After the brutal season-opening Wildflower I wasn’t too keen on another half-Ironman triathlon. The Vineman 70.3 changed everything. What a fun race! I set new personal records in the swim and bike and minimized my losses on the run.
Race: Vineman Ironman 70.3
Course: 1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1mi run
Overall: 05:09:17, 344th/2094 racers (84th percentile)
Age group: 74st/213 in age group (70th percentile)
Swim: 35:03, 1:40 min/100y, 707th place (66th percentile)
Bike: 2:36:03, 21.5 mph, 214th place (90th percentile)
Run: 1:50:46, 8:27 min/mi, 498th place (76th percentile)
The Vineman is right in our back yard; Guerneville is a 30-minute drive from our place. It was really awesome to be so close, especially since Vineman requires participants to check in the day before for a briefing and to setup T2 a day early. The race doesn’t start and finish from the same location, the swim and T1 at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville are about 17 miles from T2 and the run start/finish, so you gotta set up T2 the day before and bring stuff to T1 the next morning (like we usually do). The setup is fine but the briefing was a little annoying, no info you wouldn’t already know from reading the race package, but I guess enough people don’t read the race package that it was necessary.
Sara and Charlie left for a family vacation a few days before the race, which sucked, and Bingels had a supermoto trackday planned, which sucked, but our good friend Briana agreed to come and take photos and cheer for me. She did a fantastic job and I need to give her a shout-out for all her awesomeness. Thanks, B-dog. You rule.
I drove out to Guerneville and setup T1 solo. It was a little strange doing that, I don’t think I’ve ever started a race without someone there helping or advising or whatever. The organization was good but parking was pretty much nonexistent and the pits were PACKED. There was barely room to walk between the porta potties and the pit fence, so of course that area turned into a monster choke point with people trying to walk around. The organizers had just bought new bike racks which was very nice.
The swim was awesome. The water was 70-degrees, warmer than the pool I swim in, and apart from a sudden realization that I had forgotten to remove my engineering and wedding rings – Brad and Sara usually take these from me when I get into the water and still have them on – the warmup was awesome. I got a second-row position in the open-water start and settled into a rhythm quickly. The start wasn’t crazy, no elbowing or kicking. Twenty minutes later I’m swimming along and I feel rocks and gravel with my fingertips! Huh, I guess it’s kinda shallow in some spots. The next thing I know I swam into some dude’s legs. He was standing and walking.
I swam as much as I could and only walked a few times. The water in some spots was so shallow you couldn’t do a regular swim stroke, you’d mash your hand into the sand and rocks. I tried to draft a little, which didn’t work out because the guys I picked couldn’t swim in a straight line, and I changed my breathing which totally helped. I was breathing on a three-stroke count, which means I would breathe on the right, stroke stroke stroke, breathe on the left. This race I only did that to switch sides and mostly just breathed on the right. I felt faster and my swim time got way better: before this I’ve swam around 1:50 per 100-yards, and this time I averaged 1:40/100y.
Pace: 1:40 min/100y
T1 was strange. We had to pack up our gear into a plastic bag and leave it for volunteers to transport to Windsor High School. A lot of people hadn’t thought about this so they had a huge amount of stuff, shoes, backpack, drink, etc, that they had to jam into a bag with their wetsuit and towel and goggles. My T1 time was 3:46 and probably a minute of that was packing the bag! Once it was packed I grabbed the bike and was off. Funny but some people were slowly walking their bikes to the T1 bike out spot and I had to thread a needle to get past them. Seriously dudes, it’s a race, move it.
The bike started out like it always does: with my heart-rate alert on the watch beeping at me like mad. I just can’t calm down for the first part, I made a huge effort and kept my HR at 175, but the target is 167 and the damn thing just wouldn’t give me a break. I think I just get so excited to pass people I don’t care what the watch is saying. The cops had blocked all the major intersections which was awesome. The signage was great and the first 5 miles clicked by in an instant.
There’s a tight greater-than-90-degree turn when the course leaves River Rd before starting up Westside Rd. It was mentioned in Saturday’s briefing but not in the race handbook. I’d looked at it on Google Maps after they warned us about it and it really is sharp, plus it’s downhill. So when we got there everyone was basically parking it to get around safely. Only I don’t park it. Ever. So I raced right up to the corner, mashed the breaks and dodged around some people who had almost stopped in the corner. Some guy yelled at me that I was supposed to pass on the left. I dunno, I guess I was flustered or annoyed or whatever, so I yelled “well get out of my way then!” and took off. Sorry. When I bike all I see is red. You are the enemy. Love to stop and chat but there are other people to pass.
By mile 20 I had calmed down and was keeping a steady 167 HR. For some reason the ultra-competitive Men’s 33-34 group had been started almost an hour after the pros, which is totally different from all the other tris I’ve done. Usually the only peeps on the road are pros and maybe the younger guys and girls, which are usually fast, so usually there isn’t a butt-load of passing. Well I guess they randomize the starts at the Vineman and I guess Men 33-34 got picked late in the race. So not only was I passing people, but I was passing a lot of people. Sometimes with 15mph closing speeds. Even while holding a nice steady HR. It’s a cheap way to feel like a superstar, I know, but I still feel like a superstar.
Halfway through the race I met up with Briana. Well, I zoomed past her.
I stayed with the nutrition strategy from the Wildflower: one bottle of 6-scoop Perpeteum that I tried to drink slowly over the 56-miles (I only drank 75% of it) and the aero bottle I filled with water or Gatorade from the aid stations. I didn’t take many salt tabs, maybe only 3 or 4. The weather was awesome, no sun until the end and even a little drizzle to keep us cool. The course is bumpy but if you looked for bottles strewn about the road you could figure out where the worst bumps were.
Only three people passed me. The first was some super-fit 46yo woman. I wasn’t about to get chicked and goosed it to re-pass her, but I couldn’t stay with her without blowing up my HR so I reluctantly let her go. Maybe I’m getting old, but I seem to have discovered patience and discipline. The other two guys came by fast enough that I wasn’t tempted to try to stay with them. At some point I came up on an older dude, maybe mid-50s, with massive legs who was powering a shitty old bike with clunky wheels. He was really motoring and as I came by I told him he should get an upgrade. I guess he saw that as a personal challenge because he passed me back. I was wondering if I could afford a short burst to drop him when he grabbed his quad and pulled off the road. I felt a little bad I guess.
Chalk Hill was great. I wasn’t even in my granny gear and motored up sitting in the saddle quite comfortably. Lots of pain and suffering but pre-riding the course with Brad a few weeks ago really helped. Top speed from the Garmin 310XT was 43mph but I think that must be averaged because I’m pretty sure I touched 53mph on the downhill before Chalk Hill.
Avg Speed: 21.5mph
T2 was very well setup. I came in and there are people walking their bikes like they’re crossing the street! Not for me. I charged the line, locked front and rear just before and unclipped as the bike was doing a nice little stoppie. I was running before the back tire had come back down. Outta my way sheeple, I’ve got a half-marathon to run.
I zoomed outta T2 and was running a 7:30 pace before reality set in and I throttled back. Sure I felt good but we all know that wasn’t going to last.
I think I love starting in a later wave. I passed people on the run! I passed a bunch of people! Sure they started half an hour or 45-minutes before me, but I was still passing them! It took me about 10 minutes before I realized what was going on and I came back down to earth, but this is a huge improvement on my win-the-bike-and-lose-the-run normal method of racing. I may still have been giving up time on the run, but while doing so I was still passing other people.
The first half of the run felt great. I banged out four miles pretty easily before my quads started to let me know it wasn’t going to be this much fun for the rest of the race. I was definitely feeling it by the time we got to the halfway point and the mile-long run around La Crema’s vineyard. I know it was just one mile, the watch and course website and maps.google.com all agree, but damn that was the longest f-ing mile ever. It took a lot out of me. By the time we were back on asphalt running reverse direction I was hurting and starting to lag. I couldn’t keep up the pace and a guy in an Echelon shirt in my age group who I’d been keeping an eye on had just walked away from me.
I tried to increase my speed when people came past and I could keep up for a hundred feet or so, but eventually I’d have to let them go. I was starting to hate life when some big dude came past me at just the right speed. And he was in my age group. I turned on the tractor beam and stayed behind him for the next six miles. Right behind him. Like 18-inches behind him. He had something like 20lbs on me and was just banging out a nice 8 min/mile pace happy as can be.
I didn’t want to talk to him. I was hoping he wouldn’t know I was there (impossible, I know, but I was in a pain fog). I really hoped he hadn’t noticed that we were in the same age group. Damn if he wasn’t a nice guy. He had words of encouragement for everyone. “Keep it up!”, “You can do it!”, “Looking good!”. It was enough to make you sick, but it was enough to get a few words from me when he started to talk to me. I never talk to people while running. I steal their power. When someone in front of me slows down and grabs their quads I get faster. When I see someone walking an aid station my legs snap back/forth just a tiny bit quicker. Vomit is like rocket fuel. If someone else hurts I am stronger and faster and better. But this dude was nice. And he didn’t seem tired. And he was nice.
Anyway, so we talked and he said “20 more minutes” and I thought that was a hell of a long time. My HR was up around 175 by now. I was hurting but I kept the beams locked and he didn’t get more than five paces from me. We past the 11-mile marker. We past the 12-mile marker. The final mile. My plan, of course, was to shadow this poor dude right until the finish chute and then hammer past him and steal the win. It doesn’t matter that he kept me going, pushed me ever so gently, and paced me back into the race. Don’t care. My MO is to steal the win right at the end. I find the energy and leave it all out there on the course.
I was hurting enough to question the morality of my plan. Maybe I should let him go and finish just behind him. We’re not racing, Triathlon is a personal sport, you race yourself and you race the clock. Only I don’t work like that. I don’t care what Triathlon is. If you’re next to me in the last mile you’d better have a jetpack.
So the last mile is ticking away and two things happen. Off in the distance I see the Echelon age grouper who dropped me seven miles ago. He’s far away but within sight. The second thing is that some mid-40s woman (with some junk in the trunk) who had no right to be passing us passed us. She had been catching up previously but that was a fluke. This was the last mile. She pulled a gap but me and my pacer pulled her back. We were about half a mile from the finish now and it was waaaay too soon to be making a move. My pacer might react. I might not have the juice.
So when this woman who had no right to be in front of me turned, looked at us, and stomped on the gas, I don’t know what happened but I followed. I dropped my pacer (should have said something) and latched on to her. We got a tenth of a mile and she turned her head a little and gave me the hairy eyeball. Sorry lady, I don’t care what age group you’re in, there’s no way you and that big ole butt are leaving me behind. I pulled up beside her and moved just enough into the lead that I couldn’t see her ugly mug.
We were coming up on the Echelon age-grouper. She was right behind me. A few hundred yards before the 13th mile marker I dropped the hammer, fired the afterburners, dropped her and sprinted past him. I guess I got another age-grouper coming down the chute. People were turning and yelling. Small children were wondering why the ground was shaking. The announcer said something. I crossed the finish line into the helpful waiting arms of the medical crew.
I felt pretty strange. My HR peaked at 195. I sprinted at 6min/mile. I wasn’t hurting like in the Wildflower, I was just really spent. They helped me sit down in the shade and brought me some water. One of the guys I passed in the chute came over and congratulated me. I was in a bit of a daze for a few minutes.
Then it all wore off. CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!
Avg Pace: 8:27 min/mile
After cooling (and calming) down I found Briana and we retrieved bike and gear and cars. This was my best triathlon so far and I really felt like I’m getting the hang of it. The run was fantastic, I’ve never done so well versus the rest of the field. I was a minute faster per mile than at the Wildflower (although perhaps the 1725 additional feet of elevation had something to do with that).