Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vineman 70.3 Race Report: The Same Old Song and Dance

 Warning - super duper long post!

This was my first attempt at a 70.3 triathlon. The venue (California wine country) is gorgeous, relatively close to home, the course isn't super difficult and about a dozen friends were also doing the race, although in a field of 2500 athletes, I didn't see too much of my friends on course.

The race organizers were very nice and efficient. The race was very well run and the volunteers were spectacular!

My plan had been to leave LA around six am the day before the race, drive up, have time to check in and pick up my race packet, maybe have lunch (a regional specialty in this area is BBQ oysters, and they're amazing), poke around, maybe drive the bike course.

Of course, I got stuck in horrible traffic going through the East Bay (on a Saturday!) and then again on the 101 just south of Petaluma and didn't manage to get to the race expo until about three pm.

I'm so enraged that my vision is blurred. Or maybe it's the phone.

Why is there a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere? These people can't all be going to Vineman.

Once I arrived, found parking and made my way to the expo, I then had to sit through a 20 minute video that consists of the exact information that's on the website. Guess people don't bother to read.  The video featured one of the race officials and a chicken puppet - lucky for me I had read the website, because the voice of the chicken puppet really needed to work on his diction. I couldn't understand anything.

Once the video ended, we had to get a hand stamp before we'd be allowed to pick up our race packets.

So, of course, there was a mad rush for the exit while the presenter was still talking because everyone wanted to beat the crowd, but packet pickup wasn't all that crowded, even with the mad rush.

I got my race packet and my shirt and then checked out the expo - lots of WTC branded stuff, lots of clothing (but no really screaming deals like at the bike race expos), shoes, etc.. Oomph! had some super cute running shorts that were just a little too short for my taste (I don't like the feeling that my butt cheeks are going to fall out of my shorts). My one purchase was a Vineman Headsweats visor, even though I was going to do the run in my 'dork of the desert' hat.

Best branded item? Vineman wine glasses:

No, I didn't get one, but I probably should have.

I then dropped off my run gear in T2 - I got super lucky and found a spot next to a huge Hello Kitty balloon, which I figured would make it a snap to find my gear in the huge transition area:

Hello, Kitty.
I then headed back south to Santa Rosa, where I would be staying. I'd estimate that 80% of the guests at the hotel were racing Vineman. We all had the yellow wristbands they put on us at packet pickup, and there were a lot of bikes in the hallways (since no one wanted to leave the bike in the car).

After an early dinner and a hot shower, I managed to get to bed at about 9 pm and really got a good sleep, which isn't normal for me. Guess the road rage wore me out.

I was in the 7:20 am start wave, so I left super early, as I was (correctly, it turns out) anticipating horrible traffic as 2,500 people descended on the tiny town of Guerneville (population about 1,200). I couldn't find the official parking lot, so I parked in a lot a mile away run by the local high school students who were asking for a $5.00 donation to help their sports program. Since they put out neon yellow signs with big arrows all over the town, I suspect more racers parked in their lot than in the free one next to T1.

After a walk down to T1 (in my jammies. Why wear a swimsuit on the drive over?), I found my age group rack (totally, completely full. I had to beg to squeeze in where there wasn't really room), and suited up. There wasn't a good place to warm up, so when we went into the starting corral (it's an in-water start), I ended up doing a few strokes of butterfly just to get the heart rate up, which got me some bemused stares from my fellow athletes.

Swim: 38:07

This was possibly the easiest race swim I've ever done. The current in the river was negligible, the start waves were small enough that although I had a few moments of getting stuck in traffic, it wasn't an issue for me to find open water to swim. Although the river is shallow enough to walk, I didn't. I just swam (even when the water got about 18 inches deep) and managed, once I got out of traffic to hit a nice groove and just cruise. Of course, the river water was gross, and also of course, after the race I developed a mild ear infection.

I honestly didn't feel like I was going that fast on the swim, and got out of the water feeling really good. A pleasant surprise, and one that reaffirmed my life choice to concentrate on efficiency of stroke over high cadence. The only problem was the wetsuit. I'd brought the TYR Cat1 (aka the boob smasher) and the pressure of the wetsuit neck on my throat, while less distracting than I'd thought it might be, ended up bruising my throat. No, really. I've got a bruise and even a few days later feel like I've got a lump in my throat right were the wetsuit neck pressure was the worst.

It's official - that wetsuit's got to go. I need something more titty (and throat) friendly.

T1: 16 min

Not a surprise. I elected to do complete clothing changes between each leg instead of wearing a tri-suit. The ground in T1 was super muddy and someone stole my towel, so I had to run to the changing tent to avoid flashing everyone while I lubed up with cream and put on my bike shorts. Next time, I'm bringing a sarong. No one will steal it (hopefully) and I can wrap it around me and not have to pick my way over muddy, rocky ground to the tents.  As I was heading out, I chugged a can of iced coffee (I didn't have any caffeine before the swim to help keep my heart rate down), and started biking. 

Bike: 3:12

The race description described the bike course as 'rolling hills', so I was anticipating PCH style hills. These hills were much smaller and the roads were much better than I'd anticipated, so that was the second pleasant surprise of the day. Despite the dire warnings about time penalties for drafting and blocking, I saw an awful lot of both on the ride. One guy was sucking wheel so blatantly that I'm shocked he didn't get caught. How do I know he didn't get caught? He was in front of me the entire way - he'd catch a wheel and pull ahead then lose it and drop back. I managed to average a bit over 17 mph on the ride (I think my three splits were 17.3, 17.4 and 17.5). Had I not slacked off on my bike training I could have squeezed out a bit more speed. The course was incredibly beautiful, albeit littered with launched bottles, cliff bars, gels, sunglasses, etc... (the roads, while not as bad as Solvang, weren't terribly good, either). Since I had the grave misfortune to be riding a carbon frame, I was really afraid of getting a filling shaken out of my head. Just as I was staring to get tired and cranky, I rolled into T2. Well timed.

T2: 12 minutes

Again, not a surprise. Swapped bike shorts for loose comfy run shorts, a lightweight sun resistant shirt and my dork hat. No one stole my T2 towel, so didn't have to run to the changing tent. Someone did, however steal the Hello Kitty balloon so I wasted some time wandering around looking for my stuff. Also, I forgot to spray my legs with sunblock, so now I've got a terrible runner's tan.

Run: 2:59

Of course, the run's where it all fell apart, as it always does. As soon as I started trying to run, my glutes and IT bands started to tighten up, and they never relaxed at all.  I had to keep stopping and and trying to stretch them out, but it didn't help for more than a few hundred feet, and then they'd tighten again.

To add to the misery, my left sock kept bunching up and giving me a sore spot on the bottom of my foot, so I kept having to stop, take my shoe off and fix my sock. They had aid stations every mile, so I just kept counting the stations and telling myself to keep going. I ended up having to walk most of the uphills, but I wasn't the only one - on just about every hill there were long lines of walkers and people who were trying to run but were going the same speed as the walkers. One lady was racewalking, and although she looked odd, she was going pretty fast. Note to self: Learn to  racewalk. It might come in handy some day.

The run had a loop through a vineyard, and although I believe I've mentioned my poisonous hatred for trail running on other occasions, let me just state again that I hate off-road running. Hate it. Dust, bugs, uneven ground. It can all take a long walk off the proverbial short pier.

The rocks on the ground were making the sock-related sore spot even worse, so I walked the entire loop until I got back onto pavement, where I had to stop (again) to sort out my sock and stretch.

I've never wanted wine so badly as I did right then. Or a martini, or performance enhancing drugs, or a car service, or a brick to the head. Anything would have been welcome at that point.

I averaged something like a 14 minute mile, which is really super bad, even for me. The really cruel part of all this is I really thought I had the run handled. On my training runs, I'd been running in the low 10's and feeling good.

I did pretty well with the aid stations - they had drink in small cups, so I never got the sloshy tummy, never felt hungry and never wanted to puke. I did a swallow of Gatorade every third station (too much of that stuff gives me a horrible headache), water at every station, bananas at every other station, and the occasional gel.

Total time: 7: 19

I don't suppose I can complain. I said I'd be happy with anything under 8 hours, and 7:19, last I checked, was under 8 hours, I just wish I'd had a better run.  I'll post race photos when they're up - they've got someone else labelled as me in the bike photos, although there is a pretty hilarious video of my limping to the finish line looking like re-heated death. 

Super tiny thumbnail, but you can still see the pain. And the dork hat.  
I earned this one.

Once I finished, I grabbed some food (cold chicken and some pasta salad - I couldn't eat any more fruit), took off those damned shoes and limped over to the shuttle stop to go back to Guerneville and get my car.

The shuttle was a school bus, so there wasn't a lot of leg room, which made the sore legs a lot worse after a 20 minute ride. After getting the car, I headed back to Windsor to get my bike and my T2 stuff (since you can't take bikes on the bus). I picked up the bag of wet soggy swim gear that had come over from T1, threw the whole mess in my car and headed back to the hotel, unloaded my car and then limped down to the pool area where I sat in the hot tub for about 20 minutes until my legs felt better, then ventured back out to a local Italian place and had a delicious dinner of house-made pasta with wild boar and local mushrooms. And wine.

I finally had some wine.

Then, I went back to my room and passed out cold.

Monday, I stopped by the La Crema  (named by someone who didn't speak Spanish) winery tasting room, since Vineman participants got a free tasting. The entire tasting room was full of Vineman folks, and we were all talking and not paying much attention to the wine - although in case you were wondering, we tasted a very good white, a not very good white, a good red and a terrible red, and a flavorless rose. That one hurt the most. I love rose.

I then had a sausage and a beer (at 11 am, because it was that kind of day) and then drove to the Vichy hot springs in Ukiah and soaked in the carbonated mineral water (highly recommended if you're in the area).

These dogs are barkin'
After a stop for an early dinner (and coffee) in the city of Napa, I headed home and got back around midnight. I left the bike in the car (covered, of course, and with the car backed in so even if someone did break a window they weren't going to be able to get the bike out), and managed to not be able to sleep due to over consumption of coffee. 

Aside from the sore throat, ear infection, and sore legs, I feel great, although I never got my BBQ oysters. Dammit.

Guess that's a reason to go back next year.


  1. Loved your "commentary" and writing style. Gave me multiple smiles. Re-baked death...HA!

  2. Sounds like you had a good time despite the nasty river water. Good job on finishing! So do these BBQ oysters have BBQ sauce on them or are they just cooked on the BBQ?

    1. They're just thrown on the grill and cooked until they open. Gives them a really awesome smoky flavor.

    2. Haha. Wow, thought they were something special. We do that out in Hawaii too. Once they open we add soy sauce, tobasco and a splash of lemon juice. Winners.

  3. For a first 1/2 IM, that's not the easiest race to choose. Good work.


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