Every romantic holiday should start by shotgunning beers. At least mine did! Stephanie and I celebrated our Half-Ironman achievements with my Fortius teammates at a friend's home in Santa Rosa. I knew it would be a raucous time when Mike sent me a text message, "We gonna shotgun beers!"
Uh, OK. Actually, I think I texted back, "Fuck."
I hadn't shotgunned a beer since college, back when I was known as "Twiggy" and "Two Beer."
After 70.3 total miles in nearly 90-degree heat, I knew I'd be "One Beer."
We all laughed, drank (fairly heavily), traded race-day stories and ate a ton of carbs -- all with the Tour de France playing in the background. It was this triathlon dork's dream party.
So began what has turned out to be a decadent week off from training, which I've enjoyed as thoroughly as the race itself. So far in this racing odyssey, I've really yet to take adequate time to savor a race experience to the fullest. I'm usually analyzing (and re-analyzing) every detail, immediately writing the blog, planning the next race and comparing notes with my fellow competitors.
For once this season, I decided to fully unplug and do what's most important: celebrate with my fiancee. No Facebook (well, a little). No Twitter. No blog. Just Steph and me. Roadtrip companions. Riding down PCH, no hotel reservations, no destination in particular, no plans.
I've probably written about this before, but triathlon is a selfish pursuit. It requires a lot of dedication and discipline, often coming at the expense of friendly social outings with mates and family. That can pose problems in a relationship, especially if the other person isn't a triathlete. That's why I've tried to ensure that Steph knows that even though I'm doing the actual racing, she's my real race companion. The person who makes my motor run. The inspiration that makes me go just a little faster.
When I compete, I refer to us as Team Schneider. And I really mean it. But if that's the case, then WE need to celebrate better. And that's what we did Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
On Monday, we drove the Vineman 70.3 bike course so I could show Steph the route's beauty. Of course, that meant showing her several charming wineries that nearly led to impromptu wedding venue visits.
Annnnnnd we're moving right along. ... I sped up a little more at those intersections!
We had a good time talking about the key moments in the bike race and where exactly they occurred. I think it helped Steph visualize more of the experience since she could only see me during brief transitory moments. We then took River Road past Guerneville all the way to Bodega Bay, stopping whenever the thought struck us for photo opps, an oyster shucking lesson and eventually a gigantic burger in Point Reyes further down on PCH. Did you know Sir Francis Drake visited North America in 1579? Yeah, neither did I. Apparently he stopped in the Point Reyes area, maybe because the burger was just that damn good.
We eventually snaked our way on Highway 1 past Mount Tamalpais, through Saulsalito, past the Golden Gate bridge (hiding behind the clouds) and through the western most part of San Francisco. By then it was close to 7 p.m. and we realized our plan of reaching Big Sur by sunset was going to fail. But this turned into a big win since we had been trying unsuccessfully to visit with Steph's best friend Annie the entire weekend. We shifted course to Annie and David's apartment in Los Gatos and enjoyed a late-night feast.
Tuesday was largely uneventful as we leisurely drove home from Annie's. The key words are leisurely and uneventful. Both my life and Steph's are so heavily scheduled that the notion of "free" time for either of us is almost unheard of. This vacation was special not because of what we did, but what we didn't do. We didn't rush from activity to activity, or plan around my training. Of course, we did touch down at home around 4 p.m. only to leave a few hours later to enjoy another feast -- this time in Santa Monica -- with our good friends Erika and Adam. (If you haven't eaten at Rustic Canyon, I'd recommend it. Though I'd avoid the pork chop unless you like it on the drier side. The corn soup, crispy polenta, lamb meatballs and assortment of desserts more than compensate.)
We got home around 10:30 p.m. Team Schneider's whirlwind five-day Half-Ironman had crossed the finish line. Much like how I looked at the end of the race, that's how I felt by the time the long weekend was over. Gloriously spent. We left nothing in the proverbial fuel tank.
To all my friends racing Vineman Full: I hope you will celebrate as hard as you trained. I hope you hug or kiss the people in your life whom also sacrificed to help you reach your goals. I hope you let them know how much it means to them when you see them screaming for you at every transition -- knowing they're really waiting several hours at a time just to catch a glimpse of you.
We couldn't do any of this without our race partners. I can't do it without mine.
And I'm happy -- almost happy beyond words -- that I don't have to.
I may be signing off for a couple days. If something comes up worth writing about during my time off, I will blog. If not, I'd like to spend more time with my friends and family before I dive back into the deep end of Ironman training. I know what's in store for the next four months.
121 days and counting.