It’s been four years since my last triathlon, but I managed to be one of the lucky 2300 when registration opened and snagged a spot for the 2015 Vineman 70.3. I had a great race, but I have to admit there were some tough times during the run when I was wondering “why do I do this?”.
Race: 2015 Ironman 70.3 Vineman
Course: 1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1mi run
Overall: 05:07:13, 264th/2167 finishers (87th percentile)
Age group: 34th/237 in age group (85th percentile)
Swim: 34:15, 1:47 min/100m, 551st place (74th percentile)
Bike: 2:33:57, 21.8 mph, 195th place (91st percentile)
Run: 1:50:23, 8:26 min/mi, 335th place (84th percentile)
It’s interesting to compare my results against my 2011 race. I was a total of only two minutes faster, even though I think I’m in better shape now. I was a minute faster in the swim, two minutes faster on the bike, and exactly the same speed on the run. I gave up a minute in T2 transition wandering up/down the aisle looking for my gear, urgh.
I was much more relaxed for this race. Sure I got some jitters the day before, but I only did one bike-run “brick” workout beforehand, didn’t pre-ride the course, didn’t get much running in the month prior, and wasn’t particularly careful with my diet the weeks before. I guess it showed!
I drove to Guerneville solo, got there super early, and spent almost 40 minutes driving around looking for a parking spot. The organizers had told everyone to park in the same place on Armstrong Woods Rd, which of course was full. No problem for me, but I can imagine the feeling of anxiousness from last-minuters who didn’t have the luxury of searching all over for a spot.
I setup T1, watched some swim waves leave, watched some swim waves come in, went for a warm-up swim, and waited waited waited for wave 22. I guess the Vineman randomizes when the gender/age waves depart and Men 38-39 drew the short straw. The pros left at 6:30 and we didn’t start until two hours later. I didn’t mind, more people to pass!
The swim was fun. I was very comfortable in the water, I guess my weekly swims at the Y are paying off, but I didn’t have the huge gains I was hoping for. I wandered all over the course, previously I’ve been a very straight swimmer, but not this time. I needed to swim sideways to clear buoys several times.
I had to stand and walk one short section because the water was just too shallow to swim. I swam over one dude by accident and was swam over by another as he sped past. No one hurt and didn’t get my goggles knocked off, nice. I did swim into the back of someone as he was wading, I think I poked him in the back with my hand.
Swim: 34:15 (vs. 35:03 in 2011)
Rank: 551/2167 (vs. 707/2094 in 2011)
Percentile: 74th (vs. 66th in 2011)
Pace: 1:47 min/100m 1:36.7 min/100y (vs. 1:40 min/100y in 2011)
T1 was good. Cap and goggles in wetsuit arm, pull and kick off wetsuit, pack wetsuit in bag, put on helmet, put nutrition in suit, put on glasses, wipe feet, put on socks, put on shoes, pack towel in bag, grab bike, go.
T1: 3:10 (vs. 3:46 in 2011)
The bike section was fun. I rode up the short steep hill coming out of the pits and my heartrate was at 180bpm. Err, that’s no good, maybe I should slow down, but of course there were a ton of riders toodling along and I had to pass every single one. Turn on the tractor beams! It was mile 5 before my HR came down down below 170bpm. Probably dumb.
My legs felt loose and spinning was easy. The aero position was comfortable and I stayed down in the drops the whole ride. I fueled a lot, gel or chomps every five miles, drinking to thirst (or a little more). You know I didn’t see anyone else on their bike eating? I saw folks taking a drink, but no one was downing gels. Of course I didn’t see most people for very long. Zoom zoom!
I passed a lot of people, and I won’t lie, that’s a lot of fun. It’s hard to have patience and discipline and keep your heartrate at a steady 160bpm when the next pass is right there in front of you. Ask me how I feel about my poor patience and shoddy discipline when the run starts though.
One age-group guy passed me. Two bottles mounted vertically on the back of his tri bike. Slow cadence pushing a big gear. Out of the seat on the uphills. I kept him in sight for 10 miles and he suddenly and and abruptly faded. Another age-group guy came up beside me and passed slowly, then slowed down even further!
Ironman rules say that you need to drop back five bike lengths after you’re passed. Failing to do so can get you a five-minute penalty for drafting, so it’s a totally douchy move to pass and then slow down. The passee is now forced to slow WAY down to get the required bike length gap before attempting to re-pass.
So I told him to hurry up and finish the pass. Then I re-passed him and kept him behind me until he came past – authoritatively – on Hwy 128 before the Chalk Hill turnoff. I gave him some kudos and was hoping he would take off, but he slowed again! Grr. Maybe he was playing with me, but I pushed a tiny bit more and kept him behind me the rest of the bike. Whenever I would see or hear him coming, I’d push just enough to discourage the pass. He probably cost me a match or two. Another patience/discipline fail on my part.
I rode up Chalk Hill super easy in the lowest gear, not pushing, not spiking my heartrate, just taking it easy. 170 max HR. 60 rpm. 250-ish watts. Lots of others were slowing and weaving. Coming down I felt like a rocketship. 40mph. Fun!
On Airport Blvd I rode alongside a cop car around 28-26mph, the cops were giving me a big thumbs up and cheering out the window, that was cool. I burned too many matches and pushed too hard to set myself up for a quick run, but damn it was a fun ride.
Bike: 2:33:57 (vs. 2:36:03 in 2011)
Rank: 195/2167 (vs. 214/2094 in 2011)
Percentile: 91st (vs. 90th in 2011)
Avg Speed: 21.8mph (vs. 21.5mph in 2011)
Estimated power: 243 watts
Average HR: 163bpm
T2 was a mess. I got lost and forgot where I parked my run gear. I ran up/down one of the aisles twice. That sucked. The GPS track is funny, looks like I was doing laps back/forth in the bike rack area.
I don’t think all of the extra time was due to me getting lost, we ran the bikes a lot further this year vs. 2011. I think maybe I wasted a minute.
T2: 5:28 (vs. 3:39 in 2011)
Remember how I wrote “ask me how I feel about my poor patience and shoddy discipline when the run starts though”? Well, don’t ask. I didn’t feel so good. I started slow and got slower. I’m not a bad runner. I can run! I really can! I just couldn’t on Sunday.
I started with the usual heavy concrete legs that go hand-in-hand with killing the bike section and knocked out a good 7:51 first mile, and a nice 7:48 second mile. Ok great, now that I’ve recovered, the pace should go down down down, right? Nope.
When the hills are taken into account I guess I ran the first six or seven miles at around an 8-minute mile pace. I stopped for a pee break at the end of mile 6 and it took some negotiating to get the legs moving again. They just didn’t want to turn over.
Mile 7 is the scenic mile-long loop through La Crema vineyards. It was a nice break from the rough, cracked, and uneven asphalt of Mark West Station Rd and Laughlin Rd. By the time I was back on the road, my willpower was down and I was starting to walk the aid stations. Uh-oh.
Walking aid stations isn’t a great pace plan. It’ll add 30-50 seconds to each mile, and of course once you’ve started walking aid stations you can’t stop. It’s like a drug. I guess. Or pringles. Or beer. Try and just have one! No way.
I stumbled on, pounding out the miles. Slowly.
In 2011 I followed someone who kept me moving, pushed hard enough to get my heartrate to 175bpm, and did a monster sprint for the last half mile. God I was such an overachiever. In 2015 I bumbled along the course, got my heartrate up to 165bpm, and did a monster sprint for the last 50m. Woohoo!
Run: 1:50:23 (vs. 1:50:46 in 2011)
Rank: 335/2167 (vs. 498/2094 in 2011)
Percentile: 84th (vs. 76th in 2011)
Avg Pace: 8:26 min/mile (vs. 8:27 min/mile in 2011)
Average HR: 161bpm
I guess the biggest difference was willpower. Maybe I’m getting older. I just didn’t feel the urge to work harder. Maybe I’m chilling out. Drinking too much beer. Maybe I was too relaxed. Maybe I’m losing my edge. Hanging out with the family too much.