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Club Member: Sharon McNary
Race: Barbs Race
Distance: Sprint
Race Date: 08/01/09
Submit Date: 08/08/09

Barbís Race 2009

Results for you bottom liners:

Swim 41:17

Bike 3:30

Run 2:18

Overall 6:43:54 (5-minute PR of six half IM races since 2005)

The best thing about my Polar S525x is the workout tracking software. In training for this race and Oceanside 70.3 since Jan. 1, I rode 1,566 miles on my bike, I swam 52 miles and ran 496 miles. Calorie burn: 108,753. Weight loss? Not one pound (sigh.)

The back story:

This year was going to be my year to do Ironman Lake Placid with a good friend. But I took a new job in April right before I was going to register for Lake Placid at Oceanside, and having done one Ironman race before, I knew I didnít want to combine new job with IM training.

My backup plan was to dedicate the year to getting faster at the half-Iron distance, improving my swim technique and working toward qualifying for the Boston Marathon. So my coach, Cherie Gruenfeld, suggested I do Barbís Race instead. This is an all-womenís half-iron distance triathlon done on the same day and course as Vineman full Ironman.

Ironman scares me, but having done five half-IM races and lots of marathons, Iím not intimidated by that distance. It was nice to train with more intensity for an event I know I can handle. I took a few swim sessions with Ian Murray and got more efficient in the water. I worked at doing a speedier run, too.

I had done tons of hills working up to Oceanside, so after that race, I did some hills, but I didnít kill myself on them. I did PCH 101 lots of times, enjoying finally riding fast and fun. I got to where I could do a 50-mile ride in about three hours.


Barbís Race starts in two waves (under and over 40) after the Ironman competitors have started their 2.4-mile swims and are on their way out of the water. I was able to see the elites coming into T1 as much as 40 minutes before my 8:20 wave started. The volunteer wetsuit strippers at that point were still pretty green, and I worried that a lot of competitors were going to find busted zippers and fingernail gouges in their suits afterward. But one of the strippers, a woman in a red hat, seemed to know what she was doing, so I marked her for my exit from the swim.

With a good amount of time before my wave, I did a warm-up run to check out the slight uphill at the end of T1. I wanted to watch the elites and faster athletes to see what they would do on the hill. Most of them rode up, but some ran up. But one guy with a low bib number and gladiator bike helmet ran up halfway, then tried to mount his bike on the uphill. He bashed into the cloth-banner covered metal barriers, causing about 20 of them to fall domino-style. We spectators ran to put the barrier back up. That incident persuaded me to run my bike up the hill.

On my pre-race warm-up run I ran up through the town of Guerneville to one of the bridges that crosses the river, and was able to look down and see the Ironman swimmers. A cool perspective to have on what I would soon be doing.

The race:

The Russian River was warmer than the air temperature on this overcast, misty morning. Our wave walked into the shallow river for the in-water start. Thereís nothing quite as polite as an over-40 womenís swim start. Lots of Ďscuse me and sorry as we went from vertical to horizontal and tried not to pummel each other. Still, I think the USAT should outlaw the frog kick in triathlon, or have a wave just for people doing this lethal stroke so they can kick each other silly and have extra medics on hand.

This is the only triathlon where Iíve scraped my knuckles during the swim. The only one where Iíve almost swum into someoneís grassy front yard.

On the exit, I ran up the beach, found my competent red-hatted wetsuit stripper and got to my bike. This is a two-transition triathlon, so you have to bag up all your gear in the official T1 plastic bag so it can be hauled to the finish. Wetsuit into an extra plastic bag, stuff warmup gear in, put on my bike jersey and Tri Club jacket. This takes a bit of time, hence my 7-minute transition time. I ran my bike up the little hill and was on my way.

One of the things I liked about Barbís Race was catching up to the under-40 women who started in the wave ahead of me and the over-40 women who are faster swimmers. So for the first 5 miles, I enjoyed the cool weather, flat or slightly rolling terrian and breezing past others.

On the first significant uphill, I passed several women. One that was ahead of me had slowed nearly to a halt as she struggled in too high a gear, gears scraping. Then I heard her chain break and feed out the derailleur behind her. She managed to stop without falling, but it looked like her race was over.

As I passed I confess I had no thought of stopping to help her, and I guess that was poor sportsmanship, but this was my ďAĒ race of the year. We were fairly close to some course monitors, and I figured there might be other athletes looking for an excuse to do a breakdown party with her. Rationalization, perhaps, but hey, I swapped out my chain and cassette two months ago because showing up to a race with decent equipment is part of the sport. I found out later that she called friends for help and was able to fix her chain and finish the race.

The bike course had some annoying false flat sections, and I recall being fairly tired during the first hour of the ride. But after that, it got easy. The big hill on this course was no big deal if youíve been doing a few climbing sessions on Latigo or one of the other TriChicks rides. I passed on this hill a few men who were doing the aqua-bike, but they were mostly over 50. This is where I practiced the Alberto Contador style of rapid-turnover standup hill climbing.

Aid stations were at mile 18, 31 and 40. Oddly, they peel the bananas for you here. I didnít like that but ate about a third of a banana at two of the stops, had a small Clif bar at another stop. Two more packets of Orange Clif bloks and an espresso Clif Shot plus two bottles of sports drink got me through the ride in 3:31:47.

Riding through T2 I heard Ray Barrios and a few Tri Clubbers cheering. Transition was a bit faster, 4:13, but could have been quicker.

The 2-loop run was hot and hilly. On the second trip back with about 1.5 miles to go, I left an aid station with a handful of grapes and was walking when I saw Rayís brother Gerardo, who did a good job of dodging the grape missiles I threw at him.

Turning the corner, about one-third mile from the finish chute, I didnít see anybody up ahead that I thought I could catch, just this tall, thin woman about three blocks away. Still, I tried to catch her and poured it on. She turned into the finishing alley and out of sight. But when I got there, I could see she was only about 25 yards away from me and still far from the finish. So I really revved the engine, and passed her with about 10 yards to go.


My goal was to finish in the top third of my age group, and I placed 11th of 34, so mission accomplished. I was happy for the P.R., but itís hard to compare courses and performances, especially when water and weather conditions can add great difficulty to a triathlon.

If youíre thinking of doing Barbís Race, Iíd say it has an easy swim, moderate bike and difficult run course. The free post-race athlete food was pretty good, too.

Itís a good first half-Ironman race because there is no bike or run cutoff time. You have to be out of the water by 9:30 a.m., which means if youíre an over-40 woman starting at 8:20, you have to finish the swim in 1:10. Because the Vineman Ironman is going on at the same time, with athletes finishing well behind you, you can do the race slowly and still have a nice number of spectators out on the course.

On to IM Coeur d Alene 2010! Thanks for reading.

Sharon McNary SeeSharonTri@aol.com

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