and I got there – with 5 others).

The Final Days
On Tuesday, July 16th, Kris and I were heading out to Chicago to meet up with a friend and attend the Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field.  As we were walking out of our house an email came through telling me that a friend of mine had been hit by a car while jogging – she was in a coma and in critical condition.  After we made our way through security at the airport, another friend messaged me that a dive buddy of ours had just passed away due to a heart condition.  That evening once we landed in Chicago I was updated that my friend in the hospital was not doing well – legs were crushed and she had severe brain damage.  The following day she was taken off life support.  Within 24 hours I lost two friends – completely unrelated and totally unexpected.

Needless to say, as much as I tried to enjoy our time in Chicago, this was a rough way to start our trip.  Friday morning Kris and I decided to go for a run along Lake Michigan – starting at North Avenue Beach, going past Navy Pier until we were ready to turn around.  I let Kris do his thing and I took it at my own pace … made it about 1.5 miles and thought I was going to pass out from the heat.  I played in the fountains at Navy Pier and took my time getting back … at which point I had a breakdown.

While waiting for Kris to finish his run I checked my email and found out that my friend’s funeral service would be on the same day as Barb’s Race.  This was when I really lost it – now what do I do? After thinking about the advice she would offer, I knew I needed to go and run this race for her.  At that point, I decided I would do the swim for me, the bike for Chris (our dive buddy) and the run for Stephanie.

That run in Chicago was the only run I could muster up for the last two weeks of training.

It’s Go Time

We headed out early on Thursday, July 25th – 7 of us meeting at Tribe and loading up in the Sprinter … for a 15 hour ride to Guerneville … yes, it was a LONG day!

The first couple hours actually went by quickly thanks to the entertainment provided by the rain.

Apparently a seal in the A/C unit wasn’t working properly because as soon as we hit the storm, the rain poured in through the vent. We were (well, at least I was) laughing about that for a while! Even once the rain stopped, anytime we would hit a bump, hill or turn more water would come out.

By the time we got to the houses, we were ready to call it a night – we unloaded our gear and settled into the houses.

Friday was packet pick-up at Windsor High School. Everything started at 11:30 so we were able to have a late, slow morning.  As part of the packet pick-up, you must attend an informational meeting.  They have a different meeting for each event and run them every hour.  Our goal was to get there in time for the first meeting so we could get good spots in transition and be done with everything early.  As we were heading out, we realized we underestimated the time it would take to organize the group in the morning.

Unfortunately we were 3 minutes late so they wouldn’t let us into the meeting … yes, they are strict on the start time!  And, you must attend an informational meeting before you can check-in so we hung out for an hour until the next one started.

Once the meeting is over, they stamp your hand and you head over to check in and get your goodies.  Since we were the first in the auditorium, we decided to snag the seats closest to the door so we could be the first out.

The meeting was pretty similar to the previous years’ meetings – but, they did change the run course slightly so I guess it was good I was there.

6 os us are in the 30-39 age group so we were able to rack
our bikes together – it was fun knowing the people/gear
near mine!

Packet pick-up is an easy process – they are very well organized! We then dropped our run gear off at T2 and checked out the expo.

Kris’ rack was way far from ours – I don’t think
he minded that!
T2 is set and we are ready for the race
Just a light snack…

Since we were an hour later than we had planned, we were starving once we were done.  Luckily, Kris and I knew a good deli on the corner we could walk to – the sandwiches are fantastic!

I’m not a mechanic, I just play one online

That evening we just did our thing.  Most of our group got together for a group pasta dinner at the other house while 3 of us decided to hang back, make our own dinner and get our stuff together.

Julie and I in T1

Since Kris was doing the full Vineman, he started 2 hours before the rest of us.  I got up about 30 minutes before he was getting ready to leave so I could walk over with him.  Julie happened to be up early as well and joined us.  We took all our gear so we would get a good spot in T1.

The “I’m about to start an ironman without training” look

We then helped Kris get his stuff together, took a few pictures, watched him get started and headed back to the house to finish getting ready.

Russian River swim start
Time to head out to the start…

Back at the house I relaxed for a little bit and then put my wetsuit half on, grabbed my swim cap, goggles, Garmin and walked over to the start with my teammates.

Here we go!

Kris had a great swim so he was already out and on the bike before I got back to transition.  I did a final check of all my gear and got ready to start the swim.

The Swim
I am not a strong swimmer! At best, I am middle of the pack … but, usually closer to the back.  I know this about myself and am okay with it.  I set my own goals and just hope I stay close enough that I can catch some people once I get on the bike.

Notice the walkers – it gets pretty shallow in some parts.

This is a great swim course for weaker swimmers.  It is an out an back in the Russian River which makes it very easy to sight/navigate – there isn’t much room to get off course.  In addition, there are many areas where it is shallow enough to walk if you feel so inclined (a lot of people do).

This was my best swim ever – I took 4 minutes off my time from last year and felt comfortable the whole time.  I got into my rhythm right away and held my own.  I felt great coming out of the water and tried to have a speedy transition.
*The houses we stayed at were on Riverlands and Drake – about a 1/2 mile walk to the start

I still have a lot of work to do on transitions but I did cut a minute off last year’s T1.  The part that took the longest for me was getting all the mud off my feet.  Since most of the ladies around me had already been through transition, the area around my bike was quite muddy and I didn’t want all that mud in my bike shoes so I took some time to try to clean them off.

Proof I rode through the vineyards.. get it?

The Bike
I started off great on the bike – I was flying past people like they were standing still and felt fantastic. I was averaging 20mph and didn’t feel like I was over exerting myself … everything was clicking.

Then, around my 12 my stomach started cramping.  It was around that time I caught up to Brie and we exchanged a few encouraging words.  For a few miles I was able to control the cramping and then it got worse.  After passing up the first aid station at mile 18, I figured I needed to stop at the next one (mile 28).  I was surprised to see Julie leaving the aid station as I pulled up.  We, too exchanged encouragement as she headed back out on the course and I stopped to try to get my stomach back under control.  After a couple minutes I concluded that it wasn’t a GI issue and I needed to get back on my bike and fight through it.  As I was leaving, Brie rolled in – I love having my girlfriends on course with me!

We miss you Chris!

This was when I started remembering that this bike ride was for Chris and I needed to stay strong in his memory … that helped keep my mind in a positive place and helped my push through.

Unfortunately, the cramps did slow me down some since it made it quite uncomfortable to be in aero position.  But, I was glad it was tolerable enough that I could continue and very glad it went away as soon as I was off the bike.

Last mile of the bike course – heading into T2

With about 10 miles go to I caught up to Julie and we somewhat rode in together (as much as you can in triathlon without drafting).  We leapfrogged a little and encouraged one another along the way.

Although the roads are rough, I still love this bike course – fun rolling hills and beautiful scenery … a very nice change from our AZ training rides!

This transition starts with a long run from bike dismount to the rack.  In the past I have just unclipped and run this in my bike shoes.  This time I was determined to run it in barefoot.  I knew I wasn’t ready to try the superman dismount, but I had practiced un-velcroing my shoes and taking my feet out while riding.  However, I didn’t practice doing this at high speeds and getting my feet out quick.  So, I got my shoes un-velcroed, but didn’t get my feet out in time …  So, I still had to unclip.  But, since the shoes were un-velcroed,  I easily slipped my shoes off and I carried them in my hand for the run.

It was definitely easier to run this barefoot!

When I got to transition, I put on my compression socks and went to put on my shoes only to realize they didn’t have any insoles in them … oops!  So, I quickly took the insoles out of my bike shoes and hoped they would be comfortable enough … not the best, but they worked.

Again, I cut about a minute off my transition time, so I’m happy!

The Run

Glad to be off the bike :)

Julie was right behind me coming into transition and we ended up starting the run together.  It was really nice having a little company for the first half mile.  We ran past our cheer squad (the husbands and boyfriend) and were given a plethora of cheers and encouragement. We started out at an 8 min pace and I knew I needed to back it off so I encouraged her to take off and have a great run.

Being part of #run3rd has been amazing!
Being able to dedicate runs to other people gives
my running much more meaning.  It gives me strength to
push through the tough times and reminds me to appreciate
everything and everyone I have in my life.

It was then I realized it had to be close to 1pm which was the time of Stephanie’s funeral service … and, this run was for her.  This was the most emotional run I have ever done and I am so glad I had 7 amazing ladies out there on the course with me!

Coming in from the first loop

The course is set up as a 2-loop out and back – so, we all got to see one another quite a bit.  In the past it has been one full loop (the full Vineman does 3 – 8.5 mile loops) and a half loop.  This year they changed it do we did 2 even loops – making each one just over 6.5 miles.  This meant we no longer had to run up the steep hill at the end of the first loop and that each leg was a little over a 5k … no problem!

They have aid stations every mile which I was very glad for.  By the time I got to the run I was hungry!  My nutrition in the morning was spot on and I kept with my plan until my stomach started cramping on the bike – then I couldn’t get myself to eat anything.  Near the end of the bike I could finally drink a little HEED because I needed calories … by the time the bike was done, I knew I was calorie deficient!

Heading out on loop 2.  At this point I found out Kris was
still in T2 so he would be chasing me on this lap … how far
could I get before he caught me?  Umm, only a mile or so
until he flew past!

Luckily, the aid stations are well stocked and all of the volunteers were fabulous.  At every aid station I took a couple cups of water – one to dump on me and one to drink.  I also ate a fair share of nectarines (my favorite!) and had a little gatorade.  There is something about the nectarines at this event – they are delicious and exactly what I need/crave while I’m running here.

Kris starting his first loop.  He came in on the bike as I was
finishing my first lap … I was very happy to see him!

I was doing alright getting through my run.  It was a little slower than I had planned, but I couldn’t be surprised given my training and the situation.  I was using my walk breaks (Galloway) and really enjoyed seeing my teammates out there.

My new friend who was willing to slow
down and make sure I was okay to finish.
That kind of support from a total stranger
helps remind me that there are some
amazing people in this world!

When I got to my final turnaround and started heading back in on my last 5k, I started to break down emotionally.  I knew I needed to stay strong and get through this run for Stephanie, but I also knew that it was my closure and once I crossed that finish line, she was really gone … I didn’t want this run to end and was having a really hard time making my body run.  With about 2 miles to go I saw Brie and lost it.  She gave me a huge hug and stayed with me until I knew I could get moving again.

At that moment, a girl I had been leapfrogging with slowed down and ran in with me.  With about a half mile to go, I told her to go ahead and finish strong – I needed to slow down and finish this with Steph … so, I took my time on that last little bit and finished for her.

Breaking the tape to end my day!
Team love!

I was very glad to have a couple teammates already waiting for me at the finish line.  They hugged me until I stopped crying and then we went to get our pictures taken.  We then enjoyed the food provided while we waited for the others to finish.

The After Party


Love my team!


Loved having Brie’s support out on the


Kris finishing up his 2nd lap and heading out on his last
8.5 miles.

The couple that races together…

Once all the ladies finished, I knew we only had an hour or so until Kris was done.  At that point most of the group headed back to the house to clean up and figure out dinner – Brie and I stuck around, enjoying the post-race food and watching for Kris.

Kris had a fantastic race – a new PR!
We let him recover for a little bit and eventually went to get our gear and head back to the house.  The timing was perfect – pizza had just been delivered.  So, we ate and hung out for a little bit then headed back to our house to unload, clean up and recover.
Julie brought a pair of recovery boots with her – those were amazing! We took turns in them that evening and this was as exciting as we got …

The Following Days
There is so much to do in this area! We always recommend sticking around at least one day after the race to enjoy the scenery and give a little time to recover before the long drive back home.  A few things we have done: visited wineries, drove to the coast, walked around Armstrong Redwoods State Park and visited the local farmers markets.  This year we had lunch at Russian River Brewery and relaxed at the beach.

The ride home always feels a lot longer than the ride there.  We were all exhausted and just wanted to get home.  Thankfully, we lucked out with traffic and had smooth sailing home – cutting off 2 hours from our drive out (we ran into 4 different accidents along the way that slowed us down) … and, no rain!

Aside from being tired and just wanting to get home (and out of the sprinter) – I actually felt pretty good following the race – I do think the recovery boots helped!

Thoughts/Lessons Learned

  • Double check all equipment (like insoles in your shoes) before packing them at home.  Then, check again before you leave things in transitions!
  • Sometimes experiences are more important than results.  This wasn’t a PR for me and the competitive part of me is really bummed out by that.  But, given the circumstances, I know I did what I could do and I needed that experience.  For me, this race (especially the run) was a lot more than just a race!
  • This really is an amazing event – I would recommend it to any lady looking for a 70.3!

Products Used

We LOVE our Hammer Nutrition products!

Hammer Nutrition:

  • Pre-race: Endurolyte Fizz in water bottle, Anti-fatigue and Endurance Amino taken 1 hour prior to start. Huckleberry Gel eaten 15 min prior to start.
  • T1: Anti-fatigue, Endurance Amino, Endurolyte caps … after T1, all 3 were taken every hour during race.
  • Bike: Perpetuem Solids, HEED
  • Run: normally I would have a couple gels but I just really enjoyed those nectarines!
  • Post-race: Vegan Recovery Bar

Skin Strong:

  • Loaded on the Slather prior to donning my wetsuit – keeps me from getting any chaffing around the neck and helps the wetsuit slide off easily
  • Had Slik Powder waiting for me in my bike shoes – helps my feet slide in easily and keeps my feet and shoes dry while I ride (even when my feet go in slightly muddy!)
  • Sprayed Slik under armpits and between legs in T2 to avoid chaffing on the run

Thanks to everyone who supported me along the way!  I am a lucky lady to have such amazing people in my life!  Up next – runDisney’s Dumbo Double Dare!


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