I felt the fingers brushing my feet every few minutes when I slowed to pop my head up to breathe during the 2.4-mile swim, but I was content to lead the two swimmers I towed behind me.

“I’m happy! I’m happy! I’m happy!” I kept repeating this phrase to myself again and again on the 112-mile bike. I smiled at the photographers and, on my second bike loop, I greeted as many athletes that I passed who were on their first loop with either a “Great job!” or a nod. I never really had any bad moments on the bike; I simply pushed my big gear at my low cadence to gap all the riders behind me.

When I started the marathon, the sun was hot and all the muscles in my right leg felt constricted and on the verge of locking up, but I simply steeled my resolve to keep up a 7 minute per mile pace for as long as I could. Whatever happens, happens. My leg eventually loosed up after about 6 miles but by then I had other things working against me to slow my pace.

I love this race – the course is beautiful and my experience was beautiful:

  1. The scenery is spectacular as the course takes athletes from the Russian River though the Alexander Valley passing by dozens of vineyards. I know this course well and enjoy the challenges it presents.
  2. I can contend for the win. This year I raced near the front of the race and against myself.
  3. The Vineman personal touch. The athletes are names and not just 4 digit numbers. Only the tops pros will experience this in an “M-Dot” race.

This was my 7th time racing Vineman and I’ve won the race overall two of those times. Although I finished 3rd overall for one of my slowest times and missed a $2,000 finish bonus by only 10 minutes, I still raced one of the best Ironman races that I’ve ever done.

To me, the Ironman distance triathlon with its 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run is a puzzle with 1,000 pieces that I must solve every time I play. Racing well in an Ironman is about both preparation and execution.

When I raced at Ironman Coeur d’Alene five weeks earlier, I was well-prepared, but I made a couple of critical mistakes at execution.

At Vineman, I went into the race with less than ideal training conditions after having raced Ironman CDA only 5 weeks earlier then immediately following the race with packing and moving to Boulder, CO where I spent 3 weeks trying to adapt to the altitude that gave me restless nights and mornings that made me like I had a hangover.

It was in the middle of this five weeks between races that I consciously made a decision to skip Vineman since I was neither feeling “good” nor confident, but something kept me from sending an email to Amy at Vineman to pull me off of the start list.

About a week before the race, I began to feel “good enough” to give it a try but with no expectations other than to execute a solid race.

When I sped down the finish line, I slapped every hand I could and finished with a big smile on my face. I felt happiness.