Spectating the HITS Napa Valley Triathlon

On Saturday, the Husband did a half-ironman distance triathlon. I wanted to blog about it because 1) it was a good day and 2)it may help any people racing it next year who find this post via google!

I have to admit, this was the last prepared we have ever been for a race.I mentioned the ‘minimal’ training the Husband has done for this race. I don’t think its minimum-ness can be underestimated. Apart from a few runs in the past month (!) he was basically relying on residual fitness from Ironman Canada to get him round.

We stayed in a hotel in Fairfield the night before. There are NO hotels within about an hour of the race, which makes life tricky – I’ll talk a little about that below. The Hilton Garden Inn was pretty much perfect. Unfortunately there are no healthy places to eat the night before, so his pre-race meal was a Chipotle burrito and a giant Cold Stone Creamery ice-cream. Not ideal.

We left the hotel about 10 minutes late, at about 4.55am. It was about an hour’s drive on windy roads to the staging area at Lake Beryessa. The lake is pretty big but the race would take place right at the top of the west shore, which just requires a lot of driving to get there. Once we arrived, there was plenty of parking near the race area and plentiful portaloos. We didn’t have THAT much time to get set up so it was a little rushed, but not unbearably so. Packet pick-up was incredibly quick and easy, and for that we were grateful.

It was still dark when we arrived and not particularly light when the swimmers started heading for the lake before the 7am start. As the Husband got ready, we somehow bumped into Danielle who I know via social media – it was lovely to meet her at last. She was super grinny and excited to go! The Husband was a little less keen. But we all shuffled down to the water’s edge, we kissed him, I told him not to die and he went off to join the blue swimming hats.

triathlon HITS
Morning breaks over Lake Beryessa

(HITS later posted a little video on twitter and somehow, the Dude, Danielle and I are on it!)

I think there were about 250 athletes doing the half iron distance and maybe 30 or so doing the full ‘Ironman’. There was a countdown and the swimmers set off. The Husband clearly wasn’t feeling that nervous as he waved quite hilariously to us as he was swimming. I wasn’t quite sure if he was waving or drowning (this is our ‘HELP ME’ signal for the Dude when he swims) but he kept swimming so I guess he was okay.

It was cold, so we went and huddled in the car whilst he swam but before too long we saw the speedsters heading out on their bikes so we went back to the lake and fairly soon, we saw the Husband coming out the water, still alive. He’d done it in 55 mins which was better than we’d expected. He was very chilly, the water was much colder than anticipated and he’d struggled to deal with the cold!  Everyone looked pretty arctic, coming out the water. We saw him off on the bike with waves and cheers.

husband triathlon HITS
Still alive
husband HITS triathlon cycling
Off on the bike stage

The course is not at all spectator friendly and we knew he would be many hours, so the Dude and I went for a day out to the ‘nearby’ town of Davis. Here, our lack of planning showed itself again. Davis and Napa look more or less equidistant on a map – but due to the windy roads round the lake, it took about an hour and a half to get to Davis, much longer than I’d expected. (For UK readers, Davis is the home to one of the campuses of the University of California, it’s apparently a small, bike-friendly town and we’d fancied popping in for years but had never made it).

The Dude and I had a fantastic day out. We rented bikes at Ken’s Bikes and Skis ($13/hour which is a bargain) and cycled through the town to the car-free campus. We stopped for coffee and breakfast (the 4am wakeup call was getting to me) and then cycled round the uni, especially the lovely arboretum – a gorgeous bike path edged with various California trees. REALLY pretty. The whole campus was full of prospective students visiting for  tours and I felt like I was on the set of Pitch Perfect! We stopped in a second-hand book shop and then a toy shop and pretty quickly it was time to drive back. Three hours driving for three hours there. Oh well.

davis dude cycling
The Dude on campus
me cycling
Every campus should have its own redwood grove

We got back to the triathlon at about 1.50. I was expecting the husband between 2 and 3pm. We sat in the shade and cheered on all the incoming athletes. Amanda and Matt turned up, picking up their bibs for Sunday’s sprint distance – their first triathlons! – so we hung out with them and they inadvertently taught my son some ‘new words’. Danielle arrived, having done a good, solid race! And just after 3pm, we saw a very tired but unbroken Husband running down the road towards us. He’d done it, in about 8.08.

husband triathlon HITS
Still smiling 🙂

This wasn’t a PR for him and it won’t break any records but frankly, I was astonished that he managed a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run on pretty much no training. I’m secretly quite impressed…don’t tell him.

We hung round for a bit afterwards and I spotted Kimra volunteering at the finish line. We ended up ‘volunteering’ too (aka chatting) for about ten minutes whilst the Husband recovered. I was a rubbish volunteer. Whilst my son seriously handed out water to finishing athletes, I just got all emotional every time they crossed the finish line and was no good to anyone 🙂

For future HITS racers, here are some things you might like to know.

  • This is a really well-organized race. We were really impressed. Plenty of parking, plenty of loos, great volunteers. Nice medal, great vibe.
  • The Husband felt that the aid stations were a little too far apart on the bike course but was full of praise for the quantity and quality of those on the run course.
  • The run course, despite what they say in the blurb, is NOT shady.
  • Both the bike and run courses were much harder than anticipated. They were constantly up and down.
  • The water was COLD. And the morning itself was cold. Bring PLENTY of warm clothes for before the race, I wish I’d had a hat. Consider neoprene swim socks.
  • The race is pretty remote. Napa is slightly closer for hotels but Napa Valley hotels are VERY expensive and often require two night minimums at weekends. The Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfax was pretty much the best in terms of value/location. In retrospect, I wish we’d rented a VW camper/RV and parked up somewhere nearby!
  • There’s no crowd support at all. No cheering. If you know that, you can be prepared for it. This isn’t so bad for the half but if you’re doing the full Ironman distance, we both felt it would be really tough psychologically, especially on that second cycle lap and for the run. You’d have to dig pretty deep. My respect for those exhausted full-distance people we saw late in the afternoon was boundless.
  • That Napa/Solano County border is SO beautiful. We had no idea how lovely it was, especially when green.

A day or so later, the Husband has mixed feelings about his performance. He thought he would automatically PR because his first half-ironman was SO TOUGH but he missed it by about 20 minutes. It was a reminder of quite how fit he was last summer. He’s talking about doing another one later in the year, we’ll see. He’s also muttering about another Ironman next year…hmmm, we’ll see, eh?

HITS triathlon

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Nic J says:

    Nice work – the whole team! Wish I could even want to complete a half ironman on 20 mins prep!…

    1. Cathryn says:

      Seriously!! I was most impressed with his swim. He hasn’t done any serious swim training since July (that I can think of) and this swim was only a minute or two slower than his previous half-ironman swim! Swine.

      1. Nic J says:

        Agreed. Guess he’s only saved from any come-back due to his heroism on the anti spider campaign waged just recently?!…

      2. Cathryn says:

        My hero can do no wrong at present.

      3. Layla says:

        Maybe he’s been secretly swimming in the bathtub?! That’s pretty impressive that he can go out and do a half-ironman with very little training. As usual, I was laughing through this post — especially the drowning vs. waving bit. Your humor just makes things so fun to read. Kudos to your husband!

      4. Cathryn says:

        Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoy reading, it makes me really happy.

  2. Grace says:

    Nice work! Ah, this must be the Run Less, Run…Less training plan you were talking about. 🙂 Apparently swim fitness lasts, I guess? And I have no idea what you mean, a large burrito and ice cream sounds like the best pre-race meal ever. (Well, maybe hold the beans.)

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’m going to try this approach for my next race.

  3. Bean says:

    Well done! Amazing. SO impressed by people who do triathlons!

  4. dlubi says:

    So wonderful to meet you and your family! You are all such amazing people!!! Great recap of an excellent day out there. Congrats on everyone doing such an awesome job spectating and racing! Thanks so much for the cheers and encouragement!

    1. Cathryn says:

      SO nice to meet you at last! You were so smiley 🙂 xx

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