Barb’s Race: The End of an Era

This week the Vineman triathlon made a big announcement. Their race was bought by Ironman. There homegrown 140.6 mile race is now a legit Ironman branded event, sure to bring lots of people in to do the event.
Cool, right?

I don’t know. It makes me a little, sad.

See, the Vineman also puts on a couple races during the same day: a full and half iron-distance aquabike (swim/bike) and Barb’s Race, an all women half-iron distance event. Barb’s Race is also a big fundraiser for women’s cancer nonprofit’s in Sonoma County.
Vineman announced that with the turning the event into an Ironman event, they will no longer have an Aquabike or Barb’s Race.

Why am I sad? Because, Barb’s Race holds a special place in my origin story of being a triathlete. I have told my tale many times, but here is the brief recap: in 2007 after being traumatized by racing a marathon (not really, but I do not recommend driving to Eugene Oregon, running 26 miles, driving home the next day, and then getting on a plane to India once you got back to California. My legs were pretty much toast and being on a plane for 17 hours did not help much), I bought my first rode bike and decided to try a triathlon out. The sport confused and excited me. It was like nothing I ever experienced. I did two sprints and an Olympic distance. This was in the space of two months, and I had no clue what I was doing.
In between the races, I also lost my job. Well, a bunch of people I knew did. See, I was in the sub-prime mortgage industry and if you remember anything about 2007, you know how that little tale ended. So, here I was, searching for whatever the next step in my career was, and this little sport called triathlon was right there with me. I heard people chatting about half ironmans and to me that sounded super bananas. Like swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run a half marathon? In one day? Hell no.

So, obviously, I Googled “half ironman’s California.” I can’t explain what drew me to do it. I was a little lost. What happens when the industry you were working in goes poof? I knew I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector so I got a temp job with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while also working a holiday position with Pier 1. (FYI if you ever work at Pier 1 during the holidays, know that you will be covered in glitter by the end of your shift because of all the holiday décor). I needed a challenge. I needed something that I was not 100% I could do.
I found Barb’s Race and before I knew it I hit “submit” on the registration page. It was such a blur. Once I got my confirmation email, I could feel my heart race. What did I do? I was so scared. I signed up for something that I could not wrap my head around doing. And it felt amazing. Signing up for that race lifted me up out of the fog I was in. It gave me strange sense of purpose, of something to work towards.

I trained hard for that race in 2008. Blood sweat and tears. And come race day, I was ready. And, as the origin story goes, I crashed my bike on mile 22…spending the rest of the day in the Emergency tent waiting for my hubby to come get me while being super bummed I didn’t meet my goal. I knew one day I would attack that course again. Sure enough, in 2013 I crossed the finish line. I had done tons of races before, but crossing that line was the first time I really cried after finishing a race. It just felt like a chapter closed. I have cheered on many friends on that course. Seen them suffer through the heat to push themselves to finish. I remember cheering on my friend Melissa as she dominated the aquabike, all of her friends at the finish screaming our heads off. Melissa passed away in 2012, and that is one of the many amazing moments we shared with her through this crazy sport.

Best of all, Barb’s Race introduced me to a wonderful group of women. Once I signed up for the race, I knew I needed help. I found an all women’s training group (something that usually would have no appeal to me. I am infamous for signing up for gyms and then remembering, “oh yeah, I belong to a gym. Oops.”). I met the fantastic Heidi Boynton who coached me through many races. I discovered the importance of finding your tribe, and being surrounded by women who build each other up and share our love and frustrations for running, biking, and swimming. Seven years later I would say the women I met through this group—and continue to meet as it expanded into— hold a special place in my heart.
All because of this little event called Barb’s Race.

So, thank you Barb’s Race. I will miss you a lot, and know that you helped me when I was in a standstill. You kinda changed my life—you rock.

…and P.S. Ironman, increasing your full distance entry from $400 to $750 is kinda rude. My two cents.

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