Monday, July 02, 2007

Tri'ing the Pacific Crest Half Ironman

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining nearly 2,000 athletes for the Pacific Crest Endurance Weekend in Sunriver, OR.

<- Maia, the true triathlete of the family

This three day event had everything from 5k’s to Half Ironmans that weaved through the Sisters Wilderness, giving everyone a chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Oregon high desert. I met up with my extending family for a mini-family reunion, and we all enjoyed racing and watching others in the perfect 70 degree weather.

I chose to race the Half Ironman triathlon on Saturday, and was looking forward to “doing a tri” for the first time in years. My open water swimming skills were definitely lacking, and after witnessing the cycling accident on Sand Hill Road last month, I was too nervous on the bike to do long rides (btw, for those following along with this story, Debra has returned home from the hospital and is doing well on her recovery). But I figured I had a good foundation from all the running and could get through without too much trouble. One thing for sure – after all these ultras, the half marathon run was going to feel like a sprint!

The extended Dunlap clan were also signed up for many of the events, providing many opportunities to cheer. When I tallied it all up, here’s what we had on the schedule:

• My 7-year-old niece, Maia, was going to do the Splash/Pedal/Dash
• My father, Larry, was going to do the Olympic distance duathlon
• My step-mother, Sandie, would swim in an Olympic triathlon relay along with my step-sister, Jill (run) and her husband, Mike (bike)
• My mother, Diane, was tackling the 5k after a two-year recovery from heart surgery
• Christi, Sophie, Rocky, Maia, and I would join Diane for the 5k, along with Christi’s brother (Scott), his wife (Erica), and their 2 and half year old twin boys (Cannon and Carson)

Whew! Needless to say, there was someone to cheer for every day!

Maia was first, tackling the Splash/Pedal/Dash like a pro on Friday. Over 150 kids took on the water slide, 1 mile bike, and quarter mile run. As they were sent off two at a time on the chip-marked course, parents circled in a frenzy to cheer them on and take pictures. I was very impressed with how kids as young as five years old did all three sports with almost no help. Maia was great, even kicking it into overdrive for the run! So many budding triathletes. We celebrated like kings that night, eating BBQ and drinking beer until the wee hours. I had so much fun celebrating, I almost forgot I had a Half Ironman the next day!

(Maia swims, bikes, and runs!)

The next morning, my brother, Mike, drove me out to Wickiup Resevoir on a beautiful morning and we tried to estimate my splits so the family would know when to look for me. I hadn’t done an open water swim in years (and had a brand new wet suit to prove it), and I was still burping ribs and beer from the night before, so I figured 40 minutes for the swim. The bike course had changed this year and didn’t have the big climb around Mt. Bachelor, so I thought maybe 2:45 for the bike. The run would largely depend on how the bike went, but I had never run faster than a 1:40 in a Half Iron, so that was a good stretch goal. Overall my stretch goal would be under 5 hours, but 5:20 would be most likely.

(The swim start at Wickiup Reservoir)

I hustled up to my wave just in time for the start, and we were off! The water was cold (~60 degrees), but quite pleasant. I found a rhythm at the back of the back, but continued to burp up a storm (note to self – baby back ribs do not make the best pre-race meal). When the wave behind us caught up, they rolled over me like a speed bump, pulling off my goggles and forcing me to take a quick break to get them back on. I didn’t get too angry – this was the Pacific Northwest Championships after all, so the front-runners were giving it all they had. Another wave caught us as I hit the halfway point, but they were all in a line like a Tour de France peleton. We let the convoy by and did our best to pull into their slipstream. Before I knew it, the swim finish was in sight.

I dashed out of the water and immediately into the port-o-pottie. Those baby back ribs were tearing through me like frayed rope. No worries – I’m sure there would be plenty of port-o-potties along the way. I got my bike gear on, slapped on some sunscreen, and gave my brother a high five as I headed out. The swim took 38 minutes, but the 10 minute T1 had thrown me off my pace.

The day warmed up quickly as we all headed out on the bike. I had on a Sugoi tri outfit that ventilated nicely (Christi calls it the “super hero suit” thanks to the metallic blue stripes). Most of the roads had nice big shoulders to ride on and sparse traffic, but I noticed that my heart would jump when the big trucks went by. I seemed to be the only one though – all the other riders were barreling down the highway in full aero position. I stayed down in my aero bars as much as possible, and kept my power meter on 220 watts. At the half way point, I was averaging 22.5 mph, which was projecting a very fast 2:30 bike split.

(Biking towards Mt. Bachelor along the Cascade Lakes Highway)

The scenery was amazing, as we raced past the Cascade Lakes and through endless hills of pines. I did my best to take a pic, but it turns out that isn’t very safe on the bike (whoa!). My legs felt tired around mile 45, reminding me that I hadn’t done many long rides this year. But I stayed in my pack, and finished up in 2:33. With a not-so-quick change into a new shirt and shoes (and yes, one more port-o-pottie stop), I headed out on the run.

The Dunlap clan was there to cheer me on, led by Maia in her new bright red Flamenco dress. With a round of high fives, I set down the course on a 7-min mile pace. My quads were a bit tight, but the run felt very natural. One of the best parts of being a runner is that you’re one of the few people smiling on the last leg!

(Running in the pines; photo courtesy of Christi Dunlap)

One thing I quickly noted about triathletes is that they seem to be more competitive than the ultra runners. If I came up on somebody from my age group (who were everywhere – when is that going to stop?), they would prefer to surge than chat. In fact, nearly all of my humble attempts at starting conversation with “isn’t this a great day?” were met with grimaces of disdain. The few who answered back were often ultrarunners! That’s okay – to each their own.

It felt like I barely had enough time to soak in the wetlands and river area behind the resort when the aid station attendants were shouting “2 miles to go”. I hit one more port-o-pottie (oh Lord, let this be the last) and kept up the speed to finish a 1:38 run leg, good for 5:01:36 and 70th place. I was WAY off the winning pace (sub 4 hour - those guys are FAST!), but was feeling good enough for beer and pasta at the end.

(Bringing it in to the finish; photo courtesy of Christi Dunlap)

After a night of more food, family, and fun, we all gathered along the course to cheer on my Dad in his duathlon, and the family relay. All did very well, with my Dad winning his age group in the duathlon, and the relay team exceeding their expectations. The true hero of this race was my Step-Mom, Sandie. She is legally blind, but still managed to clock an impressive time on the swim course, even in a wetsuit she had never tried before. Given how little I could see during the swim, I have no idea how she did that!

(Larry Dunlap, my Dad, wins the 60-64 age group Olympic duathlon)

(Mike Barnebey, Jill Barnebey, and Sandie Dunlap ace the Olympic relay)

The 5k was also very special. My Mom had been using this 5k walk as a stretch goal for recovering from some new stents put in just two years ago. Like many heart-related procedures, the first year of her recovery involved juggling rehab, short exercise, and a medical cocktail that severely restricted her. She couldn’t travel, walk long distances, or anything. The only way out was a lot of hard work on her behalf – the kind that makes my training seem easy – and a big goal to work towards. I was very proud of her just for making it to the start!

(My Mom, Christi, Sophie, and Erica at the start of the 5k)

I will let my Mom describe the 5k:

Coming in Last

By Diane Dunlap

After a long decline in health that finally led to heart surgery two years ago, last year I had struggled to walk from where the suv was parked to Scott’s swim/bike transition point at this same event. Any thought of walking a mile or a 5k was out of the question. Last year, I was still working my way back to 10,000 step days and cardiac capacity that would let me do any aerobic work. This year, I had another year of training and recovery behind me, and I was ready to try for a new record.

So, on Sunday morning, eleven of us (and Rocky!) lined up near the back of the 5k pack with the other walkers. The race started, the runners off into the 80 degree day on the pine-lined walking and bike paths, followed by the walkers. It took less than two minutes for all of the family and the other walkers to slowly begin to pull away from me. All but Jim Stott, my partner, who had decided to walk with me, just to make sure I was ok. Gotta love him! He’s not a runner—that was his first race ever. It must be love—he strapped on his lawn-mowing Keds and insisted on keeping me company. Then, Scott dropped back to join us—bless his heart! He commented, “I’ve never been last in a race—wonder what it’s like” before spending the next hour entertaining me as only he can. It must have seemed like a glacial pace to him, but he just kept making me laugh and distracting me from the accumulating miles.

So, what is it like to finish last? Well, first I kept moving over on the path and then trying to speed up because there was a car on my heels. I finally turned around to see what the crazy driver was doing, and saw that it was the local police cruiser, and I really was the last person in the 5k! He waved to us when we left the road to go onto the paths.

For awhile, we walked with a nice woman who said she always came in last in this race, but then she “zoomed” ahead when I had to slow down on 1% and 2% inclines. At about the 1 ½ mile mark, 26-year-old Kristopher Houghton of Albuquerque zipped past us on his way to a 32:29 finish in the 10k. By the time we rounded the last turn in the woods and headed toward the sounds of cheering in front of us, we were lapped by two other 10k finishers. I began to have images of the tortoise and the hare! I felt like I was going really fast and long, compared to my prior times, but I was feeling pretty “tortoise-y” in this company!

Volunteers cheered me on at the aid stations, even as they asked if we were the last ones and began to close up their tables. Several people out for a stroll on a beautiful morning suddenly realized, “Oh, you’re in the race!” and moved over, clapping as we “sped” by. Little children ran up on the path and ran around us laughing and hitting “high fives.” When we came to the final turn into the finish gate, the crowd cheered as loudly for us as they did for the duathlon runners who were also starting to come in. I felt like a real athlete as our names were called through the electronic monitor, the announcer said “great finish” and we were shunted into the 5k finish corral.

I found out another part of finishing last—they were out of 5k medals! Doesn’t pay to come in last if you want a medal! But, they took our numbers and promised to send one in the mail. We stepped out of the finishers’ tent into the sunshine and found our family members—already rested up because I took so much longer than they did! I also found that woman who always finished last, who thanked me for doing the honors this year!

So, I completed my 5k in just over an hour, last but for my partner and son who pushed me across the finish line ahead of them. I came in 234th out of 235—I guess someone didn’t finish. I was tenth in my age group! Oh yeah, there were ten in my age group. Didn’t set any records, didn’t make the local news, didn’t get a medal, but I’ve never been prouder of me in my life!

So, I’m thinking next year, maybe I’ll aim for last in the 10k, or the ½ marathon, or maybe even the marathon. You know, the possibilities may be endless!

(That's it, Mom, I'm signing you up for the tri next year! - SD)


  1. Great post Scott!

    Be careful in the Death Ride - remember to save some juice for that last long 5th climb...

    See you at TRT.


  2. Oh my God, Scott, you have an absolutely amazing family! I mean, I am in such an owe...may be because I come from the country where you're either competitive at national level or don't do any excercise after high school at all (as in after years of getting grief from my folks I now hide that I still run)...but the story of your extended family, all of them, not only doing it, but actually enjoying it to the moon and back...I am jealous, and very very happy for each and every one of you. Go, Mam, and Dad, and Maia, you too:) and Dunlap clan! If you are looking for adoptions, think of me, please:)

  3. awesome job, scott. it's so great your entire family can join you for the fun. you totally made the half ironman sound easy. :)

  4. Great job and what a fun family day! I love your mom's "10th in age group" comment.

    And yeah - triathletes and road runners seem to be A LOT less willing to chat in a race that ultra runners. It's an interesting contrast.

  5. I can't believe kids are doing tri's! How far is the splash pedal dash?

  6. Hey Scott:

    Nice post as usual. You make it interesting without going into detailed split times and what not. I would have given up at the first port-a-pottie stop :-)

    I see that your daughter has the Revolution jogging stroller. Do you run with her in it? I ask because I tried out mine last weekend for 4 miles or so. But my wife was really worried that my 7 month old would be 'shaken' by his first trail running experience.


  7. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    The Splash/Pedal/Dash was a quick slide and three 1 ft deep pools to run through (enough to get wet), a 1 mile bike, and a 1/4 mile run. Fastest time was 8:00!

    Anupam - I LOVE the BOB Revolution stroller, although I don't run on the trails much with it. Roads, bike paths, and logging trails are all game, but if it's single track, I better be walking (I use a Kelty backpack). If your kid(s) are like Sophie, they do like a little shaking to get them to sleep, so some rough road actually helps. We are known to do 10-12 miles on the Crystal Springs trail fairly regularly. It's nice to have the snacks and water in the carrier too!


  8. Your Mom has an absolutely AWESOME attitude and sense of humor. Love it! The way I look at it, even last in a race, is WAY, WAY ahead of the majority of the population. Just getting out and participating makes life so fun and interesting. Someone always has to be last. And, she will not always be last, either. But, for personality and Mom-coolness factor, she is a winner!

  9. Hi Scott,
    Sounds like a great day out for the Dunlap clan.

    Loved your mom's race report as well. Now we know where you got your great blogging skills.

    I hear there is a great baby back rib BBQ place in Carson City, so you can stock up for your 100-miler...

    Take care,

  10. How wonderful! Congrats to you and your amazing family for all the great athletic feats accomplished :D.

    Sounds like you all had a fabulous day!

  11. Oh Scott you have got to stop these blog entries that make me cry! Well it's your mom's fault this time I guess. (Nice job Diane!)
    For some unknown reason I signed up for the international distance of the Donner Lake Tri this year, and like you have done no swimming in, well, years maybe. (Since my last tri?)My swim is 1.5K, and I strongly believe I will know what it is like to "come in last," at least in the swim portion. But anyway, your half-iron was really impressive, so I guess if you can do that then maybe I can at least keep from drowning. Thanks for the inspiration!
    See you in Tahoe!

  12. Great job all of Scott's family, and very respectable swim and bike splits. It's cool your whole family's into it. Those triathlete's are indeed an intense, competitive crowd. Diane, sorry you weren't dead last, but close enough (I had that honor at Tahoe 100 last year, and I'm prouder of that finish than any other). You're awesome.
    By the way, Scott, how did you find my blog? I haven't told anyone about it except my wife?

  13. Mark -

    I used Technorati (see the link at the bottom of the page). It's a free service that tells you what other blogs link to yours. Since you have a link to your interview, it came up.

    Great entry, btw! Congrats on your win at Kettle Moraine!


  14. BTW, for those following the Debbie Weil story, be sure to check out the comments on the blog entry - Debbie left a comment! Sounds like she is making an incredible recovery.


  15. Your blog is the best. So many times in so many ways...

    Great shot of Maia sprinting to the finish!
    Your Dad looks like Superman - now we know where you get it from.
    And your Mom's story had me laughing. Hey, I'm supposed to be going home from work and instead I'm sitting and reading about how fu it can be to come in last.
    So I guess I'm leaving work dead last - and enjoying it!

    PS: So glad to hear about Debbie.

  16. (second) best. post. ever.

    the first best being your Debbie/Mt. Diablo tale.

    this has become my favorite blog. thank you for sharing all of this!

  17. Hi Scott,

    I did the Pacific Crest Half-Ironman run section as a relay with my brother cycling and his wife rocking the swim. It was a beautiful day and fun weekend. Great to read your post. Your mom and dad seem to have provided you with great writing skills and athletic ability respectively.

    David Ross

  18. Way to go Scott. That's a phenomenal time for someone who has not done a Tri in some time.


  19. Hey Scott! I'm a friend of Jill and Mikes! Our daughters go to school together AND Mike and I rowed in college together! I did the Pac Crest 1/2 too! (My 3rd tri overall and 1st at that distance) I'm totally HOOKED! Just thought I'd drop a note and say "Hi"! GREAT race! Congrats!

  20. hi Scott!! Mike Dunlap here. my wife Lori and I just did the Bone Island Half Ironman in Key West. We both finished under eight hours, and I was lucky enough to capture third in the sparsely populated 65-69 age group. Was reading about your experience in the Lake Tahoe swim, and realized that we were complaining about 63 degree water in Florida's January!!! no are awesome, dude!!! Proud to be another Dunlap Family of athletes!! Your Fla "cousins"


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