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    • After last year's unfortunately terrible weather, mother nature cooperated nicely this year with a beautiful day on Saturday's 70.3 race. Even though the temperatures in the morning were down to mid 40s, with the sun beaming and crystal clear skies, it warmed up to low 70s by end of the run. If I had to sum it up in one photo, here is how the whole race day went:

    • I love it when there is a single transition at a race. It really makes a big difference in logistics on the race day. While it was still dark out, many fellow athletes were already busy setting up their transitions. Here a shot of my bike parked and ready to go.

    • This year's swim course was slightly different than the last few years so I was taking a mental note of swim markers and landmarks to keep track of while in the water. This was my first race wearing first generation Roka Maverick X wetsuite and I can't say enough good things about it!

    • As the sun rose over the hills of a beautiful Lake Berryessa the swim course followed along the shore. Every breath I took was also an opportunity to get a glance at the sunrise πŸ˜€.

    • After a chilly 35 minute 1.2 Mile swim, I came out of the water with my brain half frozen. While running toward transition my brain was slowly waking up and trying to decide on the sequence of actions to take to minimize time lost at a swim to bike transition.

    • With so many bikes and gear crammed next to each other, it was a juggling act to get the wetsuit and timing chip off, before putting the shoes, helmet and the vest on. Last year's extremely low temperatures of 41 degrees on a bike and a constant rain gave me a hypothermia and a first DNF (did not finish) in a triathlon race. I learned a lesson that day with a mistake of not being ready for the cold, only wearing a summer trisuit. That day I managed to ride 16 of 56 miles before my body started to shiver uncontrollably and I could no longer handle the bike...

      This year, I was determined not to make the same mistake and geared up with a proper vest and warm gloves. It was surprisingly difficult to put the gloves on with wet hands and I've spend a couple of extra valuable minutes just on that!

    • The 56 Mile bike course didn't disappoint with its numerous challenges. The temperature dropped from 45 degrees to 37 after getting over a first big climb and into a valley. Fortunately having warm gloves, vest and bike shoes with more coverage proved to be a winning formula for fighting off the hypothermia.

      First 25 miles featured some rough and bumpy roads, while the last 30 were silky smooth. I completely forgot just how "not flat" the course was. Lots of undulating terrain and a few big climbs with a total gain of over 3K (feet).

      Because of the low temperatures, I only had to use 2 smaller (500ml) water bottles and didn't need any additional water from aid stations.

      Finished the bike section just under 2 hours and 40 minutes, which for me was good considering how hilly the course was.

    • The 13.1 Mile run featured a beautiful bridge crossing that we had to do twice. The rest of the course was on the asphalt road with a few glimpses of the lake to the side.

    • In the first few miles I was stuck in the "No Man's Land". There wasn't anyone chasing me, yet I was too far behind the fellow competitors. It was quite unusual to run on your own and purely rely on pacing and hoping it will work out in the end.

      I actually made a mistake of forgetting to take my prepared jel flask in the transition. So I had no choice, but to rely on what was available in the aid stations and they didn't disappoint! My entire half marathon was fueled by a fistful of grapes that I grabbed at the aid stations. It was surprisingly refreshing to have grapes on the run. They kept me hydrated enough and provided a needed sugar boost. Usually by this time in the race, I get tired of eating gels no matter how good they taste in the beginning. However, the grapes were spot on!

    • The run was surprisingly solid and I managed to keep pretty consistent pace and even push some more in the second half. After being stuck in the "No Man's Land" I managed to catch up to 3 more fellow triathletes. With the two loop course, it was nice to catch a glimpse of my girlfriend cheering on the side and taking some of the photos I've posted earlier.

      After crossing the finish line with a few minutes a head of the next triathlete and a 5 hours and 1 minute overall time. Though far from my personal best this course proved to be tough and beautiful.

    • The award ceremony was held right next to the finish line with gorgeous views of the lake. After 4 years of racing and a DNF last year, this was the first time I got on the podium at this race 😊

    • My friend John came in 3rd Overall and more than half an hour ahead! I was very happy with my own result of 7th Overall and 1st in my Age Group.

      P.S. I wanted to thank the HITS race series organizers for the smooth logistics and good support and the volunteers who braved the early morning cold and blazing sun in the afternoon and who kept us hydrated and motivated to cross that finish line πŸ‘

    • Congrats on a perfectly executed race, Vilen. This was a tough race for me and I still have memories of my crash on the bike last year due to the conditions you already described. I am not ready to go back to this race yet ;)

    • HITS races have an interesting history and reputation. I think their most positive reputation are their LUXURIOUS transition areas. LOL I did the HITS 70.3 Palm Springs about 6 years race (the swim course was not my fav though...)

      Big congrats on your 1st place A/G!